My Level of Persnick

For most of my adult life, I’ve deliberately fought an impulse to be exacting. When I was a tween, I was one of those people who’d say “Actually, it’s ES-presso, not EX-presso…” and I annoyed even myself to the point that I consciously stopped. I came to understand that people who are secure in their own intelligence don’t feel the need to assert that intelligence over unsuspecting bystanders. With extremely few exceptions, people are not hoping you’ll correct them about minor details and they don’t grow in their esteem for you when you do. Also, it’s important to recognize what’s your responsibility and what doesn’t belong to you.

And yet, I find myself growing in persnick, in this time. Both yesterday and today, in the ladies room at work, I’ve felt compelled to wipe water droplets off the mirror. Yesterday, I did it because it was my fault— I shook my hands off before I dried them, and the water splashed onto the mirror. But then again yesterday afternoon and this morning, I wiped not-my-fault droplets off the mirror.

My mom does this in public bathrooms, wiping down the counters with her paper towels after she’s dried her hands. And there’s nothing specific wrong with it. As someone who routinely leans against counters that haven’t been wiped down and walks away with a wet shirt or dress, there are even reasons to like it. But it’s not her responsibility, and because she puts her energy there, she doesn’t have the energy to put other places. It also seems like it happens at the worst time— we’re late coming back from intermission, and instead of wrapping up and moving on, as we listen to them warn that the show is about to begin, she’s wiping down other people’s messes on the counters in the restroom.

I think this is mostly about my taking greater responsibility at home. Putting my house on the market and living in a new place has raised my awareness of how things look to an objective observer, which is a good thing. I tend to walk around in my head, paying more attention to things that are not right in front of me or to the subjective truth of a thing— for example, “well, yes, that key fob is on the ground, but I’m not picking it up right now because I’m prioritizing cleaning out the litter box, and I’m choosing not to see it until I’m ready to pick it up.” It makes some sense in my head (falling somewhere in the area of efficiency and prioritization), but I’m coming to realize that you spend a little energy to not-see something. And if you choose not to see it over and over again (I find that I don’t have dedicated “pick up key fob” time anywhere on my calendar), that amount of energy starts to add up as stress and anxiety. Because you see it, you decide not to do anything about it, and you justify it to yourself every time. There’s something to be said for getting it out of your way, just to avoid that loop. But for the life of me, I can’t think of a time I’ve ever noticed water droplets on the mirror before yesterday, and now I see them every time I go in there. And they drive me a little nuts.

So I am both bothered that I find myself bothered by persnickety things, and learning how to be more effective because I’m seeing them. And I am both bothered that this conundrum leaves me without a satisfying conclusion to offer here, and suspecting that it means that I’m growing.

Insight? Thoughts? Can you relate?


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