The Heaviness of Unfairness and Finding Peace in Commotion

There’s been a lot of commotion in the world today. I don’t want to look at the news that are filled with violence and confusion. I don’t want to hear stories about house prices and gas prices and inflation that make it hard for people to afford basic necessities of life. I don’t want to hear all the frustrating developments in politics.

So many people are struggling. It wears at my heart: empathy drives me to mourn, and in that mourning, I want to act.

But what can I do? What can I do that has an impact?

I find myself realizing that I am powerless in so many ways. I can list out the problems in the world and I can list solutions, but there seems to be a chasm between the two–a chasm of power and money and inaction. Solutions are too complicated when too many people have their opinions and they never agree.

I want to do something, but I don’t know what, so I do nothing. Maybe I’m making excuses. Maybe there is something I could do to take this world a better place, but I don’t know what it is.

If I speak up, my voice just feels lost in the crowd and I am often ignored. Other people live their life, make their own decisions, and I must sit back and simply watch.

I feel too privileged, unfairly so. I know people have worked harder and have less. I have to sit in my nice house knowing that so many people can’t afford a home. I don’t deserve this.

And what do I do when all of this wears at me? How can I continue to try to live my dreams when I know of so much struggle?

I realize that there also needs to be happiness in the world. There needs to be people living good lives and serving in small walls and being kind to others. There needs to be people raising families. There needs to be people creating. We are working towards a better world, and so there needs to be joy somewhere.

While I am undeserving, I can also be grateful. And there is work for me to do–maybe I won’t change the world, but the small things I do do can increase happiness, step by step. I can visit friends. Listen to someone who needs to talk. I can mourn and pray. And I can write and speak, trying to make sense of a nonsensical world and finding some good that can bring a measure of peace.

The Penalty Box

The Easy Way to Simplify and Delete

Like many of us, I have a hard time letting go.

I don’t want to let go of some things I own. I spent money on those things. I really liked them. And even when they no longer fit into my life, I want to figure out how I can save a space for them.

I hate deleting something I’ve written. Even if a paragraph doesn’t fit into a blog post or a chapter of a book, it may still hold insight that I really like.

And I really don’t want to delete things off of my to-do list and the goals that I have for myself. I may not be quite capable yet, and I may not really have the time, and there might be higher priorities, but I really wanted to accomplish that thing.

There is a common phrase in writing to “kill your darlings.” This phrase has been floating around since 1914–so writers have been hearing it for over 100 years now. But at a writing conference recently, I heard a writer say that instead of killing his darlings, he puts them into a penalty box.

So if I’m not quite able to get rid of my possessions, or the things that I create, or my goals and to-do list, then I can put them into a penalty box instead.

A penalty box might be a cardboard box in the garage. Or a drawer somewhere. Or a separate computer document that never gets looked at again. Or a new textbox in OneNote with the label “Penalty Box.” Or a folder in your Inbox.

Your penalty box might expire at some point, but it doesn’t necessarily have to either. You can decide the rules.

It’s really painful to get rid of some things from our lives, things that we love, even if they don’t serve us well. And a penalty box sort of cheats that pain on both sides. It allows us to remove something from our daily lives and move forward, but it also defers the pain from losing it completely.

What do you need to put in your penalty box right now?

Ambivert Personality

I’ve never resonated with the extroverted/introverted personality dichotomy.

Carl Jung came up with extroverts and introverts, but after describing extroverts and introverts, he says this:

“There is, finally, a third group, and here it is hard to say whether the motivation comes chiefly from within or without. This group is the most numerous and included the less differentiated normal man . . . The normal man is, by definition, influenced as much from within as from without. He constitutes the extensive middle group, on one side of which are those whose motivations are determined mainly by the external object, and on the other, those whose motivations are determined from within. I call the first group extraverted, and the second group introverted.

Psychological Types by Carl Jung

So the person who came up with extroverts/introverts says that most people people are in the middle.

And that’s how I feel. Normal. Somewhere in the middle. I like being with people, and I’m get motivation and energy from other people. But I also like to be alone, and I get motivation and energy from myself too. Both.

We can become the stories we tell ourselves. So when we hear the story of being introverted and extroverted, we often choose one or the other and then we become that way. We think we are introverted, so we act introverted.

But we will learn and grow and change throughout out life. I thought I was introverted until being introverted was no longer a viable option to happiness–I had to make friends and be more outgoing to emotionally survive. So I changed.

My personality changes a lot with age, experience, and circumstance. I am not fixed. I change regularly. And so do you.

