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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Hide Me Under a Rock, I Don’t Want Your Intimacy!

I know I said I wanted intimacy, but maybe not that much!

If you follow me at all you probably know I write about all kinds of subjects (how to be a Butthole Wife, abortion, art, music, modesty, sex, politics, you name it). Sometimes I get really personal. I don’t have much of a filter on how much I share. This might get in me in trouble one day!

My post last week got a Facebook like from none other than my pastor. The post where I called out pastors and elders for not being out there in homes. Yeah. That one.

The thing is, I’m not sure I really want what I called for in that post.

Right now my wife and I are working 90 hours a week between the two of us. That means that our time is extremely limited. When we are home we are either sleeping, cleaning, cooking, eating, or catching the kids up on school.

I say cleaning, but what I really mean is we are trying to keep up with just that day’s mess. Not the previous mess from yesterday (and before), just today’s.

We are juggling. And when you juggle you drop things. When you drop things you make a mess. And you’re too busy keeping the rest of your life in the air to clean up every mess.

So messes pile up. Real messes, metaphorical messes, mental messes.

From all outside appearances my life is falling apart. I have nothing together.

Outside appearances are often all that anyone who bothers to peak in sees. Which is precisely why I am terrified of someone suddenly becoming interested in my life. What if they see the messes? What if they see my juggling and my dropping? What if they judge my entire character on the circumstances surrounding this terrifically tumultuous season of my life?

I have to be careful what I say. Someone might take me up on my challenges. Someone my try to get to know the real me, not the mumbly me that most people know. They might see the silly me, the sloppy me, the me that loses his temper way too easily, the anxious me, the passionate me. They may see the ugly side of me. The side of me that struggles with all types of temptations and often fails.

They might get to know me intimately as a friend, only to find out that I can be a disappointment as a friend. I am selfish and miserly. I am far too busy with my own life to take on the weight of others. I can’t invite you to my messy house and I’m too broke to go out for a drink. My texts are all somber and I breathe on the phone. I take far more than I could ever give in return.

I may speak a big game when it comes to intimacy, but ultimately I am too ashamed of myself to let you in.

Except when I blog. I’ll lay it all out for you here.

Behind the safety of my keyboard and screen.

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.

Honesty

How honest are you? In real life? In social media? Would the people who know you be surprised if you did something shocking?

Back in the day when someone went off and committed some horrid thing you would see the neighbors saying things like “He was always a little strange, but we never saw this coming.” Now that we have social media the circle of people who “never saw it coming” has grown.

And the ability to sugar coat has gotten easier.

Not only have we gotten better at hiding the bad, we have gotten better at exaggerating the good. When a man flies off the handle and kills his wife and children, we look back at their posts and say “but they had such a great marriage!” We look at smiling pictures of those who commit suicide and wonder where the problems were hiding.

So how honest are you? How much do you show the warts in your life? How much do you confide in real people? How much do you share with virtual people? How much do you exaggerate the good? Would your friends and neighbors on and offline be shocked if you did something tragic?

Why do people hide behind positive posts and perfectly filtered pictures? Are they afraid people might know their secrets? It’s easier to hide secrets now that we can bury them under a facade of beauty. It’s no longer just “he was a quiet guy”, now it’s “he really seemed to have it together.”

It is my goal here and elsewhere to be honest and open. I don’t ever want to sugarcoat my situation. If I ever seem too optimistic, call me out on it. If you ever need to confide something, I’m here.

The last thing we need is to be all over the news with our friends and neighbors surprised that our lives were really not so great.

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Not There

I’m not where I want to be.

This might come as a surprise to most of you.

Or not.

Maybe you have guessed that I am a bit restless in my current situation. Maybe you suspect that I am merely living a lie and will eventually give it up and go back to my old way of life.

I don’t want to go back.

I left a career of nearly ten years to go do something else that I loved. Then I left that after two years to give my wife an opportunity to do something I knew that she would love (and I wasn’t wrong). But am I doing what I love?

Yes and no.

