Do you ROYGBIV ?

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I’m generally a pretty laid back person who goes with the flow most of the time. I have a clean house, but do not spend countless hours cleaning it until it sparkles. I like to keep things organized, but have a few piles on my counters and I will argue that that is a filing system. I also do not move my furniture until it is lined up with the edges of the rug, as I have a husband for that. What I do do, however, is ROYGBIV.

At a function recently, I was engaged in a conversation with a friend. We were setting up tables and she was straightening things up to make them symmetrical. I commented that I used to do that, too, but that I broke myself of the habit and prefer things in odd numbers or off-kilter now. As we continued the discussion, I mentioned that sometimes, I will torture my poor, very symmetrical husband by tilting pictures on the wall slightly or leaving drawers opened enough to notice. I know that he will straighten them and close them, unconsciously, as he walks by. I am fascinated that this behavior is so ingrained in him. It provides several minutes of entertainment for me as well as reminds me that order means different things to different people.

This young woman and I discussed order and I admitted, that although I had used behavior modification techniques in college to curb my borderline obsession with making things even, I still have residual OCD-like tendencies. One being the need to chew food exactly the same number of times on each side of my mouth. This behavior is very nearly extinct, but will show up when trying a new food (when I was a kid, I thought something terrible, like choking, would occur if I didn’t chew correctly). I also bared my soul and admitted that I still have to hang my shirts in ROYGBIV. She stopped, looked at me and admitted, that she, too, ROYGBIV’d! A Rainbow Bright soul sister! How lucky can I get?!

If you ROYGBIV, you know that you do and you know what the acronym stands for. For those who do not, I will enlighten you, or possibly send you back into the dark ages if you choose to engage in this behavior.

ROYGBIV stands for: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet-the colors in the visible color spectrum. Although there is much written about this phenomenon, and it gets very scientific, for my purpose it means that I can put my shirts in order and find them easily. I have been doing this for as long as I can remember and it used to include everything in my drawers (socks, undies, pajamas, shorts, etc) to the order of my colored folders for school. At some point, I started color coordinating my folders and notebooks with the color of my textbooks, but not until junior high or so. Other things needed rainbow order, too. My Barbie’s clothes were put in order. I was a little worried that she might come to life and kill me in my sleep if I didn’t ROYGBIV her wardrobe. Apparently, she approved of the spectrum.

As an early childhood and special educator in my previous life, I am always interested in patterns of human behavior, how they develop and why they do so. When I watch others, and I do observe people all of the time, I intuitively pick up on quirks and things that don’t necessarily catch other peoples’ attention. I identify the behavior, watch as aspects of it develop in front of me and begin to think about its origin and what influenced its current manifestation. Fascinating.

Knowing my own repertoire of behaviors, I consider why I still need to ROYGBIV. Perhaps it is the simplest way for my brain to organize. It could possibly be that I am a very visual person and this appeals to me more than any other form of organization. It could also be because my mother taught me how to do this (although I seriously doubt it- I’ll have to check with her on that). Or it just might be that some of us are born with our wiring for order intact in such a way, that we have to find an organization technique to make sense of the chaos that thrives in a world full of “stuff”. I’m sure that any psychologist will tell you that it is an expression of control, and I’m sure that that is true to some extent. Whatever the reason, it gives me comfort to know that I will find the exact shirt that I’m looking for immediately without making a mess of my closet, which is a topic for a different day. It is a harmless, although slightly obsessive, way to organize anything as long as it doesn’t get out of control. I would really hate my house if I walked into a red foyer, then the orange dining room, then yellow kitchen, then green family room… Wait! That is the color spectrum of my house! Well, minus the red foyer and orange dining room.

I guess, as long as I’m aware of my eccentric behaviors and am able to keep them in check, there’s no harm done other than to my ego and reputation.

So….here it goes. My name is Melissa and I ROYGBIV. Do you?

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