Okay, so given that I write a blog about what it’s like to live in a family where a member has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder AND given that I’m a psychologist, I have to share this here. I’ve mentioned in an earlier post (4:35 am), that we have had a house guest this summer. He is a friend and local fitness trainer who needed the opportunity to get out from under some financial issues. He has been living in our guest room for the last three months.
To be perfectly honest, I was not very keen on the idea when my husband presented it to me. First of all, it was thought out in that hazy kind of way my hubby tends to approach things like this (“Hey, wouldn’t it be great to help this guy out?!”). Second, although my husband has known the guy for a few years, I didn’t know him well at all. In addition, I like to get up on weekend mornings and hang out in my PJ’s (one of my little indulgences). How could I do that with a guy in the house?
Still, I agreed and I let the hubster handle the details. Despite a few minor mishaps (like the fact that there was no bed in the room our guest was to stay in), we settled into a nice routine with our new (albeit, temporary) housemate. There were a few times I was actually grateful he was there.
When someone lives with you, at least in our family, you find yourself on your best behavior – initially. I think our “best behavior” lasted a few days. After that, we quickly settled back into our usual routine. Our guest saw it all – the good, the bad and the ugly. He saw our loving moments and our arguments. And he saw Blake’s rituals. He saw how we tried to manage living with OCD and he was present when we made the decision to take a break from treatment.
At the end of this past week, it was time for him to move out. He spent the day moving out his belongings and transporting them to his new place.
“One more load,” he told me in the late afternoon. “I’ll be back for that tonight.”
True to his word, he and his girlfriend came that evening for his last load of the day. We said our goodbyes and waived as they went out the door. As I stepped back in I saw a flowering plant on the kitchen counter with a card attached.
You can see the card here, but it was what it said inside that really caught my attention:
In case you have trouble reading, it says:
“Thank you for all the unconditional hospitality!! You guys have a rare and uniquely healthy/functional family… Thanks again,”
My husband and I read it again and started to giggle. This man, who barely knew our family 3 months ago and who had just had a front row seat to our family nuttiness, was telling us that we were healthy and functional. Not “normal” mind you – healthy and functional.
At first we wondered what planet he had been living on…but then we realized something. Even with family disagreements and weird habits, and even with undeniable mental illness in our family, we can still function and we can still be healthy. We don’t need to be some standard of perfection for a relative stranger to appreciate us and what we strive to offer to one another. We may have OCD in the family and a whole host of other things, but that does not need to define our family – or any family. We can keep loving each other and keep rising to the challenges that are a daily part of this life and do it in such a way that others can have an intimate view into our lives and actually appreciate it. We do not have to be defined by what we think is our craziness.
I am definitely going to keep this card. I will look at it on the low days and use it as a reminder not to obsess on the bad or the troubling, but to remind myself of the good that exists here.