Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Fear, Risk, Life

What should you do when you're feeling torn, undecided, unsure? I feel like the answer, or one of the first answers, to that question should be to pray about it. But what if you haven't prayed in a while? At least not a "real" prayer. What if you're not even sure God listens to your prayers, and maybe that's why it's been so long since you last had a conversation with him? Maybe it doesn't even feel like a conversation at all, but rather just you, speaking into the silence until you just give up on it altogether because you only ever get silence in return. So maybe you feel like there's no point. (That's not to say that it's not a good idea or that you shouldn't pray at all.)

Then maybe another answer would be to confide in someone you trust and share how you're feeling. Ask them for their wise counsel. That doesn't mean you should let them make the decision for you, or that you have to take their advice, because ultimately you need to do what's right and what's best for you as a person. You're the only one who truly knows what's right for you. But getting an outside perspective can help you see things you weren't able to see before.

Writing down your feelings and why you're struggling to decide one way or the other might prove to be an essential part of the ultimate decision. I know for myself personally, keeping a journal has been a source of great release for my emotional struggles. It's sort of therapeutic for me, helping me to sort through the spaghetti-like thoughts and emotions inside me. It's also easier to see the positives and negatives of a situation when they're right in front of you in black and white.

It can sometimes be hard not to make snap judgments in situations where there may be strong emotions involved. A lot of times, it's best to give yourself some time, if possible, to step back a bit and think things through before making a decision. Consider what you would choose if emotions weren't involved. Which option would make the most sense? It could be that at a later date, you may not feel the way you're currently feeling, but you may still have to live with the decision you made. Would it still be a good decision then?
When all else fails, bring out the logic. It may take away some of the "magic" for some people, but you've got to admit that it's a pretty good way of making certain decisions.

Ultimately, the choice is yours (in most cases, though there are definitely exceptions, of course). You will have to live with the consequences, whatever they might be. Hopefully the results are positive and will bring you much joy and happiness in life. Or will lead you on a road in which you will eventually find those things along the journey. Life is full of difficult decisions. Sometimes we don't always get it quite right. That's okay. It may not feel okay at the time, but when viewed from the perspective of learning lessons through the pain and hardship, the struggle often times is rewarding and very much worth it on the other side.

We are constantly learning and growing and evolving as individuals (not a reference to Darwinian evolution, please note). We learn as we go. We change. Hopefully in positive ways. But it's okay to make mistakes. It's okay to mess up. We have to allow ourselves room to be human, something I've been learning a lot in recent years. The worst thing you can do is give in to  the fear that you're going to make a mistake or make a wrong decision and not even make a move at all. I know it's scary. Change is scary. Risk is frightening. If you're like me, not knowing how something is gonna turn out can feel paralyzing. But fear robs us of true Life. We can't allow fear to keep us from really living our lives to the fullest and reveling in all the beauty and wonder this world has to offer. The greatest things in life are usually worth the risk.

What will you choose?


Friday, January 22, 2016

Dear Reader - A Letter To You

Dear Reader,
       I wanted to take a minute or two (or however many minutes it takes for me to write and then read back over and edit and re-edit this post) to let you know that I really do appreciate that you took the time to read what I've written here. Thank you enormously. Truly.

I also wanted to take the time to let you know that you are special. I mean special as in, unique, one-of-a-kind, genuinely an original. And that's the way it's supposed to be. You're supposed to be unlike anyone else in a bunch of different ways. No two people are exactly alike in their personality, likes, dislikes, interests, passions, dreams. It's good that we are all different. Diversity is a beautiful thing. It would be really boring to be just like Kate or Sarah or Fred or George.

Society as a whole sends a mixed message. They tell you to be who you want to be, be your true self, but they only accept you if who you are fits their idea of who they think you should be. To them it's just too bad if you're too short or too tall or too skinny or too round/curvy or too white or too black or too Asian or too Mexican or too religious or too nice or not rich enough or not successful enough. Sorry, but you're not accepted into the group if you don't have a shiny new car or the latest fashion in clothing. Sucks for you if you're still wearing last season's whatever it is. If you don't have a nice expensive house in the city you're just not good enough. If you can't afford to go out to a fancy 37 course dinner at a fancy palace sized restaurant where the waiter is the king of Narnia and the chef cooks for Obama...well, sorry, you're not invited because if you don't have $78,000,000 in your wallet at all times, you're just not successful enough for them. What a shame.

But is it? Is it really a shame?

