Obsessing over the Finite

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I have two stick-on wire holders, little plastic things you can stick to a desk or the floor to keep wires in place. I have two left. To most people, it’s simple: there are two that can be used, and knowing how inexpensive they are, more can be purchased if needed. Not to me. Quantities work differently in my head, I have an almost evolutionary hunger I feel when I see quantities of items I may need dwindle to what I consider a low amount. That is not at all to say, in this instance, I have more than two places I actually wish to place these wire holders. Rather, my brain—in a somewhat foggy manner—automatically upon seeing the low quantity—anticipates the potential need for more than two. Then I obsess: where shall I place these final two wire holders—now more special than they should be? Or should I not use them, as I now fear the scarcity?

I am obsessing over the finite, a unique formulation of my OCD that I experience often. Indeed I know it is not rational (to wit: I can generally find an easy and low-impacting1 way to re-fill what is technically not finite.) This is not how my OCD works though—it fixates on the endings of every possible thing, especially positive things2.

When I look now around my home, I see things for their endings in terms of numbers. Are three ink cartridges enough to have on hand? What will happen if these run out at the wrong time? Because that is the worst case scenario—which we all know my brain sketches out first before all other scenarios.

This turns me into a unique kind of hoarder. I do not hoard things I don’t feel a use for (say, old newspapers.) But that which I do have a use for, I don’t necessarily hoard as I wish I could. See, at the same time, I am extremely thrifty. So my brain is in a constant battle with finite amounts of useful things, and an irrational (sometimes rational) hatred for spending money to collect enough of said useful things to calm the obsession over the dwindling quantities of such.

I realize this is odd and very specific. It is one of the ways my OCD is a tad bit different than the stereotypical. Or at least I believe so—I know no one else that thinks of the finite like I do.

Let’s expand the concept of the finite beyond the tangible. Time. While most of my life is spent in uncomfortable situations where I wish time to move me quickly out, I do have moments of comfort and near-happiness with situations. I am not always miserable! Though I do admit these good moments are fleeting and rarer than their opposite counterparts.

While in these situations, I obsess with their endings. In fact, I am actually triggered by specific things that denote the upcoming endings to good situations. If I am with a friend having a comfortable night, and we order delivery for dinner—when the food arrives at our place, I see this as a marker that time has moved on and I am closer now to the ending of the night. Regardless of how hungry or full I am, the last piece of, say, pizza brings about a feeling that I’d describe as a tinge of dread. It means the good times are closer to being over. Again—I may be full, the actual use case of the consumption of the tangible pizza is irrelevant. It is the ending of something that brings about negative thoughts.

Much of this does have to do with the fact that my life is more negative than positive. Tomorrow is almost always something I dread, I wish for tonight to last forever. But tonight is finite. Never mind that tomorrow is too, the finite I obsess over is that which exists in my present-moment thought.

So where does all of this leave compulsion? As you may know, I shade much more toward the obsessive end of OCD than the compulsive. I tend to hide or dampen most compulsion—though they are there.

When it comes to time, I know when I wish to wake up the next morning. I know how much sleep I wish to get, and how much less I can get away with and still function. When in a good situation, I am constantly watching the clock3 and counting how many hours of sleep I will get if I allow the good evening I am having to go on to a specific time—always stretching it mentally as far as possible. It is seven-thirty at night. I wish to not end the night (though this is around the time I normally go to bed) and watch another documentary.

The obsession with the finite kicks in and the calculations start: I see my list of documentaries I can watch and their lengths. A one-and-a-half hour film puts me to bed at nine. I think, using my fingers: ten, eleven, midnight, one, two, three-thirty…. six-and-a-half hours of sleep if I wish to get up at my normal time. Will getting up at four-thirty in the morning really be a downer? Can I swing that? I tend to go with the good, stay up later than necessary, and deal with what I already know will be a crappy day tomorrow, tomorrow.

My brain! The gears! This is what is constantly churning when faced with the finite.

And thus we reach the end of this article. Have I explained this distinctive part of my OCD well enough? Is this a good place to end? Are there enough words? Should I have focused more on certain aspects?

I shall obsess over this article in private, ending it now for you.


1 Read: cheap, not requiring much brainpower, and/or without fear.  [BACK]

2 Wire holders are positive things.  [BACK]

3 Which is why I must have one in every room, and prefer at least two.  [BACK]