Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Day In The Life

Everyone has quirks. Some of us have more than average, to be sure, but that’s just a matter of degree. No one is without their eccentricities, and there is no such thing as “normal” in any absolute sense. Normal is a range with very porous borders.

I have to get up as soon as the alarm goes off or I will hit snooze a ridiculous number of times and may as well have not set an alarm at all. There is no inbetween. Once up, you can almost set a clock by my movements through the morning routine. Breakfast is its own weird, time-distorting beast, but everything else moves like clockwork … until it doesn’t. If you take something out of the routine, rearrange the pattern somehow, there is a very good chance that the whole thing will fall apart. Not only will it take longer to get out the door, but I will probably be halfway down the road and realize that I forgot something. It won’t be something simple or minor or simple, either. I won’t have my hat or my wedding ring, maybe even my wallet, things I would ordinarily never leave the house without. That’s the way the routine works for me. It either works completely or it’s a disaster. Needless to say, I stick to the routine as much as possible.

I get to the office and set things up the way I want them to be. My lunch goes here, my coffee cup goes there. I have three monitors, with certain, specific information on each by default. When we changed office buildings recently, it took me a few days to figure out how I could set up the new desk to most closely match the previous arrangement. It was slightly disconcerting, and people laughed as things got sorted, mostly with me, but some at me, I have no doubt. That’s how it goes. I have some great co-workers, but I have some pretty strong oddities too, and no one knows that better than I do. If you want to find someone laughing at my foibles, look no further than me. I’m fully aware of the humor in the situation.

Once a week I drop off my office shirts at the cleaners, and the lady behind the counter frequently comments on how easy it is to find my stack of blue shirts. They’re not the same color, but they are apparently uniform enough to stand out. There was a time when I would buy only black clothes - no matching required - and though I have added, I thought, quite a bit of color to my wardrobe, it seems that I am still fairly monochrome to outside observation. Baby steps, right? There is even a green shirt in my closet now, though not in the office shirt section (yes, there are sections). We can’t change everything all at once.

I do things by schedule, and get out of sorts when that schedule is broken. I do things in certain ways, and doing so is part of how I remember things. I have some narrowly-defined comfort zones. These are just some of the quirks that make up who I am, and that people often notice about me in short order. I could write a book listing them all (maybe I will someday - should be funny, at least), but they’re just different pieces of who I am, all stacked up neatly (and sometimes not so neatly) along with many other pieces that go into forming a whole.

They aren’t all so rigid, though. My playlist is likely to go from Slipknot to George Strait to Mozart to Hammerfall to Sinatra to Webber to Dio to Dion … You get the idea. My book collection is just about as eclectic. I don’t believe in boundaries or barriers when it comes to entertainment. Am I entertained? Yes? Good, more of that, please. No? Skip, move on to the next option. This might help to explain why I just can’t understand the current culture of hating on things. I don’t have enough time to get to everything I might enjoy. I have no time at all to waste on things I don’t enjoy. Someone appreciates it, and their doing so doesn’t hurt me in the least. More power to them.

Some of my quirks that are generally pretty rigid still have room to move. I don’t like getting anything dirty or sticky on my hands (again, the people who know me personally are snickering at my use of such a mild description), and I wash my hands about a billion times a day. Even I laugh at how I look trying to eat barbeque chicken (though barbeque chicken is totally worth the effort). If it’s needed, though, I’ll shove my hands in the muck and get the job done. You can bet I’ll be washing them afterward, but I’ll change my own tire, and I’ve never shirked a day’s work because it would get me dirty. If a small child hands me their grimy, chewed up blanket, I’ll smile and say, “Thank you,” and that kid will never know how much I’m cringing, because some things are just more important.

To be honest, I can do that with most of my quirks, force them to the back burner until I have time to deal with them. It takes more effort with some than others, and sometimes the trade-off isn’t really necessary or worthwhile, but I can usually do it. It’s mostly just a matter of practice and determination. It is absolutely a trade-off, though. Being able to do something doesn’t guarantee that it’s a good idea to do it. Sometimes what we call quirks might be tied to deeper psychological issues, and there are healthier ways to exercise those demons than just brute force and suppression. Sometimes it’s just more fun to do things the way you’d rather do them. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that either.

Life is a balancing act, and that includes balancing quirks and eccentricities. We all have them, and the people who act like they don’t usually have the biggest of them all. That tends to be why they hide their quirks. Embrace what makes you different and learn to use it for your benefit. I’m an oddball and I know it, but I’m also perfectly fine with it. It’s who I am, and I rather like who I am. If I don’t like it or it interferes too much with who I want to be, I’ll work on changing it, but that, too, is a balancing act. Is the effort necessary appropriate to the task? How much is this interfering, and how much will changing it cost?

There are days when it seems like my day is just one quirk after another, but that’s life. There are also days that sail by, smooth as silk and nothing seems out of place or out of the ordinary. Don’t stress about what makes you different. If it’s not hurting you then don’t hurt yourself over it. We all have them, and we usually manage just fine. Be who you are, quirks and all, and extend that same courtesy to those around you. That right there would take care of most of the problems in the world.

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