It is definitely a shame that society equates success with stuff. Stuff is just that, it's stuff. You didn't come into the world with any stuff and you won't leave with any. It's nice to have while you're here, sure, no doubt. But ultimately, how much does it truly matter? Personally I don't think it matters much at all. What you have doesn't really say much about who you are. About the kind of character you posses. So you have a nice car. What does that say? To me it says, you have a nice car. A used car can be nice. A car you've had for 5-10+ years can be a nice car. So just by looking at your car, I'm not going to automatically assume that you must be a successful person.
Same with having a nice house. You could have a nice house in a decent neighborhood. That doesn't necessarily mean that you are a successful person. Maybe you have the best house ever. Maybe your house is nicer and cooler and radder than Kanye West's. But you still don't feel like you've got your shit together.

My point is this: society's idea of what success means is skewered. It has no real depth. Accomplish the things you want to accomplish because they're your goals, not because anyone else told you or expects you to. Have expectations for yourself that are realistic for you and make efforts to reach them because it's what you want and because you would benefit from them. Go after and work to accomplish things that you will be proud of when you reach the end of your days. Love, peace, family, friendship, generosity, kindness, adventure, connection, diligence, honesty, intelligence, beauty, wonder...the list goes on, compiled of things that matter the most in life. Those are absolutely more valuable than money, status, shiny new things, popularity, fancy restaurants, mansions, yachts,  water skis, motorcycles, fashionable clothes, etc.

Everybody has different values, and that's okay. But don't give in to somebody else's definition of success. Define it for yourself. What does it mean for you? Don't hand over your power to somebody else, who doesn't know you or your life, to put expectations or limits on you. Don't let anybody try to tell you what you should be.

The people in your life who truly love and care about you won't be impressed with your stuff or what you're wearing or by your bank account. They're going to be impressed by what's inside you. Your heart. Your character. Your personality. Your thoughts and ideas. Your values and morals. How you view life. Your appreciation for a book or a movie or a sunset. Your laugh, quirks, sense of humor. They're going to love and appreciate all the little things that make up the unique and original person you are. And let me just say, that is 100x better than being "loved" for something that has nothing to do with you at all.

William Shakespeare said, "To thine own self, be true." And I think he was pretty smart.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

One Reason Why Social Media Bothers Me

I like social media. Facebook, more specifically. There are plenty of things I could point out about it, negative things. But overall, I like it.

Sometimes though...

Sometimes I read things and sometimes I observe things and sometimes I'm saddened by things. People, more specifically. Today is a perfect example.

Most of the time I just read and observe. I don't usually take part in "conversations" or "discussions" that take place on my friends' statuses or photos or other things they share. Usually when I comment, it's not in a serious "debate." (Notice the quotations on some of these words? There's a reason for that.) I don't usually add my opinion because, 9 times out of 10, it's not worth it. It's pointless. I've been there, done that. I don't want to get caught up in the middle of a "discussion" which isn't even really a discussion at all. Because all it really is is people spouting their opinions or viewpoints like it's the Gospel truth, and tearing apart anyone who doesn't agree with them. They claim to be good people, caring people, loving people, kind, intelligent, respectable people. And I don't mean to say that they aren't those things. But what I am saying is that they sure aren't acting kind and loving and respectable when they're attacking and viciously cutting down others with their heavily worded missiles aimed at the ones who dare express a different opinion or belief. And maybe it isn't the best opinion ever. Maybe it is actually a wrong belief. But it's theirs. They have the right to posses it. It's not anyone else's to take from them or destroy. And it's not anyone else's right to tell someone else that they can't believe what they believe. I'm not saying some beliefs aren't misplaced or downright dangerous. Because some are, in extreme circumstances. But in general, and speaking of social media "discussions," it's just really disheartening to see the way human beings treat each other.

My biggest annoyance is when one person, or multiple people, get upset with someone else, or even an idea, and they go on the rampage about how wrong this person or idea is, and in their attempt to "share their side" or what they think the "right" thing is, they turn into complete and total hypocrites. For example, I'll use bullying. Now the first person, he'll be Bill, could be just saying how he feels about a point that was made. Well now Ted feels strongly that his point of view is the correct one and that Bill is just flat out wrong and can't believe he's so stupid to think that way. So, even though Bill may not have been overly kind in his comment about the general topic, he didn't call anyone in particular names or say anything mean to anyone specifically. But Ted launches into a full-on assault, even though he knows nothing about Bill, other than what he allows to be made public on his profile. Ted calls Bill a bully who just tries to intimidate people and has no real education or intelligence. So while Ted is making a fool of himself and rattling off a dozen accusations about someone he doesn't even know, I, the observer, like many others I'm sure, am left wondering, who is the real bully here?

Is it Bill or is it Ted? Or both?

