Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Our Emotional Painkillers

Everyone has pain in their life. No one is devoid of it.
Everyone also has to choose how they are going to react to that pain. Some will become apathetic to it, some will inflict pain on others in efforts to deflect it, some will turn to addictions, and some will turn to God.

There are many types of addictions. Drugs, pornography, sexual, food, etc. And it is now common knowledge that many people will "self-medicate" their problems with these things and more. It has become the most common and popular practice in response to our problems.

We know that there is no way to live pain free lives, or lives without trials and hardships of some kind. Recently I have realized that there is another point to our uphill climb in life. It is not just a test, and it is not just lessons, but it is also a way to determine which direction we will point ourselves each time we meet a boulder in our path.

What I mean to say is that the drawbacks in life give us a chance to say either "I'm going to medicate this pain with something that's not good for me," or "I'm going to give this over to God."

Recently I was on a spiritual high a couple months ago. I was learning incredible doctrine and understanding so many things, and feeling so much love! It was amazing! Then I felt like I was slowly coming down from that high, and then suddenly there were things in my life that I thought were dealt with, but they were coming back to pester and hurt me. I was still doing "everything right" and I was still trying hard to study and understand the gospel and God's word, but why couldn't I still have my spiritual high anymore? Why were hard things happening when I was turning them over to the Lord? I will tell you why. Because it's like choosing between a ladder or a slide. Chutes and Ladders if you will ;)
The ladder leads me to God, high spiritual understanding, and peace with each rung, but I can't just stay on one rung and expect to get higher at the same time. My hard times were God's push to say "Keep going, don't stop, don't get complacent."
To quote our beloved Dumbledore "We must all choose between what is right and what is easy." The slide is what is easy. Self medicating, choosing the filth that is heaped in front of us by that misery-loving serpent, Satan.
If we're not progressing we're regressing. It's that simple. God knows that and wants to help us get higher, but we can't if we stop where we're at. Hard times are a nudge and we decide which direction we will go from that nudge. Study harder, give our hearts, might, mind, and strength more wholly to the Lord and then we learn that the whole time it was exactly what we wanted from the beginning, but we couldn't see it.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Peace of Mind... Let's Get Some

I've been thinking about peace of mind lately, and how I've slowly come to have more of it.
As a kid and a teenager you kind of figure that there are things that you should become exposed to and you want to know everything about the world, and most of all you think you should be accustomed to these things because everyone else is. Also, because of school setting and social structures you don't want to be the "weird one" that doesn't do what everyone else is doing. I guess you could attribute watching TV or scary movies being one of those things that only "weird people" wouldn't do.

When I was a little kid my older siblings (they're actually all older than me) would be watching something scary and I was told to go in another room. "It's too scary for you," I was told. Why wan't it too scary for them? Actually it probably was. Especially for my sister who has a sensitive soul to things that are meant to frighten. For some reason I remember watching Jurassic Park with them. I don't know if I was peeking out from behind the bedroom door to watch, or if I sat and watched it and they just didn't think twice about the fact that this 6 or 7 year old was watching Jurassic Park with them. Either way it doesn't matter, the result was that I had nightmares about dinosaurs for years. It wasn't that I thought they were real, I knew by then that movies were movies and none of it was real. Everyone tells kids (even I've done this) not to be scared because it's not real. But the terror was real. The idea was real. The feeling was very real. The feeling of fright and terror was what drove my nightmares and started me to be frightened of things that I knew were not real in my own home. I knew that there wasn't really a dinosaur behind my bathroom door, but I felt that scared feeling anyway every time I opened it. That's what scary movies do to us. They leave us with a feeling of fear that is accompanied by suspense and thrill. The suspense goes away first as the plot of the movie rolls along, and the thrill is gone soon too, but the fear takes far longer to subside. It's like a residue in your brain.

So, one of the things I decided as an adult was that I would avoid scary movies. As a teenager there were movies like "The Ring" and other horror movies I considered totally worthless. I avoided those at all costs. I knew what it would do to me. Call me a wimp if you like, but I know myself, and those things are not good for me personally. I would occasionally watch movies like "The Others," or "The Village" I considered those suspenseful and not terrifying. I guess I would still call them suspense movies, but they still evoke a definite feeling of fear. So, right after I got married, when I was 21, I watched the last "scary" movie I would ever watch. I believe it was Halloween and we had some friends over to our apartment to watch "Signs." After the movie I realized how much I did not need it in my life or in my mind. Not that movie or any like it. Then and there I swore off scary movies. I could have argued with myself that it was artistically done and worth watching because of the plot, or the actors, or the direction involved, but I needed something more than I need to watch that movie. I needed peace of mind. I needed to know myself and be true to myself. Yay for step one.

