Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Obsessive compulsion

Pronunciation: \äb-se-shən, əb-\
Function: noun
Date: 1680

1: a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling ; broadly : compelling motivation
2: something that causes an obsession
— ob·ses·sion·al adjective
— ob·ses·sion·al·ly adverb

I don't understand about obsessions. Fetishes, leanings, cravings, yearnings and desires, I get, but not obsession, especially when it comes to an obsession with people. Maybe that makes me shallow or just more interested in living than in focusing all my energy and attention on one object or person. I wouldn't say I have ADD, but rather that I have a short attention span for minutiae and people.

I've always said I have a magpie mind, attracted to bright and shiny new information and knowledge, and I do have interests in several subjects, like the history and mythology of Atlantis and Egypt and Stonehenge and the world in general. I hear those words or see them on a book and I want to know more. For instance, I know a lot about Jack the Ripper, especially the facts of the case and all the data gathered during and after the murders. It's always fascinated me. One book I didn't read was Patricia Cornwell's book about who she thinks The Ripper is, treads too heavily in obsessive territory. That is one writer who has too much money and far too much time on her hands, and is obviously bored with writing for her character, according to the most recent reviews of her books. She's lost her momentum, but then that happens when writing turns into a chore. It's the reason Stephen King's writer killed off Misery. That put him in touch with his fan base, a Misery-obsessed ex-nurse with a god complex, but, hey, that's life.

I've always wondered why some people get obsessed with other people. I wasn't even obsessed with my husbands when I was married and I've walked away from my share of lovers along the way. When I'm done; I'm done. No sense going back like a dog revisiting it's vomit or feline excreta. It's not worth it. That does not mean, however, that there aren't times I had a fleeting thought of "what if?" slip through my mind once in a while. I do. I just prefer to let it keep on passing. Can't change what was, only what will be and can be.

I told someone once I understand obsession, but as I find myself the object of someone's obsession, I can't say I do. I had a glimmer of a glimpse of what it's like, but no real grasp on it. What turns a seemingly intelligent person into a raving lunatic who can't get through a week or a day without checking up on their obsession? I guess if they could, they wouldn't be obsessed. If it's love or desire or a really bad case of "what if?" why does it end up turning to violence?

Once upon a time when I was a little girl in the sixth grade, I liked a very popular boy, Rob Stokes. He did all the things boys at that age do to show me he liked me. He taunted and teased me, embarrassed and found ways to get close to me. He caught flak from some of the other boys who thought he should look at more profitable (easier) territory. Then one of the boys in class, a good friend named Byron, told me that Rob didn't really want me, but he didn't want anyone else to have me either. It took me a long time to figure that one out. How could Rob want me and why would he care if someone else did? Simple. He was obsessed with me. I don't know why, but I do know when he stopped wanting me. That would be when I tried out for his singing part in Jack and the Beanstalk as the money bag and beat him. And that's when he became obsessed with me, not wanting me but wanting to make sure no one else got near me or wanted me either.

Rob was Mr. Steffens' pet. Even when Rob was tossing paper balls at the trash can and missing and Mr. Steffens made Rob get down on his hands and knees and push the paper around the room with his nose while he swatted Rob with Excalibur, the wooden paddle in the shape of a sword, Rob was still Mr. Steffens' pet. Mr. Steffens knew where the line was drawn. That's what I think is missing in people prone to obsession; they don't know where the line is drawn. They cannot get over a perceived slight or someone being better than they are at something they consider themselves to be expert or extremely talented and turn their disappointment and anger outward on the person that makes them doubt themselves and their abilities.

While Rob obviously found me attractive, he wasn't ready to give up the spotlight, or the part of the singing money bag, to me, to someone who was perceived as being able to sing and act better than he did, especially since the judge was the teacher he thought he had wrapped around his little finger. It didn't matter to Rob that I had practiced for hours or that I had to hold onto the legs of my desk with sweaty hands while I sang so my voice didn't quiver and I didn't faint from embarrassment. All that mattered to him was that someone chose me over him, someone declared me better. And thus an obsession was born, an obsession that included him doing his best to publicly humiliate me every chance he got and to say nasty things behind my back. Rob didn't know with whom he was dealing. I was used to people calling me names, especially in my own family, and his lame attempts fell on my deaf ears. I moved on. He didn't seem quite so cute any more. I always knew he was just a passing fancy; the boy I really liked was too shy to speak up and tell me so.

Rob Stokes is a fading memory. I moved on. Writing about him this morning makes me wonder if he has. If he hasn't, it's too bad. I have better things to do with my time than feed his obsession. It's called living.

That shy boy, the one who wouldn't speak up? He spoke up. Now that's a compulsion I can understand.

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