Again and Again

A not so old photo made to look old, like me.

Where have I been? Maybe you’re not really asking. I don’t know how much interest there truly is in this blog, but maybe someone out there misses me and my posts.

Short answer: distracted.

Long answer: Working on my other blog, posting everything I have ever painted/photographed/photo manipulated. And getting way bogged down in the complexities of life.

How am I doing with my New Year’s resolutions? Well… I dunno.

I don’t know if I have recaptured any of my youthful vigor yet. I’m still listening to local music and I even went to a show recently. I left with ringing ears and a headache but dagnabbit I was there!

Hensley

The first month and a half of 2020 was hell. About mid February everything started to look up. Well, most of it anyway. I honestly had no time to think about trying to go back to all of my good character traits from the past. Instead I would like to think I gained new ones.

I have learned to be content, I faced the struggle of January with a stiff neck and a clenched jaw. I worked myself to exhaustion just trying to keep things afloat. Most of that work was met with success, some of it not so much. But I didn’t let the failures knock me down. I just kept swimming.

When things started to get better, I breathed. I slowed down and took stock of the situation and started planning for the future. Bad times could come again, as they have many times in recent years. Perhaps I can be a bit more prepared so I don’t have to work so hard to stay afloat.

All of this was financial stuff mind you. My house is falling apart, my relationship with my wife is rocky, and my mental health is… Well… It’s day by day.

And that’s just how I’m going to face those challenges: day by day.

Cracked

My life’s been a bit abysmal as of late. Days are hard, circumstances suck. I feel like I am breaking down and losing every fight. I know people want optimistic posts and travel posts and frivolous nonsense. But maybe there is room out here for real posts about trials and struggles. People love a facade, but at the end of the day, many of us are cracked vessels, if not outright shattered.

So please read and know you aren’t alone in your struggle. We all have our challenges and rough seasons. Despite what the internet world would have you believe, there is a lot of darkness out there amongst the bull markets and the glitzy vacations.

We’re all in it together, and we’re all going to make it through. I hope.

Taking Time

“Take time for yourself.” They say.

I’ve never thought that way. Sure, I will sit around and waste time. I will neglect my responsibilities and fixate on some unimportant project. I may even stare at a screen for several hours chasing Wikipedia trails or harvesting endless memes.

But is that time for myself?

That’s just settling. Or being irresponsible. Irresponsible if I’m not doing what I should. Settling if I’m not doing what truly makes me happy.

I don’t enjoy spinning my wheels. There has to be an end product to most of my activities. It could be as simple as a clean room. Yes, I do take joy in cleaning, much of the time. Call me crazy.

But some “activities” have no lasting effect. Some things have to be enjoyed for their own sake. Some things can be undertaken even if the end result isn’t exactly what you hoped for. You still gained experience with whatever it is.

Grumpy “Parrot”, Oil pastels on Paper, 2019

Though I have been fairly absent from this site I assure you that I have been productive. Mainly I have been keeping up with my other page, posting every single painting I have ever done. Doing that with a commentary on each one is no small feat.

I’ve also been writing in my “journal” more. Writing by hand tends to slow one down and force him to focus and think about each word (not to mention spelling without a crutch). Most of that will never see the light of day on here. No one may ever read it, it may never help me be productive on this page, but at least it helped me through the difficulties of life for a time.

There is a certain temptation to air all my dirty laundry here. This could easily become just a public diary to gripe about my struggles. But personal matters are often best kept personal, especially when they involve others. So I have tended to stay away from here, just so I don’t fall prey to that temptation.

Honestly, “time for myself” is often just as simple as sitting down and writing out a train of thought that’s been bugging me. Clearing my head and organizing thoughts on a page is frequently all I need to do to relieve the stress of my day.

But sometimes it’s not.

And I have no idea what to do instead.

Kinda done with it all right now…

Perspective

Perspective is a hell of a thing.

What we may perceive as small is actually an illusion created by our relative position to the object. This kind of illusion applies to many places in life, not just visually. Sometimes when we are distant from a person we tend to underestimate the big affairs going on in his or her life.

Sure, we may see the problems, clearly even. But because of our distance from the situation we may interpret what we see as a small issue. We may even think “we could handle that, why don’t they seem able to?”

But we don’t see how big the problem truly is to the person standing right under its power.

