I have obsessive compulsive disorder. Not like, oh my god I have to clean my bathroom every week or I can't stand it obsessive compulsive disorder. But, like, every single thing I do becomes an item on a checklist of massive proportions. The movement my hands make under the sink when I wash them, the ways in which I have to position a dish in space in order to then place it in a certain spot in the dishwasher, all of these things retroactively become part of a list of things I must do, that then get checked off when I do them. It's a little hard to explain, but basically my brain superimposes this list/map/grid on top of my entire life and everything I do then becomes a part of that list/map/grid.
It makes me feel like this:
The reason I'm mentioning this is because it's the motivation behind the excessive sharing that I do here, on facebook, on twitter, on instagram, and in my own personal journals, of which I have a handwritten one and a private electronic/online one.
Recently I was at a conference where Mark Z Danielewski said something about tumblr that really struck me. He said that tumblr is a way for us to scour the internet for images, quotes, ideas, etc. that we feel define "us," and to assemble those things in one place that then constitutes our identity. Except, he said, that there's always an emptiness at the center of such an endeavor.
The more I post on here, on facebook, on twitter, the more I feel that emptiness pressing outward from somewhere I can't find inside myself. So why not just stop? There are a few reasons why.
One is, I stopped updating my blog once upon a time after a series of very horrible things happened in my life. And when I finally returned to my blog, I realized why I need it so badly. It reminds me to pay attention. As someone who considers themselves an artist, I am naturally inclined to pay attention, but that attention lacks focus when I allow the negative parts of my life to drown my ability to celebrate those things that I notice. This is explained better in the original blog post in which I decided to continue with this blog. Basically, when I am photographing and tweeting and updating, I am reminding myself, hey, you're here, you're doing something, and it's fun, and you're happy. And it's true. I really started to notice this when I was in Washington DC a few years ago for AWP. That's when I first started being one of those people who tweets everything that they're doing. And through this, I realized I wasn't actually unhappy like I thought I was. I was happy. And posting about it seemed to make it more real. Like if I posted that I was doing something, it was because I was doing that thing, and that thing was pleasurable, and I wasn't so bummed out about life after all. This was the beginning of my being truly, honestly, consistently happy for, I swear to god, the first time in my entire life.
Another is, I am someone who occasionally stalks people on the internet. Not for purposes of actually finding them in real life, but because I revel in that moment when I discover someone's blog or journal and have access to their complaints about their life. If you're reading this, you're also one of those people. And I don't mind. I'm the same as you. We like knowing that we're not alone in struggling. Or we like reading about other peoples' joy so that we can feel inspired or masochistically angry with ourselves for not also living life to the fullest. I know that often when I post on here about all the things I'm doing, that it seems like I'm just having the best time and getting the absolute most out of life. And sometimes that's true. But sometimes it's not. And it's important that you know that. Because the last thing I want my obsessive posting and documenting to do is to make people feel like I'm happier or better or more engaged than anyone else. I'm just more OCD about documentation. I can't not document everything that happens to me. And it's not even so that I can look back on it later. It's because it's part of that list. That grid that organizes my life without my permission but with my full cooperation.
Really, what I'm trying to say is, I'm equally resentful of and pleased by the effect the internet has on my brain. Yes, it makes my OCD worse. It makes me do things I don't want to do. I don't want to always be telling everyone everything about my life. You may chose not to believe that, but it's true. It strengthens my inclination toward obsessive organization because it allows me a space in which to do that. It has taken everything in me to stop myself from filling out every single box facebook has made available for me to fill out. Did you know they even have a place to list life events like "loss of a loved one" or "adopted new pet?" I DO NOT want to post that information. And I won't. But the fact that I can and choose not to sometimes physically hurts. This might sound completely ridiculous, but I don't really care because I'm not trying to criticize anyone or win anyone over to the dark OCD side. I'm just trying to be honest. Because that's what the grid has been pressing me to do for the past few days.
It comes and goes, but lately, it comes. Because the times when I have least control in my life, like say when I move to a completely new place or my best friend moves half way around the world, are the times when I become most vulnerable to the grid. So that's what's happening And I just thought you should know, because you deal with my incessant posting day in and day out, and for some reason, I felt I owed an explanation to... whoever is out there.
Thanks for listening. Here's a disgusting piece of meat shaped like a heart that my dad made once.