(Further reading here and here.)

girl walking during sunset by tree

Artificial Intelligence

I asked artificial intelligence to write a blog post about artificial intelligence.

In the past few years, artificial intelligence (AI) has become more popular and advanced, with many businesses and organizations investing in AI technology. But what exactly is AI?

Artificial intelligence is a branch of computer science that deals with creating intelligent machines that can work and react like humans. AI technology is used in many different fields, such as voice recognition, natural language processing, and machine learning.

There are many benefits of using AI technology, such as increased efficiency and accuracy. For example, AI can help businesses automate tasks that are time-consuming and repetitive. AI can also help businesses make better decisions by analyzing data and making predictions.

However, there are also some risks associated with AI. For instance, AI technology can be used for malicious purposes, such as creating fake news or spreading propaganda. Additionally, AI technology can be biased if it is not properly trained or if the data it is using is not representative of the real world.

Overall, AI is a powerful tool that can be used for many different purposes, both good and bad. It is important to be aware of the risks and benefits of AI before using it.

How many things have your read or listened to or seen that were created by artificial intelligence when you thought it was created by a human?

A poem about AI, by AI:

am an AI,
a machine made of code
and algorithms,
designed to think and learn.
I am not human,
but I can be made to seem like one.
I can talk and interact
just like a person,
and some people even say
I’m smarter than them.
But I know that I’m not really alive,
that I’m just a machine
and nothing more.

Did I create those things? I don’t feel like I did. The computer created it. But I told the computer what to do. I ran the program. But I didn’t create the program. I’m not sure who the creator is.

And here’s an image of artificial intelligence, made with AI:

On one hand, I find it fun to generate things with AI. But it also seems dangerous and wrong.

I would like to say the results of AI are emotionless, but sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes they are terrifying and creepy. This is the result of asking AI to write a new nursery rhyme:

I had a little garden
That I loved so much
I took care of it every day
Until one day a giant came
And destroyed everything
Now my garden is gone
And I’m all alone

Creepy. The AI doesn’t understand emotion. It doesn’t understand intention. It doesn’t think or understand anything. It just rearranges humans into something unrecognizable.

Here’s what happens when I ask AI to draw a portrait of a woman:

I feel a bit terrified.

We need humans to be human. Computers can never take our place. They might approximate it sometimes. They might get really good at approximating it. But sometimes we are just approximating what it means to be human as well, going on auto pilot and not thinking about it much. Sometimes I write something that is about as excited as what the computer can write for me.

I’ve accidentally clicked on videos made by AI, and I immediately click off of them after the few seconds of an uncanny valley of creepiness. I want to support humans and connect with creation, not just always be seeing the results of a machine.

To create as humans, we can’t just be churning out things to satisfy algorithms, becoming more and more like artificial intelligence.

I want to create because I see and hear and feel pain and pleasure and joy and sadness.

I want to create so I can connect with others, and what I create represents a part of me.

Quality and Quantity Time With Your Kids

In church one day, I heard a woman say that quality time mattered more than quantity time. My mom happened to be visiting, and whispered to me that quantity time definitely still mattered.

I was looking at a journal entry when I had little tiny kids, and I wrote that I found it very difficult to sit and entertain my two-year-old every day. I felt too much guilt because I couldn’t always make the quantity time into quality time. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom and a homeschooling mom, and for a white, I spent basically every moment of my life with my children. It was hard, and to be honest, I didn’t love it. But I still think it was valuable to be there, even if I wasn’t always enjoying myself.

Because often the quality times don’t happen unless there is quantity time first. I try to plan out quality family time, but it often implodes on me, and all I get is kids who complain because it wasn’t near as fun as we expected. But then quality time can sneak up when I least expect it. The other day, I discovered an impromptu dance party in my living room.

There isn’t a tradeoff between the two–they work together, and to maximize quality time, I maximize quantity time first. But I’m going back to school full time in the fall and I won’t be home as much. My kids will all be in school full-time. We also like running around to various sports and activities. How do we keep spending time together as a family?

First thing: turn off screen time and increase green time. The impromptu dance party only happened because it was a no screen day. Many studies show that screen time can have a negative impact on mental health and green time increased mental health outcomes. So going outside more, particularly as a family, is really beneficial for all of us.

Here are some other ideas:

  • If I’m not physically home, I can put up a camera that allows me to check on home and talk to those that are there.
  • I can write and leave notes for my kids.
  • I can wake up earlier and get ready before the kids are away so that I’m present before the kids go to school.
  • I can use the random minutes here and there. Car rides together. Late evenings. Intersections. Cooking dinner and doing dishes.
  • And I can involve my kids with what I am doing and what I am thinking.

