Obsessive? Addictive? Workaholic? Me?
I’m not addicted to drink or drugs, but – when I was still earning my living, if a job interested me, I would certainly concentrate on getting it done as well as possible and that might involve a lot more time and effort than it really warranted.
And if I consider my hobbies and leisure activities, the pattern seems similar. There was a time when I could paint all day, so absorbed in what I was doing that I wouldn’t even leave my easel to eat. If I’d been gifted enough to make a living as an artist, I’d have stayed skinny.
When I’m into an interesting book, I can neglect all around me and not put it down until I reach the last page, even taking it to the bathroom with me. I have been known to read through the night on more than one occasion, in spite of trying to limit my bedtime reading to not more than an hour.
Once I had cracked the intricacies of Sudoku, and been given a book of puzzles, I found that as soon as I had finished one puzzle I’d spot a couple of obvious numbers in the next and then do ten on the trot The same with cryptic crosswords.
Over the years, I have indulged in pastimes that ought to occupy the odd half hour of leisure, but which always seem to take over full time. Embroidery and petit-point, for example, or a period when I was totally immersed in making patchwork pictures; a pile of crocheted shawls and hats when I gave up smoking and needed to keep my fingers busy. Smoking itself is an addiction, of course: not just to the nicotine, but also to the accompanying minor activities. How do you make a cup of coffee last ten minutes if you don’t smoke? What do you do with your hands, your mouth? Do you start sucking your thumb or nibbling your fingernails?
Writing occupies the hands, and delving into family history, growing the tree, and a general interest in genealogy developed into hours of research and – once the Internet appeared – poring over old censuses and searching the web for names and details. Hours? Days, weeks, months! I was so in thrall to it, I even gave it up for Lent. A respite, but not a cure. It’s under my skin and breaks out every now and then like malaria.
Some twenty years ago came an obsession with translating Nelly Sachs’ poems. It started with one small challenge and snowballed, then it lay dormant for another fifteen years or so. It recurred briefly, but I moved on and the obsession subsided again, until I started blogging (another addiction) and decided to make a page for them. Now I have 70 of them done and another dozen lined up (she was a very prolific poet). The washing up and the unmade beds can wait, as flashes of inspiration demand instant attention
Recently a friend drew my attention to a poetry translation competition and suggested I submit one – ONE? How do I select one? I started reading through them, comparing them with the originals (which I have had to search for on the Internet, not an easy task), revising them, and have ended up starting a new dedicated blog. I can’t finalise my choice, nothing stands out as particularly well done, and I probably won’t enter the competition.
But it dawned on me, as I uploaded 60-odd posts in four days, that perhaps this was rather obsessive, addictive.
I wonder if this is genetic? As a child, I remember visiting my grandparents and finding the parlour (used only when the vicar called) filled with rag rugs that Granny had been making for the Salvation Army. Another time, she had knitted scores of pairs of gloves and socks. But is this penchant for obsessive phases, one might almost say crazes, also in the DNA? There definitely seems to be a knitting gene – which missed me, I can’t knit – passed on to my daughter and granddaughter, whose needles and yarn are always at hand. They can also dive into a book, oblivious to the world around (at twelve, my daughter famously spent a weekend glued to “War and Peace”). If it is genetic, is that an excuse? And is it a blessing or a curse?