The Weight of Freedom

Happy Memorial Day! While I don’t know anyone personally that lost their lives in the pursuit of freedom, I feel the need to write about it today. When thinking of war and loss, my all time favorite book comes to mind. Tim O’Brien’s novel, The Things They Carried, is a beautiful work of pros that deals with this exact subject. One of my favorite quotes in this book came to mind as I was contemplating the holiday.

 

“They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.”

While I will likely never know what this truly feels like, I admire those that find the strength to carry such a weight upon their backs. To physically carry heavy weight, but more than that, to carry the immeasurable emotional/mental weight that they do. The weight of potential death, what they are fighting for, love of country, and so much more.

I am incredibly grateful for those that have fought hard and lost their lives in order to keep us safe. To those of you still fighting and that will fight, thank you. God bless America!

 

Reveling in Our True Selves

Recently I finished a really great book, Tuesdays with Morrie. There are so many books that I’ve read that have changed the way that I think and this is definitely one of those. In the book, a previous student begins to visit a past professor as he is dying. Morrie, the professor, then goes on to teach the young man about dying so as to help him begin to really live his life. One of my favorite quotes in this book goes, “accept who you are; and revel in it.”

As I have moved around and held various positions in my life, I have found that when I truly am in a state of acceptance in regards to my true self, I feel happier and life is more fulfilling. It definitely sounds like an obvious ‘duh’ statement, but so many of us lose ourselves in an attempt to fit in with the world’s standards.

Another quote from Tuesdays with Morrie really hits on this. “So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what gives me a feeling of purpose. Right now I am struggling to find a job and am trying to figure out which direction I need to take. It’s a rather daunting and frustrating process. However, I am growing to be grateful for the opportunity to reflect and figure out what I need in order to live a truly fulfilling life in terms of my true self.
Morrie taught about the importance of living a life of meaning instead of a life others find impressive. We only get one life. Instead of throwing ourselves away, we should embrace who we are and live life to the fullest. That isn’t to say that we need to do huge and exciting things, but that we need to figure out what makes us happy and do it.

Anxiety vs. Fear: The Difference Matters

Happy Wednesday, my friends! This morning I woke up feeling the deep need to write. Unfortunately, that need did not come with inspiration as to what to write about, so we will see how this goes.

This month has seen a lot of life changes for me. My younger brother got married, I quit my job, and I packed up my car to move to Idaho. I’m still not sure what I am going to do here, but know that I am supposed to be here.

Well, in the midst of all these huge changes, I have been thinking a lot about the difference between anxiety and fear. For a long time, these two things felt synonymous. However, I have come to believe that they are completely different. To introduce this idea, lets look at the definitions for the two words.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines anxiety as “apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated ill; an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.”

Then, for fear, “to be afraid of; expect with alarm.”

Anxiety is something more complex and harder to overcome. Just as the definition for fear is more simplistic, so is the feeling itself. Now, I don’t mean to make light of fear. It’s a real struggle for many, myself included. It just isn’t on the same level as anxiety and that is a very important distinction.

The way I see it, anxiety is a mental condition whereas fear is an emotion. I have no way to prove it, but I would imagine that fear and anxiety became synonymous due to a common word in the middle ground, anxious. A person can be anxious without suffering from anxiety and I think that a lot of people lose sight of that.

Now, why does this matter? For years I have been living my life with the distinct impression that I had anxiety, because I was anxious a lot of the time. I allowed that to rule my life, because it wasn’t my fault I had anxiety. It was just something to work around.

Figuring out this distinction has been a game changer for me though. For fear can be worked through. Perhaps anxiety can be too, but the mental barrier of knowing, or thinking that I knew, that I had anxiety made it next to impossible. I am still figuring out how to work through fear, but it has allowed me to do big things. Big things like pick up and move when I feel it is time.

Much of life is a battle of the mind. We need to figure out what works for us and then move forward with it. Take the time to think about it. What works for you when things get tough and the anxious feelings arise? If you haven’t found it yet, experiment a bit. Life doesn’t become easy with this knowledge, but it sure does help.

How Living is Determined

I wanted to start my post off with a quote. I’ve been in a Kahlil Gibran mood this week and one of his quotes has really gotten me thinking. In his book, The Prophet, he wrote, “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”

It’s been over three years now since I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and a couple more years since I was officially diagnosed with major depression/anxiety. It’s been a hard battle, but a worthwhile one that has taught me a lot.

The hardest aspect for me though, is that no matter how much I want to overcome and push through the challenges, I am not able to do so with ease. It is frustrating to need to convince myself some days that it is worth the effort to so much as get out of bed. However, through the pain and the haze that sometimes seems to take over my life, I have been able to achieve great things.

Through struggles, I have been able to make peace with areas that have caused me pain, overcome fears, and successfully fulfill personal goals. I have learned to live a healthy lifestyle that works for me.

The words of Kahlil Gibran echo my life’s pursuits: to be positive when challenges arise, to stay focused on what I have control over instead of what I don’t, and to always remember that I am in control of how I view my life. While some aspects of my life make it a larger challenge, that fact is still the same. I choose each day whether or not I am in control and I find that to be both comforting and beautiful, because no matter what the challenge is and no matter how out of my control what life give me is, I can control myself and how I view those aspects.

