fractured, meditations

Rejecting Productivity

I’m not great at this. I love being productive. I love getting so many things done in a day. And it sounds like a really good thing: learn and create and do and earn and work and work and work.

I love hard work. But productivity is this whole other thing. It’s the rate of output per unit. It’s being able to do so many things with the hours you have in your day. We celebrate it a lot. More is better (which is usually true in the study of economics, but they have it wrong because it’s not accurate for life).

I find myself basing my self-worth on my productivity levels. Which makes me sound like I’m sort of machine, some sort of statistic as I try to increase my output. But I’m not working for anyone, except for my family, and they really don’t care much about my output at all.

I have these ridiculous to-do lists and goals, and a lot of times, I do a lot. Right now, I’m homeschooling my kids, remodeling a house, and taking two college classes. And I do more too, because that’s life: I blog and I write and I read books and I cook and I clean and I drive a lot. I learn extra things, like R and data science. I’ve been scanning and sorting photographs from my grandparents. I visit friends. I redecorated some rooms a few weeks ago. I play the piano. I exercise. And there is so much that I put on my lists: transcribe, start a business, write a book, etc. etc. etc. Some people are impressed with how much I do, and that feels nice–but I don’t know if it’s the best direction to go in.

I often think about my life in terms of how much I’ve accomplished. I look back at certain times and think that I really didn’t do much because I wasn’t involved in a whole lot of major projects. But I am not necessarily a better person because of my goals and accomplishments. Some things that I really would like to do (go outside more) just don’t happen. I find myself overwhelmed and I shut down.

I have searched and watched and read about how to do more with the time that I have. But doing more just to do more really isn’t helpful. Being productive is not always the right thing to do.

There are meaningful things in my life, things that I love, that I don’t always have time for. And I want to change that.

I’m not sure how. This is more of a question, a beginning, and that’s okay. I hate giving up projects. There are so many things that are undone and so many things I want to do.

A part of me wants to really likes to define my life by how much I accomplished. But so many little things don’t matter very much at all. I need increased focus. I need to learn how to say no. And I need to not do things just to say that I did it, just to increase my output without any reason.

What do you think?

essay

It’s okay to not be okay

When I was younger, I remember hearing from people who were so happy and optimistic. They seemed to deal with difficult things with grace and gratitude. And I wanted to be like them.

I thought that if I was good enough, I would be able to go through life without deep pain and struggle. When hard times came, if I had enough faith and trust in God, then it wouldn’t hurt. I could meet it with optimism and faith and joy.

That was a lie I told myself. I didn’t want to feel pain. I was running away from pain, thinking that I wanted a perfect and happy life where I had this amazing attitude all the time. I thought religion meant that I wouldn’t have to feel pain. I thought being good enough meant that I had a good attitude at all times.

And now I have felt deep pain that has teared me apart and put me back together. I have not had any deep tragedy in my life. But I have had struggles that have driven me to despair. I have faced my own imperfections and saw that I would never be the ideal I had set for myself.

I sat with my pain today. I didn’t feel guilty. I didn’t try to make it go away. I didn’t feel a need to be productive and happy. I just let myself cry. It was a small thing: I missed my home that I can’t live in.

And I didn’t tell myself I needed to have this amazing attitude. I didn’t need to feel happy and put this pressure on myself to be and do everything right. I didn’t need to fix the problem either.

I have had a hard time sharing pain with others because I’ve always ran away from it in my own life. But when I prayed today, it wasn’t with this hope that things would work out. Because that isn’t true when you are in pain: things won’t work out because they hurt right then and that pain is real. And it’s okay to not feel hopeful and optimistic. It’s okay to cry.

I know the moment will pass and I do know that hope is around the corner, but I am also finally okay with the fact that life will hurt. My hope is no longer in the deliverance from pain. I prayed that I could continue in the life I have, knowing that it will continue to hurt for a while. I’m not desperately looking for the way out.

The biggest comfort comes in knowing I can move forward with the pain, knowing that my heart is big enough to contain it.

