Early this week at 6:30am I noticed high school students were parking on my lawn. This has never happened before and I had no idea what was going on. I live in a quiet neighborhood where there is very little traffic. These students were about to turn my lawn into a parking lot. I spent the morning making students move their car.
I approached one student as he was exiting his BMW convertible. In a very matter-of-fact tone I said, “You can’t park here.” He continued to get his backpack out of the car seat. I repeated, “You can’t park here.” He demanded, “Says who?” I shrugged and said, “You need to move your car.” He slung his backpack over his shoulder and said, “What’s your problem? This street is on the list.” I thought, “What list? What’s he talking about?” I began to doubt myself. But, I calmly repeated, “You can’t park here.” He looked exasperated and glared at me. A few explicit words escaped his mouth. My affect remained flat or unfazed. “You need to move your car.” He threw his backpack in his car, flipped me the bird, and squealed away.
I called the high school and was told that students were no longer allowed to park on the street they’d been parking on all year. She said, “I knew it. I predicted they would go to your street. They’re cutting through people’s lawns to access the back of the school. These kids are bad news. They’ll trash your lawn. Call the police.” I asked about “The List.” She said there is no list. “You better call the police. These kids will make your life miserable.”
I called the police and an officer came to hear my complaint. He told me school was almost out for the year. “Be patient, it’ll only be for a couple more weeks.” He warned me, “They might get nasty. There could be vandalism.” I shrugged. “Vandalism could happen anytime. I’ve been through it before. It was unpleasant but I got through it.” I told him that if I let them park on the street the risk would be far worse than vandalism. “Clearly a fire engine would not be able to get through if these students park here.” He looked down the street and saw no car was impeding a fire engine’s passage. (I wanted to argue: That’s because I made them all move! But, I resisted getting into a back and forth exchange with him.) He said, “I don’t see an issue here.” I repeated, “I’m not going to let them park here. I value the safe passageway of a fire engine too much. I also value the solitude of my neighborhood.”
He glared at me. Once again I told the officer I had no intention of letting them park on the street today, tomorrow or next year. He tried to appease me, “Just allow this for two more weeks. We’ll have no-parking signs next year.” I repeated, “I’m not going to allow them to park here. I will tell them to move.” He looked exasperated, “You have no authority. One foot of your property belongs to the town. Technically they can have their wheels on one foot of your property.” I repeated, “I will not allow them to park on this street. I will be here every morning at 6:30am. I invite you to join me.”
I have all the names of the students and even the police officer. I’m going to post their names in this blog right now for all to see. Their names are…OCD.
OCD can act like a know-it-all and zap you of all your power. Like the student who challenged, “Says who?”
It can make you think you’re in the wrong or that you don’t know enough to make a good decision. OCD lies all the time! Like the student who said there was a LIST I didn’t know about.
OCD can be intimidating and forceful. Like the student and the officer that glared at me.
Before you know it, you’re second guessing yourself. OCD can convince you, “Just this one time. Just do this compulsion for now. You won’t always have to do this. But to be safe, do it for now.” Like the officer who threatened there could be vandalism if I didn’t do as he said.
OCD can talk you into ignoring your values or convince you to take a bigger risk just to avoid a minimal risk. Like the officer who tried to get me to believe vandalism would be worse than a house burning down.
My strategy is the same strategy to use with OCD:
1. I mostly repeated myself over and over. No matter what I was asked or told, I sounded like a broken record. In essence it was as if I was saying, “It’s not up for discussion. This is what I’m doing no matter what you say. End of discussion.”
2. I shrugged a lot. Even though I was nervous and angry, I kept a matter-of-fact tone of voice. I offered no explanations.
3. The only time I did anything other than repeat myself was when I told the officer I would not compromise my values and if the going got rough as he warned, it’d be unpleasant but I’d handle it.
4. I invited the officer to come along as I faced each morning. Instead of always being surprised by OCD, invite it to show up.
Use this same strategy with OCD. There is no better way to respond to OCD.
As I promised, every day of this week I’ve been in my front yard from 6:30am-8:00am. Students drove down my street, slowed as if ready to park, and saw me. I acknowledged them with a nod and they quietly moved on. The police showed up a couple of times but had no interaction with me other than to ask if I saw which way a car went. Actually today not one student even drove down my street.
Finally, I want to say that when facing hardship ask “What does this make possible?” What did this parking fiasco make possible for me? At first I considered charging students $35 a day to park on my lawn. LOL! I could’ve made at least $280 a day! But, what it truly made possible is that I got a lot of yard work done!
OCD loves to get you to rewind and replay. It can trick you into analyzing something for hours. When resisting a compulsion or repetitive mental act tell OCD “NO. End of discussion.”
Have you told OCD it’s not up for discussion? Do you sound like a broken record?