I’m finally living

I’m finally living

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had the mentality that “once ___ happens, then I’ll be happy”.

Once I graduate high school, then I’ll be able to live the life I want.

Once I’m done with college and have a career, then my life will really start.

Once I meet the right person, I’ll be all set and I can stop stressing all the time.

Once I get out of this town, I’ll finally be happy.

I’ve heard it said for marriage and having kids, too. Add retirement to that list and basically we can assume that we’ll never be happy as long as we’re attaching our happiness to some external event or achievement.

I’ve known that this was a bad mentality for awhile, but that didn’t change the fact that I still felt that way. I still wasn’t happy in my day to day life, and I felt my life was lacking until I could just get that next thing I wanted.

But, I’m pleased to say that I no longer think my life is lacking. In fact I really like my life and I think it’s pretty awesome. I often take moments to appreciate it and I feel what I would describe as true happiness and gratitude. In fact, something less-than-great happened recently, and yet despite feeling a decent amount of sadness about it, I have also continued to feel gratitude for all the other areas of my life that are majorly winning right now.

What comes first, appreciation or awesomeness?

I don’t know. I don’t know where to pinpoint when my life started being awesome and when I started realizing it. Did the awesomeness increase once I started appreciating what I already had? Or did my gratitude only grow once things started going my way?

I do know that practicing gratitude is something that completely changed my life, and I can credit implementing that practice to my religious conversion a year or so ago.

But something that also changed was that I took my life into my own hands and made the changes I wanted. There was a time a few years back when I realized I didn’t have any hobbies anymore. How did that even happen? It was a sad thing to realize. But even once I did, I couldn’t bring myself to start any again, because none of them seemed appealing.

I wish I could say how I found interest in them again, but I honestly don’t remember. Did I just start doing them and fake it til I made it? Maybe.

I now play piano often, and I get so much satisfaction and self-worth from the progress I make. I have been learning Spanish on Duolingo for probably a year now, and just recently started reading some Spanish texts using Readlang (I highly recommend both of these, and they are free!) I’m in a book club now, and reading more. I’m following some interests via blogs and subreddits (like minimalism, veganism, and tiny houses) and I started blogging again! It feels great to be learning and exercising that part of my brain. I have such a love for learning that I almost forgot I had.

I live at home with my parents and my dog, in small town Iowa. For years I was ashamed to admit that. For years I craved the excitement of life in the big city and all the lights and noise and expenses that come with that lifestyle. Now that’s the furthest thing from what I want.

Meeting more people in town and making friends and joining different groups (church, a group for Young Professionals, book club) and going to events (the local radio show’s monthly cooking demo, the farmer’s market) has given me a new appreciation for this little town of mine. Plus I’ve gotten closer with friends here, who are literally incredibly amazing. I am so grateful for them, and I have no idea how I am lucky enough to have them in my life.

With the exception of a couple people who were out of town for awhile, all these people, events, groups, and hobbies have been here, this whole time. What changed is me.

I’m already living my life

I used to be so caught up on reaching my destinations, I completely forgot to enjoy the journey. It’s not even that I forgot, I just didn’t find the journey appealing. But now I do.

I still don’t have “a career”. I’m not dating anyone. I have no idea what my life will look like a month from now let alone five years down the road. Uncertainties which once made me uneasy are now just a part of life that will happen when they happen, if they happen, and I’m sure they’ll be great. And if they’re not, I’ll change them.

I can finally say that I’m enjoying the journey, come what may. There are so many opportunities available in the world. I can take them if I want to.

But the other thing I realized, is that it’s okay that I usually don’t want to.

Mark Manson wrote an article called Why Some Dreams Should Not Be Pursued. And what he said really resonated with basically everything I’ve ever “wanted”:

For most of my adolescence and young adulthood, I fantasized about being a musician — a rock star, in particular.

But despite fantasizing about this for over half of my life, the reality never came. And it took me a long time to figure out why.

I didn’t actually want it.

There’s a reason I haven’t moved out of this town. There’s a reason I haven’t climbed some corporate ladder. There’s a reason I haven’t gone husband hunting and gotten myself some kiddos.

I don’t want to. Not right now, anyway. I’m totally open to the idea that some day I’ll want to move away or make some different life choices. But right now, those aren’t the things I want. And that’s okay.

The freedom that comes from letting go of the pressure to have these things is extraordinary.

Simple living isn’t mediocrity

Between my recent endeavors with minimalism and self-acceptance sans superficial accoutrements, I’ve really gotten into this simple living thing. I realized I can get by with so much less. That applies to what I spend my money on, but also what I spend my time, energy, and stress on.

