essay · inspiration

recognizing the blessings in the fabric of your life

My post yesterday was about not achieving your dreams and how that’s okay. But I think we need to realize sometimes how privileged we are to even to be able to dream and set the goals we have in the first place. There are so many people who are merely focused on survival. We often don’t realize how blessed we are because we are seeing our life through a specific lens of what we’re used to.

We usually compare ourselves to people who live similar or better lives than we do, forgetting all the people who struggle and live in a different way. We don’t see outside ourselves. We want to serve and help, but we don’t really want to empathize.

Even though I have dealt with failure and rejection and disappointment, I have four children, a good marriage, a comfortable home–I have so many good things in my life. I have accomplished a lot, but more importantly, life isn’t about the accomplishment anyway.

Life is more about experiences, the stories we tell ourselves and each other, and the ability to keep going and keep trying. Life isn’t about being happy and successful, but about the journey on the way.

So many times, we get so narrow-minded in how we look at things. Our standards and measurements that we apply to ourselves and others are often inaccurate. We could do to love each other more, to be more understanding of different situations, and to see a bigger picture.

I don’t think we can ever the perfect perspective in life–it’s always cloudy and inaccurate. But we can try to recognize the love we have from our Heavenly Father. We can know that eventually, we will be able to make sense of all the difficult things.

During the journey, it’s always good to take time to recognize the blessings that are contained in the very fabric of your life.

essay

when life doesn’t go according to plan

There is this idea that you can set your goals and dreams and go for it and achieve them, but then there are thousands (or millions) of people who have a different reality: they have goals, they work towards them the absolute best they can, and then they fail.

A writer gets rejected, not just for one book, but for dozens of them.

A lawyer hopes to change the world and help people, but ends up working on messy divorces and collecting money.

A young college student wants to study mammals, but ends up studying insects and then getting stuck in a job as an underpaid lab assistant.

People get rejected constantly: they interview for jobs and then get the call a few days later that someone else was chosen. They apply to their favorite school and they don’t get in.

There are those dealing with even bigger problems: infertility, major health problems, death, tragedy, and so much more.

We don’t celebrate those moments. We don’t talk about the failure. We often hide it. We don’t see articles and books about people who have repeatedly dealt with disappointment without the eventual positive conclusion–in most stories, failure is merely a stepping stone on the pathway to eventual success.

But so many people don’t get that success and have to reframe their life and kill their dreams.

I am sort of tired reading about self-help books from successful people about how other people can be successful too. Because that’s not how the world works. We have humongous failures and mistakes in our life. We have persistent weaknesses and constant rejection.

And that’s just as human and real as those successes. And we need to talk about it more–and not just in a way where we keep encouraging people to keep going until they finally succeed, or we romanticize struggles with an inspiration moral at the end.

We need to embrace that there are average people doing average things and that is what makes the world work. For every major success, there are usually so many failures without any happy conclusions.

(I’ve probably written this exact same thing before, but I don’t mind repeating myself.)

essay · my life

Thoughts on marriage and living without my husband

From October to December of this year, I spent most of the time living with myself and my children while my husband worked about four hours away. He came and saw us most weekends, but a lot of the times it was just me. And it was hard.

Now that I’m living back with my husband, I find that I have a whole lot more time and things are a lot easier in many ways. Dillon cleans a lot, something that I need to be more grateful for. Without him, I was a wreck sometimes and my house was a disaster.

But it’s not just the cleaning. He helps take care of my kids. He supports me over and over again. Without him, it was so hard emotionally to wake up and just go through day after day by myself with the kids to take care of. I would go days without speaking in person to an adult.

I gained a new empathy for single moms. I wasn’t a single mom–I could still call my husband and he visited often. But it was still really hard.

Single moms have to do the impossible. I learned that if I didn’t have a husband, I couldn’t do it on my own. While I spent days by myself, I didn’t ever have to worry about finances and how to make money. I was relying on my husband’s income. And there was enough to do with taking care of my kids and cooking and cleaning and trying to keep it all together (and failing at times).