New Years Stamina

Happy 2017! With the new year, resolutions abound. There is something about the start of a new cycle that gets people excited about change. In all parts of the world, people gather together and celebrate the fresh start of the calendar with parties, songs, foods, and traditions to try to bring luck and prosperity into the new year.

I did a bit of research on new years resolutions and found a study. While over 40% of the study population continues to make these goals each year, only around 9% of them succeed in accomplishing what they desired to.

Now, my point isn’t to say that making resolutions is stupid, because far less than half of the people participating come out feeling good about themselves. The point that I want to make is that we give up too easily and because we perhaps have the wrong idea about success.

I am one of those individuals that will make these big resolutions every year, but by February get burnt out and give up. So this year I started with the thought that I wasn’t even going to make resolutions, because why set myself up for disappointment in myself? Well, last week I decided to change that approach. Instead of giving up before ever getting started, I am working on mindset. I have my goals, now I just need to figure out how to keep the excitement going.

Part of this is to realize that it doesn’t take the beginning of a new year to create/start change. It can be the middle of the week in June when you decide that you want to make a big, or even small, life change. Don’t wait until January to get started though! Start then. It is never a bad time to make positive life changes.

The other big thing that I have come up with is that we need to stop waiting to be proud of ourselves. Example: I started a thirty day beginner yoga challenge that I found on YouTube. I did it for two days last week, but then on Saturday was too sore to do it. I then continued to not do it on Sunday. Instead of getting mad and starting over, I got into day three yesterday and did day four today. I am proud of myself for continuing to do it instead of being upset with myself in regards to the slight setback.

We need to be proud of the journey just as much as we are in the end result. This is how we come to achieve great things. Through the small and simple steps, we progress to a greater outcome.

Finding Joy in the Journey

I have found that it is far too easy to take something that you love and make it complicated. Take this blog for instance. I love writing. It’s probably my favorite thing to do…but I hardly ever do it. I’m working on changing that, but it’s a sad truth. I love it, so I struggle with it.

Since graduating, I have been waiting for something big to happen that would be worth writing about and posting to the open world, or at least to the few that read my blog. I have found that doesn’t happen much though. I have had jobs, but nothing too exciting. I have gone on small adventures, but fretted over whether anyone even cared enough to read about them.

There is always a way to overcomplicate things to the point that it is no longer fun.

Yesterday while I was still in bed, I got to thinking about this and have been trying to figure out a way to shake it.

Today as I was considering this, I got to reading an LDS talk from the previous General Conference on joy by Pres. Nelson. In his address he stated, “the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”

When I think about writing, I tend to focus on the negative instead of focusing on the joy that it brings me. Instead of considering the good that could come of it, I fear the rejection that could come. Rather than hope for the positive, I choose to focus in on the possibility of failure.

So, I have determined to work on my focus and reverse the pattern. It probably isn’t going to make writing (or anything else in life) perfect, but I think that it will make it easier.

Later on in Nelson’s talk, he shared something a colleague had told him recently. “I have learned to suffer with joy.” An interesting concept. At first, it seemed paradoxical. How can one suffer and be joyful at the same time? As I continued to think about it though, it started to make sense. After all, some of the happiest people are those that suffer most.

Just because we have a positive outlook does not mean that we won’t suffer some and just because we are suffering some does not mean that we can’t be happy and find joy in the journey. It is through the suffering that we learn more and grow stronger. But suffering does not mean that we must be miserable. That is the hard part to get down. When we figure that out though, we are then able to go from just being alive to truly living our lives.

Existing in Possibility

Tomorrow will mark two weeks since graduation for me. It’s so crazy how time continues to fly even when the days feel so long. Much of my time has been spent painstakingly applying to jobs that will further my progress along my journey. On top of that though, I have started to piece together my desires and goals for the longterm. This has involved a lot of reading, discussing, thinking, and general researching.

Just a bit ago I finished reading a book, Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Transform Your Life. Generally I am highly skeptical of self-help/motivational books, but this one came highly recommended by a trusted friend and adopted mentor. Instead of trapping people into basic categories like we all have the tendency to do, the author shows the infinite possibility and potential that our lives contain.

As I have contemplated that message it became really bothersome that so many people settle and don’t even try to reach their full potential. Over and over again I have heard people say things along the lines of “life wasn’t meant to be miserable.” But then when I look around, there are a lot of miserable people.

Ever since the Geico commercial with Pinnochio came out, the word potential has turned into a bit of a joke to me. I cannot help but laugh whenever I hear it. However, there is legitimate value in the word. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines potential as, “existing in possibility : capable of development into actuality.” This very much defines what life is made up of—limitless, infinite potential.

When I think about my life, I now have the desire to live in existing possibility. Over the years, a strong desire for eternal progression has been instilled in me. But without living in possibilities and considering my own capabilities for development, what’s the point of having a desire to progress?

To progress means to be open, to change, and to challenge thinking. It means to never settle for less, but to push further instead. I’m still not completely sure of what my element is, but I have a better idea than I did just one month ago.

One thing that I am completely sure of though, is that I don’t want to become one of the miserable people that have become the standard commonplace in our world. When the end of my road comes I want to look back and say that I made as many dreams become realities as I could. Just imagine how different the world would look if everyone found their true element and actually worked towards it. Society wouldn’t be perfect, but we would all be much better off for it.