9. Why are the important things in life fleeting and the unimportant things so time consuming?

I’ve been attempting to track my time lately, and in this attempt, I’ve noticed that moments that matter can take a very small portion of my life.

In 10 minutes, I can do something significant: help my children, connect with my spouse, or complete a project that has been on my to-do list for ages. I can say hi to a neighbor, read scriptures, and pick up the house. I can meditate, pray, or exercise.

But then I get stuck trying to buy home insurance or I sort through emails or go shopping or try to find the answer to a simple question on the internet. I can get lost for hours, and at the end of it, I’m not happy with how I spend my time.

There is something named the Pareto Principle that says that 80% of the consequences come from 20% of of the causes.

If I apply that to my life, 20% of what I do has meaningful results, and 80% of what I do doesn’t really matter. And that seems sort of accurate to me.

Is there a way around this? To have more of my actions be meaningful? Or do I just try to keep working the best I can, and try to savor the meaningful moments when they come?

(Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash)

Honesty: How to Fix Your Life

Honesty can solve a whole lot of problems.

tree peeling off sign honesty

I always thought I was a very honest person: I never told lies or cheated or tried to steal anything, so I was good.

But here’s the thing: I still very much care what other people think about me, and sometimes dishonesty creeps in as I fail to admit my shortcomings and mistakes, both to myself and to others. Admitting what I do wrong has been my biggest struggle with honesty. I want to be an awesome person that doesn’t make many mistakes. But I am not: I yell at my kids, I pick my nose, I get discouraged, I waste time, and I support political candidates without knowing much about them.

My lies are plentiful: I want to hide things from the building inspector. I pretend that I heard someone speaking when I wasn’t paying attention at all. I tell a friend I’m doing fine and everything is great when it really isn’t.  When I don’t know something, I fabricate information. And at the store, when my kid breaks the top off a bottle of soap, I stick it on a random shelf and walk away.

Some of these may be trivial. But when dishonesty starts to creep up in small ways, it becomes a lazy way to deal with hard things. Dishonesty just pretends that those hard things don’t exist.

But honesty is when I have to face life as it actually is, giving up my idealized version of reality.

So how can honesty solve life’s problems if it seemingly makes life harder? Because denying the truth doesn’t make the truth go away, and when I face the truth, then I free myself.

Honesty can help solve depression.

Almost all depressing thoughts are lies.

LIES: I am not worth anything. No one likes me. Life is too hard. I can’t do this anymore.

TRUTH: I am worthwhile. Lots of people like me. Life isn’t too hard (what does that even mean, anyway?). I can do it, and I will do it.

Honesty can solve anxiety.

Anxious thoughts are lies.

LIES: This will never go away. People are looking at me and judging me. Bad things are always happening everywhere. I’m stuck here forever.

TRUTH: Everything does go away. People are often too caught up in themselves to notice others very much. Good things happen just as much as bad things.

Honesty can solve parenting difficulties.

I lie so often to my children, and they respond a lot better if I just tell them the truth.

LIES: Clean your room or else. I will take that away in five seconds. If you do not do better, I will punish you. You are so difficult. Because I said so and that’s all that matters.

TRUTH: I love you. I’m proud of you. This is really hard for me right now. I don’t want to yell. I make a lot of mistakes. The house is messy. I don’t want to clean it alone.

Honesty can solve problems at school or at work. 

LIES: I don’t have any questions. I understand everything. Sure, I can do that. I haven’t done anything wrong.

TRUTH: I have so many questions. I don’t understand what is happening. I’m not sure I can do that, but I can try. I messed up and I will try to make it better.

And honesty can help solve everything else. 

Do you have a job interview? Just be completely honest and then there is no reason to be nervous.

Did you make a big mistake that’s keeping you up at night? Just admit what you did wrong and ask for help.

Do you have unpopular opinions? Don’t make excuses. Stand up for what you believe is right.

Are you angry with someone for some reason? Talk with them and see if you can calmly work it out.

Want to improve your relationships? Stop gossipping, tell the truth about others, and tell the truth about yourself. Be vulnerable.

Truths

There are a few truths that can get you through extremely difficult times:

  • First, that you are always worth something.
  • Second, that everyone, including you, makes mistakes.
  • Third, that so much of life, including mistakes, is temporary.

When you face truth, you can find peace by releasing the expectation of perfection and finding true meaning in life as it actually is.

Further reading:

Challenge the voices you hear

I read a few articles lately about people leaving their 9-to-5 jobs in order to live the life of their dreams. And it sounds like a good story. It makes me question for a minute: would I be happy if we were financially independent and self-employed in some creative task?

