Measuring Up

I think I have always had a bit of what I’ll call “Functional OCD”. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. But useful.

I have certain oddities that I use to my advantage instead of having them interfere with my life. The OCD is mild. I will discuss two of the most prominent behaviors and then describe how they benefit me instead of hinder me.

I pace. I used to live in a basement with a tile floor and when I paced I would only step on certain tiles. I have an anxiety disorder and my perception is that I am surrounded by a field of anxious-fearful energy and it seems that if I try to move out of the field — running away from my problems — I move partially out of that field and feel better although it follows me and if I stop it once again completely surrounds me. That description is nonsense, but even knowing it is nonsense does not take away the sensations that make it seem so.

I pace, and it cannot be helped.

I also have to be keeping track of something numerically. I have to or I have absolutely no sense of accomplishment and it distresses me. I do not have to measure and track everything I do all day but I have to with at least one thing. Have to. Currently I track my weight each morning (I am 1.4 pounds over my upper limit), and how many words long my blog is as I write it each morning. The blog “rules” besides doing one every day is that it should be between 400 and 1,000 words and should have at least one picture for each 500 words. An 800-word blog should probably have two pictures interspersed. This is likely going to be a two-picture blog. (Sometimes I break this rule and don’t bother, but I know I should have!)

I pace and I keep numerical track.


Consider that I happily worked as a factory worker for 30 years. Often I was running multiple machines, I was constantly moving between them doing something, and the machines had counters to keep track of how many parts were produced from each machine. The moving from machine to machine is like pacing. The counters on the machines satisfied my need to keep numerical track. My IQ is 140 but is that not a good job for one in my condition? At least a workable one? Let’s look at something more complicated.

As a child I saw a concert pianist being interviewed on TV. The host said he wished he had pursued playing the piano and his dream was to be a concert pianist. The concert pianist replied that anyone can do it, but it requires 8 hours practice each day for 20 years along with excellent instruction. Let me open a calculator and multiply:

(365 days) x (20 years) x (8 hours) = 58,400 hours

So this guy who is an expert in his field suggests six times longer than the supposed 10,000 hours it takes to become expert at something. See how I latch onto something with a number in order to measure and track?

I personally am an “expert” on the piano relative to most people, but I am not a concert pianist. I can play the things a concert pianist might play but my poor memory will not allow me to retain a whole performance of that caliber. I can do “that”, any of “that”, but not near all of it in one continuous performance. I simply do not have the scope of memory required to retain a whole big classical concert performance.

Maestro Dady Mehta

Maestro Dady Mehta

In the early 1980’s I was a piano music major achieving a bachelor’s degree. For one full year I decided to practice a minimum 4 hours each day including Christmas during which time I had superb instruction. My private instructor was Dr. Dady Mehta, cousin of world renowned conductor Zubin Mehta. I had a stopwatch function on my wrist watch and I started the timer right before I started playing notes and if I wanted some water or any sort of break I would stop the timer. That was four hours of actual playing activity and the rule was if I did three hours today that meant I had to do five hours the next. If I did six hours today I still had to do four hours tomorrow. The minimum was four hours and a failure meant it had to be made up. Going over did not carry over for an easier day the next.

I will say this: Holy fuck did I get good! We’ll forget that I came in with more talent than most from birth. I would take pacing breaks and coffee breaks. On average it took me 6 hours to get the four hours of actual playing time in.

A lot of people wish they were better at something. I don’t know if everyone can achieve absolute brilliance at a given activity but I do know that there seems to be a whole lot more wishing than doing, a whole lot more stumbling and a whole lot less seeking of expert direction.

It seems to take a mild disability to provide the drive to overcome normalcy and become something better than one would otherwise. If you are full you are not driven to eat. If you are always hungry or otherwise constantly driven then you have the potential to go nuts or accomplish something more than the normal person might. Look to someone a little bit odd or not quite right, that might be the person who does something truly magical.

One thought on “Measuring Up

  1. I have a rule for everything. I just call it – having rules 😉 But I am completely fascinated by the idea of a “mild disability to provide the drive to overcome normalcy.” That is a pretty awesome way to look at it. Hm….

    Have a great holiday!

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