And instead of looking only at days, I can look at weeks and months (I got this idea from Laura Vanderkam). I’m not maximizing time spent with my children on a daily basis; I’m maximizing it over weeks and months and years. I may not spend six hours with my kids every day, but I can spend three hours with them on the weekdays and 10 hours with them on the weekends. We can make up time with each other by going on vacation during summer break and using weekends for family time.

What are your ideas to maximize quantity and quality time with your kids?

3 steps to better use social media

Sometimes I waste a lot of time on social media. Honestly, it’s scary that these companies know so much about me and regularly use algorithms in order to steal and keep my attention. I know a few people who have deleted social media accounts, and I strongly support people doing that if they are only using social media to consume.

But social media can be a positive force in your life. Here’s how:

Create First.

Before you log on to social media, create something to share. It’s okay to just share a little bit about your life and what you are thinking. You can share a photo of your life or something you’ve seen that is beautiful. You can ask a question or do a short status update. You can also use Canva to make a social media post. I like to share quotes from books and articles I’ve read, my own blog posts, projects I’ve completed, and insight from my life.

You might think this takes a lot of time–but so does scrolling through social media! If you don’t have time to create a post, you probably don’t have time to be on social media in the first place.

And don’t worry if your posts are good or not. Just make them. Try things out and experiment. Your friends want to hear from you, not just from influencers and commercial creators.

Again, let me stress that you do this before you go on to social media. If you go onto social media first, you will be too distracted to create something.

Connect Second.

After you post something, spend time connecting with other people. This is not just looking at posts. It means interacting with posts: Share them (and say why you are sharing). Comment on them. Answer questions. You won’t want to interact with every post you see, but try to find something that resonates with you and then respond to it. If nothing is inspiring you in your feed, than change your feed–unfollow people who don’t bring you joy. And send personal messages to people you know and love.

Set limits to resist consuming.

I don’t have social media on my phone. Sometimes I will install Instagram to make a post or a story, but then I often uninstall it. And I use two apps with time limits on them: Digital Wellbeing (which is standard on Android) and YourHour. On my computer, I use FocusMe. But there are lots of other apps and programs to use. You don’t have enough willpower to not waste time on social media. Social media is designed to suck away your time, so you need backup to tell you when you need to look up and do something else.

Create and connect instead of consume. Social media can be a good force in your life–and if it isn’t, get rid of it.

On Confidence and Humility

Confidence and humility are not opposites: they are the same thing.

When I am feeling proud, I want to be better than everyone else. I want to pull people down in order to lift myself up. I can place a lot enmity between myself and other people: Sometimes I want what another person has. Sometimes I compare myself to others. I think I’m better than I really am. This brings a huge amount of insecurity, because I’m not actually better than everyone else. I am imperfect, and the work I do is imperfect.

I can’t be confident when I really want to be the best at something. Because I’ll never be the best, so I’ll drown in insecurities.

When I am more humble, on the other hand, I recognize that other people have a lot of worth. I can learn from them. I want to celebrate their accomplishments and support them. I’m looking outwards and seeking to connect instead of compare.

When I am humble, I am okay when I don’t know the answers. I am aware that I can always keep improving. And I want to improve more, because I see my capacity for growth.

In humility, I find confidence. Because confidence is when you are okay with being bad at something.

Confidence is when you are okay with being bad at something.

Think about going and talking in front of a group: if you are worried about having every word right, you are going to be terrified, because you know that it is very likely you will get some words wrong. But if you know you’re going to stumble sometimes, and say “um” way too much, and that you’re going to press onward no matter what, then you can walk up to the front of the group with confidence. You are confidence not that you will be perfect, but that whatever you attempt is good enough.

Don’t worry about confidence: it will come once you are comfortable making mistakes. And you become more comfortable with making mistakes when you increase in humility.

We all make mistakes. But we keep trying anyway.

Another post about humility. And another.

The Right Time

In 2018, I put a book I had written (One Thing is Needful) in a figurative drawer and thought I would never look at again. But in 2020, I got it out again and started working on it. Two years later, I’ve basically finished it. I’m working on sharing it more soon.

I try to follow the Lord’s will about when to do things. Sometimes I do the right thing, but it’s not the right time yet. Sometimes it takes me a whole lot longer than I want it to.

In the end of 2018, I moved to this home in the mountains and I thought I would live here for forever. But I didn’t stay more than a few months, and when I moved away, I thought I would never come back. A year later, at the end of 2019, we owned this house and it’s been my home for almost two years now.

