Break It Down

Every situation has it’s good and bad aspects, but it can be really easy to only focus on the bad situations. I mean, it makes total sense. When bad things happen, your brain latches on to them and tries to learn from them, and keep you from hurting yourself again. However, it can make or break a situation the next time you try and do it.

I came up with this idea the other day to “break down” a situation. Say, you just had an insanely busy day, and you feel super stressed out, and you feel like you accomplished nothing. While your heart may be telling you you “did nothing”, your head knows you accomplished way more, it’s just harder to hear your head over your heart. So, to make it easier to see all the truths, I came up with this system to break down your situations.

It’s kind of similar to math, actually. When you’re solving inequalities you take one equation, and you split it into two. You have a positive, and a negative version of that equation. (|a – 3| < 2 Becomes a – 3 = 2 and a – 3 = 2.) This system is similar to the one I use for finding truths (check out The Truth to read more). You just split apart the positive and negative sides to your equations (situations), and then you’ll be able to see all the good things from that day. Even if there’s only one or two, they’re still there.

These systems that I’ve created are an escape. When I’m upset, or things just feel awful, I tend to snowball (meaning I keep rolling in all of these “bad” things until I’m just ready to give up and cry). By taking a few minutes, and breaking everything down, I’m calm and ready to get back up and keep going. They aren’t going to work for everyone, and I don’t always use them very well, but I have used them, and know that they work. Sometimes you need someone to help you break them down, but they do work. I hope they can help give you an out when it comes to “snowballing” like it does me.

“I’m Sick”

Let’s talk about health for a minute.

Health has two different sides to it, which most people know. There’s emotional health, and physical health. What most people don’t seem to know, is how much your emotional health can impact you.

I’ve been learning recently that I’m a wreck when I don’t get enough sleep (like, eight to eight-and-a-half hours still isn’t enough on a daily basis). When I’m low on sleep it’s like I start to lose control over my emotions. I’m sad, and depressed, and anxious a whole lot more easily, and it makes it really hard to live life, and even want to live life.

I generally love to help people in any way I can, so I’m pretty invested in my church (I’m on the worship team on Wednesday nights, in the 2’s and 3’s class room every couple weeks, and I’ve started doing more offertories). I love doing all those things, but it’s a lot. For a while there were only one or two Sundays a month that I was actually in service. Now, I loved doing all those things. I liked staying busy, and helping people. But, when I started to get more tired because I wasn’t taking care of myself, I realized that I couldn’t keep pushing so hard. Here’s some examples:

Example #1: Say I’ve got an offertory lined up, and I’ve been practicing for a month or so, and a week or two before I’m scheduled to play, I start getting a cold. I’m on week two of my cold, my offertory’s tomorrow, and I’m still not well enough to play. So, I text my pastor and let him know that I won’t be able to play because I’m “sick”.

Example #2: It’s the same situation as before. I’ve got an offertory lined up, and I’m totally ready for it. Well, this time, I’ve been helping a lot at church, and we’ve been going through some rough family stuff, so I’m completely exhausted. Mentally, physically, and emotionally. It’s the week I’m supposed to play, and I’m so tired that every day I wake up and just want to cry. I call my youth pastor and tell him I can’t play because I’m “sick”.

So often, when I’m physically or emotionally tired, I think I’m fine. “Just tired,” I tell myself. Well, the reality is, that when you’re tired, you can become physically sick. When I’m tired, my appetite drops, so I don’t each as much as I should, and it can make me feel worse. When I’m tired, and I don’t have as much control over my emotions, it can make some of the simplest things become the scariest things. I think, “Oh, I won’t let my fears win, I’ll just keep pushing, and be brave, and I’ll be fine.” But, the truth is, I won’t be fine until I listen to what my body’s trying to tell me and take care of myself.

I never thought “being tired” was a good enough reason not to do something. But, especially as a kid, being tired can make a huge difference. Last year around Christmas, when I was really depressed, I just kept pushing on like life was normal and tried not to let my depression win. In some cases, that’s good, and important. But in others, it’s just ignoring the problem. It wasn’t until I listened to myself, and realized that I need a change, that I really started to feel better. Both physically, and emotionally.

Telling people no can be one of the hardest things you can do. When I have to tell someone no because I’m tired, or sick, I’m afraid they’re going to judge me. I know a lot of people who would jokingly say something like, “What? You’re just tired? Come on. I know you can do it. Don’t be lazy.” And, even as a joke, that stuff hurts. Especially when you’re already exhausted. It often makes people do things they know they shouldn’t because they feel like they’ll be judged. I know I have. But, we can’t give in to that. Who cares if they judge us? Who cares what they say? What’s important is that you are okay, and that you are trying to make the best decisions you can. If something isn’t the right thing for you, you should never let anyone pressure you into doing it. Maybe consider what they have to say, but you’re the one making the choice. And if they don’t like it, then they can just deal with it.

