How Are You Using Your Time?

“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.

Pretty productive.

I’ve also spent quite a bit of time with my boys. That’s always good.

Not all my time is spent so wisely, though.

I spend hours sitting and thinking.

Spending too much time in the past.

It’s good to learn from the past.

But not to live there.

I need to get out and do more.

“Only Say Positive Things”?

I knew it was extreme. I set an extreme goal on purpose.

I’m not trying to set a realistic goal. I’m trying to stretch myself.

Explaining my present situation may help.

I’m usually alone in the mornings. I write, do my mirror work, listen to uplifting music, read uplifting books, list things I’m happy about/grateful for, etc.

It’s easy to be positive during those times.

Most days I see my boys. This is one of the things I’m most grateful for.

They and their mother live with their grandparents.

These are not positive people. Not by a long shot. These are angry, bitter people, who have no interest in improving themselves.

By the time I leave I’ve been taken down a few notches. It’s worth it to spend time with my boys. I love seeing them, and they love seeing me. I hope my efforts are helping them.

I’m looking forward to meeting super positive people. People who will be a bigger influence on me than the negative people in my life.

Until then, I do what I can.

Be kind to yourself

Self Hug

Do you think you’re doing the world a favor by beating yourself up?

How does it do any good?

Do you think your Father in Heaven would want you to?

Would you want your son to?

“Love thy neighbor as thy self” implies you should love yourself. Otherwise I hope we never become neighbors.

Treat yourself like someone you care about.

This is something I’ve had to learn. I only started showing myself compassion a few years ago, after watching a TED talk by Kristin Neff. Jordan Peterson wrote a chapter about it in 12 Rules for Life (not an affiliate link yet ;)).

You don’t have to be better than average to deserve compassion. Being human is enough.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be trying to be better than you were yesterday.

But you can’t climb higher if you keep knocking yourself down.

School your emotions

Emotion Clouds

Your emotions come in response to your thoughts.

Train yourself. Learn to control your thoughts.

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.

So am I.

Have faith

Thanks to those joining in the Worldwide Fast.

I feel confident that the Lord will hear us. That things will soon return to normal.

Better than normal, actually. I hope we’ve learned something from all this.

I’ve learned what’s really important to me: my boys, my faith, and my liberty.

What is success?

Success implies greatness. Or at least above-averageness.

That doesn’t have to mean financial success.

It could mean you’ve raised great kids.

Or you have a great marriage.

Or that you’ve inspired others to be great.

Maybe you’ve quietly made a lot of little contributions to other people’s lives.

Ultimately, I think success means living your dream life, and helping others live theirs.

The Pursuit of Money

Chasing a winged dollar

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:

DON’T WORK JUST FOR MONEY.

The Ultimate Man

Heavenly Father with outstretched arms

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?

Matthew 7:11

Imagine the best father ever.

Then multiply that by a billion. By Infinity.

That’s Heavenly Father.

The perfect father. The perfect man.

He knows us perfectly. Better than we know ourselves. Better than we think we know ourselves.

He loves all of us, unconditionally. No matter what we do.

He loves us all equally. Whether we’re kings or paupers.

He gives us all we need to succeed. We just have to ask.

He gave us a Savior. He was willing to watch His only begotten son suffer. Imagine only having one son who carries your genes. Then imagine watching Him suffer for the sins of everyone who ever lived. Everyone, including the people who mock Him and you. Including the people who deny either of you existed. The people who say they don’t need you. Not only does He suffer for everyone’s sins, but he feels all their sickness. Their afflictions. Sadness. Depression. Anxieties. Every negative thing ever to happen to anyone, anywhere. And all you can do is watch. Whenever one of my boys gets hurt, my first impulse is to run to them. I can’t imagine what it was like. I’m sure it was all He could do in that moment to hold Himself back.

He is infinitely patient. I’m especially grateful for that. I don’t think there’d be hope for me if He wasn’t.

He gives us agency. He lets us choose. Will we make use of the Atonement? Give up? Keep trying?

If we do keep trying, he makes sure all things work for our good.

If we keep trying he gives us strength to make it easier.

He listens to our prayers, and answers them. We just need to listen. He guides us and helps us to know what to do.

He knows all. The past. The future. The hidden. Our very thoughts.

He is understanding. Heavenly Father was once a mortal, too.

He is trustworthy. If He says something, it is so. He can’t lie or break His covenants.

He wants us to be like Him. To have everything He has. That is His purpose in life.

It’s His work. His glory.

He wants it even more than we do.

Point of Origin

Pin in a mapMy starting point:

I’m 41 years old.

I’ve been separated from my wife for a year and a half.

She lives in her parent’s basement. Our two boys live with her.

I live in my mom’s basement.

I weigh 400 pounds.

I’m unemployed.

I’m a porn addict.

That’s the bad news.

The good news:

I get to see my boys almost every day.

I go to church.

I pray morning and night (most days).

I read my scriptures every day.

I read lots of other books.

I have a car.

I have my freedom.

I have a Savior.

I have more blessings than I can count.

I know I can improve myself.

It’s just going to take a lot of work.