Because in the pain, there is also joy. Almost all of our pain comes because we had happiness. We felt loved. We loved others. Joy and sorrow often come together: we love knowing that we will someday say goodbye. We work knowing that it will someday be torn down and forgotten. We live knowing we will die. We build a home knowing we will leave.

There is sorrow because there is joy and joy because there is sorrow. And I want the joy. Which means that I must accept the sorrow that goes with it.

If hard things happen to me, I don’t have to tell myself that things will work out. I don’t need to skip over the pain and fight it with optimism and hope. I don’t need to say everything is fine and put a brave face on.

I will let myself cry. I will let myself be imperfect. I will let myself sorrow and know that things can be hard and overwhelming without recompense. And I will not apologize to others for being sad, excusing myself as if sadness was some sort of flaw that should be hidden away. I will have the integrity to not be ashamed of my struggle.

(Or I will feel guilty and hide and make mistakes and that’s okay too because I’m still learning.)

I am finally not hiding from what life is, though the process has been slow and continues.

But in the end, I am more grateful for the hard times than the easy times. I have found myself more in failure than in success. I feel so much less ashamed of myself in realizing my imperfections.

Life is messy and chaotic and beautiful because of it.

essay, home

Things I Learned From Getting a Building Permit

Recently, I obtained a building permit for a remodel. The reputation of this building department was quite negative, and I had heard stories of people taking years to get permits to build their houses. I was doing a remodel, not a new building, but I wondered if I could even get a building permit by myself.

We decided to try it anyway. I had contacted architects and builders and no one got back with me, and I don’t think they wanted to work on this project. I love the house because my grandpa built it, but it is unique.

So for months, I researched and worked and I came up with my own building plans.

We submitted the plans and I did not expect them to be approved. There were a few different departments who had to review plans. I got one rejection for my site plan, and I immediately called the department and talked to him about a few things and get on the same page.

A while later, I got another rejection. I again picked up my phone and called the health department about my septic system. I gathered up some information and emailed that out.

Then one morning, I got an email. Everything else was approved. I literally did not believe it when I saw that email. I was sure that they would be rejected. I had worked on it for so long, but there things that I was guessing at. And they just approved it.

I resubmitted a site plan. I wasn’t sure they were going to approve the new one, but then they did. The person reviewing the plan called to make sure that I was planning on working on this for 18 months. Yes, the July 2021 date was correct.

After paying my fees, I have a building permit. I am grateful for my sister, Liz, who did a grading plan for us. Besides that, I did it all.

And now, things I’ve learned:

  • Be honest. I tried to be as honest and open about everything about my house. It was tempting at times to try to hide something or stretch the truth, but it was so much easier to be honest. And it worked.
  • Follow the rules. I could have tried to remodel without a building permit, but that wouldn’t have been legal. I tried to do what the county wanted me to do and follow the rules they had to the best of my ability. I looked up building codes and laws and tried my best to follow it all.
  • Being honest and following the rules brings inner peace. I feel at peace with myself and the plans and the project. I have nothing to hide and I have nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Stick yourself out there. I wanted to hide because I didn’t always know what I’m doing, but I didn’t hide. I submitted things. It was scary, but it was okay.
  • Work with people and they will work with you. I think because I called and talked to people on the phone, they actually helped me out and approved things when it wasn’t technically perfect. I would explain my project honestly and what we were planning and doing and then it felt like we were on the same team instead of working against each other.
  • Ask questions when you need to and admit when you don’t know something.
  • You can do more than you think you can. I didn’t think I could do this in the beginning. I did it because I didn’t really have a choice–I wanted to remodel this house and no one would work for me so I had to come up with plans by myself. And I did it.
  • Building isn’t very complicated. Building basic buildings and remodeling does not require you to be an architect or an engineer or have twenty years of experience.
  • You can learn to do just about anything on the internet.

meditations

Gifts

We don’t want toys. We want to play. 

We don’t want books. We want to read. 

We don’t want games. We want to spend time with each other.

