Learning from people’s obsessions

As I write this blog, Mary and I are crossing the Atlantic on our way to the Iberian Peninsula. It takes seven days at sea to make it across the pond. We’ve been together 24/7 in a 189 sq. ft. cabin. We’re doing great. But the constant closeness has made we wonder about the pros and cons of obsessive behaviors. 

Mary is obsessed with neatness and cleanliness. The highlight of her day has been when the cabin steward cleans our cabin (twice daily). She doesn’t want me in the room for several hours after it gets cleaned. She enjoys it that much.

I’m obsessed with time management, particularly being punctual. If I had my druthers, we would live our lives within sight of a large clock that organizes our every minute and beeps when we’re late or wasting time. 

Obviously, being neat and clean and being a good steward of time are virtues. Just consider their opposites: being sloppy, unclean, tardy, and wasteful of time.

But there’s a point at which obsessive tendencies become tedious, even unnecessary, inordinate, and bothersome. 

Several days ago we needed to leave our cabin at 6:50 p.m. to be on time for a 7:00 dinner. We missed the deadline and I got upset. I didn’t say anything or do anything that I later had to apologize for, but my  displeasure was apparent. That was unnecessary. Being late to a dinner is not equal to killing someone with a dull knife. I needed to relax and focus on the larger context.

Several days ago Mary challenged me because, while I had put my socks in the closet on the floor, I did not put my socks on top of the appropriate pair of shoes. Oh my. I think she needed to relax and focus on a larger context.

Through the years, our individual strengths have revealed weaknesses in each other. I am not the neatest person on the planet and Mary is prone to disregard her watch. But through the years, our weakness have been tempered by each other’s obsessions. Mary is now more punctual than she’s ever been, and I am more neat (sort of).

The moral of this essay is: be aware of your obsessions (they can be inherently good or bad) and don’t unduly inflict them on other people. And, instead of pushing back on other people’s obsessions, learn from them, and when appropriate, acquiesce to them. 

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13 thoughts on “Learning from people’s obsessions

  1. Hey, Don, my friend. I rarely respond to any blogs, editorials or even surveys. But this blog just begs a comment.

    I know you well enough to say you are also OC about being, uh, shall I say frugal. In that regard, you might find trans-Atlantic cruises to be more enjoyable if you get a cabin that’s bigger than 189 sf.

    Just sayin’!

    Have fun in the Peninsula!!

    • Harvey, it is good to hear from you. You’re right–for better and for worse, I am frugal. Interestingly, on most ships, all balcony cabins are around 189-220 sq ft. To get more space one must get a suite, which is 4x the cost. So, for now, we’ll be satisfied with a small space. Know that I appreciate our friendship. Don

  2. AH, YES PERFECTIONISTS … ME TOO

    For your INfo … the 4 P’s
    PATINECE
    PACE
    PERSISTENCE
    PRACTICE (the above, until a Postive Habit)

    A plus, Don, as much as I take ‘message notes’ at SCC, application
    on a consistence basis is a challenge …

    The Music program continues to be excellen with the Webb trumpet,
    and last week the dulcimer … not often is such ttalent, especially the dulcimer!

    • Thanks, Barton, for taking the time to write. We are fortunate at SCC to have great musicians who love the Lord. Don

  3. Don, this was enjoyable on two fronts:
    1) I vicariously enjoyed the cruise;
    2) I could’ve written this, as you and your wife are exactly like me and my wife regarding cleanliness and timeliness. (bonus points-my wife is delighted to have me away from our clean house for a bit!)

    P.S. Frugality-don’t fret it-others are just jealous : )

  4. Spot on. I have learned after 45 years together with my bride that I need to turn my socks the right side out before they go into the laundry. Makes a difference on the day after laundry!

    • Jamie, thanks for taking the time to write. You’re right, small acts of courtesy can make a big difference. Don