I went to college. Actually, I went to two colleges. I attended a community college freshmen year, simply because I couldn’t justify industrial-grade tuition only to gain basic English and math credits. Then, with twenty-six inexpensive hours out of the way, I moved on to a “real” college. There I studied computer science and psychology, eventually obtaining a bachelor of science degree in the former and a minor of nothing degree in the latter.
But after dozens of classes, hundreds of tests, thousands of pages, and millions of caffeine-infused calories that kept my brain powered, my greatest takeaway from all of that? I learned the word cattywampus.
I’ve since learned that the proper form of the word is “catawampus” but that’s not nearly as fun to say as cattywampus. I’ve also heard others say “kittywampus” but, come on now, that’s just silly.
If you’re unfamiliar with the word, it means “disorder”, “in disarray”, “chaos”, “out of kilter”, or “many other words” which I could “put in quotes.” Out of all the definitions I’ve read, though, the third one below really captures the true spirit of the term for me.
cattywampus (\kat · ee · wom’ · pus\) — 1. something askew or awry. 2. out of alignment or crooked. 3. a great word to kick off Charlie’s blog post on the devastating impact of moving to a new house.
Standard Disclaimer: “devastating” is just poetic exaggeration. The person who voluntarily decides for no good reason to just pack everything up from one house and put it in a completely different house has no grounds to grumble about it. It’s not as if this is a result of war or natural disaster or anything. (As Joe Walsh so eloquently put it, “I can’t complain but sometimes I still do.”)
Like most humans, I’m a creature of habit. Habit, after all, is how we function. It’s how we get dressed, fix our meals, pay our taxes, and, at the end of a very, very long day, explains where that six-pack of Sam Adams went.
But unlike most humans, I’m a creature of habit what really likes to keep track of things. I track how I spend my time, I track the foods I eat, I track how much I weigh, I track the miles I drive to work and the gas I put in my car. I’m even in the habit of tracking my habits.
It’s about as close as I get to obsessive-compulsive behavior without an actual medical diagnosis. I don’t do it because I’m bored or because it sounds interesting. I do it because I can’t not do it. If I don’t keep track of something that I’m supposed to be keeping track of, well, I feel all cattywampus.
And there is nothing to mess up a perfectly good, obsessive-compulsive schedule like taking decades worth of ones possessions and shuffling them around like some unending shell game from hell. I just went a week without tracking my foods. I didn’t log my weight as soon as I’d weighed in. And while these things seem pointless and trivial in the grand scheme of things (they are), they eventually add up and greatly contribute to an overall mental state of disarray.
But quite apart from habits alone, it’s also about having all your possessions go from one perfectly disorganized pile that you were used to, to a horribly disorganized pile that you no longer recognize. It’s the exact opposite of Thomas Dolby’s line from his most famous song:
“I don’t believe it! There she goes again! She’s tidied up and I can’t find anything!”
Believe me, I would give body parts to have things tidied up. I went several days last week with my keys divided into three different locations. And just last night we spent far too long trying to locate the power drill I’d used just the day before. In less than twenty-four hours, this moderate-sized piece of hardware somehow vanished from existence. I began to picture it floating around in some dark corner of the universe amidst all the unpaired socks.
Granted, it eventually turned up in the exact spot where I left it, but that’s not the point. During the intervening time, that area had been covered with plastic wrap, tools, brushes, paint, spackle, and workmen: any of which basically drove all recollection of the tool’s last use from my brain. And recollected here are just two items of a million little things, pushing thoughts around my brain like some unending shell game from hell.
It’s at this point in the blog post I had planned to upload all sorts of pictures so you could experience and enjoy the cattywampusness for yourself. But alas, I’ve used up my thirty minutes of frantic typing and have to get back to work. I’ve got some new window blinds to install and I can’t find my power drill.