Logistically, I couldn’t make it as a single mom right now, and I’m very glad I don’t have to. But there are so many single moms out there who have to do it. It can be easy to blame them or to just expect them to figure it out, but it’s very different when you are in the situation and trying to make things work.

Some days were fine. Life wasn’t miserable at all. But it was more difficult and it took much more effort. I learned a lot about myself–I tend to be a little bit too lazy, but at the same time, I can get weird expectations of myself and I make myself feel like a failure when I’m doing okay. And I learned that happiness doesn’t have to do with where you are as much as who you are. I get miserable because I don’t leave my house some days, but that’s just a choice I can make that’s independent of circumstances. I learned I need to step up more and I am more capable than I realize.

I am so grateful for my own husband. He has a career where we live out in the middle of nowhere, somewhere where it’s too far away for my kids to go to public school. But it is so much better being with him than living so far apart. The kids are happier. I am happier. Everyone is happier. We can do so much more together than we ever could do it on our own.

If anyone is reading this who is doing it on their own–I know that I never really came close to the things that you experience. I only understand a little bit how hard it is. But just appreciate yourself for trying every day. Because that’s all there is in life: we wake up, and we keep trying.

essay

Two Thoughts on Economics and Life

1.

I was sitting in church, listening to a lesson where we were talking about helping each other and how it is good to receive help. We often find it difficult to be vulnerable and ask for the things that we both need and want. We try to do it all on our own, thinking that that is the best way.

Well, I was in a microeconomics class at the time and I had recently gone over a chapter about the advantages of trade. Basically, trade can make everyone a lot better off. In my textbook, we had examples like when two different countries make shirts and airplanes. Even if one country is better than the other at making both shirts and airplanes, they might have a comparative advantage making airplanes, while the other one has a comparative advantage of making shirts. So the countries become better off specializing and trading instead of just doing it all themselves.

And I think that’s applicable to life. I can do everything myself, but I am really good at some things while other people are really good at other things. And if we come together and trade, we will both be better off.

Of course, we don’t really usually think about trading too much with other people in small ways. But I think we could more often: If you watch my kids, I’ll bring dinner. If I do this website for you, you can help teach my kids. That sort of thing. We are more efficient when we work together, so there’s no point in always trying to do it all on our own.

Sometimes, I have had people visit me and I clean while they are there. I don’t need them to help, though they can if they would like. Then when we are done, we are both benefited by a clean house and by the conversation with each other. I would rather do that than visit in a messy house.

And we don’t always need to trade straight across, but we can have a general understanding that if we help one another and both give and receive help, that we will all be better off.

***

2.

One of the principles of economics is that everyone faces trade-offs.

Sometimes we think of life as a bunch of choices between right and wrong. If we choose right, then everything will be okay.

But instead, many of the choices we face are not between right and wrong or good and bad. We might face two good options. Or two bad options. Or dozens of options that are all just okay. We have trade-offs.

I’ve faced a lot of trade-offs lately. I have had to try to decide what is the best option instead of having one exactly right option to choose from. I want there to be right and wrong answers, but often it’s much more complicated than that. I have to figure out how to make complicated, life-changing trade-offs.

It can get really tough, particularly because we don’t know the future and sometimes it’s really hard to know how to weigh things right. I’m not certain of many of the results of the major decisions that I make.

I can crave for decisions that don’t involve any trade-offs, decisions that appear completely black and white and easy. But that’s not life. Life is hard and messy at times. It’s just how it is.

do something · inspiration

Experience is worth more than accomplishment

Every day, week, month, and year, I have constantly made lists of things I wanted to accomplish. But today I wondered if my focus has been in the wrong place.

Today, my kids wanted to get sledding on mostly melted snow. It wasn’t on my to-do list, but it sure was fun. The snow was hard and crispy and the sleds slid over it easily, so we actually went far, sliding over spots of dead grass and old snow without stopping. We didn’t last long before my little daughter got snow on her hand and cried and wanted to come inside. We came in, cuddled on the couch, and she fell asleep.