The only way to truly see how big the troubles are in someone’s life is to get closer to them. Spend time with them, talk to them, maybe share some of your big struggles with them to encourage them to bring up theirs.

Remind them that with time and distance problems always seem to shrink. What seemed big last week is now a tiny speck on the horizon of memory.

Of course this also should remind us all that what appears to be a little problem way out there in the future may end up quite large by the time we confront it. Small problems grow to big ones if not taken care of.

Don’t let your perceptions fool you. “Small” is not always small.

Thankfully “big” isn’t always big either.

Is It Wrong To Want Things?

Sometimes you just have to scrap an entire blog. My original title for this was “Happiness As a Goal”. But I’ve renamed it and rewritten it. And then rewrote it again. And then renamed it again.

So here it is, after a ton of editing:

I have struggled with the concept of wants and needs for a while. God gives us everything we need, so everything we don’t have we don’t need, right? And if God doesn’t give it to us and we don’t need it, it’s sinful to want it, right?

For a long time I felt that contentment meant being completely satisfied with what you have. This means that any desire for something one doesn’t have is discontentment and therefore sinful.

This was my train of thought: It is a sin to be discontent, to be content means you don’t want anything, you are satisfied with what you have. Therefore to want is to be discontent, therefore to want is to sin. Furthermore, God gives us everything we need, if we don’t have it we don’t need it. If we don’t need it we just want it, and wanting anything is a sin.

From the last three paragraphs you can see why my life has become kind of messy. I have shoved down a lot of desires and drives mistaking them for sin. This has made me a bit of a limp noodle. If wants and desires are inherently sinful what’s the point of trying? After all, you’re going to get what you need.

But then I realized that the Bible clearly talks about wants.

“You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” James 4:2b-3

James does not condemn his audience for asking for things.

In 1 John we read this:
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

One only asks for things if one wants something. Since asking is not condemned, wanting is not condemned. I was wrong to think merely having wants was sinful. God clearly wants us to want things that are in accordance with His will and to ask Him for them. Asking is encouraged, and we are to do it with confidence.

Ultimately I don’t have to feel shame or guilt for wanting things (or experiences, or good feelings). But I do have to ask the question “is this in accordance with God’s will?”

Probably the easiest way to determine this is to ask the questions “Do I want this purely for selfish gain? Does my desire ultimately serve others and/or bring glory to God?” If the answer to the first is no and the answer to the second is yes then I am free to ask and to pursue what I want.

This whole train of thought has further implications, obviously. This is me after all. I can’t keep anything too simple. Keep checking back and I will try to further expound on these thoughts in other posts as I get to them.

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Diversions

Ooo, shiny!

We live in an insatiablely intolerable world at times. Life is a messy, dirty, steaming pile of excrement some days. There is no escaping the to-do lists and the schedules and the ever growing piles of bills. It almost makes me jealous of the people of old who lived short miserable lives. At least they were short…

I’ve never been able to drown out my worries with diversions. I hear of people escaping their troubles and woes with movies, music, video games, or even alcohol. Perhaps I’m just not a focused enough person to forget my cares and immerse myself in numbness or fantasy? I can only be so distracted before my mind wanders back to the struggle of the day.

Painting, writing, playing Pokémon GO with my kids and wife. I enjoy these. But none provide any forgetfulness. Stress is always right there making it hard to find forgiveness for not accomplishing everything on that to-do list. “Why are you taking a break when you should be doing this?!”

Will it ever change? Maybe. Maybe one day my cares will be few enough to drown out with frivolity, at least for fleeting moments. Until then I’ll just continue distracting myself half-heartedly.

Cautious Optimist

Fortunes change for better or worse, sometimes changing as frequently as the wind. One never knows what tomorrow will bring. Recently we have been under a bit of a shake-up, a stressful change in fortune which leaves the stomach in knots and the eyelids droopy from lost sleep.

But it’s turning out. Slowly….

All the anxiety is turning into fruitful action. We are doing, instead of just talking. We are stepping up instead of just teetering on worried legs.

We are moving ahead.

Even though the thought of change is a terrifying thing to a comfort lover like me, I’m excited to see what this next chapter brings. I’m cautiously optimistic that our decisions, as unconventional as they may be, will turn out for our benefit.