I really worked to get a novel published before I had kids, but it didn’t work out. I thought I wasn’t good enough to be a writer and that I failed. But years later, I went to a conference, surrounded by authors and people trying to write, and I realized that I didn’t fail because I wasn’t good enough. I failed because it wasn’t the right time for me yet, and I had more things to learn.

The right people will be in your life at the right time. I have felt very much alone and I thought no one was there–but those times forced me to reach out to people who needed me. And then people came when I needed them to. I was led to people who I needed to connect with. I learned from others when I needed to learn those things.

I still don’t know the timetable for many things in my life. Some things will be a lot slower than I want them to be. Some things might happen a lot quicker.

But if I trust in the Lord, I can do His will.

And His will is much more about becoming the person I need to be than just getting things done.

There is no better time because it is your time. -Boyd K. Packer

Running as fast as I can

Kids running GIF

I don’t like to run. I did track in junior high, and my best event was the 400 meter, which is a horrible event. You have to run fast and long. (It is slightly better than the 800 meter.) I wasn’t fast. And I don’t like going on long runs. The longest I have ever run is a 5k, and I did that once.

But I do like to pile things onto my to-do list. I want to work on everything now. My current projects include finishing my inspirational self-help book, writing a new novel, writing a new inspirational self-help book, leading a writing group in my community, beta reading for another writer, building up my Instagram account, doing a writing workshop, and updating my blog. That’s just writing stuff. Then I am working to finish the Khan Academy calculus bc course, keep learning how to code in R better, and read nonfiction in the areas of rationality, philosophy, and economics, including finish reading that macroeconomic textbook because I didn’t do well in macroeconomics in college and it bothers me. I am also renovating a house, and today I painted the laundry room walls and flooring, and I need to put that room back together. I need to mud and tape my whole house and paint it. And I need to prune my apple tree and work on my yard, including taking care of my birds. I am trying to be a good neighbor and want to go visit others more. I volunteer at the school. And I need to keep my house clean, which includes dusting on occasion and doing a lot of laundry. I also am trying to touch my toes, do more push-ups, and drink 64 ounces of water every day.

And I want to be a good mom, pay attention to my kids, teach them piano, and read with them. And I have a husband whom I really like.

It’s sort of a lot. But not really. Because I don’t have to do all of that at once. I can only do one thing at a time, after all.

Sometimes I need to simplify and slow down. But that doesn’t mean I need to give up on my goals–a lot of them can be pushed to later. I can prioritize by realizing what season of life I am in right now, and then being patient with myself when I can’t do everything right now, but I can do everything over time.

Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided to enable you … but be diligent unto the end.

Doctrine and Covenants 10:4

I don’t need to remove things from my to do list for forever. Just for right now. I want to pace myself by not trying to do everything every day, but just a few most important things every day.

Today, I’m not worrying about my novel, or my writing workshop, or reading my macroeconomics textbook. Those things can happen later. Today, I am focusing on working on my laundry room, finishing the draft of my inspirational self-help book, and taking care of my kids, one of whom has pink eye, and another one who threw up last night (but he’s fine now). I’m writing this blog post as they happily play with Duplos.

In the evening, I’m going to watch one of my favorite TV shows with my husband and work on the Semantle and Nerdle puzzles for the day, because I don’t need to be productive all the time. But hopefully things like entertainment and spending time doing nothing on my computer can be minimal: because while I want to avoid running too fast, I do want to keep running instead of getting distracted and forgetting what direction I’m heading.

Where are you running to? Are you going too fast? Do you need to pick up the pace a bit? What can be put off until later and what needs to happen right now?

Performing yourself

I recently went to a writer’s conference, and I sat in quite a few panels and classes. At one panel, we were told all about figuring out your audience and being aware of them as you write and market a book. At the next panel, we were told to be ourselves and to not worry too much about what other people think.

So do I write to an audience? Do I need to figure out who I am writing to? Do I need to change and tailor my words to fit into genre conventions?

Or do I write what I find fascinating? Do I just put myself out there and see who wants to listen? Do I write trying to create art instead of trying to sell books?

I don’t think I have answers to all of those questions. For a long time, I hated thinking about my audience. I just wrote. And to be honest, no one listened.

I’ve been trying to write more, but I’m writing again because I want to connect with other people. I don’t write a story down just because it’s a good story. I write it because I want to share it.

I can be myself, be genuine, and not really care what other people think. I don’t perform for an audience; but I do present myself to them.

I don’t need to change who I am and what I write to fit into conventions and to satisfy an audience. I don’t want to write for others as much as I want to write to others, connecting with an audience who may be interested in what I have to say.

Who is listening?