For so long, I feared a life of mediocrity. There’s some quote about how a life of mediocrity is worse than failure. I’ve always lived a simple life (although I didn’t have the language to identify with that movement until recently), and I always mistook it as a life where I just didn’t do anything. I wasn’t really living.

The fact that I hadn’t traveled around Europe or gone the typical American route of the stressful 9-5 must have meant my life was lacking. Even the fact I couldn’t bring myself to wake up an hour earlier to curl my hair and put on false eyelashes meant that there was something seriously wrong with my priorities.

I can hardly type that sentence without laughing now.

This isn’t a life of mediocrity. It’s a life of meaning. It’s a life of simplicity. It’s a life that doesn’t drown out things of value with meaningless distractions.

It’s a life I love. It’s a life I’m grateful for. It’s a life I’m designing and perfecting as I go. And it’s completely okay that I don’t know where it leads. I kind of like it better that way.

 

What’s something you “should” want but don’t? Have you let go if it yet?

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Permanence is scary and that’s why Mormons are so chill all the time

Permanence is scary and that’s why Mormons are so chill all the time

Permanence is scary.  The idea that you’ll be trapped in this town, or in this marriage.  Or that if you take that job you’ll probably be stuck in that field for the rest of your life.  Or that things won’t change and you’ll never find a life partner.  If things suck, we don’t want them to stay sucking.

Death is an especially terrifying event.  Once a friend is gone, she’s gone.  Guns are bad because they can make someone permanently disappear with the pull of a trigger.

Unless of course you believe in heaven, and especially in forever families.  Mormons believe that eventually we will all die and be reunited with all our loved ones in heaven.  So really, any mortal separation is only temporary, and while that’s sad, it’s all okay because it’s not permanent.  A child could die by a freak accident and if his parents are Mormon, while I’m sure they will be absolutely devastated, they will also feel a sense of peace about the event because, hey, they’ll see him again one day and get their second chance to raise him in heaven.

With beliefs like this, what’s there to fear in life or death?

For those who don’t share those beliefs, life events carry a lot more weight.  Our decisions and actions and misfortunes can determine the rest of our existence, and the existence of others.  There is no second chance and there is no do over.  If you mess up, you mess up. The fear of the theoretical consequences can be stifling for some, and the paralysis of fear is all too real.

There’s a stereotype with Mormons that they do a lot of things. Accomplish a lot of things. Succeed in said things. I think to succeed requires a certain degree of risk taking. People with fear paralysis tend to be bad at risk taking. People who believe they will always have a second chance have nothing to worry about.

At what point does it matter how the universe actually works, when a belief system continuously produces confident people who are successful?  Which is more important: truth or taking action? As we lay on our death beds (believing we will soon go to heaven or not) what will we prioritize in the life we just lived?  The things we did or the things we believed?

Joyce Meyer – Moving Beyond Worry and Anxiety

Watched another Joyce Meyer video today.

Joyce says, “You can choose your own thoughts; you don’t have to just think whatever falls in your head.  You can cast out wrong things and choose right things.”

That reminded me of something I saw on Twitter yesterday: @Leyla_N tweeted, “Thoughts come & go, you don’t have to believe them all. Choose empowering thoughts… take empowering actions.”

Its important to heed this advice because, as Joyce goes on to say, our thoughts are the place where worry really starts.

When faced with a problem, we can either worry or we can choose to trust God.

At this point in the video, Joyce said, “Worry, anxiety, reasoning – three major torments in our life.”  I don’t think I fully understand what she means there.  I really value reasoning as I think it can be an extremely powerful life guide.  Is she suggesting that we forfeit all reason in favor of complete trust in God?  Or was she simply saying that reasoning is one of our bigger problems – which I agree it is can be.  Reasoning is a powerful tool but too often in my own life I use it ultimately against myself.  I try and reason my way in or out of things rather than follow my heart or my intuition.  This goes hand in hand with over analyzing.  In fact, this is one of the tougher balances for me to achieve in my life.

Joyce uses the word “violent” in reference to how we should cast out our negative thoughts.   And I liked that because sometimes that’s how intense it needs to be!  To think to yourself “I’ll probably fail” or “I can’t”… is there any room for those thoughts in your mind?  There shouldn’t be.  And when you find yourself thinking them, you should cast them out with force.

I read a piece of advice awhile back (I think it was in Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker – which, by the way, is an excellent book and one that I think everyone – literally everyone – should read!) that relates to this.  It says that every time you have a negative thought, you should think (or even say aloud) “CANCEL.”  And the theory is that this will help you to break the habit of negativity.

