Take a subject you’re familiar with and imagine it as three photos in a sequence. Tackle the subject by describing those three shots.
Ok. Interesting. And perhaps a chance for me to talk about something I’ve not really talked about here before - my OCD.
So photograph 1 – it’s a dishcloth. It hasn’t been wrung out properly. It’s sitting on the draining board and it’s sopping wet. There are also some crumbs on it. It makes me feel sick to look at this photo. I feel sick describing it. It needs to be rinsed clean, wrung out, put in the washing machine or thrown in the bin. Photograph 1 isn’t about OCD per se- it’s about cleanliness generally. For some people that sopping dishcloth is not that big of a problem. They’d ignore it, use it, whatever. Others would be as horrified as me. Some would do as I described- rinse it clean, wring it out, put it in the washing machine or dump it. But most would stop at that. OCD never stops at that.
Photograph 2 – a light switch with the number 16 on top. The light switch is clean- perfectly clean- not one bit of dust or smudge in sight. But it’s just as horrifying to me. Because there could be dust. How can I tell? The dust particles might be so small they’re invisible to the naked eye. But they’re still there. Just waiting to slip down into the gap either side of the switch. And then they’ll be inside – in amongst all the wirings, switches and gubbins that sit inside a switch. And what could dust do to those gubbins? There could be a fire. The house could burn down. And all because I was careless- I looked at that light switch and thought it was clean. I took my eye off the ball. But there’s that number 16. That number exists only in my head of course (my house isn’t full of light switches with numbers on top like some scene out of Sesame Street). But the number 16 in my mind - it reminds me of what I need to do. It directs my eye back to the ball. But what does it mean? Well if you’re me that number is obvious- that’s the number of times you must dust the top of the light switch- 4 strokes one way, four strokes the other, another four strokes the first way, the final four strokes the other way. 16. And why 16? Because 4 X 4 is a good solid pattern- no surprises with a 4 X 4 (note to self: good tagline for a four wheeled drive ad). And 4 X 4 is safe – because it means you’re the other side of 13. And we all want to be the other side of 13 don’t we? Don’t we? No one rests easy when the number 13 is around. And randomly, carelessly, dusting a light switch might mean you accidentally dust it 13 times or, slightly less serious but still not good, you dust it an odd number of times. So you need to be focused. All you might want to do is turn the light switch on or off of course. But the minute you look at it & that question of dust and electrics and fire comes into your head you know the ritual must begin. And you must be focused. If you lose count you need to start again. No matter how tired you are. Because if you don’t & you hit an odd number or a 13 then…then…
Photograph 3- it’s a photo of a collage. (Is that cheating?) In the collage planes fall from the sky, houses are aflame, people are stabbed, children are killed. The very worst things you can imagine in the darkest parts of your mind are there before you- happening to your family, your friends and to people you’ve never met. And the worst part of all – the very worst part of all- is that you are responsible for this. Every time you dusted 13 times not 16, every time you failed to touch wood for luck, every time you were too tired to repeat a certain thought in your head the correct way – you did it. Every time you did not wash your hands thoroughly after touching a speck of dust, every time you failed to square off the edges of your papers & instead lazily left them all skewiff and untidy, every time you had an awful awful terrible thought in your head – you did this. You are responsible for it all because you did not follow the laws of the ritual. You’ve created a hell on earth by not adhering to the rules of your own personal hell. Shame on you.
And that is my OCD.