Sunday, February 6, 2011

Neurosis or No

by Jeffe Kennedy

War having thus been declared against the bear, all the four-fooled beasts were summoned: the ox, the ass, the cow, the goat, the stag, and every animal on the face of the earth. The wren, on the other hand, summoned every flying thing; not only the birds, great and small, but also the gnat, the hornet, the bee, and the flies.

~ The Wren and the Bear, Grimm's Fairy Tales

Not long ago, we were joking about how my mom used to worry about me eating one thing at a time during dinner. I was a kid then and she would try to get me to take a bite of each thing on the plate. I preferred to eat all of my meat, then all of my veggie, etc. Then another girl wrote into Ann Landers with the same problem. Her mother said it was rude, but would abide by Ann's take. Ann saw nothing wrong with it, so my mom quit bugging me, too. We laughed about the old story and then I asked why it had bothered her so much.

"I read about autistic kids not wanting their food to touch," she said, "and I didn't want you to be, well, weird."

I can see her point. I tend to be a passionate person about the things I'm interested in. An idea can consume me and I'll lose hours to it. This kind of concentration makes me a good student, a good writer and, also, is just a short step away from obsessive-compulsive behavior.

I try to keep a balance. And I don't regard myself as a neurotic person.

According to Wikipedia (motto: It Could Be True)

Neurosis is a class of functional mental disorders involving distress but neither delusions nor hallucinations, whereby behavior is not outside socially acceptable norms. It is also known as psychoneurosis or neurotic disorder, and thus those suffering from it are said to be neurotic. The term essentially describes an "invisible injury" and the resulting condition, and is no longer officially used by the scientific, medical, and psychiatric community.

When I told Marcella that this is an archaic term, that I wasn't sure why we would think about neuroses and that I wasn't sure what people even meant by it, she said:

Used by artists to describe how we drive ourselves fucking insane with shit that hasn't happened yet. You can quote me.

So I did.

I found the woodcut above in a bookstore in Inverness. They'd taken illustrations from books that had fallen apart and sold them separately. It doesn't scan well, since it's sepia-toned, somewhat blurry to begin with and under glass. Alas. I have it hanging next to my writing desk because it says something to me.

In the story, the bear insults the wren's children, because the wolf call the wren the King of all birds, and the bear doesn't see much palatial about the nest. They end up dragging all the animals into war. This image, of them all boiling up out of darkness, ready to battle - it has something to do with where I write from.

The women in my family have a tendency to go crazy. Dementia is the tender word for it these days. I wrote about this in Appliances, one of the essays in Wyoming Trucks, True Love and the Weather Channel. It tells the story about my grandmother's dementia and how it manifested in daily worrying about the sounds the refrigerator made. I say:

We are a family of passionate women. Women who like men, especially the dashing variety. Women who like to drink, who like to make big dinners, who spend their money on art and travel. We are also the women who check the mailbox twenty times in one day, waiting for something to arrive.
I suppose I'm saying I don't have a favorite neurosis. All my energy goes in the other direction. I try not to let my passion become obsession. I keep the peace in my own mind so the dark creatures don't boil over into battle. I work hard not make myself insane over things I can't control.

I try to keep the balance.


  1. So, you're neurosis is suppressing your neuroses. Nice. ;)

  2. I can so relate to the food thing. I always eat things separately.

  3. Heh - I do the food thing too (most of the time.) Always have. Meat first, carbs second, and the most hated veggies last. God, I hate veggies. Not sure I'm neurotic about them, but...bleah.

  4. Really, we should eat the veggies first, and save the stuff we like best for last.

    Um, Romulans?

  5. "I try not to let my passion become obsession."

    ~tabs though Jeffe's blog~

    So, spreadsheets don't count? Or your writing schedule? Or label control?

    ~bats lashes~


  6. "We are a family of passionate women. Women who like men, especially the dashing variety. Women who like to drink, who like to make big dinners, who spend their money on art and travel. We are also the women who check the mailbox twenty times in one day, waiting for something to arrive."

    I love this quote. It makes me think of the Ya Ya Sisterhood a little bit, lol. Or Steel Magnolias. Great resonance. Also love the idea of you doing battle with all of the little shadows before they take over.

    Um, Marcella - Romulans? I fear I don't get it.

    Jeffe - no, no, on the veggies. Then you're too full to really enjoy your favorite food. Eat dessert first, life is short.

    KAK - I'm a little envious of the ability to do spreadsheets and schedules, not sure it counts as neurosis. But then maybe I'm neurotic about my inability to ever find anything when I want it and my underscheduled life.

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  8. Let's try this again with appropriate editing skills engaged.

    OMG. I'm blogging with people who never watched Star Trek?? My cred as a scifi writer just went down in flames. Romulans: You tell a Romulan from a Vulcan (in the original series) by the fact that Romulans come unglued if any one bit of food touches the other. All food stuffs must remain with like food stuffs. Veggies touching meat is cause for complete Romulan spy meltdown. Many such spies were unmasked and captured by Star Fleet's crappy institutional food service. Welcome to Geekdom. Our parties are okay, but Darth Vader's a jerk when he's drunk.

  9. Okay, I would have called myself a serious Trekkie. I spent my 1hr/day of TV as a kid on Star Trek. Every afternoon, 4p. I watched Next Generation religiously, saw every movie at least twice and even stuck with Deep Space 9 and Voyager. And I totally do *not* remember the Romulan food-touching thing!

  10. LMAO. I'm with Sullvan. One type of food at a time.

    There is a fine line between passion and obsession...but a bit of both, I think, is needed to get things done. They're both symptoms of commitment. ;-)