Keep reading, I’m hoping these next few months will be an explosion of new growth and material.

Reinvention

People are always talking about changing themselves. They seem discontent with who they are and want to “reinvent” themselves. They go out and get a new haircut or a new wardrobe, they lose certain friends or go on fad diets. Constant change is seen as a good thing, but is it really?

I have spent many years of my life trying to be other people. I let others dictate my moods, my likes, my diet, and even my thoughts and beliefs. Mine is a super sympathetic personality. I mimic. To a fault.

So when I started trying to change that fault of mine the first inclination was to reinvent the wheel and become a whole new me. Reinvention never happened though. Not only is it hard to change old habits, it’s impossible to deny personality traits and innate passions.

There are things that I like that I had spent a ton of energy trying not to like or denying that I liked them out of embarrassment. I was trying to please other people by denying my own tastes. Honestly it makes no sense why I did that, except that I can be very insecure sometimes.

Some people want to reinvent the wheel. But the wheel doesn’t need reinventing. You can’t find something to replace the basic design, it’s already functional enough.

Although you can’t reinvent the wheel, you can improve: You can add rubber tread and a motor, or cogs and a chain, or a belt and a series of wheels. You can make the wheel do what you need it to do.

You can’t easily change your personality, or your tastes. But like the wheel you can make them work in your favor. You can embrace them and run with them.

That’s what I hope to do in the next few months. Perhaps you’ll be seeing some changes around here. Stay tuned!

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Dailyish Thoughts #88

They say when it rains it pours. For once I would like both of my cars to be operating correctly at the same time. They have gotten to the point where maintenance is more than just changing the oil. Now it’s brake pads and rotors and calipers and sensors and filters and pumps and belts and radiators and alternators… All while the rest of the bills are still begging to be paid.

Life hasn’t gone as smoothly as I hoped it would. As a natural pessimist who has been working on his positivity recent predicaments haven’t exactly helped boost confidence. It’s practically impossible to be an optimist when nothing you work on seems to turn out right.

I know this isn’t a happy post. Blog posts are supposed to be uplifting and make the reader feel better about life. Well. I’m a realist. Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes I have horrible days. I don’t want my site to be nothing but sunshine and roses because that’s fake. I don’t like lying to people, when things are good they are good, when they are bad they are bad.

Today wasn’t all bad. The kids had a ton of fun harvesting candy from the local neighborhood. For the first in a long time I was able to smile genuinely at their happiness. Seeing them happy and excited makes me genuinely happy.

Hansel (he’s so hot right now), the youngest Gryffindor student, and a punk faerie.

Perhaps tomorrow will go better, Lord willing.

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The Groans of Settling

0924180857.jpg

Staring at a mountain of mess is not something you want to do when you come home. It’s even worse when it hasn’t been home for half a year. Those million annoyances I mentioned the other day make settling back into life much much more difficult than it ought to be.

In my head I had left the house much cleaner. I worked really hard the couple weeks before we left to get it ready. But when we walked in it was just scary. The way this house looked when we walked in is just another indicator that stress makes hard work far less efficient. Apparently I had just spun my wheels in February and March. Sure, I fixed the broken truck (this is beginning to sound like a broken record), but I let other things slide.

The best part of returning here is that after six months so much of this stuff has lost it’s usefulness to me. I haven’t seen it or touched it or used it in half a year. Why do I really need it? How much of our junk do we just keep because “one day” we might find use for it again? I have realized that is a very pauperish thing to do. Poor people keep things and re-use things almost compulsively. This is not wrong, when the situation calls for it. But when you have the resources to replace broken things or pass along unused things without having to “worry” about replacing them later, you should. I have not used so much of this stuff, why hang on to it when I can give it to someone who can, and if I need it later simply replace it?

Emotions are fickle also. I said I liked it out there and wasn’t so sure of here. But now that I am here I am not so sure. There are advantages to having the grocery store two miles away. There are also disadvantages to having fast food and shopping so close. There are temptations galore!

The biggest question right now is this: Is this vacation or is this life? when you spend equal time in different places it almost feels like you take on two different lives. We have different friends, different activities, different styles. It almost feels like we are entirely different people out there.

Settling in to a “new” place takes time. I’m still not sure this is home or not. But for now it will have to do.

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