“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
I’m not as productive as I’d like to be. Who is?
I spend a good amount of time reading.
And I’ve been writing. Drawing. Painting.
I go for the occasional walk.
I’ve also spent quite a bit of time with my boys. That’s always good.
You can’t control which thoughts come into your head. But you can choose which thoughts to entertain.
Dismiss the bad ones.
Focus on the good ones.
What you focus on expands.
Most people focus on the negative.
Changing your focus is hard. Some of us need professional help to change. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Leave reminders for yourself. Sticky notes. Photos. Anything that helps you remember what’s good in your life.
One thing I like to do is make a game of it. Especially when I get annoyed in traffic. I’ll ask myself what I’m grateful for, and start making a list. I try to not just list things, but to actually feel gratitude for each thing. It always helps. Sometimes I get really emotional.
I’m not perfect at this. I forget to do it.
I still get mad. I still yell at my kids.
I don’t stay mad as long, though. My kids are better off.
In high school I had to take a “Careers” class. I only remember two things from that class:
We watched a video on sexual harassment one day. The video warned about giving “meaningful looks.” What the heck are “meaningful looks?” I was a teenage boy. And now I was terrified of being sued for looking at the girls around me.
Another day we took an aptitude test. My results said I should be an artist. No way. I couldn’t make money as an artist. I enjoyed writing and drawing, but I didn’t think I could support a family doing those things.
I went to college to be an engineer. That didn’t last long. Before long I was just taking the classes that sounded fun. I only went when I felt like it. My grades suffered.
I got a letter from the college. They told me to take a term off to think about my life. Then I could ask to come back.
I wasn’t going to beg to come back. Forget that!
I got a call center job. I hated it, but the money was okay. I spent the next few years bouncing from one call center job to another.
Five years later I went back to school to learn Japanese. I decided to take some other fun classes while I was at it. After a year I started getting more serious. It didn’t take long to burn out after that.
Years later I was out of work. By then I’d gotten married. I had a son. I applied at the call centers I’d worked at before. They never got back to me. I didn’t have any other experience.
My wife said I should go back to school. I’d been wanting to for a while. I majored in Computer Science. I was excited at first, but my heart wasn’t in it for long.
My grades went downhill. My adviser told me I’d have to change majors.
I left school instead. I applied to an online university. They wanted me to get a computer certification before enrolling.
I started studying for the certification tests. I couldn’t focus. I was so bored.
I went to college for six-and-a-half years. I have zero degrees. There were some fun and interesting parts, but mostly it was a waste of my time. And not just because I didn’t get that parchment.
I worked in call centers for a few more years. My last job laid me off. A few months later I was separated and living in my mom’s basement.
I’ve spent twenty years pursuing things I thought would make me money, and making myself miserable. I’d say it was a waste, but at least I’ve learned something from it:
A man is an adult male human. There’s more to it than that, though.
We learn what it is to be a man from the men around us. Usually our dads.
My dad died when I was three.
When I was little my favorite show was Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred Rogers was a big role model for me.
Fortunately both my grandpas lived into my adulthood. They lived close by for most of that time. They both enjoyed teasing their grandkids.
My mom called her dad when she needed help. Whether it was the car, the plumbing, or anything else, he was the first one on the job. I held the flashlight. I went with him to the hardware store. He built my pinewood derby cars with me. He soldered the connections on my science project, a burglar alarm. He always said I could talk to him. I wish I hadn’t been so shy. I wish I could still talk to him.
I had great scout leaders. One was the Assistant Scout Master. Assistant in name only. He loved Scouting. He was really Gung-ho for it. The Scout Master seemed content to let him take charge. He was outgoing, friendly, and full of energy. He became the Explorer Leader around the time I became an Explorer. I wouldn’t have gotten very far in scouting without him. He died too young. I named my youngest son after him.
I didn’t get serious about my Eagle until I was sixteen-and-a-half. Another great leader helped me get it. I had a ton of merit badges I had to earn. He acted as counselor for almost all of them. He was also on my Eagle Board of Review. Another member of the board tried to persuade the others I hadn’t satisfied the requirements. He persuaded them I had. We were both active in the Order of the Arrow. I believe he was the one who nominated me for the Vigil Honor.
I’ve had a lot of good bishops. One was bishop of a singles ward I attended. Whenever he needed inspiration he would sit back and close his eyes and wait. He was always kind, never harsh or judgemental. I never felt like I couldn’t talk to him.
Then there are the action movie star types. John Wayne. Clint Eastwood. Bruce Willis. Harrison Ford. Arnold. Sometimes I wish I was more like them. Tougher. Less emotional.