common manias, manias cling to life like limpets, cutting manias, manias in marriage

Manias are like Limpets that Stick to our Lives

and it is Hard to get Rid of Them

By Javier Vidal-Quadras

This morning I had a double surprise: I went into the kitchen and found the last teenage son we have left living at home - oh, dear, what will we do when he grows up! - having breakfast in the place where I usually sit. The first and biggest surprise was to see him there. Normally, his mornings are hectic, especially for his parents, and he usually runs out with a muffin in his mouth. I had to go out and come back in to make sure it wasn't a vision. But no, it was my son. His older sister, who was sharing breakfast, confirmed it. The second surprise, and the one that made me think the most, was that he was taking my place.

One of my battles, which I advise everyone, married or single, to fight, is that of manias, which are like limpets that stick to our lives and are very difficult to get rid of. It is true that the human being is a creature of habit, but it is so easy for habits to degenerate into manias and for these to degrade into addictions!

Family Social Rules

From time to time, it is necessary to question some social rules, norms and strongly fixed routines. I'm talking here about very superficial attitudes, which are not even, or should not be, part of our personality: 'my' armchair, 'my' beer, 'my' Instagram time, 'my' sport, certain successions of acts that are almost ceremonial, for example, the breakfast routine. Each will have his own favourite. For example, our second son raised an interesting question this past Christmas: why, at family meals, do we assign the seats in order of age? Does the order of birth afford some kind of privilege beyond the more than dubious one of age? Consequently, we decided to abandon that routine.

It is true that, before uprooting a routine, it is necessary to do a little research, because some are justified and it therefore better not to disturb them. I don't know if it was Chesterton - poor man, they attribute to him so many sayings! - who advised never to remove a fence placed in a field without first knowing why it was put there, lest there be an angry bull hiding and ready to charge on the other side.

 Manias reduce Freedom and, therefore, Hinder Love

If I depend too greatly on my tastes and on my small daily securities, I am more focused on myself and less attentive to others. Manias are particularly intense when one leads a quiet life, which, paradoxically, is the aspiration we all tend to have. However, when one has several children, numerous commitments, and a hard time making ends meet, life’s challenges mean that there are fewer opportunities to acquire manias.

Last week I had occasion to contemplate this more seriously while watching a televised debate on the future of marriage. A good friend of mine, Luis Carreras, was one of the participants. The scenario was tremendously revealing: some of the participants were delighted to have met each other, almost all of them lauding the virtues of a life centered on oneself, thinking of others as mere amusements for life’s more dull moments. One went so far as to say that he was very happy to live by himself and that all he wanted was an evening partner because the afternoon-evening period was his worst time and he welcomed a distraction then. He was, more or less, treating others like the diversion of a movie or a novel read before retiring for the night.

Then a lady spoke, describing herself as a relational anarchist. She explained that, at each moment, she was weighing up which person or persons were useful to her as companions, lovers or whatever, one or several, simultaneously or successively, male or female. The picture was completed by another lady who claimed to have married herself. And, of course, they all seemed to be nice and good people. Nothing to say about the people, and even less to judge.

But I could not help imagining them living by themselves, dedicated to themselves alone, with their small horizon of I-me-mine, which they staunchly defended. At the same time, I saw Luis, smiling, with that healthy insouciance that comes from the satisfaction of a life well spent, devoted to his ten, yes, ten children. He excused himself by saying, ‘It did not give us time to have more’, much to the scandal of the other participants. His ten children and almost twenty grandchildren were the reason for his peaceful demeanour, reflecting a depth of life that comes from knowing that happiness, as Kierkegaard said, is a door that always opens towards others, not towards oneself. I do not mean to imply that the number of children is what matters, but rather that love, and the consequent happiness it brings, is the ultimate disposition in life, available to any person, whether living alone or with a hundred others.

In short, Luis, with his joy, sympathy and depth of life, won over this viewer: today I had breakfast sitting in the chair that my wife usually occupies. And I discovered a new perspective on cooking, one of the advantages of breaking routines!

Original article in Spanish

Article in French