And in record time, to boot

By Susan S. Kelly

My sister thinks I’m OCD, but it’s not that at all. Now, I’ll admit to, in my young mother days, putting a notepad at the top of the steps to write down how many times in a single day I went upstairs and downstairs, but I was merely collecting sociological and scientific statistics. No, my husband, who folds his eyeglasses cleaning cloth six times before replacing it in the little plastic case, and the guy in the pew in front of me at church who takes out the hymnal and smooths the tiny folds in the page corners where they’ve been carelessly creased, are both closer to OCD than me. (Though, during the next overlong sermon, I’m going to do that, too.) My issue is CAD: Compulsive Achievement Disorder. I don’t consider CAD a suffer-from syndrome, but a blessed-with aptitude.

You’ve got your PWE, Puritan Work Ethic, loosely defined as the fear that someone, somewhere, is having fun. And you’ve got your basic multitasking. Both are related to Compulsive Achievement Disorder. Because I do love me a list. Few things in life are as satisfactory as crossing off to-dos. Roundup weeds. Check. Pickup alterations. Check. Send bio to speaking gig. Check. Finish this writing piece. Check. Respond to that invitation. Check. But there exists an entire realm beyond typical daily errands. I’m talking scheduling the deletion of future unnecessary emails; planning ahead to refill the dishwashing liquid bottle from the mammoth Costco bottle; noting all upcoming weddings/baby showers/birthdays in back of the calendar so you’re always on the lookout for gifts.

I mean, doesn’t everyone time themselves on how fast, how efficiently, and with how many fewer steps and reaches it requires to unload a dishwasher?

Here is a classic two minutes in a CAD day: Empty bathroom trash can into bedroom trash can on the way to plugging in the phone charger that’s beside the bedroom trash can on the way to putting the toilet paper plastic wrapping on the upstairs hall table to be taken downstairs for the recycling bag which is in the laundry closet and just go ahead and fill the laundry detergent for the next time you have a wash, turn to take the clean wine glasses off the drying pad, replace in the bar and check the mail on the desk beside the bar to see if anything that you’ve predated to send is ready to be sent. Two minutes. Tops.

There’s some DNA to this CAD. I ran into my first cousin at the grocery store, and he showed me his list, which was arranged by where the items came on the shelves. Beyond that, he’d put asterisks beside the items that were on sale that week, and beyond that, he’d put stars by the items he had coupons for. Oversharing, perhaps, but there you are.

Sometimes, at supper, I’ll say to my husband, “Do you want to know what I did today?” He says, “No, I know you’re amazing.” And I just have to live with that minor acknowledgement. Then I go upstairs and binge Netflix. Because I’ve earned my downtime.

Speaking of husbands, CAD is especially advantageous during, uh, disagreements and stalemates. You can always refill the saltshakers, clean out the fridge, make salad dressing or iced tea while you’re refusing to speak. Bustle and busy-ness are terrific strategies for stonewalling.

Not that CAD doesn’t come with drawbacks. Automatically reaching for the cards to shuffle them when it’s not your turn to shuffle irritates by-the-rules bridge players. And it’s tiresome to have to dust off presents you wrapped weeks before. Of course, you have to find where you hid them first. That’s senior CAD.

Rather than some mental problem, I’m going to lay this issue at the feet of all the movies I watched as a child. Mary Poppins did five things at a time — though she had bluebirds to help her — and Snow White had her seven dwarfs, and especially Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when Dick Van Dyke cooked breakfast eggs on a fabulously complicated machine.

Call it what you want. I’m getting it done.

Susan Kelly is a blithe spirit and an open book, or reading one.

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