The best gifts are a promise of a happy life–together–with love.

essay

Confidence

The other day, I was making some phone calls. I have told myself that I don’t like talking on the phone and I thought that I wasn’t very good at it. But during this phone call, I paid attention for a minute and I realized that I am good at it. I was probably better at it than the person I was talking to, and she was getting paid.

For a lot of my life, I have dreaded making phone calls because I was afraid that I was going to say the wrong thing and have awkward moments. I had this in my head that I my brain would turn off when I was on the phone. But it doesn’t. I am perfectly capable of thinking during a phone call.

But because I haven’t had any confidence, that means my fear has caused the awkward moments I was afraid of. When you don’t have confidence, it’s really hard to do your best. You become a self-fulfilling prophecy and doom yourself to failure.

You interact with people better if you are confident in your own skills and happy with who you are. You exercise better when you view yourself as a strong person who enjoys exercising. You perform better if you know that you can perform well.

Confidence can be a really helpful thing to overcome fears and get things done. Just tell yourself that you are good at something. Even if you aren’t quite sure. Just pretend. And you usually will surprise yourself of your own capabilities.

inspiration

Faith

Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true. (Alma 32:21)

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

There are certain things that I do know. I know that there is a God. I know that the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ has worked miracles in my life. I know the Book of Mormon brings me joy. But there are a lot of things that I don’t know. I don’t understand all the answers and I can’t answer all the questions.

But if I did have all the answers, then I wouldn’t have faith. If I knew everything perfectly, I wouldn’t need faith.

And I like faith. Because I am not capable of understanding everything right now. I can know some things, but not everything. And faith means I don’t have to know everything right now. I don’t have to have it figured out.

Faith means that there is hope in dark places. Faith means that there is more to life than I understand. Faith means that there is help and happiness ahead. Faith means that there can be unexpected miracles that bring joy.

I can have faith. I can’t have all the answers. But I can have faith.

essay

I Don’t Need All the Answers

Information is so easily available that we can basically find whatever information we want. Some of it is incredibly useful, but some of it is also inaccurate and even destructive.

When I teach my kids in school, we don’t combine religion with other subjects. I teach science from a completely scientific perspective. We watch lots of videos about evolution because my kids like animals. I also teach creation, but I teach it separately.

Religion for me is a matter of faith, and I approach it very differently than I do any other area of study. Even when I try to be intellectual about it, I don’t care very much about proof. Faith is faith, and faith is good when it brings me joy and blessings.

There are a lot of questions in the world and there are a lot of evidences for one thing or another. What we think and believe changes, and it can change really rapidly. So we almost completely rely on other authority for what we know. We often believe things that are completely false because it’s our instinct to immediately believe something. We’re not very good at being skeptical and really figure out what is true and not. Either we believe everything or we believe nothing. Knowledge and truth can seem slippery and confusing.

But I do believe in truth. And I believe in can be found in a lot of places.

I don’t think truth is intellectual. Sometimes the most important things are our own experiences and our own feelings. And while truth is not relative, our own experience and viewpoint is relative.

Truth may not always seem consistent because we don’t fully understand something yet. And I think truth can be more complicated (and a lot simpler) than we want it to be. It’s not always a matter of true or false. Sometimes it’s both at the same time and exists in probability instead of yes or no. Sometimes we see contradictions where both sides are right.

Sometimes we are asking the wrong questions, so there is no answer to the question. And if knowledge is a puzzle, then sometimes we are using the pieces to build the wrong puzzle, which is why we might find holes and unsolvable problems.

We just can’t understand everything. And that’s okay.  I don’t understand it, but I’m going to keep living anyway.

I love learning in lots of different ways. But in all the complications and theories, my favorite sort of truth is something that I can’t really express and I don’t even know if I fully understand it.

The greatest joy I have found is in my family, in my church, and in trying to love and do good to others. I don’t always understand everything about the gospel of Jesus Christ, but I do know that it has brought me direction in my life, purpose, hope, and happiness.

I love going to church and reading the scriptures. Whenever I wake up and read scriptures first thing in the morning, I have better days. When I pray and try to follow the promptings I receive, amazing things happen.

