[Mood: irritated, incredulous, but hopeful.]
I still amaze myself from time to time. I’m still amazed by my own humanity – how sometimes I get stuck in the same ruts of doing the same things for years and years: bad habits I developed as a teenager, choosing to spend my time doing things that are mentally passive instead of mentally active, maintaining a poor diet, etc.
But perhaps more amazing than the habits or the ruts themselves is the lack of effort I put forth to change. Don’t get me wrong – I know that only God can change me. But I also believe that our change is a function of God’s grace and our willingness. His grace abounds toward me, but my willingness to change does not equally abound.
I’ve heard this same advice time and time again: you can eat whatever you want when you’re in your 20s and chances are, it won’t show up. But when you turn 30, it all catches up to you. That has lingered in my mind for years. I don’t live in perpetual fear, really, or else maybe I really would change the way I eat. But the idea that you make choices now to benefit yourself later is one that I still struggle with. When I’m at the grocery store, I still struggle to choose to buy fresh fruit over a box of donuts. When I’m planning meals, I still struggle to choose meat and vegetables that I’ll prepare myself over a pizza I can throw in the oven and let it do the work. Part of it is that, if I understand correctly, our bodies accustom themselves to the type of “nutrition” (even if it isn’t nutritious at all) we give it – so right now, my body anticipates my calories and sugar to come from donuts, pop, and cookies over fruit. So when I eat fruit, my body isn’t happy. I tell myself I’m not full.
What I’m working on right now is in that vein – I’m working on what I call “trusting my meals.” I’m working on eating something (reasonably healthy) and then, even if I’m still hungry, moving on. I’m working on trusting that whatever I ate has the caloric content to carry me through the next few hours until I eat again. I see this front as the one for which I am most optimistic.
I have friends who are positively astounding. One of them in other ways than most – her name is Kay, and she doesn’t have a facebook. But not only does she not have a facebook, she has no desire for one. She’s not one of those people who deleted it years ago and guiltily keeps herself away from it. No, Kay likes interacting with real people. Her social skills are great. She comes into the coffee shop and talks to all kinds of people. She’s sarcastic and she’s fun. She’s a real person, and she doesn’t have a facebook.
I’m encouraged and discouraged at the same time (fortunately, I am more encouraged than discouraged.) I’m discouraged because the other day, she came into work and I found myself thinking, “if she doesn’t have a facebook, what does she do with her time?”
Do you see how absurd that is?!? My obsession with social media, my incessant checking when there is nothing to check has taken me to a point at which I wonder what people without social media do with their time!
But I’m encouraged by the fact that I have friends like Kay who give me a glimpse that networking can occur outside of social media. We live in a day in which it’s easy to lament social media or worship it. Idolize or demonize. I want to do neither. I recognize the advantages of having social media but I also recognize the disadvantages. With that in mind, I’m keeping mine around with a view to cut down significantly on the frequency of my posts as well as streamlining the content (ie. Posting about only certain subjects, not everything that’s on my mind.)
Active vs. Passive Mental Activities
Perhaps this is the most titanic of my struggles at the moment – titanic in the sense that sometimes, I have days which I’d consider great successes, and others which I’d consider dire failures. I guess let me first explain what I mean.
I categorize a lot of things into two categories: active and passive activities. Active activities are things that involve my attention and require me to think – doing puzzles, practicing math, reading a book, writing a blog, analyzing a book, movie, or sports game, etc. passive activities don’t demand much of me: video games, social media, sleeping, etc.
What’s amazing is how hard it was to come up with passive things – most things require some degree of attention or effort, whether that’s cooking, exercising, cleaning, even watching movies can (and I think should) demand some attention from me, as I need to do better about remembering plot details so that I can better answer the “whys” of a film’s plot.
And yet, despite the fact that I can’t think of as many, I find myself doing more passive things. I find myself checking out physically and/or mentally after a long day at work. Apparently working a full day means I can’t concentrate on a book when I get home from work. Apparently being gone and/or working for extended periods of time justifies me spending my evenings doing absolutely nothing demanding.
I have, in my mind, the picture of my ideal life – that is, the life I want to have, or the life I want to want to have. In that life, my room is kept neat and tidy, my stuff isn’t out of order. My house is equally kept, even if that demands that I take 15-20 minutes daily to keep it that way. Beside my bed lies a book which I am currently reading, and that book changes weekly if not several times a week, because I am reading efficiently and effectively. I look over at my bookshelf and struggle to find a book I haven’t read.
Where am I on that? …getting there. We’re making progress. I now wake and daily start with some Sudoku puzzles to get my brain juices flowing (or neurons firing, whatever.) I keep a book by my bed, but the rate at which I read it is slow. However, one of my friends is reading The Devil in the White City with me at the moment, so maybe that’ll spur me on to read faster. My house stays in order for a few days at a time, usually until the weekend which, for me, turns into a logistical nightmare since I run to and from Berea between working, church, and soccer, and I’m just not home as much.
I also need to work on this during weeks in which I’m preaching. I have this ironic superstition that if I expend mental energy anywhere other than in sermon preparation, I’ll ruin the sermon. So in weeks that I preach, I don’t read other books. I don’t do a lot of writing. I don’t do a lot of learning. Instead of spending my time working my brain, I waste my time. I play video games. I watch movies. It’s irresponsible, it’s immature, and it’s a disservice to preaching to not expend my mental energy.
One of my struggles at work is filling “dead time,” or finding things to do while we aren’t serving people. Realistically, this is about 80% of the job, so you could say I struggle at 80% of my job, not to mention my struggles in the interactive 20%! I think this is a struggle in life, though. I think as a 23 year old, I’m ill-disciplined in thinking of things in the bigger scheme of things, and so if I’m at home and don’t have anything to do, I don’t see the harm in doing nothing at all. But from an organizational standpoint, the reason I should do things is the same as why I should be doing them at work. We spend 80% of the time preparing for the other 20% of the time. Stocking, cleaning, practicing. Organizing, streamlining, creating effective systems, etc. If I can somehow get this mindset into my personal life, then I think I’m on a much better track than I have been of late.