The Way I Write

When I first started writing, my grammar was as close to perfect as I could get it (which wasn’t that great, because I was eleven, but you get the idea). The more I wrote, the less I liked it, because it was just boring. It felt like reading a school book. Sure, it was technically correct, but it just felt stiff. I decided to try and write the way I talk, and see if it made a difference.

I don’t know about you, but I like reading the way people talk a lot more than reading something that’s “correct”. One of my favorite things in a book is when an author writes a character with a specific accent, because that means they put thought into their characters. It’s easy to write something “correct”, because that’s what we’re taught in school. It’s not so easy to take a step outside the box and write an accent like Hagrid’s, from Harry Potter. It also brings so much more life to what you’re reading. When you use your own creativity in writing, it brings the words to life. It’s like how sheet music turns into something that inspires people when it’s played. Words, and writing, can do the same.

My parents always taught me that when you learn something, that’s when you can step out, and try new things, and choose if you’re going to keep doing it. My writing is just another form of artistic expression, so of course I would find some way to do things differently. However, there is a time and place for everything.

I write personally when it’s time to be personal, and serious when it’s time to be serious. I wouldn’t necessarily write personally on a job application, because that’s when it’s time to use this handy little thing called grammar. Each thing has it’s place, and as long as you use it in the correct place, you can’t go wrong.

“Best Friend”

I feel like the label “best friend” is a very complicated subject. A best friend is simply someone you love to be around, and who loves you back. It’s really not that different from a dating relationship, except that when you’re best friends there’s nothing romantic about it. It’s just two people who love each other and who like to hang out. Having best friends throughout my life has actually taught me a lot about people skills, and relationships, and the different types of relationships you can have.

When I was little my mom always suggested that I not have a “best friend” because it’s kind of a dumb label (I don’t remember if that was her reason, but it’s the best reason I can remember). I mean, what makes one friend better than another? When we use the label “best friend”, we cut off our options. A lot of people think you can only have one friend who’s “best”, and that’s not true. I mean, look at all the tv shows and movies where there were two besties, and one of them made a new friend. Usually someone’s jealous of this new friend because they’re afraid they’ll lose their bestie. And, sure, there’s the potential to lose your “best friend” when they make a new friend, but you could also turn your duo into a trio by accepting this new friend into the group. Or maybe your confidant (we’re gonna shy away from using the term “best friend” at the moment) has multiple friends, because they need multiple different people in their lives.

When I was little I thought my mom was wrong about the “best friends” label, because, once I got my first real best friend, I saw how cool it was, and how great it felt to have that one friend that I could go to with anything. But, the older I got, the more friends I made, and the more strong relationships I had, I realized that it’s kind of impossible to have one best friend. And the term “best friend” made it kind of complicated to have multiple besties. Each person in our lives holds a different purpose, and adds different things to our lives that maybe we didn’t know we needed (sometimes they add different things we know we didn’t need, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic). We need those different people in our lives, and by thinking we can only have one “best friend” we’re closing off a whole different door that could change our entire lives.

I don’t even know why the term “best friend” got started (maybe to make other friends jealous?), but to me it doesn’t mean that one friend is better than the other. It means that that friend is my confidant, my partner in crime, and my copilot. We stick together because we love each other, not because we’re somehow “better” than anyone else. I used that term because I needed a name for this person that I liked to hang out with, and best friend was the one the rest of the world used, so I stuck with that. However, from now on, I’m gonna try to stick with something more like confidant. Having a best friend isn’t (nor should it ever be) about who’s better, but about the people we love.

Artists

I watched a really interesting movie the other day. It was called, Saving Mr. Banks. It’s about the author of Mary Poppins, Pamela Travers, and the story of how she worked with Disney to make a movie about her books.

Initially, she turned down Disney for years. She knew they would take her books and turn them into some ridiculous cartoon. However, what we see throughout the entire movie is, why she thought they would ruin it.

As the story unfolds we see different people take the characters Pamela wrote, and design them in their own way. At one point in the movie she runs off when she sees their depiction of Mr. Banks. Some would say she’s just being stubborn, because she’s not getting her way. But, if you look closer, you realize there’s more to it.

I called this post “Artists” because it’s about how much artists put into their work. Pamela Travers was so upset when she saw them depict Mr. Banks as a terrible father because she created him based off of her father. According to the movie (Saving Mr. Banks), nearly everything in Mary Poppins (the book) was based off her childhood. The good, and the bad. She poured everything she had learned as a child into that book. This movie (Saving Mr. Banks) wasn’t about how Mary Poppins was made. It was about the story of a woman who held onto her past, and eventually learns to let it go, and not let it control her. It’s not about the art, it’s about the story.

