Inability to focus

As I’m getting back on track and trying to make sure I can do the things I want to do, I realize one of the skills I currently lack is the ability to focus. 

I currently lack the ability to give attention to the thing that might be of most value to me, and instead focus on the thing that is most entertaining. 

Writing this entry right now is an excellent case in point. Were I able to focus, I’d probably pay attention in priesthood at church or I would focus on writing things I’m grateful for on a paper I brought to church with me. 

Instead I’m reflecting on my inability to focus on the most meaningful and am playing with my phone. (There’s some argument that this has some benefit, but it’s likely not the best thing I could be doing.)

Does the inability to focus have to do with a desire to have instant visual feedback? Is the focus on tv shows and phone screens just mean I’ve got an addiction that needs addressing? (If so, what pain am I medicating by using the screens?) is it something else? Or am I simply acting differently from how I used to because the state of the world has changed?

So many questions. Maybe with a little focus I could find the answers. 

Merry Christmas

Reflecting on the reason for Existence is a worthy use of time. 

This week the Christian world celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. His existence might be questioned by some, but His influence cannot be questioned. 

A little child’s birth influenced the world. Stories are written about Him. People gather weekly to learn about Him. The world was created by Him. He was with Father before the world was and chose to be the Saviour on our behalf so we can return to the presence of God. 

He taught Truth revealed to Him by Father. He established a church to provide structure and guidance to His followers. He called twelve men and gave them power to continue His work after His atonement. 

He bled from every pore in Gethsemane. He sacrificed His life to seal His perfection and ability to bring us back to Father’s side. 

He felt every pain and discomfort each of us ever has. We are never alone because He atoned for us. 

Whether you agree or not, whether you accept it or not, the Child whose birth we celebrate this week accomplished more for you and each person you know than you can ever comprehend. 

His birth is worthy of remembrance, of celebration, of gratitude each day for the next 365–each day of the rest of your life. 

Sometimes you do things you don’t like

I’ve been pretty open with my experiences with depression. I’m in a much better place than I was and I went to keep being in control.

That said, I had an experience last night that could send me tail-spinning if I am not aware.

I’m not the only person involved in this, so I’m going to be a bit sparse on details out of respect.

But last night I did something for someone else that was based in a desire to do good something good for someone else, but I know is not a good thing to do.

Because I wanted to make someone else happy, I didn’t consider the long-term ramifications of what I was doing. In the long-term that particular thing con be very hurtful to both of us.

Even though in my mind I was serving this person, immediately after I did, I knew I had done something very out of character and something I’d promised myself I wouldn’t do.

Hence the depression trigger.

So what to do when you make a mistake that is based in love, but is still wrong? How do you regain the positive inner feelings about yourself and interacting with that person? I can offer three things I’m going to focus on over the next few days:

  • Focus on the core of who I am. Mistakes I make are not based in a desire to sin. They are based in a misinterpretation of what is the right choice at a given time, or in a misprioritization of what is best for a particular situation. I’m glad to often be at this point, but it is far easier to rationalize wrong choices when right and wrong aren’t as starkly delineated as they used to be.
  • Remember who I am as I deal with internal mental fallout. Sinners sin. But people also sin. I don’t look for ways to hurt myself, those around me, or my Saviour. But I end up doing so anyway sometimes. Even though I make mistakes, I must remember I am God’s son and am destined to inherit all that is His. Through atonement, where all sin, pain, error, ache, and imperfection is made right, I will be able one day to stand at God’s feet, spotless and ready to inherit His glories. That is my destiny, and letting small imperfections hold me from that is not living up to my capacity.
  • Look for warning sings and avoid them. This could be a number of things, but I want to shore two that are specific to me yesterday. I’ve always had a need to feel in control, and I really haven’t for the last long while (in general). It started to get better, but I noticed the need creeping back for a bit. Something about human nature causes us to do things that are mired in self-sabotage. So being aware of this will help. Yesterday–for whatever reason–I allowed myself to get carried away and I did not eat until 3 p.m., and I did not eat much then. Not eating is not an appropriate way to take control, and such abstention reduces willpower. I’ve also noticed a slide in another area: the quality of tv I watch. I watch more than the next person. At the moment, I have more time than the next person. But the lost few days, I wont back to a show that I used to watch that has zero redeeming value to it. I know it’s not good and that it reminds me of things I used to do that aren’t positive.