I love being with my kids. I love teaching them and talking to them and watching them become great little people.

But sometimes they are real jerks. Sometimes I get tired of being around them. Frequently I feel like I fail them on so many levels. But I love them. So yes. I love what I do.

But.

I need adult interaction. And more than just the superficial internet interactions. The presence of people is a balm for my anxiety and loneliness. There are times when being around the kids perks up my spirit, but they are the takers in the relationship. Adults give and take, the dynamics are different. Right now where I am I do not get the kind of adult interaction I need.

I have dreams and goals. But I never think I am good enough. I am always the contingency guy. I have a goal, I assume right off the bat that I won’t get to it, so I automatically search for all the secondary plans.

Where do people get their optimism? How does one make a goal and dream and actually think themselves good enough to get them? How do they take control of their lives and make the things they want happen?

Or do they? Do people ever actually get what they want? Or am I just watching too many movies? I swear I see people out there on blogs and Facebook and elsewhere living the lives that they want. Surely there is something flawed in their life, something they don’t like, something that is not quite right.

How do they live joyously despite those things? How are they successful in jumping past those kinds of problems and focusing instead on the good things, the successes?

The simple answer is that they aren’t. Everyone has struggles. No one is arrived 100%. Some people are just better at displays than others. They are simply good at social media.

Or perhaps they really are hopeful. Some people are just optimists. They do a good job at seeing the good and understand the best way to make those good things happen is focused work towards them.

So the answer to getting where I want is simply focused discipline? Make an effort to get adult time? Focus on the good goals and spend a little less time on contingency?

Time will tell.

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Stabbing Anxiety In the Face With a Soldering Iron, Part 2

Last week I discussed some of the things I do to conquer the physical aspects of anxiety. But what about the thoughts?

In order to kill bad thoughts it helps to understand the motives behind one’s thoughts. Most of my anxious thoughts stem from my severe need to be in control of all things. I am a control freak. When things are out of my control I panic. I begin to think the worst. I lose all faith and go into the selfish cocoon of anxiety.

Knowing what motivates my wrong thoughts helps in creating a strategy to defeat them.

So what do I do?

Well, I take control of the things I actually have control of. Despite my negativity, there are things I actually have some power over. Like my time, my children, and my personal space.

I make a schedule and try to stick with it, understanding that sometimes things happen that make that schedule obsolete for the moment. At the very least I follow a routine and make habits.

I work on establishing healthy boundaries with my children. Kids can be chaos incarnate, but usually only because we don’t put a foot down and make it clear what is allowed and not allowed. Discipline goes a long way towards helping calm that storm. Boundaries are important to all relationships, if there are other relationships in your life that create stress and anxiety it is likely that you need to establish some basic rules regarding it.

By personal space, I mean my house. I have control over the cleanliness and clutter of my home. Part of a good schedule and routine is taking time to organize and clean up. Visual clutter and messes are huge triggers for anxious thoughts. It took me years to figure this out, but it has made a huge difference since.

As for the things I can’t control… (which are far fewer in number than my mind will let me believe) those things get put into my prayers. Only God can control those things.

That may seem like a cop out answer, but I assure you that faith is harder than any scheduling, disciplining, or cleaning. Having faith requires catching my thoughts and correcting them. Taking every thought captive requires constantly telling myself truths to correct the lies that my mind wants to tell me. In order to do this I have to know truths, I have to study and think about truths, and I have to believe truths.

Anxiety is ultimately the antithesis of faith. Faith is ultimately the solution to anxiety.

Daily Thoughts #17

Doubt, fear, and worry are all things I can control. Anxious thoughts are the antithesis of faith and feeding them only demonstrates a lack of it.

When your to-do list is a mile long, just breathe and do it. If you run into something you can’t do, it’s not the end of everything. Move on to what you can.

Some people thrive on chaos. I do not. While it is a good thing to come out of chaos stronger, I don’t really understand the people who seek out chaos just for the growth from it.