And that’s truth right there. I make mistakes and I’m wrong. I have questions and I don’t understand. But I don’t need proof, because I have hope and I have happiness, and that’s enough.

inspiration

Family time

My life necessitates that we aren’t really that busy. We have to spend a lot of time together as a family. Sometimes we moan and groan and complain about it a little bit, but we also laugh a lot and really enjoy quite a bit of the time we have.

I know that a lot of people get really busy and they have a lot going on. I have used that excuse, but it’s usually not very accurate. Yes, I am busy sometimes. I may have a lot on my to-do list. Or I might have lots of places to go and do things. But it never lasts that way for a long time.

I hope that as my kids get older and our life changes, that we don’t get too busy to do the really important things. Sometimes family time doesn’t seem that urgent, but it is. The best moments are not always on the schedule or show up on any list. They exist when you are paying attention and you see the people in front of you.

I know that there are enough activities and busyness in the world to fill up several lifetimes. But I still want time so that I can wash the dishes with a kid next to me, play the piano while they fall asleep, read my kids a story, teach them something new, and listen and be there without having to rush somewhere else. I need those moments.

And when I am busy, when there is so much to do, I have found that I can include my kids. I once stuck my computer screen onto the TV so the kids could see what I was doing. I’ve talked to my kids about my plans and what I’m trying to accomplish. I’m happiest when I include them in doing things, even if it takes some effort from me. We can love and support each other when we are busy, so that we aren’t busy alone.

I don’t want to be caught up in filling up our lives so that we don’t have time with each other anymore. Relationships are always more important than accomplishments.

 

my life

Changes in the Church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have made quite a few changes lately. I will try to list most of them. Sometimes it seems like a lot, but changes always happen. It has been accelerated, but I think part of it is that these changes all work together.

  • Church on Sundays was shortened to two hours.
  • We now have a home-based curriculum, Come Follow Me, and lessons in Sunday school, seminary, primary, and youth organizations relate to that curriculum.
  • Visiting and home teaching were changed to ministering.
  • High priest groups and elder’s quorum were combined into one elder’s quorum. Relief society and Elder’s quorum now have increased responsibilities in order for the bishop to lead youth.
  • The young men’s presidency was discontinued. The young women have a new theme with increased class flexibility.
  • Children and youth change classes in January and young men can be ordained in January instead of waiting for their birthday.
  • Youth and children activities were changed to a worldwide program that is home-centered and church supported, that is more flexible.
  • There were some changes in the temple, including making it a bit shorter.
  • Temple recommend questions were revised and published.
  • Many, many temples were announced.
  • Women and youth can now witness ordinances.
  • Increased emphasis on the church name.
  • Missionaries can have increased communication with their families. Sister missionaries can wear pants and missionaries get their calls online.
  • Most church pageants were discontinued.
  • There were changes to policies regarding the children of LGBT parents.
  • Book of Mormon videos were made.
  • A new history of the church was started and published.
  • There will be revisions to the hymn book and children’s songbook.

I have been nervous sometimes about any upcoming changes. Sometimes change can be hard. I’ve had weird dreams sometimes when something happens in the church and it isn’t right and I just feel weird and sick inside. And then I wake up and I’m glad it’s a dream.

But these changes haven’t been hard at all. They have been wonderful and exciting. They’ve enabled me and my family to come closer to Jesus Christ and learn together. It’s allowed more unity and more flexibility. I feel so happy when I think of them, and it makes me rejoice a little bit inside.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a change at all, more like things are settling and evolving into what I always thought they would be. I was doing ministering before it was called ministering. I had increased my gospel instruction in the home before Come Follow Me. I even had two-hour church for a while when a church building was being renovated.

The Lord prepares us so that when things change, we are ready, and the changes don’t seem that big at all. Even in my own personal life, as I have gone through some changes, when I rely on the Lord, nothing is too hard or too jolting and everything just settles into place exactly as it should.

I love that feeling of being able to start to see the big picture instead of individual puzzle pieces. Things just feel right inside–I feel peace and joy.

It’s been an exciting time. I can’t wait for what is to come and I know that I don’t have to be afraid. I can trust in the Lord.