I’ve learned a lot of things about myself this year in Iraq but one thing stands out to me: I am very much a creature of habit. I think I border on the edge of OCD, and I’m not being a smart ass when I say that. Most of the time, I’m incredibly scatter brained. I don’t remember where I put things and my filing systems is…well, let’s just say that if I die, I hope my husband can figure out our finances.
I have to work extra hard to keep my life from falling apart. When my oldest daughter was born, I decided I needed a key holder by the door. I don’t even think about it. I come in the house and hang my keys. Every single time. So there’s a little bit of panic when I look at they’re not there.
I do the same thing here. I have my eye protection in a side pouch of my assault pack. In the morning, I change to the sunglasses, as night to the clear lenses. But the case is always in the same place. My ipod is in my front left pocket. It’s reassuring to me to reach up and know it’s there and when it isn’t, I stop and have to remember where it is so that I know it’s not lost.
I asked my husband where something was this morning and he made a joke to the effect of ‘color me surprised, you don’t know where something is’. But we’ve moved. So where I was keeping something for the whole year is no longer where is it right now. When it’s not in its place, I can’t find it.
In applying this to my writing, I’m very much the same. I sit in my bed, my desk lap on my thighs, my macbook on my desk with its sad little broken Apple light. I keep my files organized, at least to me. My books are all in the Books file. Each series has its own folder. I have to do it this way, otherwise, I can never find a damn thing. Soldiers think it’s anal when the Command Sergeant Major says that all first aid pouches will be worn in the exact same spot on every soldier. This makes sense, though, because in combat, you need to react, not search for something and if it’s in the same place, everyone knows.
I am going quietly insane right now because I can’t find the charging plug for my ipod. I moved it, in that took it to my chu last night as I knew I was not going to write but take a night off and recharge my brain. I tweeted. I surfed. I veged out.
I lost my cable. I left it in the same place for a year and now I can’t find it because I moved it. I remember the last time I saw it but after that, it’s like a fuge state where I have no idea where it went. This is what happens when I break the pattern. This is what happens when everything is not in its place.
I’ll find it, as soon as I buy a new one (say a prayer that the PX has one or I’m really in trouble). But how far over the edge am I that I have these rituals and routines that ease my mind. I work in chaos all the time but if I know where something is, even if the location is on a calendar somewhere, I can cope. I can handle all kinds of things at once, but I react very poorly to being blindsided, which is the equivalent of moving my cable.
I can thrive in chaos but require order. I’m the worst at organizing but I can hold all the facts. One of the hardest things for me to learn how to do was organize my storylines and keep the plot moving forward in a coherent storyline. I know I have more to learn about writing and about the army but finding a place to put everything is an important, difficult habit to enforce.