Last night as I was getting ready to bathe our daughter, D. made a romantic gesture by bringing champagne to the bathroom, offering me chocolate, and attempted to join bath time. I, realizing it while it was happening, had an inappropriate reaction. I was psychologically unprepared for the shift in plans, unable to accept the kind intention, and became uptight about the whole thing. I tried to make it work but could not handle the shift in the ritual and offered to get out of the bathroom. Instead, D. left, and we ended up drinking the champagne, each on our own.

The anxiety at the loss of control startled me. It’s just a bath, after all. It’s the kind of feeling I would have had at age 18 when my days were rigidly structured and any variance left me out of sorts. I’m not certain when the structure began for me, but it was at its height from ages 15-18 when my morning routine was chopped into 15 minute blocks, and I actually watched the clock to make sure I stuck to the schedule. 15 minutes for a shower, 15 minutes for hair and makeup, 15 minutes for coffee and breakfast, 15 minutes for bible reading and prayer, 15 minutes for… and out the door to school which was equally rigid in structure.

Change had to occur when I got to university where schedules vary greatly from day-to-day. The transition was hard on me in a number of ways and I cried myself to sleep more than a few times because I knew I didn’t have time to fit in the studying or sleep that I needed. Today I live mostly without an alarm clock, my schedule still varies daily, but I still have certain rhythms and habits I like to protect. What I didn’t realize until yesterday is how important some of those rituals still are to me. Our daughter’s bedtime routine is like a hameau de paix or a peaceful lull for me in which we play, talk, and cuddle before going our separate ways. It’s as much a part of my schedule as it is of hers.

I cannot authoritatively comment on the links between ritual and hoarding, but I do know that both schedule and stuff cooperate and intertwine to hold my world together. They both serve as anchors, points de repère, that guide me along, especially when I’m feeling lost or forget what I’m supposed to be doing. The challenge is to find coping skills when the other patterns get disrupted. Time, unlike my stuff, is always with me, but I clearly need more flexibility so I can appreciate and enjoy the lovely surprises around me.


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