• Lijing Cobb

On consistency

Wasn’t it just yesterday that I extolled the virtue of moderation and gave my own behaviors as virtuous examples of mindfulness? Didn’t I say I tore small bits of dried fish and savor? Didn’t I say I cut my heavenly bread into small bites and chew slowly?

Here is what happened yesterday. I’m not ashamed of it, but am really pretty freaking baffled at the inconsistency between my words and action. If I believe in every word I say, and truly want to follow my own advice, how come I can’t execute in reality?

My morning was busy as usual. I had a small piece of banana bread I made the day before, and made 2 over-easy eggs for myself to enjoy with my dieting son, who, by the way, has lost a whole 5 pounds since 2/19, and looking dashing without his rotund belly. I vacuumed and mopped the floor before classes, and then taught for the entire morning. Afterwards I made a sumptuous salad for myself, ate my little pieces of sweet cake over coffee, and chatted with my oldest child who was already home from early dismissal. After meeting with another client, I got the kids outside in the perfect weather, and the 4 of us passed volleyball for an hour and 15 minutes. It was close to 3:30 when we got back in the house.

And then my day started to unravel without any warning. I was reading and needed a snack. Dried fish seemed to be the perfect choice, and since I had two kinds I started with one and then moved on to the other. As I flipped the pages I popped the fish into my mouth and chewed diligently. The more pages I flipped, the more fish pieces I popped. I told myself to stop every time I reached for the next piece, and every time I reassured myself, AFTER this piece.

In the 45 minutes before we left for my son’s guitar lesson, I chewed so much of the dried fish that my right molars hurt for the rest of the day. I’m sure I would have been fine calorie-wise without eating any further for the rest of my life.

But then I suggested to my husband that he pick up Thai food from our favorite Thai place on his way home. Then I drove enthusiastically to the liquor store and picked up the ingredients necessary to concoct my new favorite drink, PB&J on the rocks. After scooping some ice into the shaker, I filled the vessel with pure alcohol and shook it violently. Suffice it to say that it was yummy but my husband and I combined forces to conquer that large drink and we both dozed off before we could finish the whole thing. Since the Thai food was on the table and I must eat enough of that to balance out the effects of the alcohol, I ate a substantial amount and felt the cushioning of it in my belly.

There was absolutely nothing moderate in what I did from 3:30 to 9:30 yesterday. My husband and I ended up in a heap on the couch trying to watch Mission Impossible: Fallout. Turns out that the title described exactly how we met the movie, so we ended the farce of pretense and dragged ourselves upstairs to the bedroom to retire for the day.

How did my day go from super productive and quality-driven to… that?

Like my son who once asked for a reward for every day he sticks to his diet, I granted myself the reward before I allowed myself to verbalize the request. For when he asked, I wittily and importantly suggested that the process itself is reward enough, and he agreed with me. If I made the same request, then I’d be a fraud. So I didn’t make the request and jumped instead to the reward itself and in the process became an even bigger fraud.

As an adult who makes decisions for myself and my children, I often give myself a lot more wiggle room than I care to admit. You know, since I sacrifice so much to take care of everyone else in my family, I must therefore enjoy privileges that no one else should question. Since we all trust that I make good choices, I can eat, say, buy, and do whatever I want. In my family there’s no physical authority higher than me to keep me in check. All I got is that tiny little voice in the back of my head. I choose to obey that voice when it’s convenient for me. I choose to ignore that voice when it’s not.

Kids got it good. It is not freedom that they need in the process of growing up, but the words of conscience spoken through the mouths of their responsible parents. Grown ups got it hard. We are given the heavy burden of deciding what to do for ourselves, and we are stuck with the consequences of our choices with no one to fix it for us. We forget that in every stage of life we are forever children learning to navigate the present phase for the very first time. We become too self-reliant. Our default mode of operation is keep going and never stop until we fall into a stupor.

Consistency is the effort of bridging the gap between theory and action. No matter how grandiose my theories sound, if they don’t get carried out to fruition, they remain something other than my self. Theoretically I know moderation is a principle I need in my life, in practice I sometimes throw all caution to the wind. Moderation is then that beauty that’s out of my league. I pine and yearn for her, but alas, I’m not good enough for her.

Who is here to keep me in check? How do I amplify that little voice in the back of my head and put it on loudspeaker whenever I’m about to go down a path of regret?

The darn thing is that, we can search high and low, here and there, now and forever, the only answer, as far as this limited mind can see, is my self.

Back to square one. Grown ups are abandoned by God to forever strive for ourselves. We get what we deserve.

To think that someone trusts me so much that I can make ALL the choices in my adult life. To think that a little voice of conscience has been installed in the back of my head, speaking words of wisdom to me at all times, and all I need to do is listen to that voice. To think that with the time I’m given in this life, I’m entrusted with this Herculean effort of allowing truth to shine through me. To think that I’m still griping about being abandoned and all alone.

Consistency is the continuous effort of trying to be one with truth. If I diverge from the path today, it does not mean that I would not retrace my steps and get back on the right path again. Every little side path that I walk onto, whether consciously or inadvertently, is evidence that I am indeed charged with a task that will take my whole life to complete. If I’m perfect today, right this moment, then I wouldn’t need this life anymore. I wouldn't be human anymore.

Every day I gather a little bit more good and put it in my self. I think these little bits will eventually squeeze out the things I no longer need or want. Amen to that.

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