There is a wonderful episode in the television series “The Big Bang Theory” where obsessive compulsive Sheldon had a fight with his neighbor Penny. For Sheldon and many of us as well each day of the week has its assigned task and Saturday evening is when Sheldon always does his laundry! Sheldon operates out of a wondrously circular, self-contained line of thinking! As Sheldon is going down the stairs with his laundry basket Penny asks, “What would happen if you couldn’t do your laundry on Saturday evening? Maybe if all the washers were being used?” Sheldon races down to the basement laundry room only to find every washer merrily chugging away! Sheer panic covers his face and he turns to see Penny standing in the doorway grinning!
When consistency crosses over into obsessive compulsiveness it is clear that the real issue is inflexibility! Ordinarily we view consistency as something positive, something to be emulated and comparable with dependability! But what if our consistency is a consistent mediocrity due to our unwillingness to engage with the newness that Life brings our way? When the comfort of consistency creates a pattern which induces anxiety if we break out of it, like when all of the washers are occupied then it might be a sign mediocrity is alive and well in our inner life!
Growth demands flexibility and willingness to change direction by changing our mind. Changing our mind might sound wishy-washy but growth demands we go down roads for which we have neither experience nor a map! I became aware of this issue within myself some months ago as I dreamed of living in Kona by June 2019. I suspect I would have to give up driving around age 85 but without a car it is not possible to do shopping in Kona! Thinking about this reality brought up a dilemma for me and so eventually I contemplated the possibility of living in Hilo which has a public transit system of buses. This would allow me to still get around even without a car but I had set my heart on Kona where the St. Juvenaly Mission is located! If I lived in Hilo I might no longer even be a Priest! What if, what if, what if?!!!
After a month of inner wrangling back-and-forth I finally came to a peaceful embrace with living in Hilo instead of Kona! I then had a conversation with Fr. John of the Kona Mission who revealed to me they were buying a building in Honomu for a new church about 11 miles north of Hilo! In a lightening-bolt of clarity I saw that the previous month of wrestling had prepared me to hear this news and to see it as an opportunity rather than as something negative! Believe it or not the result of this lesson in flexibility has been my willingness to try more new foods now when I go out to eat!! I have decided that when I go to Hilo, Honomu and Waikiki this September for two weeks I am going to eat a lot of the local foods… even poke (pronounced po-kay) which is seasoned raw-fish salad! Who knows? Maybe I will even come to embrace poke just as I have accepted Hilo and Honomu into my life!