Sunday, November 16, 2014

Seeing Myself as I Really Am

I think about myself a lot. Not about my looks, my weight, or my awesomeness, but more about what I think, say, and do. I analyze it all in an attempt to better understand myself and everyone else, and perhaps, in a way, to understand God. I think I exert a lot of energy hiding myself from others in an attempt to be the person I think I should be or that they want me to be. But then I get frustrated that no one really seems to know me! I’m beginning to realize that if I want people to know who I am, I can’t hide myself, including my perceived weaknesses. And that includes hiding from myself.
“…being able to see ourselves clearly is essential to our spiritual growth and well-being. If our weaknesses and shortcomings remain obscured in the shadows, then the redeeming power of the Savior cannot heal them and make them strengths. Ironically, our blindness toward our human weaknesses will also make us blind to the divine potential that our Father yearns to nurture within each of us” (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Lord, Is It I?” October 2014 General Conference).
So my collection of posts right now are an attempt to face myself as I really am. Putting myself out there is a small step, even though my blog is super popular as evidenced by the floods of comments I always get. :)  My point is, for anyone reading this (and I really mean the one person who might read it…hi mom…), you may think I’m a little crazy and I have some serious issues. Just keep a few things in mind.

First of all, it is my weaknesses that I’m focusing on, so it will be a little one sided. Also, as I’ve gotten to know more people, I’m beginning to see that I am not alone. I have seen the signs in more and more people as I look around. We all have insecurities and anxieties. Yours may be different than mine and you may cope with them differently as well, but they are there. Oddly enough, my new-found recognition of this fact is helping me overcome many of the issues I struggle with, which also includes seeing the motes in others eyes. So last of all, keep in mind (along with me) the words of our Savior when he said:
“Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?...First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3).
My children are an example to me of humbly accepting ourselves as we are and quickly seeking to change. The other night we read in the children’s version of the scriptures in Matthew 6 where Christ is teaching his disciples about prayer. It reads, “He said that some people say the same words over and over when they pray. They do not really think about what they are saying…” When my 6 year old heard that, he stated matter-of -factly, “I do that.” It was his turn to pray after scriptures and I noticed him really thinking about what he was saying and not just repeating the quick repetitions he often does. What a sweet and pure example of being able to recognize our faults, confess them without any shame or embarrassment and just fix them immediately.
“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”
I realize there are so many things I could write about, so many social injustices or problems that need debating, but what would my voice on a blog that no one reads be able to accomplish? I believe that before I can change anything in the world, I must first change myself. Seeing myself more clearly and casting my weaknesses and shortcomings from the shadows is my first step to casting the beam from my eye and shedding my blindness to “the divine potential” that my Father yearns to nurture within me.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Confessions of an Introvert

I may be the only introvert on this planet that actually prefers group work. Actually, from recent conversations with others, I may the only person period, introvert or extrovert, that enjoys group work. As long as it’s a small group, I thrive with collaboration. I believe this is related to my previous post about decision making. When I’m solo, I’m the only one making decisions, which causes me incredible anxiety. I desperately need validation in decisions so if someone else thinks it’s a good idea, I’m happy with it. Whether everyone works together and gives input or I’m the only one doing the work, at least there are others to say, “ya, sounds great!” And that’s all I need.

A few weeks ago we had a family activity at the school with all the grades in the dual immersion program. It was super fun. The very last activity was one of those teamwork ones where you are given a limited amount of materials (uncooked spaghetti noodles, string, and tape) and try to build the highest tower in a given amount of time. For a few moments I played the part of an extrovert and I spoke first, spoke the loudest and spoke with the most confidence saying only one word: triangles. They believed me and everyone else worked off this beginning idea. I sat back the rest of the time allowing others to try their ideas and I helped build the tower. I’m proud to say we won! It was the perfect setting because I was allowed to contribute as much information as I felt confident to and I didn’t have to make all the decisions. The pressure of success was distributed among many and not just on me. Team work truly is the best.

Perhaps this is why I dislike bowling so much. Feedback is immediate and it’s entirely dependent on my individual ability. Add that to the social aspect where it’s usually around lots of people plus it’s in the evening when I’m tired and bowling is a one-way street to discouragement and despair for me. In fact, I struggle with a lot of card or board games perhaps for the same reasons. It’s silly really, I realize that, but I can’t seem to change the anxiety I feel in such situations. I have made small strides in this area, but if I can work in a group, I will. So if you wonder why I don’t seem very excited to do certain activities or games, consider my aversion to solo performance as a probable cause…and remind me to relax, it’s just a game!