It's a viscous cycle. And it won't end if you, whoever you might be,  keep jumping down throats but expecting others to respond kindly and respectfully to you. And just because someone else attacks you online during a "discussion" doesn't give you the right to do the same to that person, even if they are commenting on something of yours. By all means stand up for yourself and be firm, but resorting to name calling and belittling them is not the answer. They're human too. They should be treated as such. And if they continue causing trouble, block them. That's an actual thing. You can block people you don't want to talk to. It's like magic.

As much as I do enjoy social media, this has always been something that irritates me.  If you're a friend of mine and read this, please don't assume I'm talking about you. This kind of thing is everywhere.

I wish we, as humans, could all treat each other with dignity and respect, even when we disagree. Everyone has differing opinions, values, beliefs, etc., and we all have different reasons for why and how we came to believe the things we do. If we could take a moment to stop and try to understand that, we'd probably all be just a little nicer. Maybe a little more empathetic towards others. Maybe we wouldn't feel the need to always be right and prove our point at any cost. Maybe we'd realize it shouldn't be about that at all, but rather to show kindness and respect. Because at the end of the day, those are things you're gonna feel good about, not how much of a smart ass you were and how you showed them and put them in their place.

I've definitely had my share of Internet arguments. For sure. (I don't recall calling anybody a maggot, though, so at least there's that.) But I don't want to argue with random people online. I don't want to make anyone feel inferior in any way. I think the goal should be to imitate Christ in our interactions with people because he always acted in a way that demonstrated what real love is. It's not always easy. A lot of times it's the opposite of easy. But it is possible. And it's also possible to stand up for yourself in a way that's not degrading to others or an attack on them. So why can't we choose the high road more often? Why can't we try to offer understanding before we press that button?

We can. I can. You can.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Rudolph's Shiny New Year

Here we are. Into the second week of a new year. Kind of makes me think of the baby in Rudolph's Shiny New Year. So young. A bright future ahead of him, filled with endless possibilities.

Here we are. With a new year ahead, potentially filled with endless possibilities.

Or so we like to think. And it may very well be true. But see, time...well time is a funny thing. It has a way of sneaking by you while you're unaware of its passing. You think you've got plenty of it, only to look over your shoulder for a second and come to a sudden, horrified stop, realizing that your life, and all the time you thought you had, has passed right by you. Just like that.

All the things you promised yourself you'd do, all the places you planned to go and see...you never did or went or saw. And while it may not be too late to do and go and see, it's certainly not as much of a realistic goal as it once was.

Maybe you've had some of these thoughts. Maybe, like me, the beginning of a new year gets you thinking about Time. How much you have. How much you don't have. How much you waste. How you spend it.

Time is a valuable thing. And for many, there's a limited supply. It moves quickly, ticking away like an activated bomb.

That doesn't mean we should rush around trying to do and go and see everything we can before it goes off, before we've no time left. That's not what I'm getting at. However, I do think that with the understanding of how truly valuable our time is, we should be making an effort to see the value in everything we experience, and those we experience it with.

I read this post earlier today (shared by one of my Facebook friends - thanks Calen!) and it really got me thinking about how much time I spend on things that I probably won't even remember when I reach the last days and hours of my allotted time here on this beautiful Earth.
I may not be remembered by millions of people for hundreds of years. I may not discover anything monumental. I may never publish a book that'll make it as a New York Times Bestseller. I may not publish a book at all. These are all great things of course, but they don't trump things like the love and support of family. The compassion and understanding of great friends. The unconditional love and loyalty seen in the big brown eyes of my dog. Time spent with my sister, eating food, drinking coffee, wandering around, listening to Sam Hunt in the car and laughing because we just get each other in a way that nobody else gets us.
What do these all have in common?


To really experience these things it requires connecting with those in your life. It requires being there, in the moment. Putting the phone down. Closing the book. Removing the headphones. Whatever it takes to be there. Focus on the person across from you. Participate in the conversation wholeheartedly, don't just make a partial attempt to be halfway present. Really be there.

So that's my goal. Not as a New Year's resolution, which, too often, is forgotten after a few months and, wrongly, becomes a source of guilt, making us feel like we've failed.
No, this is a goal for life. To create newfound depth and meaning. To bring quality and connectedness to life in the coming years. Because I want my time to be used for people and things that are truly important. To experience true connection in every relationship, as far as I have the ability to do so. Some things are beyond my control, and the only thing I can do is to accept and deal with it as well as I can. But the things I do have control over, I hope to do my best with whatever it is. Because I don't want to look back over my time and wish I'd done this or taken that opportunity when I had the chance. I don't want to regret not going there when I could have.

So here we are. The time is now.


Friday, January 1, 2016

5 Thoughts About Some Thoughts

I feel that I must open with an apology. Mainly to my blog itself, though it's just a thing. But I have neglected it. A lot. Its hard to believe it's been almost exactly one year since I last wrote anything on here. It's been an interesting year. Don't know how else to describe it. But this post isn't a recap of 2015. I may write something along that line later, but not tonight.

