You down with OCD? Yeah you know me.

My Aunt Lulu tells the story of how as a child – she babysat me – I would line up her spice bottles as though they were in formation for war.  I played quietly and then I would put them back into the spice cabinet.  She tells this at family gatherings every time, and I haven’t the heart to tell her it was the first sign of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.  She found it endearing that I had a penchant for war and played well alone, and I found it relieving that her spice cabinet was neat and orderly.

In high school, my room was always immaculately clean and upon the first foot on the floor in the morning, bed made with militant-tucked corners.  I never wore clothes more than once before it was separated, colors or whites, into the hamper.  I would get nervous at the sight of a few dishes in mom’s sink, and as the dishes crept to plentiful the seething would begin.  That was the trigger to which all the guns in the world were  pulled…dishes in a sink turned to uneven pep-rally banners on the halls.  How could a cheerleader, perfectly poised and coiffed, be such a symmetrical slob?  The devil is in the details, which sometimes makes it impossible to not feel superior.

College was the first time I felt…neurotic.  There weren’t people around that I had grown up with and due to lack of a large population, had to like me.  People from all walks of life, backgrounds as diverse as the next, out of step with mine.  If you have a therapist confirm that you’re a number in their manual then you can get the university to let you room alone, so there I was in Wentz Hall at Oklahoma State University alone with an abnormally long twin-sized bed.  When left to your own devices, as a perfectly capable OCD person, you begin to create some intriguing patterns.  It didn’t take long, holed up in that dorm, until I was trying to convince my mom that I needed…no NEEDED a futon.

“Why do you need a futon when you have a perfectly good bed?”  She would ask.

“Mom, the bed is too long is makes me feel like I’m a short loser because I’m not here on a basketball scholarship.”

“Well that’s just ridiculous, Lisa.  You’re crazy.”

“Well duh, mom, that’s why I need a futon to sleep on.”

Once the futon arrived, I never slept on that bed again.  Truth be told, I had come down with a fear of wrinkles.  I needed a place for people to sit when they visited – the couple of dorky musicians that were teaching me guitar, which I never learned anyway – because I couldn’t relax while they sat on the bed, moving their bodies and creating giant wrinkles.  Eventually, I couldn’t stop thinking about wrinkles and under no circumstance could someone sit on my bed.  None.  I was spending too much time straightened wrinkles of the abnormally long twin bed and less time studying, so once I eliminated guests and sleeping on it altogether the wrinkle obsession failed to exist.

Fast forward to New York City.  I know what you’re thinking, how can someone like you – a small-town girl – live like that.  To the normal folk like you (let’s face it the only people to read this blog are my hometown peeps) it would make you shudder at the waves of people crashing into you, but to the crazies like me…it’s like redemption.  You see, there’s a process you go through in New York that most Californians call soulless, but we call it desensitized. For someone like me, this ‘desensitization’ was very much-needed.  I was, now, normal.  I could walk among a crowd – worry free of wrinkles, symmetry, and others I won’t detail here – and just feel secure via eavesdropping…these people are nucking futs.  Here I was thinking I was bat shit crazy because a wrinkle set me off into a flustered-state of organizing, but these people have real problems like peeing in streets or fighting each other over parking spaces.  For all intent and purposes, New York City swallowed me up like a fine wine.

Ten years later – married, living in Jersey, moving up the corporate ladder by day, writing novels by night, and getting an MBA in between, my fear of wrinkles downgraded to more of a pet peeve (as we – yuppies – call it to sound normal).  My mom contributes to my superiority complex of details by supporting that ‘making the bed is just plain good housekeeping,’ and New York City street-strolling has become more of an exorcism of my apparently new agoraphobia.  The good news is I’m no longer soulless.

The Forbidden Fruit of The Big Apple.

Do you remember the first time you settled somewhere and became rooted, even if it was inadvertently?