(Now it’s all making sense…shopping. Don’t like it. Probably because of all the decisions!)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Driving Through Decisions

I was driving the other day and made a decision to switch lanes. I ended up behind a slower vehicle and then had to switch back to my previous lane to make a right turn. I was then three cars behind my original spot before switching lanes the first time. I wasn’t upset or frustrated (probably because I wasn’t in any hurry), but I did have the thought that I made the wrong choice and should have just stayed in my lane in the first place! That got me thinking about all the decisions I make while driving and how easy it is for me to make them, sometimes without really even thinking about. What time to leave the house, which route to take, which lane to be in, when to switch lanes, what speed to go, etc. I’m kind of competitive and I’m always evaluating the best option that will get me where I need to be the quickest. In the end, I’m well aware that most of these choices don’t really matter. So what if I’m three cars slower now? So what if I get to the next red light 1 minute sooner? Most of the time, the time I save in my strategic driving is either insignificant or ends up averaging out in the end. At times it makes a difference and I am the first one home from church or I walk into a meeting just in time. But mostly it’s just a fun game.

In some instances, however, such small and simple choices could have life changing effects. I could be in just the wrong spot at just wrong the time and someone could hit me. And no matter how careful I had been in making my choices leading up to that moment, I could not have had the foreknowledge to make any different decision. Sure, looking back I could say, “if only I had left five minutes earlier…” or “if only I had taken the slightly longer route…” But in the moment I can only make the best decisions I can based on a very limited amount of knowledge. And while there is potential for drastic results, that can’t have any bearing on my present choices…meaning stress or anxiety would be pointless. So I don’t sweat it. I make a choice and I live with it. I just keep driving. So how come that is so easy when I’m driving, but incredibly difficult with most other aspects of my life?

This is my confession time. I am incapable of making decisions. I hate decision making. I am beginning to realize that my inability to make decisions is a massive stumbling block in multiple areas of my life. I’m happy to say that I’m making a little progress. I am now capable of ordering for myself at a restaurant in a decent amount of time…without the waitress returning 5 times to see if we are ready yet. True story. I hate ordering at restaurants. I have to read the entire menu to ensure I am making the best possible selection. But like I said, I’m getting better. Especially with restaurants I’m familiar with. I don’t even have to study the menu online before we go. But it’s taken almost 30 years to get to this point.

Most of the time I don’t realize why I suddenly swell up with anxiety and feel my mind start to shut down. I could happily be sorting through a pile of papers and all the sudden I encounter items that don’t have a place and I don’t know what to do with and suddenly I can’t think and I’m completely overwhelmed and miserable and can’t organize anymore. Or I’m working on a project and I have to decide something and I can’t finish it. Give me a question with a solution and I’m happy to figure it out. Spend hours or days laboring over it. But a decision in which there is no real solution, in which it is completely subjective, and I’m rendered helpless. I analyze all the pros and cons and when everything seems pretty even, most normal people just make a choice and move on, since clearly it doesn’t matter. I, however, keep searching for some reason behind my choice. I can’t just choose at random; it has to be justified. Why the chicken when we have chicken almost every night? Can’t it just be because it sounds good?? Not good enough when attached to a con. Something has to tip the balance one way or the other. And this is the cause of most of my anxiety in my life.

So in driving, or even soccer for that matter, I am able to recognize the insignificance of my choices. So I pass the ball to the wrong person. No big deal, I’ll just get it back. So I switched lanes too soon. No big deal, I’m just 20 seconds slower. What’s the difference with life?? One difference is judgment. In many cases I fear others judgment. In driving, no one else knows or cares. In soccer, the moment is fleeting and I can do something stupid and immediately do something awesome that effectively cancels out the stupid. In life, it’s not that fast paced. Everything is in slow motion and pleasing the crowd is a lot harder. But sometimes, it’s not even about the crowd. It’s more just about being right. All the time. Always choosing the right. Not knowing if I’m choosing the right is overwhelming. I’m working on it. Maybe someday I’ll be able to navigate my life the way I drive, even if some would say it’s a little reckless.