There is this idea in the discussion and treatment of OCD regarding hyper or over responsibility. To explain briefly, someone who suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder can often feel like he or she is responsible (or accountable) for far more than is rational or normal.

For example, if you have a cough and go to the store, you might feel like you were infecting everyone else in the store (or even people coming later who would touch something you touched) with your sickness. This obsession might lead you to the compulsion of using hand sanitizer before going into stores or just staying home until you feel totally well.

For today’s sketch, I want to talk about a napkin and hyper responsibility. 

The Situation

We were eating lunch outside in Portland one day. We had gotten food from some food trucks and were enjoying our afternoon, sitting at a picnic table near an intersection. (Basically, these food trucks are set up in what should probably be or was a parking lot on a corner in the city.)

The Problem

Suddenly, a breeze came and blew some of our napkins. That was all it took. I panicked. I tried to grab what I could before they blew away from us, but there was a kind of railing with bushes or something so I couldn’t get out to the sidewalk easily to grab the last napkin. I watched helplessly as the napkin blew around the sidewalk, pausing here or there before being carried further away. I wanted to rush around, run out to the sidewalk, and grab it before it went into the road. I didn’t or couldn’t, I can’t really remember.

Then the napkin was in the road. I was not happy.

My husband was pretty amused and shocked at my freak out about a napkin. But to me, that napkin could potentially fly up onto someone’s windshield, blocking their view, and potentially cause an accident. I would then be responsible for that accident and any damages. Maybe it would blow into someone’s exhaust pipe or some other part of their car and blow something up. I don’t know. I’m not a car person. Maybe both things could happen! Or more!

Regardless, the OCD made me envision these worst possible scenarios as I watched that little napkin float around the road and sidewalks in the breeze. Multiple times I thought, “This is it. This is my moment to go run out into the road and snatch it!” (like a grown woman running into a busy intersection is safer than some random napkin) ….or “Oh! It’s going into a parking lot across the street. Maybe I can run over and pick it up and throw it away.”

WWBD (What Would Bob Do)?

My husband strongly discouraged any such behavior, and I’m proud (?) to say that I didn’t retrieve that napkin. I don’t think. I can’t even remember now. But I don’t think I did. Really. 😉  I think that is what a normal person would’ve done: nothing. Not worried about it. Done what they could and forgotten about that rogue napkin. And while maybe I haven’t completely forgotten, at least I let it be. Sort of.

Have you experienced this sense of hyper responsibility before? How do you handle it?

One thought on “Sketches: The Napkin”

  1. Not sure I’ve been “hyper” responsible in my thoughts or actions, but I do feel at times like I should be doing more. Always more and never enough. The key is to find a balance so as not to be “used” and sucked dry as others and life will always be able to ask/demand for more than we can give.

    By the way, exhaust blows out of an “exhaust” pipe as gases are exhausted as they exit the pipe; so the napkin wouldn’t have been sucked in. It would’ve been blown by exhaust. But maybe your errant napkin provided someone with a much needed napkin of their own. ;-p

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