When I was obsessing about a dog, I was concerned about my son being a singleton. I wondered if perhaps being alone with parents wasn’t such a great thing, that he needed a buffer–someone with whom he could conspire, even if the conspiracies were fantastical and impotent. Someone playful, didn’t nag. Liked to chase small objects endlessly, joyfully, unlike me.

There are some parts of your book that are downright gross. You brush your teeth with Ajax and peel off your psoriasis scabs. Who wants to read about stuff like this?

There’s nothing wrong with Ajax. It gets the disinfecting job done and smells great! Of course the scab thing, yeah that’s not so pretty. Having to go back in my mind to when my OCD was at an all time high (as a teenager) was a scary place to be (and yes, most of the time–disgusting) for sure, but it wouldn’t have been an honest account if I didn’t go there. I don’t think I could have just told you about the times I had to carry around water in glass jars because I was afraid of spontaneously combusting without taking you through the whole process as it happened. I didn’t particularly enjoy writing about scabs. But it’s out there now. What can I do?

 

One blogger’s review called you Augusten Burroughs with bleach and you can kind of see that in the parts where you write from the point of view of a small child. Is that good? Do you like Augusten Burroughs?

A lot of people don’t know this but Augusten and I are secretly married. It doesn’t matter that he’s gay. We’re married and that’s how it is so it’s not like being compared to my husband who loves me because we’re married? Of course that’s good. As far as what it’s like to write in a child’s voice, I’m pretty immature anyway so thinking like a kid wasn’t exactly a chore. Plus, there’s still so much of that spazzy girl in me who has to do a lot of receptive OCD stuff every day. I still have most of the problems I write about in the book, like it takes me an hour just to get ready for bed because I have to make my “rounds”—you know, checking things, touching things. I’ve got these routines I have to follow to comfort my brain.

 

So you’re cleaning the house at eleven o’clock at night?

Usually, I try to wait until at least midnight until everyone in the house is just about to fall asleep so no one gets in the way of my vacuuming.

 

That’s a little not normal don’t you think?

Sure. But I don’t care anymore. It took me a long time to get to that place. It’s basically a place of, “screw it!”, meaning, I can’t live by a code that’s going to get me approval of what living a “normal” life should be. People who have bad panic attacks or feel nervous all the time—so much of it comes from the constant running dialogue of, “Will they see me mess up? What will they think if I still wear Zips because I’m into Velcro buckles?” Once you can let that go, even if you let it go just a little, I swear, it’s the most freeing feeling in the world. Medication helps that a lot. I try to stay doped up as much as possible.

 

What would you do if didn’t write? Are OCDers better at some things than non-OCDers?

Well, I heard the entire board of directors of the League for Promotion of Even Numbers has all had their share of OCD. As for myself I can’t multi-task anything because organizing pencils according to size and frequency of use can get in the way of answering phones and sending out emails.

 

Do you have any hobbies?

I never excelled at much except for writing. I can act a little, like in the theatre. Which is basically just lying with extra makeup on so of course I’m good at that. Other than looking up symptoms on wrong diagnosis dot com (right now I’ve got a weird pain in my left side which I’m pretty sure is the onset of pleurisy) I don’t have a lot of ways to keep myself busy. In the book I talk about my first real job at a dry cleaners. I couldn’t count back change and I busted a super expensive embroidery machine then just walked off the job because it never occurred to me to do anything else but run away.

 

Interesting you should mention running away. In the book you do a lot of it.

Before you judge let me tell you about the time I was 13 and I was sent to live at a nursing home my grandmother owned. I ran away from there, that’s true, but I had to share a room with an old man who called me Whore all day. That was just his name for me. He said, “Hey Whore, come change my diaper.” And it’s not like when Augusten calls me Whore. This was completely degrading, so yeah, I bailed from that scene in a hurry.

 

But you don’t write like a victim. Nothing in the story gives us the feeling of Woe is Me.