Tonight I have something different on my mind.

I've seen and heard a lot recently from various sources about dating and relationships and life in general. There are a lot of different views and opinions out there. I have my own of course, though I personally feel like dating is one of the areas of life with the largest grey-scale. It's like stepping into an unknown realm. Uncharted territory. I don't claim to have a huge amount of experience, or imply that I'm some kind of expert, not by any means. But I just wanted to share some thoughts I've had on this topic.

Thought #1: Dating can be casual as you get to know the other person, but I don't think relationships should be. Personally, I don't believe in dating someone that you already know isn't a good match for you. That's just a bad idea. Use your intuition. Use common sense. It's sometimes hard to resist dating someone who is attractive and whom you genuinely like and have fun with, but if you know you couldn't have a serious relationship with them, it's just kind of pointless. My  thought is, if it's not going anywhere, it's not going anywhere.

Thought #2: Focus less on finding the right person, and focus more on becoming the right person. I think this is important because the person you're so interested in finding, is going to be the person who's also looking for you. What do you think they're looking for in a potential partner? I'd wager they're looking for a lot of the same traits that you're wanting in a partner as well. Honesty both in words and actions. Integrity both in public and in private. Kindness towards others and towards oneself. Humility is sometimes overlooked, but is just as important. Selflessness, because there's no room to be self-centered in a relationship. Generosity, because stinginess is not attractive. A deep sense of responsibility, because a potential partner probably isn't going to be interested in someone who lacks responsibility, even, and especially, in the small things. Loyalty, because if you're not loyal to the ones you care about, how much do you really care?
I've found that personally, these are some things that I want to cultivate in myself, and which I also look for in someone else. It would be hard to take someone I were dating seriously if they didn't possess these important traits. An important question to ask is, "What can I do right now to become more (fill in the blank)?" Don't wait until you're actually dating someone, or in a relationship, to improve something about yourself. Become the things you want others to admire about you, or that you admire in them (such as some of the things I listed above, not necessarily changing who you are or anything).

Thought #3: I've heard this said a lot: "I'll just be happy when/if I have a girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife." And it's kind of sad. I'm sure I've thought this myself at some point, and it's still sad that Younger Brittany thought this. I'm not implying that I don't get frustrated and discouraged now because I haven't met him, (whoever he is) because I do. But I'm not going to allow my happiness and joy to depend on that. Because even if I did have a him, my life would not revolve around my relationship. I don't really think it should, because I think that would be unhealthy. Others may have a differing opinion, that's fine. But I think the only "person" your life should revolve around is Christ. I don't think it's good or healthy to allow anything or anyone else to take that place. I think it's very important to have a healthy set of priorities, what's most valuable to you, and what truly matters in life. But if who you are and your personal happiness are dependent on another person, even someone as important as a significant other, I can't help but think that something isn't quite right.

Thought #4: A healthy relationship is made up of two healthy individuals. That's not to be translated as two "perfect" individuals. Obviously everyone has flaws and no relationship will be perfect because no two people are flawless. But if you're in a relationship with someone who has some pretty serious personal issues, or you have some yourself, or you both do, you can't really expect to have a healthy relationship. You're personal issues will come out. More often than not, a relationship creates or amplifies more problems than it solves. It's not impossible to work thru them, but it will be extremely difficult and may require professional help. But the more self-aware each person is, the easier it is to address certain personal issues and other problems that arise in the relationship. If you can't take care of yourself and overcome your own problems, it's less likely that you'll be able to adequately take care of someone else and help them work thru their problems.

Thought #5: Communication is key. This is something that, again, you don't need to date anyone to work on. Gaining good communication skills doesn't require a significant other, and hopefully you'll be fairly decent at it before you have one. I know from experience that a lot of problems and misunderstandings can be avoided by communicating well. I'm not the best at communication, but I've definitely made some progress over the years. Communication is only partly talking in an intelligible manner. Listening may be even more important than sharing what you think and how you feel. Listening to the other person while they share their thoughts and feelings is so important and something that I think most people value immensely in others that they're close to. Listening, without offering a solution or telling them what they should do to "fix" their problem, shows that you care about them, that you're truly interesting in hearing how they feel or what they're going thru. I've found that a lot of times it's best to only offer a solution if it's requested, and just be present and empathetic if it's not. There are definitely times when tough love is needed, but using discernment in such situations is always a good idea.

These are just 5 thoughts that have been floating thru my mind recently and I thought I'd share them with you. If you have anything to add please feel free to do so.

Thanks for reading, and may the force be with you.