There were some warning signs. There were some things I could have used to act better. But that doesn’t change who I am and what I need to stay focused on. I may have made a grave mistake, and I may have done so with good intentions. But I need to keep both the context of the choice and its long-term consequences in mind as I make them. I also need to recognize I will continue to make mistakes, and accept that as part of my growth.

Seeds of depression deluged me immediately yesterday. By focusing on the important things I’ve mentioned, I can withstand the flood and build on a more sure foundation.

There is atonement. There is One who understands my struggles. I can rely on Him.

Gratitude

It makes a lot of sense to feel gratitude. It makes more sense to express it as well. I’ve spent much of the year examining myself, feeling sorry for myself, trying to move forward, and eventually doing so. 

I’ve spent more time curled up in a ball than I would have liked. I’ve spent more tears on this than anything else ever. 

It’s not for naught. 

I don’t know everything that will come from it, but I have to be grateful for what has. 

I’ve learned to forgive myself. I’ve learned to forgive others. I’ve experienced pain that opened my heart and my pains allowed me to see the struggles of others. I’ve seen my faith strengthen. I’ve regained hope, I’ve learned to define hope, and I’ve discovered hope is a choice. 

I’ve questioned deeply, and I’ve had questioned answered. I’ve been refined. The dross that made up much of my being–the dross that I’d added to myself over time–has been burnt out.

I might be less overall than I used to be, but I am more pure. I’m more able to focus on things that will add purer parts to me. 

It hurt. Every moment from August to August was filled with pain. But it started to wane as I made effort to focus on the things Father wanted me to focus on. 

He gave me a new job I’m excited for–a job that is interesting and will provide for my future family with no concerns. He’s provided healing. He put an incredible woman in my path who loves me and knows I love her. She is everything I ever dreamed of and more, and I thank Father daily for her and for making me into the type of man she would be compatible with. 

So I might have been through Hell. I will likely go through more, but I know I need to focus on doing Father’s will. Being grateful for the experiences along the way is important.  Critical. 

Gratitude provides a necessary perspective to moving forward. 

Discipline is turning to Christ every time

A phrase hit me during church today. Self-discipline is not being so focused you never make a mistake: it is being focused on turning to Christ after you do. 

I guess this strikes me close after what I’ve been through and concluded to this point about my experiences. 

From the viewpoint of this quote, I wasn’t disciplined as I tried to recover. Perhaps the lack of discipline is what caused to to fall as far as I did. 

So what does it take to avoid that in the future?

It takes at least three things:

1. Constant mindfulness. I need to be aware of what’s going on around me. I need to take moments daily to step back and take a look at what is going on. Gaining perspective is required. 

2. Humble supplication of the Divine. This helps achieve the correct perspective. But in order to turn to Christ after a mistake, there has to be a relationship to turn to. I will not be willing to take a long-term perspective of I don’t have a constant relationship with Christ. 

3. Desire to improve. If I want to be better, I have to be desirous of taking steps to improve. Listening to inspiration, focusing on moving forward, and learning to build in the midst of decay is prerequisite to growing and being disciplined. 

None of these things are easy alone. But together they have the power to bring me and you from the depth of any and all mistakes we have made and provide us the discipline to always turn to Christ. 

It’s not coincidence

Many moons ago I saw connections in many things. I saw how experiences in my life influenced other things that happened later. 

The time I’ve spent in darkness and struggling to come out of it dipped that sense. To be honest, it was in the process of being dulled long before that. 

There is a danger in assuming that happenings are coincidental. By identifying them as coincidental, we take God out of our lives. We purposely remove Him and His influence from our lives. This is a form of pride. 

As President Benson taught,

Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of ‘my will and not thine be done.’

By refusing to see coincidences as God’s hand in my life, I put my interpretations and will before His. 

So the danger: I was already headed down this path, but spending time around the girl I used to date kept me on it. I often identified seeming coincidences as Divine influence. All it took from her was the simple question, “Really?” to make me wonder whether I was accurately attributing things to God. 

She didn’t intend it to shake me, but over time it did. Faith needs confirmation. And it needs confirmation from people whose opinions you trust implicitly. 

Those things were not coincidences. They simply weren’t. But in starting to question whether they were, my trust in Father decreased. 

Friends and those you love have an incredible influence on you. You must build one another toward Father. Ask appropriate questions and think critically, but bear testimony and support them. Supporting each other will do more for you over time than will anything else. 

It’s not a coincidence. It’s as Father intended. 

Returning home

Thursday was a good day. For the first time in far too long, I went to the temple. 