Stabbing Anxiety In the Face With a Soldering Iron, Part 1

Panic attacks, overwhelming urges to freak out, dark thoughts, emotional numbness, emotional rage: good times in the life of an anxiety ridden mind.

As I mentioned on Wednesday, I have managed to get a hold on my anxiety this year. Sure, it rears its nasty head sometimes (like yesterday and today, ironically), but it’s so much better than it once was.

So how have I managed it?

Anxiety has two different parts to it, at least mine does, one is a physical part, the other is mental.

The physical part frequently manifests itself as a feeling of dread. I get a tightness in my chest, my heart races, every stimulus becomes overwhelming, and I get an urge to move and yell and just generally explode. It can happen any time, but often after a ton of overstimulation or too much caffeine.

The mental is a bit more difficult to describe. Most people use the word “anxiety” to describe worried thoughts. But what I have experienced is a bit more than that. I had utter dread of future events, inability to think positively about anything, always searching for the negative. I create a hundred scenarios in my head and find every single negative possibility, every single thing that can go wrong, and every reason why those things don’t have a solution. My worry goes beyond the simplicity of “what shall I wear?” or “what will I eat?”

The thing is I know all things will turn out. Intuitively I know God cares for me and will provide. I know I am saved by His grace and I will some day be in Heaven with Him. I’m just not a huge fan of the wait.

But as I read in a quote this week if salvation was merely about attaining heaven we’d have a long gap between baptism and our funeral. God has given me the mind that I have and the personality that I have. He knows that my struggles with my mind and personality will drive me to Him. I sin far too much because my mind wanders….

But I digress. This post is not so much about how I don’t trust as much as it is about how I have learned to trust.

Trust takes care of the mental, I’ll get back to that in Part 2. But first let’s tackle the physical.

I’m not a doctor, so don’t take this as medical advice without talking to your doctor and doing your own research. This is just what has worked for me.

First, herbal supplements. I take a regimine of passion flower, lemon balm, chamomile, vitamin B, and CBD oil. On top of that I take a multivitamin. The dosage varies depending on how I feel, I may increase on particularly stressful days or decrease when I feel better.

They took awhile to start working but when they did it was a complete change. I actually had a ton of difficulty getting used to having feelings again. My anxiety had numbed me to so much when I actually had clarity it was scary to navigate.

Exercise. This is always the standard answer from most people. “Work out and you’ll feel great!” It doesn’t work like that for me, but combined with the above regimine I find it does wonders. When I stop doing the herbal remedies, or I stop working out, I find it much more difficult to get through the hard times. Panic attacks come back, my focus wanders, and I just generally have a bad time.

That would explain this week…

I also drink a little. I know it’s taboo to recommend alcohol as some people can get addicted. But I find one drink of wine or spirits can sometimes settle my mind enough to help me think clearly. If you are the type of person who struggles with addiction, definitely don’t go this route, but if you can control your appetite then moderate consumption may help you.

Diet has also been a great help. I cut back on sugar and processed junk. I reduced my caffeine intake. I started eating more “real” food. It was a night and day difference. I felt less sluggish. When your body feels good, it’s mush easier for your mind to go along with it.

For acute attacks I have found lavender to be particularly helpful. You can drink it as a tea (chamomile too) or diffuse the essential oil in your room. We also have a lavender lotion that is great for rubbing down tense muscles. Another great essential oil is Palo Santo. Diffuse it with lavender and you’re almost guaranteed to fall asleep!

As I said, I am not a doctor, so don’t take this advice as Gospel. I just have found these things to help with my generalized anxiety. If you have more severe anxiety, or depression, or other mental health issues, these may not work for you.

Next time I will discuss what I have done to get the thoughts under control.

Daily Thoughts #8

Sometimes what you think is your fault is not really your fault. Most of life is out of your control, especially the moods and actions of others. Don’t let those things bring you down, and don’t expect them to lift you up either.

Chipotle is good. Especially when you have not had it in four months. I imagine it’s best to keep it that way.

I have not worked out in awhile. It shows. Even a short hike makes everything sore.