When I was very young, around the age of four, I began to feel this shape in my mind. Or at least that’s when I first became conscious of what I’ll refer to as a “shape”, for lack of a better word. It was free of content, just a blueprint-like series of outlines and vague impressions…but it burned with significance. It felt like a fever dream, the intensity of that shape.
And I took to arranging stuffed animals so that they matched the shape.
I was unable to fully hold the structure in my mind…it was there, very strong, but hard to make out all at once. So it took some time to get the arrangement exactly the way I wanted. I would set the animals in place…and if it felt off, I would move them around, continuously making small adjustments, striving for that sense of completion.
Then I would stare at it for awhile, until my parents- confused, not understanding- pulled me away from it.
While creating the arrangement, my breathing picked up speed; mild agitation. Once complete: moment of peace; mental quiet.
The feeling of peace never lasted long, because I’d sense a bit more of the structure and realize that more adjustments were necessary. I’d have to start over, a process that was both comforting and frustrating.
As the years went by, I gradually moved on to other fixations. They’d settle into my mind then fade away like seasons: rhythmic and powerful. Each with it’s own set of rules and hidden structures. I’d engage them, no matter the fixation- obsession with a particular film or piece of music, or a task repetition, etc- but the same inability to truly “complete” a task was always lying in wait. The same comfort/frustration dynamic applied to seemingly every fixation.
I hard to learn, over and over again, the lesson that I understood even when I was arranging stuffed animals: at the edge of every system, there is unraveling. And only unraveling. There is just something hardwired into the complexity of the mind that subverts completion.
I think that’s why I would drift to other fixations, over time. I was seeking something whole…something certain, complete.