I used to obsessively go through my music library, deleting every song I could bear to part with. It was soothing to me, like a cleanse minus the questionable green smoothie. I witnessed the moment the number of songs went from 2001 to 2000. Sweet success.
Except 2000 wasn’t good enough anymore. Now I needed to see that number drop to at least 1900. With practiced ease, I set the rating for every song back to one star; this was my system at the time. Every song starts with one star and earns the other four stars once it has been deemed worthy of staying.
Except when I started to double guess myself. Did I really want to keep that song? Or was I just keeping it out of some strange sense of obligation and nostalgia? Regardless, the situation could only be remedied one way; a complete refresh. And so, the songs I’d given five stars went back to their original one star.
And yet I couldn’t stop. There was an itch and this was my way of scratching it.
I tried telling my therapist about it, but I could never convey just how stressful it was for me, this constant cycle of cleansing.
I came to an understanding one day; it wasn’t about the songs, not really. It was about me. These things usually are.
It was my mother who shed a much needed light on the situation. In a pattern closely resembling my obsessive music library cleansing, I also organized my room neurotically. I’d start in one corner of my room, tidy it up, and move on, only to start the whole process over again the next day. There was always something that could be made more compact, something to get rid of, something that would look better elsewhere. It was never ending. It got to the point where organizing, something I’d always found extremely calming, became a source of stress instead. This was deeply troubling for me, as organizing was a skill I often employed to combat anxiety in my life. I can’t remember my mother’s exact words, but to summarize:
My room had become my whole world. I rarely left the house and when at home, chances were I was in my room. When you spend that much time in one place, it grows in size and relevance until it becomes all powerful. Spending all day in my room was like spending all day in my brain. If you look at anything long enough, the flaws will eventually crawl out and rear their ugly heads. This is true for my art, my writing, my body, my room, and yes, even my music library. I was spending hours examining them, going out of my mind trying to control every flaw I perceived in my environment. It’s a recipe for disaster.
I didn’t solve my problem overnight, even after realizing what it was. These things take time.
To combat my music library problem, I made a Spotify account. It allowed me to add and remove songs, knowing that at any time I could get them back should I wish to. I let all my songs in my library have five shiny stars. I stopped combing through them one by one and instead simply deleted outdated ones as they came on shuffle.
To combat my room problem, well… I think that was a matter of finding other things to occupy my time with. I realized there were other areas of the house that genuinely needed attention: the basement, the attic…the attic. Months later and both my anxiety and the attic are looking much better. They’re still a work in progress, but I’ve been able to focus my energy on a worthy cause and that’s a huge deal!
I still struggle with keeping a handle on my obsessive need for control, but knowing the underlying cause of my impractical habits has made it possible to fight back against them. Once you realize it isn’t really your room, or your music, or your art, but your brain craving control, then you’ve already started the journey back to a healthier you.