Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Greased Pig

I am not really a counter. I can tell you there are 21 slats on the mini-blinds in our bedroom, but that's about all. My thing is patterns: patterns on walls, floors, ceilings, etc. I tend to count items in a pattern, rearrange patterns on wallpaper, make sure patterns are even, etc. Thinking back, I believe it all started the night I was initiated into Rainbow Girls.

All the girls were dressed in long, flowing, beautiful white dresses. I was told to wear a church dress that night. I was asked to wait outside of the assembly room before the initiation and count the ceiling tiles. I was told that when I entered the assembly room, they would ask me how many ceiling tiles there were and that I was probably going to be required to ride a

greased pig.

I was 12 years old at the time and pretty smart for my age, I guess. In the back of my mind I knew it was not logical that I was going to have to ride the slippery beast. The assembly room was lovely. Why would they risk having a filthy animal running around ruining everything? The thought probably occurred to me that they might take me outside to do it. I don't know if I thought the possibility of riding the pig had to do with my correctly counting the number of tiles or not, but I remember sitting out there counting like crazy.

Okay, does anyone remember these?

I was not raised in a Montessori school. These yellow area pieces were 2-D, in my math textbook. I am sure that some teacher somewhere had to have taught me the formula for area, but I never used it; I'm not sure why. Oh, sure, a rectangle is easy - base x height. A triangle is easy - 1/2 base x height. But when the pieces were presented in the above manner, I would freak out. The way I calculated area, then, was by first counting all the square cubic units and then adding up in my head all the 1/2, 1/4, 1/8/, etc. pieces on the edges to try to come up with whole units. When I got close to the multiple choice answer, that's the one I picked. Pretty smart, huh?

So that is how I counted the ceiling tiles. First, I counted all the whole ceiling tiles, then went back and added up the halves, fourths, etc. So that's my first memory of noticing patterns, if you want to call ceiling tiles patterns.

From then on and now, especially when I am in someone's bathroom, you know, on the throne, I look at the wallpaper pattern. If the pattern is flowers, I go to the edges and find the half-flowers, quarter-flowers, etc. and try to match them up as wholes. Not just the edges of the wall but the edges where the paper or border comes together. Like I said, this is not counting, but it is a way in my mind of making things even and appear right. It is very time consuming and can explain why I am gone for awhile when visiting someone's bathroom for the first time. I must say, my wallpapering skills are impecable, though, if anyone needs assistance in that area.

Is this OCD? I don't know. I think we can sometimes get bogged down and blame every little quirk we have as OCD. My partner won't eat the ends of pickles and won't throw an empty toilet paper roll away, even if threatened with her life. Does that mean she has OCD? To me, if it calms you down or you have to do something over and over until it feels right, even, whatever, that could be an OCD tendency. I am constantly leaving drawers open. Is that OCD? No, not to me. What are your "quirks" and your "compulsions"?

Going to Galveston on Saturday with my kids.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and don't go riding any greased pigs!




  1. Compulsions are anything you do to make the anxiety go away. If it isn't done to quiet anxiety, then it isn't a compulsion. Quirks are just things you do because you want to do them. The difference is anxiety.

  2. I'm sorry but I had to just skip over the whole paragraph under the picture of tiles. When it comes to math and counting and adding and algebra and geometry I start twitching! LOL There are little things that people do that can be attributed to small amounts of OCD. But if it makes them comfortable who are we to say otherwise? I know I live with the biggest OCD freak around, but I still love him! LOL

  3. I love your mad math skills at age 12! Like ocdjourney said, if the mathematical calculations are just for the quirky fun of it, then I don't think it's OCD. When I was 8 I started cataloging my World Magazines on index cards, with different subject headings. I did it because it was fun, not because I felt anxious if I didn't.

  4. I agree with both ocdjourney and expwoman - it really depends on why you are doing it. If you feel that you "have to" do something in a certain way, and if it bothers you that you feel that you "must" do it in that manner, then it might be considered OCD. But if you just do something in a particular way because you prefer that or enjoy it, not because you are trying to eliminate anxiety, OCD, by definition, probably isn't the culprit.

    That said, I get all confused with this distinction, as well. At times I would think "what if my excessive washing is just the way I like doing things?" Even though I think I knew deep down that I hated it, that it rendered me dysfunctional and unable to cope with daily life in any reasonable way, the frightening and unwanted thought that maybe this wasn't OCD, that I was making a big deal out of nothing, was there none the less. So if you do have a history of OCD, I think you have to be careful in making the distinction. I am so thankful that my therapist is skilled at recognizing OCD when it's at work, that he doesn't take my "what-ifs" at face value, because when my OCD is bad, I can end up so disoriented that I feel like I don't know what is OCD and what isn't.