I didn’t accomplish anything by doing this. I didn’t check anything off my to-do list. But it was a really good experience. It was not only fun, but it was good time spent with my kids.

I want to value experiences more than my accomplishments.

Learning something is more important than getting a degree. Spending time with my children is more important than cleaning up my house. Serving others and developing relationships is much better than making a lot of money or having a good resume. And I can have wonderful adventures without leaving my backyard.

I need to readjust my life a little bit so that I am valuing those things instead of completely focused on being productive or achieving certain goals or having everything in order. Life is messy and fun and meaningful and beautiful–but I don’t notice when I am focused on the pages of a planner or the marks of a to-do list.

kids sledding

inspiration · my life

Change is the only constant

So I have been doing some reflection. I can become quite a miserable person. I always want something more out of life. And while sometimes that seems like a rather ungrateful thing, I just get bored easily. I can’t do the same thing over and over again.

I have tried to find the perfect routine, the perfect cleaning schedule, the right way to live. But in reality, I want change. And I want it regularly. I like having things to look forward to. I like experiencing different things.

And on the other side, I am sort of a lazy, depressed homebody and I have a hard time kicking myself out the door and going on the adventures that would make me happy.

I want to try to be more adventurous in life. I sit and I plan every day with a very strong sense of duty and a very small sense of adventure. I usually want to get things done for the sake of getting them done instead of for the sake of doing them.

So I want to make a change. I want to build more change into my life regularly, so I’m not doing the same thing over and over again (and becoming miserable as I do it). I have some ideas:

  • Switch out how I plan. Try new apps, new planners, and new methods–not in an attempt to find the perfect way, to be continually interested in new ways.
  • Switch out routines. Instead of trying to stick to the same exact morning routine (and continually failing at it), switch things up. Take a bath instead of a shower, or switch orders, and mix things up.
  • Try new recipes regularly, and try cooking in new and different ways that excite me.
  • Switch out productivity blocking, software, and rules regularly (I always find new ways to waste my time).
  • Go on adventures to try new things and do things in different ways. Learn from other people.
  • Create regularly in new and different ways. Draw or paint or play an instrument or sing or create a video or whatever.
  • Dare myself to do new and exciting things–such as working on classes, going on dates with my kids, and trying new things.
  • Physically push myself to do better. I know I don’t like to do the same sort of exercise every day, so I want to switch it up more. Maybe try running for a week or a bike ride or aerobics class or whatever.
  • Be mindful of the exciting changes that happen around me, such as changes to my children and changes to the weather.
  • Organize my things in new and different ways.
  • Limit what I have to do in favor of things I want to do. And make the things I have to do more interesting so I want to do them.
  • Experiment.
  • Listen to music. Sing. Dance. Create.
  • Take joy in the current moment instead of worrying about what the future will bring.

 

my life

some thoughts recently

I have been practicing mindfulness lately and as I have been doing it, I have noticed things that I thought I enjoyed actually make me miserable. These include:

  • Eating more than one piece of candy.
  • Watching lots of YouTube videos.
  • Procrastinating cleaning my house.
  • Sitting and doing nothing.
  • Not cooking for dinner.
  • Binge watching Netflix videos.
  • Eating lots of potato chips.

There are things that are a bit addictive, but they don’t really provide any pleasure. I often just click on things because it’s easy, not because I really want to.

I am happier when I work hard, learn, play with my kids, go on adventures, try new things, serve others, talk with people in real life, etc. But those things take effort.

And spending too much time on my computer or eating unhealthy things or not being present in my own life takes little effort at all. It’s easy in a way, but it makes my life incredibly more difficult because I find myself miserable and without motivation to do what I know is right.

The best way I have to deal with this is to plan out my day and get a good start. If I start out the day knowing what I want to do and start working hard and being present at the very beginning, it’s easier to keep doing that throughout the day.