My best friend probably likes my art more than anyone, and I could never figure out why. To me, it’s just art. It’s no different than anything else. I asked her once why she liked it so much, and she said it was because there was a piece of me in each piece I created. And, she was right. Each piece I make is influenced by what’s going on in my life, or something that’s happened before. My art is about me, and the stories I have to tell.

Artists are really more like visual authors. That’s why the best art is the art that tells a story, or has some sort of meaning. Once you have something you’re trying to convey, it just sort of pours out of you. Everyone has their own way of telling their stories. For Pamela Travers, it was writing. For me, it’s art.

Contentment

I’m the type of person who always looks ahead. I try to intentionally make choices that will benefit my future, and that usually means pushing myself. A lot. I think, “Oh, I could start a business. That would be cool. Then I’ll have more money for college and more experience.” But, I never stop myself and remember that I’m a kid. There’s a reason not many kids start their own businesses.

I’ve been learning lately about when to know when to do things. Like, when deciding whether I should do something or not, bringing in the factor of “stage of life”. Every day we have opportunities to do things that could affect us in the long run, but we need to pick and choose which ones we’re going to take up. We don’t always have to stay focused on our future. Sometimes we can just choose to be a kid (or a kid at heart) and have some fun, or just continue to enjoy what we have now. Improving is good, and it’s important, but not everything has to be constantly improved all the time.

Say, I went to college, got my teaching degree, and was a preschool teacher somewhere. I spent my days teaching my kiddos and having a fantastic time. That’s okay. Nothing needs to be harder, I don’t need to stretch my comfort zone, or make life harder for myself. Sometimes it’s okay to just be content.

I think the reason I have it stuck in my head that “being content” isn’t okay is because it’s easy to get stuck in being content. Sometimes it’s good to stretch ourselves, and get out of our comfort zone; and sometimes it’s good to enjoy being content with what God’s given us. Everything has a place, and I’ve been learning where those places are. It’s all about moderation, and having a good understanding of when it’s time to stretch, and when it’s not.

Getting Up

Some days one of the hardest things you can do is get out of bed. There have been multiple days where I just wanted to avoid the entire world and hide in my wonderful, comfy, perfect cave of blankets and safety. However, just because it seems like a good idea, doesn’t mean it is.

There was one day where I just felt bad; both emotionally and physically. I stayed in bed until ten A.M., and my day didn’t get any better. I just continued to feel worse, and, I didn’t really get anything done that day. Nothing got worse (aside from the fact that I was wallowing in my own emotions), but nothing got better, either.

To avoid another day where I just wallowed and felt terrible, I decided to make sure that I made myself get up every day and get to work. It didn’t have to be a ton of work, but, by making myself get up, I gained a whole new state of mind. I’m awake, and at least ready to be productive, if that’s what I chose to do.

All good choices aside, I totally understand the want to just avoid the world. I’m not nearly as depressed as I once was, but I still have days when I feel like total crap. Life is hard, people are hard, and my bed is comfy and warm. Sometimes, life sucks. But we still need to get up and face it. It’s like I said before. Nothing gets worse, but nothing gets any better, either.

A friend asked me the other day if they could just avoid the hard stuff, and I told them no. I told them that if they avoided this new challenge in their life, they’re missing out on an opportunity to learn something, and to grow, and to be stronger in the end. I have to remind myself of that quite often…

I tend to have two speeds, depending on my mood. I either eat fear for breakfast, or, I hide from everything remotely terrifying.

FOMO

FOMO is an acronym for Fear Of Missing Out. Basically, it means you do everything, and work your butt off, so that you don’t miss out on anything that could be fun.

When you have FOMO, you tend to push yourself to the limit. You think, “Oh, I can do one more thing. No problem!” Thinking it’ll be great, when, in reality, you’re just pushing yourself so hard you can’t enjoy it. You can’t enjoy anything because you’re so exhausted all the time.

There can be two different types of FOMO. Some people have regular old FOMO, and don’t want to miss out on the fun. But, some people can have a type that’s more service based. You’re pushing yourself so hard because you have this mindset that it’s okay to push too hard to help others.

I really struggle with the second type. Sometimes, life is just busy. That doesn’t mean you have type two FOMO, it just means you’ve got things to do. I get that. However, sometimes it really is just FOMO, and you don’t have to do all the things you think you do.

I was sitting in church one day, looked over my shoulder, and saw our pastor’s wife walking along holding a baby (she had just come out of the nursery). I was thinking about how, so often, pastor’s families do EVERYTHING in the church. Not because they think they have to, just because they’re good at serving others. I know a few pastor’s kids who are so busy with helping in the church that they’re rarely in church, or Sunday school. They take on every job, or need, just because they can. And some, because they’re the “pastor’s kid”. I get wanting to help, and it’s really great, but no one person should be solely responsible for serving.