I think the answer is no. I enjoy having my husband’s predictable income, sending him to work five days a week, and having the safety of good benefits.

Some people like to take risks, but I don’t enjoy it much. I’m not afraid of it and I’m not limiting myself through my fear; I just prefer stability. It’s like when I go to a theme park and I feel pressured to ride the intense ride. Sometimes I do. And it’s okay, but I don’t enjoy it enough to actually pay money to go get motion sick.

I always wanted to be a writer, but in my adult life, I realized that I despise promoting myself. Which means that I would also hate being a successful writer.

I get caught up in what other people think is successful. It might be nice to go to nice schools and get high-paying jobs. It might be nice to travel all over the world. It might be nice to get a homestead and work from home. But just because someone else loves their life doesn’t mean I would love their life.

I have to be careful: I asked myself the other day if I wanted to pursue graduate school because I actually wanted to be in that environment or because I felt it would be prestigious. Did I want to tell other people I had a specific degree, or did I really want to actually get that degree?

I really enjoyed working as a legal secretary, even though it was a low-paying job that didn’t require many qualifications. I have to look at myself and what I want to do instead of just copying someone else’s success.

Being true to yourself sometimes that means abandoning dreams. Sometimes that means being completely normal and boring and eating vanilla ice cream because you like vanilla.

There are things that I know about myself: Money does not motivate me. I never want to be famous. I don’t enjoy taking huge risks. I like working on computers. I like spreadsheets and math and paperwork. I like being told what to do. I like teaching and I like creating as well.

Ultimately, I want to live in a way that helps other people in small and simple ways.

If that means my life is boring, then I’ll live a boring life.

Life is hard and it sucks and I’m really happy about that

I have no idea where I got it into my head that life could be almost perfect. Maybe it was because of social media and advertising and the fake, perfect lives that I saw represented there. Maybe it was because I grew up with a whole lot of stability and without any major challenges (but even then, life wasn’t perfect.)

I guess I thought that I would get that same stability when I grew up. And then it didn’t happen. We have moved a whole lot, usually to places where I didn’t really want to be at first. While I’ve been able to be a stay-at-home mom and we have so many awesome things going for us, we’ve had a few other challenges that have been hard.

That’s everyone’s life, isn’t it? Usually there are things that are really big blessings, and then some things that just don’t turn out right.

But lately, I’ve really been trying to remove that expectation that life is going to be easy and stable and I’ll settle in sometime and never have any problems. Because that’s not how life works out. Even though we have seasons of happiness and blessings, we also all have seasons of difficulties. And sometimes both of those things come at you at once.

It’s such a happy thing to just accept the challenges of life instead of always trying to fight against them. Acceptance of how life really is feels like removing a heavy weight. Yes, my life doesn’t look like I thought it would be. Sometimes, there are moments that just suck. And since I’ve been trying to accept that, I’m feeling so much happier.

I’m not missing out on something. I’m not somehow messing things up just because I have difficulties. I don’t have to feel guilty if there are days that I want to cry. I don’t have to expect so much out of myself.

Life is hard for everyone. It’s the nature of life. It’s the nature of how we grow and learn. We all deal with disappointments and discouragement. We’re not alone. We’re not missing out on a perfect life–we have our own messy, chaotic lives, and so does everyone.

Isn’t it great?

A little adjustment can make a large change

Do you ever feel like you need some change in your life? And not just a little change, but a big change, like throwing out all of your stuff, moving, never looking at the internet again, and changing your appearance completely.

Sometimes we can make small adjustments in order to have the large change that we want.

Small adjustments can be radical. Here are some of the small things that have helped me:

  • Reading my scriptures first thing in the morning
  • Spending time on my mental health every day (usually by reading workbooks)
  • Special time with my children
  • Exercising for five minutes in the morning
  • Trying to go outside more often
  • Organizing my closets
  • Rearranging furniture
  • Switching up my planning routines
  • Writing a gratitude journal
  • Eliminating a color I don’t like from my wardrobe
  • Reading a book from a different genre than I’m used to
  • Blocking a website

Some of the changes can be subtle, like switching up or a routine or doing something for five minutes every day. But those small things have a profound influence on changing our entire lives.

 

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.

Happily Ever After

And they lived happily ever after . . .

It’s the ending to children’s stories, and it’s of course entirely untrue. They don’t live happily ever after, because they will eventually die. That’s life.

Coming-of-age stories end with the main character supposedly finding out who they are and starting on the direction they will continue for the rest of their lives.