Next in the video, Joyce talks about being passive – which has been a real topic of interest for my lately.  More and more I’m seeing how being passive is one of the worst things to do.  Its so inefficient – nothing gets done.  And when something does get done, its all you can do to hope it turned out how you would have wanted it.  Being passive means not taking control of your own life.  It involves sitting around, waiting, wishing.  And as Joyce says, it requires no backbone.  You think someone else should solve the problem.

Instead, Joyce suggests we be “aggressive against the enemy” (and here she’s referring to Satan, but we can also consider it to be any negative influence in our lives – such as my lack of motivation and passive behavior.)  Stand up for yourself – there doesn’t have to be someone to stand up against, just take action and make change and accomplish something.

Now she makes a distinction here: “Worry sees the problem but faith sees the God who can handle the problem.”  She says its not wrong to look at the problem – we need to look at it so that we can analyze it and figure out where it stands.  But its a slippery slope to worrying and over analyzing.

She commented on the interesting social norm that some people feel like they aren’t being a good parent if they don’t worry about their kids.  It made me think about the other areas of life where we’re encouraged to worry.  I myself have been conditioned to feel pressure to worry about my future.  Everything from getting good grades to getting into college, (you know the cycle) to picking a “realistic” major, getting a good job, paying your bills, etc.  Basically: not messing up.  These are great things to be aware of, and to keep in mind when making decisions and planning your life.  And by no means am I suggesting you should ignore them or just completely wing it and hope for the best.

But the amount of pressure we can feel just causes us to have FEAR.  Fear of messing up.  Do you know anyone who has never messed up and who won’t continue to mess up?  Its unavoidable, and that’s why this is a completely, completely irrational fear, and that is what’s unrealistic.  (For some wise words on being realistic, check out this Will Smith video, at 5:49 in.)

What may be worse is the irony at play – I’m way less likely to take chances to better my life because of this fear of failure that I have, because of the fear of messing up my life, which stems from worry.  But the likely outcome is that I will just create more to worry about!  Whereas if I just trust in God (or trust in myself and my intelligence and my abilities, or whatever) then chances are, things would work out for me.

Joyce says that when we have trust, we can enjoy the journey.  She also says, “When you pray and then you worry, the worry nullifies your prayer.  Prayer is something you do instead of worry.  Its not something you do with worry, its what you do instead of worry.  …  If we pray and then worry, we’re saying with our mouth that we’re depending on God but we’re saying with our actions that we don’t really believe that God’s going to come through so we’re going to worry and have a backup plan just in case he doesn’t.”

This makes me wonder how to find the balance between responsibility, avoidance, and trust.  Is it safe to perhaps deny our seemingly bad situation under the trust that it will work out?  Is it irresponsible to allow things to stay the same and not actively change them ourselves?  And if we decide to make a change, how will we know when we are acting from ourselves (ie the backup plan) or acting from God?  When our problem gets solved, was it us or was it God?  How long do we trust God before giving up and trying to solve it ourselves?

But perhaps there isn’t some spiritual equilibrium to find.  Perhaps no balance is required at all.  Perhaps all we need is to trust in God.  Maybe what’s unbalanced is when we decide to trust ourselves, because we are not nearly as deserving of trust as God is.  (I guess then its a question of credibility.)

Having complete trust in God requires a huge level of surrender.  Not only is that scary, but if it turns out to be a bad idea, then in hindsight it was pretty irresponsible and potentially dangerous.  This worries me.

For me, I find that the subject of faith and worry is a catch 22.  I worry about something, then wonder if I should just trust God.  But as I’m not a religious person and thus not strong in any faith, I worry that trusting God might not be the correct solution.  So now I’m not only worried about my initial problem but also about whether or not I should be worried.  (And I do see the humor in this.)

It seems to me, that for someone who has faith that God exists and that He is good, then trusting Him completely is obviously the way to go.  Why would you ever not trust Him?  And if you trust Him, then it would make sense to also trust His timing.  (I like this pin on Pinterest.)  I see the logical progression here but what I am waiting on is that first acceptance.  The acceptance that God exists.  When/If I come to that conclusion, then I have a whole line of beliefs that will come with it.  But its that first one, which determines the validity of the others.

That’s where my interest in Christianity lies, I suppose.  In learning more and finding out more about God.  And in the hopes that I will learn more about myself in the process.

I’ll conclude with a few lines that I particularly enjoyed from the video:

“God is greater than any problem that you have.”

“You’re talkin’ to yourself anyway, you might as well start saying something that makes sense!”

Do you have complete trust in God?  How do you balance having faith and taking personal responsibility for the course of your life?