And if I make sure that my house is clean and things are generally put together before I go to bed, I also have an easier time starting my day right.

So this is what I’m working on right now.  I’m feeling a lot happier with myself and a lot more in tune to what brings happiness into my life and what brings misery.

essay

Remembering others in hard times

There have been times when I think about all the hard things that are happening and I feel like I’m alone and abnormal and that so many other people have it better than I do.

Of course, that’s not true. Life is universally hard. We all go through very difficult things: childbirth is hard, death is hard, and all the space in-between can get really difficult too.

So why do we get thinking that things should always be great? Why do we avoid pain so much?

I am never alone in struggle. People struggle. They cry. They yell and scream. They feel awful.

I have found that I have been the most discouraged when I thought that other people have better circumstances than I do–or if they do have hard circumstances, they probably handle it better. But those are both false. No matter how overwhelming my challenges may seem, someone has been there before. And they may not have handled it any better than I am. They struggled too.

So suffering doesn’t need to be lonely. We don’t ever need to think that things should be better. They are what they are, and there are a lot of people who do understand.

When I remember that other people struggle, I feel better able to keep going. Lots of people are worse off than I am. And lots of people struggle to be strong.

But people usually get through it. Even though pain is universal, so is happiness. There is always hope. There is always the next step, and we rarely have to take it alone.

essay

Keeping Calm

Today was an interesting day: when I came out of the shower, there was a strong smell in the air and my daughter was crying. I quickly found her along with half of a bottle of barbecue sauce on the kitchen counter. She was crying because she was covered in barbecue sauce and she kept slipping around in it and didn’t know what to do.

But there was more.

The boys had managed to find a dry erase marker and they had written on lots of things, including my brand-new door that we had just made (and we haven’t painted it yet, so I will have to literally sand out the ink). I thought it was the youngest one, but when I discovered the word Pokemon written on the wall later on in the day, I realized that it was not the youngest one. It was my kindergartner, who had been quite happy to not take the blame for it, but he was perfectly honest when I asked him directly.

And to top things of, the boys had also gotten knives out of the drawer and thought they would make good toys.

It was a moment. But I was calm. I didn’t yell. No one got into trouble, though I made sure to instruct them that we don’t write on the walls or play with knives or leave out the barbecue sauce with the lid off. I cleaned everything up. And that was that.

It didn’t stop there, of course: at dinner time, a bottle of spray cheese ended up breaking and spraying cheese everywhere. And then my son also spilled part of a bowel of cereal on the couch/piano bench/carpet.

I was still calm.

I am sorry to say that I have quite often yelled quite a lot in these situations. I get overwhelmed and think it’s just too much. I’m frustrated and I don’t want to clean up the messes.

But you know what? Messes are usually fairly easy to clean up (thank you, enzyme spray and magic eraser, you are my best friends today).

And the feeling I get when I yell is awful. Yelling doesn’t teach my kids anything, except maybe how to throw tantrums and yell. They listen when I’m calm. And when I’m calm, I feel better.

I feel powerful. If I can stay calm when all this is going on, I can do anything.

I can’t control the messes that have already happened. But I can control me. Because parenting is very first about controlling yourself; it is never about controlling your children.

My kids are going to make a lot of messes. The messes will change from food on the carpet to other struggles, but they will always be making messes. I am still making messes.

But messes can be cleaned up. And I can always love my children, no matter how big the mess.

inspiration

Fear not

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. (Isaiah 41:10)

The scripture mostly speaks for itself. I have been afraid, but then with the Lord’s help, I’ve been able to do what I need to do. He has helped me and upheld me and it’s been okay.

It’s been a bit exhausting with all the changes that have happened in my life lately, but he continues to guide me to a better path–a path that may not be filled with an easy, happy life full of riches and everything I want–but it is a path that will lead me back to Him.

I am surprised sometimes that even when I am having difficult times, when I trust in the Lord, so many problems just don’t seem to matter anymore. They are still there. And they hurt sometimes, but His love is so strong that it can provide happiness in very difficult places.