Except for when they grow up, they are often met with radical life changes and difficult trials.

I had a really happy childhood. For the most part, I knew who I was and what I wanted in life. I had a home that felt comforting and inviting and a family who loved me. It was a happily ever after.

Then I grew up. Life can be really difficult as an adult. It’s wonderful, but there are uncertainties and trials and difficult realities.

So happily ever after belongs to children’s stories, to the thought that you can dream and your dreams can come true. To the idea that you can have life all figured out and be the person you want to be. It belongs to the one time in life when someone takes care of you, you truly feel at home, and you never have to be alone.

I know not everyone has a happy childhood, so it’s not universally applicable. Some people never really get their happily ever after. But happily ever after is never the destination anyway. The whole picture of life is bigger and scarier, but also much more beautiful.

Life is not a roller coaster

I have often thought that life was like a roller coaster, with lots of ups and downs.

And then I realized one day that life isn’t a roller coaster at all. I’m not simply heading up or down–it’s way more complex than that. It’s a journey, taking lots of different paths.

When it snows, the snow gets deposited in the mountains for months. Then it melts, and runs down in so many different ways until finally, it arrives at its destination. The water has lots of different destinations: The water can become part of a beautiful lake. It can run into a reservoir and then be used to irrigate crops and flowers. It can sink down into the water table and come up again in a well for plumbing and drinking. And you know what? In each of those instances, the water doesn’t do any good on top of the mountain. It has to flow into the valley before it’s worth anything.

If the rain is really focused on ups and downs, it will completely neglect to realize why it is there.

We go through so many different journeys throughout our lives. I read the other day that you don’t figure out how to write a novel–you just figure out the specific novel you are writing. And life is like that–you don’t figure out how to live. You just figure out what you need to do right now with your own specific circumstances.

So while we want to be happy, happiness is not found at the top of the roller coaster of life. It can be found in the deep valleys and even with the weight of the world pressing down. We are happy not when life is easy; we are happy when we find our purpose and we are doing our best to live it.

 

reality

reality is never quite what you expect

more full of joy than you imagined

yet pulling back at you is the struggle

everything is bigger than you imagined

complicated

 

what do you want to be when you grow up

becomes a fairy tale because

your dreams are merely fantasy

and you are instead left with that fact

that dreams never really come true

because life is different from your thoughts

 

failure is an unexpected detour, turning onto

the unending route of reality

the destination forgotten because it never existed

 

and yet this is not a roller coaster of ups and downs

it’s a journey in a landscape

failure is not a trench, but a valley of everything

 

unexpected

better

enjoying the pain

This is hard to explain, but I will try.

Probably my whole life, I have hated feeling certain things: anger, guilt, confusion, and discouragement. I would try to avoid feeling, but you know what happens when you try not to feel something? You might end up feeling it a lot more intensely.

So because I hate feeling angry, I feel even angrier. Because I avoid being discouraged, I get more discouraged. Because I try not be depressed, I feel depressed.

I’ve been reading a book about acceptance and commitment therapy. I read a section where someone said they had learned to enjoy feeling anxious. Feeling anxious is just part of life. We all feel it. And it’s okay to feel it.

It’s okay to be angry and sad and discouraged and confused. It’s okay to feel those things. And when it’s okay, and you accept those feeling in your life, then things become a lot better. You can actually learn to enjoy the pain, in a way. People who exercise a lot, or love going on roller coasters, or love intensive jobs have learned how to enjoy pain because they know it makes them better.

I will always have times where I feel anger, guilt, and sadness. But when I allow myself to feel those things, instead of fighting against them and closing myself up, I can start to live my life again.

A few days ago, I was angry at my husband. But I accepted that. I didn’t fight it. And it went away. I removed myself from that fight (he didn’t really do anything wrong anyway) and just let it happen. I didn’t yell and try to make the problem go away. It just existed, and that was fine–I could feel angry and jealous and all of that without needed to resolve it. And then later, I was playing with my kids and I found myself laughing, and laughing a lot. I let myself feel anger–and then I was able to let myself feel joy. (This is still a major work in progress.)

I can find a lot more positive emotions, like laughter and happiness, because I’m no longer afraid of my own feelings.

Emotions have never been my enemy. They are my friend. Even the grief and depression and the anxiety and the worry. They are all part of my life. And I can accept them. I am more than how I feel.

I don’t know if that will make any sense to you. Because I have heard the same message over and over again and I never really understood. I still hated my feelings.

But today, I don’t.