If we, who have FOMO, sign up for everything, thinking no one else will, then it is definite that NO ONE ELSE WILL. Our FOMO is an option. When it comes to service based FOMO, or regular FOMO. We can choose to say, “That’d be super cool to go to, but I have some stuff I already had planned, so I’ll just stick with that.”

Self-care is important. When I realized I had service based FOMO, I realized that by pushing myself so hard to serve others, I was actually being a hinderance. I was so tired that I couldn’t serve well in general. I was doing the opposite of what I had been trying to do, and hurting myself in the process.

We don’t have to give in to either type of FOMO. If you’re afraid of disappointing someone because you have to tell them you can’t serve in the area they’re asking, remember that a true friend, who loves you, will understand and want what’s best for you. And, if they are just mad at you, then you don’t have to take any of they’re crap. Their happiness is NOT your responsibility.

My “Play-Doh” Plan

I had this smart, cost-efficient, reasonable plan that I thought was exactly what God wanted me to do. It’s not like I just made a plan myself and expected it to go well; I tried my best to listen to God, and then tried to build a plan for what he wanted me to do about college. It was great, smart, and really seemed to fit. And then it didn’t.

I called it my “Play-Doh” plan because I knew it needed to be flexible and moldable. I mean, my plan was six years long. I knew things would change here and there. I just didn’t expect so many big changes… My plan was a beautifully orchestrated plan. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it. Except, that I held too close to it. I mean, not unreasonably, I don’t think. I was excited about the next stages of life, and finally ready to take it all on (I wrote about it in my post, “Let’s Talk College”).

When I created my plan, it all made sense. I love kids, and people, and was passionate about sharing the gospel, so it made sense to be a missionary. What I was hoping was to travel the world, make new friends, and teach something somewhere. I didn’t exactly know how I’d do it, but that’s what I wanted to do. Right now, I’m looking at maybe backing off from the idea of being a missionary. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t still do all those things that I wanted to.

My want to teach, and work with kids, and people, will never change. It’s a part of who I am, and whatever I choose to do in college will not change that want (I mean, I’ve been doing all of those things my entire life anyway). What I discovered, is that vocation is kind of irrelevant. Yes, I want to have a job I love, and that I’m good at. But, life isn’t about jobs.

We’re taught from such a young age that everything we do is prep for college. We go to school, grow up, go to college, and then after college is when our lives “start”. Well, that’s not how I’m gonna do it. I’m not gonna wait for college for my life to start. I mean, I’ve already done some incredible things without having gone to college (being that I was just a kid).

I don’t want college to be my main focus in life. Everything I’m working towards is not so I can get into college, or have a good career. It’s so that I can live the life God intended me to live, and love people, and reach out to them. That’s what I wanted to do through my mission work plan, and there’s no way anything’s gonna stop me from doing it in any other position. If that’s truly what I love, I should have no trouble doing it anywhere, or any place.

The Truth

When someone comes to me (clearly upset) and they ask for help, I’ve started to try to be really honest with them. Here’s an example question:

“I’m so nervouse/upset about this situation that’s coming up. I’m afraid I’ll fail. What if I screw up or totally fail?”

Some people would answer with, “Oh, no. You’ll do great.” Like, there’s no chance anything could go wrong. Well, news flash, there’s a ton of things that could go wrong.

In some situations, everything actually is fine, the person really doesn’t have anything to worry about, and they’re just freaking out over nothing. However, in others, they’re not actually prepared and they know it. Lying to someone by just saying, “You’ll do great,” is giving them this false sense of confidence. I’m not saying it’s bad to encourage them that way, but, when there are legitimate things to be nervous about, just ignoring them and hoping for the best doesn’t always work. In either situation, whether there are things to be nervous about or not, I try to help them (and myself) think about the realities of the situation.

I’m nervous pretty much every time I have an offertory to do at church. Not super nervous, I just know there are so many things that could go wrong no matter the amount of practice I have. Now, I can’t control what happens. The amount of worrying I do can only make my performance worse. So, something I try to do when I’m nervous and about to perform, is think about the lies and the truths. Observe:

Lie:

If I screw up, then I’ll never hear the end of it

Truth:

If I screw up, probably no one will remember, or really care

In every situation involving fear, it’s really just a battle of truths vs lies. That’s why, instead of just trying to make someone “feel better”, I try to help them see that they don’t have to believe the lies their fears tell them. I’m definitely gonna encourage them when the time seems right, but the time isn’t always right. Just making them “feel better” is like putting a band-aid on a wound that really needs a couple stitches. If you show them how to ignore the lies their fear tells them, then, eventually, they’ll have a much easier time dealing with fears in general. They’ll be better at fighting fear.