Incurable, but not terminal

At least, that's what they tell me. Turns out I have a fairly rare affliction (I prefer not to use disease at this point). From the research I've done, something like 1 out of 57,000,000 people suffer from the most severe form, and of those only a very few survive to have a normal, unencumbered life. I don't know the specific medical terminology, much less the Latin root for my malaise. The only other person I know who suffers as acutely as I do is Eric M. And our cases, while equally severe, manifest themselves much differently. What I suffer from I have taken to calling Particularity.

The most recent flare-up began with a need for a new planter for our herbs (I say our only so my Eric is somehow complicit, even though he thinks I'm crazy as a loon). As you know, we live on the first floor of a condo building, and our porch, while servicable, is not huge. Also, we had a couple pots of flowers stolen off the porch last summer, which made me unreasonably ANGRY. So, I thought we should have a herb planter that would take full advantage of the sun on the south side of our little spot, and be big/heavy/cumbersome enough to deter potential thieves. I even—generously, I thought—envisioned four different iterations of the potential planter in my head, soest I would not seem too, well, particular. I began looking for what I had in mind last week, touring a few (okay, five exactly) garden centers. I took photo after photo with my trusty iPhone to send to a bemused but loyal Eric. Close, but no cigar. This past weekend, Eric dutifully in tow, we checked out the farmer's market and another garden store (in the rain). Nothing. But we bought the herbs, which added urgency to The Quest.

Fast forward to yesterday, my first day post-school, during which I resolved to do nothing: no work, no studying, no deadlines. I read a book and drank coffee on the front porch. For about ten minutes. Then I started pacing. Knowing what I needed to do, I got in my car and began scouring the Cities for The Perfect Planter. Home improvement big boxes, every garden store and centre west of the Mississippi, hardware stores, a couple of the garden stores twice: nothing. Every so often I would stop at home and pretend to lounge, but I was way too agitated for forced relaxation to mitigate my Particularity flare-up.

I finally gave in, it being 4:30pm and time to pick up Viggo from Downtown Dogs (where I had dumped him for the day so that I could Lounge Without Interruption). On the way there, I remembered that Bloomsbury, the first garden shop we had visited over the rainy weekend, was close to the dog's daycare. Perhaps we hadn't given it our fullest attention. After all, it had been drizzly and we were cold. And the options we did see, while not exactly right, had shown some possibilities, aesthetics-wise.

So (yes, to make a long story interminable), I stopped and looked around (the sixteenth stop on my journey, I kid you not), and convinced the nice worker into obsessing with me, and almost immediately found three options (two of which we had seen on Saturday but dismissed as being less than ideal so early in The Quest). But, in the mucky back lot of this little place, which is filled with iron window boxes and old bird baths and abandoned benches, Patient Worker and I saw two old, rusty (I mean patina-ed) cast iron tall rectangular planters. As if God itself had measured our space and plunked these down (15 years ago), half buried them under muck, and filled them with yard waste and fence posts so that no one else would buy them. I immediately took a photo, called Eric, and bought one (he was skeptical of the patina). It weighs about a gazillion pounds, and is perfect perfect perfect. In the cast of the iron are three initals, L M E, which I'm certain stand for Love Me, Eric.

This story should end with my appreciation for the simpler things, an understanding that life is more than obsession over fruitless searches and unimportant details. However, as is so often the case, I was completely vindicated, my long, difficult (some might say sacrificial) Quest ending in triumph. For righteousness there is no cure.

UPDATE: Before and After


Tom said...

I understand your plight though mine usually goes a little differently. I probably would have bought a planter, realized immediately it wasn't the right one and then sat on it until it was unreturnable making my wife insane in the process. Rinse and repeat a bazillion times. I'll buy until I find the right one. I'm not sure which is "worse" though my path might cost more...

I look forward to seeing your vintage planter with real, natural patina. I'm sure its perfect.

Stephanie said...

You may need to revise your statistics, because I know of at least 2 other people who live with this affliction: me, and L, my best friend from DC.

L and I worked at the same place, and one day at lunch, she noticed my wallet and asked if I liked it and felt that it was the right size.

Fast-forward to the next day, when Jeff and I were driving somewhere. I told him, "Oh! I think I met a kindred spirit at work yesterday--she asked me if I like my wallet!" Jeff responded by opening the car door (while the car was in motion) and pretending to throw himself into the street, screaming, "Oh my God, there's TWO of you!!" (I'm not making this up.)

That's because Jeff knew--as L had NO way of knowing when she asked--that I had just purchased that wallet after spending an entire YEAR looking for one that met all of my Essential Wallet Criteria. To wit:
- Must not be ugly;
- Must have a see-through window for driver's license, so I don't have to take the license all the way out of the wallet when I get carded (I was younger then);
- Must have two compartments for bills, in order to keep cash separate from receipts;
- Must be large enough to hold passport without bending;
- Must have a large, securely closing coin compartment, because you always end up with lots of coins in European countries.

Did I mention that this was in 1996-97, when I lived in the U.S. and had no thought of moving overseas? Yes, I spent over a year looking for a wallet that would be functional for me worldwide, just to cover the vague eventuality of foreign trips. And Jeff had been forced to spend a year looking at every wallet sold in every store from New York to Virginia, so it was understandable that he was freaked out at the thought that there was someone else one out there like me.