When Ben and I got married we didn't have cable. We figured we didn't need it. We were newlyweds; living on love and passion ;) We didn't even have a TV. But then the Summer Olympics rolled around and Ben was dying to watch it, so we got a TV and cable. All 250 channels, or maybe more. The evenings we used to spend just being together, and maybe talking or going places, turned into watching the Olympics at first, and then Project Runway, Everybody Loves Raymond, and several other shows I can't even remember now.
Everybody Loves Raymond marathon? Sure we'll just watch a couple. At least that's what we thought, until it was three hours later and we're finally getting off the couch. Every evening it became habit to get a bowl of cereal and sit on the couch.

Ben was in school and working, and I was working full time, so the few hours we had together in the evening became hours of TV time. Sure we were spending them together, and I'm not suggesting it was horrible or anything. Actually some of my fondest childhood memories of being with my family was just all of us sitting and watching sitcoms together. Maybe that's sad, I don't know. I don't look back on it as something bad, I look at it fondly. But if I really consider the alternatives that might have been possible... what if we had piled those hours of TV together and had gone camping instead. I don't doubt that it would have brought our family closer together and that maybe I would have had, and would now have, a closer relationship to my siblings (who are all much older than me), and it wouldn't have to be camping (which my Mom hates), it could have been something active outside, teaching each other something, etc. But I don't regret or resent not having done that. We had family time together and that's something that I think every child wants, consciously or not. And bonus, I have an amazing family all around.

One day I told Ben, "I feel like there's a different spirit about our home since we got TV." He thought about it and agreed. He said "You know we pay for all these channels and when we go to watching something we can't ever seem to find something we actually want to watch. And it's really a waste of time anyway." So we bagged it. We haven't paid for cable for probably the last five years or more. We do pay for Netflix and use it. The girls watch Jr. shows and movies on there, and we're really particular about what it is they watch, but that's the closest to cable we have.

Of course around the time we quit cable they started putting the TV shows online... or most of them. We could watch a lot of shows the day after it aired. We started watching more and more for a while (Celebrity Apprentice, and others I also can't remember now), but really Ben is into documentaries, so that's what he watches on his laptop when he feels like it. I made a decision that there were plenty of shows to watch and just because they were entertaining didn't mean they were good for me to watch. I also noted that when I had shows to "catch up on" and my girls needed something while I was watching it I would get very frustrated and angry at them for interrupting me. Didn't they know that I was in the middle of a fight scene on Once Upon A Time?! Of course not, and it wasn't fair to them that I would get so mad because they needed me when I felt it was inconvenient. I needed to be a better mother, and I needed to get away from my computer more often. I needed less excuses to sit instead of getting things done; so I made a resolution. I didn't ban all shows. Instead I decided that I wouldn't watch anything that wasn't inspiring to me. That narrowed it down to three shows a week.

Wednesdays I watch 19 Kids and Counting, each episode is just over 20 minutes. Fridays I would watch Biggest Loser, a little longer at around 45 minutes, and Saturdays I watch Shark Tank which is about 45 minutes. There are times I watch something on Netflix at night to fall asleep to, which is not a healthy sleep policy to me, but when you're pregnant and sleeping is a luxury that doesn't always come when you  want/need it, sometimes I need something to keep me from going crazy while being awake for hours, usually in the middle of the night.

You know what benefit I've found from this TV purge? I am not so distracted. I have a clearer mind. I feel like I can think my own thoughts more clearly. It's kind of like someone who needs glasses, but they can't tell. From their point of view the world around them looks mostly fine, they can see things, until... they put on that prescription pair of glasses and realize that there is so much more to the world, and so much more detail than they had ever seen before. They didn't know before that they were missing out on so much, they figured that was just the way it is, but after being able to see more clearly they know better. That's how I feel. I don't have TV plots (that are designed to keep you thinking about them all week, btw) distracting me, or making me feel good or bad depending on my favorite character's story line. I can focus so much better on being who I am, and being a good Mom and wife. I can be a blessing to my family in a much better way.

I'm not suggesting everyone take up a TV purge, although I would recommend it, my main point is to know yourself well enough that you can tell what it is that is keeping your mind from peace and get rid of it. It might be hard at first, try a test run going one or two weeks without that thing that keeps you distracted or afflicts your moods and see if it's worth it. Hey, it's worth a try.