I do.  I’ve mentioned before how many places I’ve lived (20 different zip codes).  Without a doubt a gypsy was born when I turned eighteen.  A fly-by-her-seat gal that could easily fit everything owned into a coupe and jet off into the sunset on any given day.  It was a freedom unlike any other with just the open road, music, and me.  Pulling into unknown territory with a discovery high.  It never ceased to amaze me at how quickly I met people since I considered myself somewhat of an introvert, but in retrospect it could have been my romance with who I wanted to be.  Once the discovery was over, it was time to pull a Christopher Columbus (sans the raping and stealing from the Indians) and head into uncharted territory.   This was my life for six years, and then I took a bit of the forbidden fruit – the big apple.

I’ve got to be honest, when I first landed on the concrete paradise I didn’t think I would spend a year here much less 9 years.  Alas, here I am writing this post from postal code 10036 (Midtown).  I certainly never expected for my feet to dig into the ground, firmly planted, and grow roots.  So you trade in the concrete for a yard, which puts you in either Brooklyn, Long Island, or where I live, New Jersey. Had you told the gypsy she would be a homeowner in New Jersey, living with a woman, and chasing after three extremely spoiled animals, she would have told you to get off the acid.

I had always been the one leaving, departing for a new adventure.  I had a reputation to live up to  – my high school awarded me ‘Most Adventurous’.  Under the stability of today, friends all around me bid their goodbye and head into my previously chartered territory; a new life.  From where I stand, home, the fruit is bittersweet.

Polaroids of Perception From The Ground Up.

My five-foot-seven body was noticeably closer to the ground as I walked to my allergist’s office yesterday morning. Looking down I could have sworn I was merely two-feet tall. With my nose to the ground it occurred to me that some days it’s like I’m walking so tall that my head seems to be in the sky and so far away from the ground, but not yesterday.

Throughout life I have had both clear and disproportionate perceptions, looking down, of the space between my head and feet. It was how I knew I was growing and also how I felt. In Kindergarten, it was the physical growth that fascinated me like a baby realizing his/her hands. In my twenties the concept of looking down was to take a snapshot and file it away under experience; proof that I stood here. In times of hardship, the closeness to the ground was an indicator of the emotions weighing me down. When life was great my feet seemed so far from sight and I stood so tall that sometimes, I swear, I could see above the buildings in New York City.

Maybe it’s just a way for me, maybe you too, to see where we are. Perhaps it’s my, and maybe your, way to benchmark the journey. Polaroids of perception from the ground up. Tomorrow I hope I am ten-feet tall and soaring above buildings.

When 31 isn’t cool…

Being a big sister has been rewarding in many ways, but mostly I was different than all the other sisters in the world; I was cool.   In college my brother proclaimed, “I’m going to live wherever you live when I get older, sissy.”  His loyalty ballooned my heart and helped me catch my breath in various stages of my life.  There was always this little guy that thought I was the coolest person in the world.  When my bruised ego pushed my shoulders to the ground, there he was–I was cool.  When I felt I couldn’t love anymore, there he was–someone I truly loved. 

While I did the college thing at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, OK, my little brother tagged along a couple weekends as I visited the local hangouts.  When I lived in Dallas, Texas during my Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out phase, he was sent to stay with me and get me out of the Tie Dye.  After fame and fortune left me like a one-night stand, he came out to New York City to let me know that I was a star in his world.  There hasn’t been a place I’ve lived that my brother Blake hasn’t visited. 

This visit was different and as my place in life had solidified over the past few years,  his was changing in every way every single day–adolescence.  In fact, for the first time in his life I wasn’t cool.  I suppose I thought I would always be the cool big sister and never that old fart that referred to his uber bass levels as too loud or the uncool old hag that couldn’t point out cool truck rims from regular ones.  Even working at MTV wasn’t cutting it in his world since ‘MTV hadn’t been cool in over a decade’  and Maplewood, NJ was a suburbia he didn’t think he could live.  For the first time in my life I had moved from an era of cool into 31 is not cool.

As he walked out the door this morning from my New Jersey Colonial  to head back to Oklahoma after a visit to my first laying of roots, I knew our dynamic had shifted.  No longer would life send my little brother to check on me and lift me up, but rather I would be sent into his to return the favor. 


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