Sunday, June 19, 2011

Perfectionism, organization, to-the-minute planning: The perfect storm

For this week's Indie Ink Writing Challenge, Joelyn presented me with this one-word challenge: Illness. I challenged Bewildered Bug with a term very near and dear to me: long-distance running.


She rolls out of bed and carefully straightens the twisted bed sheets. Tucks the blanket ends under the mattress. Fluffs the pillows and puts her tank top and boxer shorts underneath her pillow.

She showers, dries her hair, gets dressed. The same routine every morning. She grabs granola from the cabinet and pours a glass of orange juice.

The dishes from last night's dinner, which ran late, linger in the sink, and it makes her cringe. She does a quick wash and lays them on the drying rack, checking the clock to make sure she's on time. She packed her bag last night - keys, this week's New Yorker, wallet - and throws in her phone - personal and work - house keys and a small bagged lunch. She checks her watch and heads out the door. Right on schedule.

As she approaches the subway station, she notices a sea of people. It can only mean one thing. The train isn't running to Manhattan. This isn't the first time she's had to deal with this during rush hour. Deep breaths. She glances at her watch. If you're late, you're late. Your boss will understand.

She heads back up the stairs and walks to the next stop for an alternate route. It's frustrating, but these things happen. Deep breaths. She doesn't freak out this time. The MTA's bullshit is "an uncontrollable," she calls it. There's nothing she can do except take a deep breath and make the best of it.

And she's getting better.

But there are still times when she can't help but let the uncontrollables get the best of her. Like last weekend. The damn MTA again. So she took a cab. And as fate would have it, the parkway was backed up for several miles. She was going to miss the boat. Literally. Usually he can keep her calm by telling her they'll make it. But this time even he knew they'd miss it.

She tried to remain calm. But the tears started coming. Anger, frustration, sadness spilled out. Yes, it looks like a 3-year-old child's temper tantrum. She knows that. But for someone with many traits of type a personality (sense of urgency, perfectionism, difficulty relaxing), it's hard to take these seemingly "end-of-the-world" events lightly. He tries to calm her. Rubs her back, tells her it's OK. But it doesn't help. She digs her nails into her legs. Immediately, a bruise forms. "Should have cut my nails," she thinks.

It's embarrassing - overreacting to something small, uncontrollable. Her New Year's resolution was to relax more, stay calm. And she's getting there. But often, disappointment and things not going according to plan seize control.

It's not quite OCD. Yes, she likes routine, organization, plans. But she isn't debilitated if the bed isn't made (he never makes the bed) or someone wants to play something by ear instead of planning it out days, weeks in advance. And it's not quite full-blown type a personality. But it's an illness. And every day, she tries to overcome and persevere.


{Stephanie}The Drama Mama said...

I enjoyed this. My Indie challenge will go up soon. It's my first time, so its nice to see how the community works. You write in the 3rd person, but seem very acquainted with what she is going through. Whether its fact or fiction, I hope that she gets her wish.

I dont know if this is going to link to my writing blog or not since its on wordpress, yet I have my regular blog on can find my writing at

Tara R. said...

My son has OCD and I think you capture that real sense of urgency that sometimes manifests with that disorder. Well written.

Grace O'Malley said...

I know exactly how she feels. This is a perfect rendering.

H. Mayer said...

Thank you, everyone.

Ixy said...

Traffic makes many of us feel pathological!

Sunshine said...

Excellent. Really well done. You capture the recovery aspect of it all quite well.

You actually reminded me of our Alyssa(goesbang), who has started a similar series about Dave and Lex, which I think you might enjoy. =)

I'd like to know more about this character's life, so update us!

Bewildered Bug said...

My Goodness I think you just wrote about me some days! I always wondered what a "Type A" personality was supposed to be - thanks for making it clear. Awesome post - and thanks for your kind comments :)