Saturday, February 13, 2010

Indecision at the Library

I loved going to the library as a girl. My father was willing to take me since he was always reading, and needed his own fix. I'd get 10 or 12 books and line them up along the side of my bed, a wall against anxiety, fear and parents who could barely take care of themselves let alone me and my sister. OCD latched onto this love when I was in my 20's and still reappears, like today, when dh and I went to the library. I'd already started the day with intrusive thought #1, "You've ruined your day by websearching for 1/2 hr while eating breakfast." I'm savvy enough to recognize that this is a thought, not necessarily reality(though it could be, who knows), but still scared enough to want to do a thorough autopsy and determine if I have indeed ruined my day.

At the library I started strong, but then moved to the fiction section and couldn't find the right book. I started the "searching without cause" dance of indecision. Look at every book on a section of the stacks. Pull multiple books off the shelf and flip through them trying to decide if they will be disappointing. Pull some of the same books off again. Scan the titles slowly, in case I missed something. I believe if you mapped out my footprints like do with dance instruction, the ground would become obliterated with all the repetition and retracing. It seemed an eternity, but according to my dh it was about 10 minutes.

He came over and asked me if I was done, and I took my out, and said yes. I was on the verge of saying, "No. I wasted 10 minutes and didn't find anything, so I need to rescue those 10 minutes by searching for another 1/2 hr." I think this is referred to do as "sunk costs" and you can't get that back, although OCD would like me to think it is entirely possible and I am defective in giving up.

Trips to the library work best when I go in ready to flip a coin if I am stuck on a decision, and to randomly pick a few books without knowing for sure that they are "right" and generally taking my chances. OCD takes a lot of energy. I was ready for a nap when I got home, and had some OCD backwash about my imperfections, but I'm on to the idea that I can spin straw into gold by looking at the same books over and over.


  1. For me, it's thinking about how many people have touched that book. Luckily, I'm so frugal that I'll never give up on the library.

  2. It's weird how some thoughts seem to have no "charge" and others are electric! I have passing thoughts about how many people have touched the books, and they don't stick, and yet have a thought that it's not the "right" book, and I break into a sweat.

  3. “Having two blue shirts in the closet can be a good thing. But to the obsessive it can be an obscure form of hell. How do you choose between them?
    “One is better pressed. But the other is a little warmer. It could be sunny today. Then again the radio is predicting a heat wave for later in the week. That was one radio station. The other radio station is predicting rain. The second radio station is never reliable. Everyone knows that. I’ll just take the shirt that’s further to the right. That will solve everything. But I think I rearranged the shirts last night. Yesterday the other shirt would have been on the right. I’ll close the door, open it fast, and which ever shirt I see first, I’ll wear. There I did it. No. I saw them at the same time. I’ll try it again. This time I’ll open the door on the count of three. One, two, three. There. No. That was no good. The door opened too slowly…
    This process proceeds for forty-five minutes then you throw the damn shirts on the floor and wear a T-Shirt.”

    Excerpt from “Cutting Through the Knot (Second Edition).” Available as an Amazon