I throw myself onto Facebook and update my status to passively aggressively hint that someone has done me wrong. That usually brings the gratification I’m looking for. But for the book, I guess I just had to get over myself. This starts to happen the more you look at the complete absurdity of OCD. If you can step outside yourself for just a few minutes and really look at yourself doing things like counting all the red cars in the parking lot before you settle on a parking space ‘cause if you don’t something bad will happen to your best friend— I mean even Keasy’s Cheify would call that weird. Besides, I’m not going through anything millions of people aren’t going through right at this very moment.

 

So what keeps you going?

Working on new writing projects. Reading. Feeling cross and jealous of other writers who have what I don’t, then friending those writers on Facebook and spending an embarrassing amount of time looking at pictures and status updates of where I think I should be in my life in order to be happy. That and hand sanitizer. And of course being Augusten’s wife.

 

 

Preface: I am reposting this entry despite the fact that the move described in part led to my divorce and entirely caused or at least fueled a depression followed by a streak of mania like lightening.

I am moving to Florida; Sanibel, Florida, to be exact, an island just west of Fort Meyers. Robert Rauschenberg and (how’s this for contrast) Dan Brown live on the adjacent island of Captiva. Several other known writers live there, too, like Barbara Kingsolver. Luckily, it’s not the home of Dave Barry. “Count your blessings,” they say. One.

My wife and I really can’t afford this move. It’s a crapshoot and the odds are loaded. If I had any marital power, I might have put the kibosh on it, but as a writer, I have no power in marriage, either.

I’m moving from the known location of hell — Flint, Michigan — and I wonder if my metaphoric angels will leave with my not-so-metaphoric devils. Perhaps chiggers will relieve me of that burden. Besides, I’m not at all convinced I’m possessed of even metaphoric angels. Let them fly — buzz off. I’m neither George Bailey nor Fyodor Dostoevsky.

On the other hand, I do worry I’ll begin writing mysteries of local color, guaranteed to sell a respectable number of copies to residents wanting to read about the places they regularly visit, as if those places only exist when written about, broadcast or filmed. The new definition of “art” seems to be: “To confirm the existence of readers or reassure them someone else’s life is worse.”

I believe the purpose of art is to change perceptions and to reinvigorate the senses. To show something in a different way, even to show what that something “sees.” To remind us we’re bored precisely because we only see what we’re used to seeing and how limited that viewpoint can be. To open our eyes and everything else.

Give me Christian Hawkey and take away every memoirist in the book…store. Give me what is of this earth and keep the conveniently-half-answered mysteries, even if Christian Hawkey is…a Christian. I’ve an open mind.

Everything is of use, everything…you’re a collagist or you’re nothing. There’s nothing you can do that hasn’t been done, so why do it again? There are no original singularities, but there are new combinations, always new combinations. Ask any locksmith. Or pair of lovers. So do it again.

Of course, major publishers aren’t interested in combinations; they’re interested in repetitions. Show me a current bestselling novel and, with a few exceptions, I’ll show you a book that’s been written better before. And by repetitions, I don’t mean interesting repetitions; I mean repeating in the manner of a cocaine addict: “It worked once and, despite all evidence to the contrary, I will repeat the experience again and again, hoping for the same result.” Hence, the rehab memoir.

I’m not saying I don’t repeat myself; in the words of Robert Fripp, “I repeat myself when I repeat myself.”  I always hope only to enlarge a pinprick of a vision.  ABE: Always Be Enlarging. That statement, by the way, should increase site-wide hits from blog spammers.

Maybe I’m merely “stressed,” a useless word now that leaving the house and seeing lowered flags everywhere, every day of the week, should alert anyone it’s time to be stressed all the time: Have Paxil, will travel. Stress, anxiety, depression, all of it, no longer signify neuroses. If anything, they signify the lack of it. It’s as though we’re constantly approaching a yellow light, uncertain how close it is to turning red.

So here I go, heading for earthquakes disguised as hurricanes. In that deceiving land, I’ll live near collagists and repeaters of conspiracy theories. There are rumblings. In destruction lies what will be, something not so much new as refashioned into something else.

Not New Orleans but New New Orleans.