It was a triumphant event for me. For many months as I struggled to consistently see light, I felt unworthy of the peace and love I felt in the temple. That pain combined with my lack of belief in myself and my inability to take control of my own situation kept me from seeking God’s presence and guidance in the temple. 

My work schedule can also be blamed, but I’ve made sacrifices to attend the temple before and had great success in daily life because of that sacrifice. 

I’ve been through a lot. A few days ago I was trying to describe the deepest source of my pain to someone who’s become important to me. As we talked, I realized that although I was exercising vulnerability in many, many ways with my peers, I was shying away from being vulnerable with God. I purposely chose not to pray or share my deepest struggles with Him because I blamed Him for the pain that had been a constant part of my life for more than a year. 

So Thursday was a triumph. Thursday I began purposely opening myself to Father. Once again I chose to be vulnerable to the Person I’ve placed blame on for my circumstances, Who has a better vision of the purposes of my experiences. 

It was a moment that showed a turn. A turn from valuing my own opinion as higher than Father’s. It was a moment, triumphant in a turn from pride. 

  

Moving on

What does it mean to move on?

Does it rely on the context of the situation?

Is it a state of mind? Is it a change of location? Do different people need different things?

I’m not sure I know the answer. 

I don’t like loose ends. I don’t like having pieces of things left over. They rub my mind the wrong way. They make me focus on things I don’t value any more. 

The main values stay the same. Always. But the things I put effort in along the way change, and I have to let go and not hold on to those things. I believe having open doors is good, but some doors need to be closed completely. 

So I’m closing doors. Because if I choose to look back, I have only memories and not a reason to turn around and re-enter a place I should not continue to dwell mentally. 

Reaching the end

This is a little weird. There are currently two posts left before I have nothing left to say. Or at least nothing that has come from a place of hurt and pain.

It’s still there. I still hurt and there is still pain. Those things are part of life.

But it’s been a really longtime since I wrote from a place where the pain needed a way to escape, and I needed a way to find healing.

Life goes. I think it goes well, but only time will tell, and only I get to choose how that happens.

That’s a good lesson from the last 11 months of writing. I get to choose. I can choose how it happens, I can choose how I interpret what is going on, and I can choose how I react.

Overall, I think it’s good that I’m moving forward. Moving on to do new things is the right choice for me. I have some fear and trepidation over geographic moves and about starting a new job, but I also know I can make my way. I know it’s possible and I can make things happen that will be to my benefit.

And if I can’t alone, I certainly can with divine assistance. I wouldn’t be confident and able to move forward if I had not experienced atonement and healing along the way.

I’m excited for something again. I know it will be difficult–probably harder than I expect–but it will be worth the hard work.

Speaking of work. It’s time to get up and start working at details again.

Family things

Since I realized that becoming like God was the only real important thing in my life (all else is just a way to get there), I’ve had one real goal: expand the people I consider “family.”

Obviously my parents and brother fit that place. My brother’s wife is mentioned only as my sister, because the “-in-law” thing just serves as a means of separation.

I learned this pattern from my mother, who is always trying to broaden her “family.” In her church congregation at home, she often finds a young mother desperately in need of help and becomes a local grandmother to her children. She’s done this many times, and often adopts a woman whose marriage is struggling. My mother’s support provides relief and assistance as both husband and wife struggle through learning to balance family, church, and military responsibilities.

My volleyball club culture is intended to support the families of our players, and I play whatever role the players will let me. Often, and most appropriately, this is the role of coach. If nothing else, I do that. But some allow me to be a little more, and ask for personal advice.

During this last season, I was in the throes of woe, and struggling to simply be the coach. My players–the ones who have allowed me to be closer than just a coach–reached out and asked me what was wrong. They recognized a connection that was personal as well as professional, and they wanted to help.

It took me a long time to figure out how best to tell all I was going through to teenagers, who I would have preferred remain blissfully unaware of the challenges and vicissitudes of life.But their parents had prepared them well–as I mentioned, the club exists to assist families–and they knew life was hard. As 15 year olds, their parents had chosen to let them struggle (which was a choice because monetarily they didn’t have to do that), and my players already had a mature framework to understand what I was going through.

I wrote several times previously about how difficult the season was for me. The players who supported me, and their parents who have not inappropriately shielded them from life did at least as much for me as I did for them. They were the extra bit of family I needed when I was alone.

1383469_10152903219909016_2485975622445596348_n