As for L, she and I had a lovely lunch talking about What We Look for in a Wallet and have been fast friends ever since.

a) Congratulations on your new planters! I can really and truly appreciate your glee.
b) You and Eric M and I should consider starting some kind of support group for People Living with Particularity.
c) You should be aware that I know I have a Major Outbreak of Particularity coming on: I've received 2 estimates from moving companies, both of which were in the I-could-buy-a-small-chateau-for-that-amount price range. I'm completely panicked and trying to figure out what to do to fit this move into my budget, but it seems clear that before I leave France I'm going to have to get rid of much of my furniture, a great deal of which will then have to be replaced when I get to the Cities. Everyone keeps telling me that it'll be fun, that I'll get to shop. They don't understand what it's like to shop for something, Particularly.

deb said...

In the overt telling of his story, the patient seems to exhibit distress regarding his symptoms and his diagnosis. Clearly he understands the social norms of ordinary sane people, but claims to be unable to withstand his own impulses to act on the "disease" of Particularity.

(Not to be confused with its cousin, Scrupulosity.)

However, if we allow him to fully develop his ideas, the ego-syntonic nature of Particularity is evident. He may believe he's fooling us, but the covert intent is apparent.

We learn from the family systems theorists that "The covert rules drive the system."

In other words, he loves that he is particularly particular. Even though he expresses "distress," he actually believes it's an adorable quirk, and that the world is better because he is solving arcane problems in a particular manner. Embedded within his schema is the absolute certainty that All would benefit from his attention to solving their little problems and concerns.

Even if I weren't off duty (and I'm soooooo off duty) I would not call and make a bed reservation in the in-patient unit at this time. He is unlikely to accept treatment, and the outcome prognosis would be guarded at best. He is likely to stay in his disease as a practicing particularist for the foreseeable future.

Additional areas to explore might be a community-based level 3 particularist registry, so that children aren't affected by these people.

deb said...


I've called the locked unit, and am assured it's in a shambles and in terrible need of some organizing and some throw pillows.

His 72-hour hold begins at 12:00 noon.

deb said...

Alternate possibility: he has confused the monomythic hero's journey and shopping.

Eric said...

It's estimated that each Particularist affects the lives of at least four other people and that Particularism is truly a family disease. No matter what relationship you have with a Particularist, all who have been affected by someone else’s Particularism can find solutions that lead to serenity.

Deb, any information you can provide regarding Particularist support groups would be appreciated. So often I think the spouse or partner goes unnoticed, suffering in silence--perhaps there are others like me.

Scott R said...


To Tom: Absolutely no offense to your wife, but my offer still stands. Problem solved. Probably new ones crop up though, huh?

To Stephanie: Not to worry, I took my readership into accounting when crunching the numbers. There's a reason we're all here together.

To Deb: That shambles of a lockup: It's purple right, with lots of books? Any chance it has a refrigerator in the dining room?

To Eric: I've got your solution that leads to serenity right here.

Eric M said...

Scott, I am baffled by your post. Your behavior seems entirely normal to me; is there another way of living?

Stephanie, I can't wait to meet you.

Deb, who are these "ordinary, sane" people you speak of? I have heard talk of these creatures, but I have yet to meet one (or a unicorn, for that matter).

Stephanie said...

To Deb and Scott: I'd like to make it clear that the locked unit absolutely, positively HAS to have a trash can, a clock, and a (tastefully coordinating) box of tissues in it. These are the three items that every room around the world must have, because they're the three items that people are always trying to find, often with some urgency. I think it will be especially important to have them in a room designed for people in psychiatric crisis.

Actually, Deb, maybe you should wait until July to put Scott in the lock up, so that I can be there and make sure he does it right.

P.S. to Eric M: I'm looking forward to meeting you, too, but the key to our future relationship lies in your answer to the following question: should the end of a toilet paper roll go over or under?

Sean said...

You're so queer, which is why we luvs ya bunches and tons.

Shall I bring wine to Knit Knight?

- Seany

Eric M said...

To Stephanie:

I hope this doesn't end our relationship, because I, too, have very strong feelings. In fact, I'm a little surprised you even asked that question. Doesn't everyone know by now that the toilet paper must go over the top of the roll? Isn't any other way pure madness?

Well, "madness" might be too strong. My theory is that there are two kinds of people: those who Notice Things (the first step on the road to Particularity) and those who don't. I suppose the "under" people are just people that don't Notice Things.

Well, I've said too much. So; are we friends or sworn enemies now?

deb said...

All right-thinking people know that eric m is correct.

I suffer no unusual particularity (in that my absolutist beliefs and needs are in the ordinary, normal, sane category) but if I'm at someone's house and discover the wrongly positioned toilet paper roll, I helpfully restore it to its proper position before I leave the room.

Stephanie said...

Eric M and Deb, we're BFF--your answers are exactly right!

Someone at my office (a tiny place with only 4-7 employees and one restroom) often puts the toilet paper roll on upside down. I'm never sure if it's due to inattention or part of a deliberate and covert plot to drive me stark raving mad. I always fix the roll immediately, of course.