Pressing Pause

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could press pause in life like you can on your TV?

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Not like Zack Morris when he would break the fourth wall during Saved by the Bell although that would be cool too. I’m referring more to the ability to pause life and take a break.

Life moves quicker the older I get. I remember when I was in middle school the summers seemed to last forever. Each hot month was long and packed with so many memories. Things move quicker now. Six months flash by in the blink of an eye. Now years get muddled together like mint leaves in the bottom of a cocktail glass.

I ran away to the beach last week. I didn’t really run away but more so pressed pause. I wanted and needed a week off. Upon getting back I realized it will take me two weeks to catch up but it was well worth it.

I wanted to sleep in, read for hours on end, and stare out into the water. That is exactly what I did.

The books I read last week all had a similar theme. In one way or another they were all about sacrifice. In order to get something you want you have to make sacrifices. It might be as simple as sleep, television, hanging out with friends, or whatever else you might want to do with the little spare time you have. Sometimes it is bigger.

I thought a lot about this while staring into the ocean. My sacrifices seem small. There are others who seem to sacrifice so much and I feel miniature in comparison. I have been focused on my weaknesses a lot in the past few weeks. I want to be better at dealing with conflict but something doesn’t want to change deep within me. I have thought it is a sacrifice for me to change but I don’t feel that way now. I don’t think it is a sacrifice at all. It’s simply something I don’t want to do.

There are things I know I could do better if I just did them. I should workout more regularly. I should deal with conflict head on instead of cowering away from it like I so often do. Why don’t I do these things? Nobody is preventing me from doing them except for me. It’s easy to tell yourself you will never be perfect and there is no reason to attempt perfection.

But if you hit pause on life you can see things clearer.

You realize sometimes your detriments cause others pain. It’s not all about you. Being an introvert I tend to get caught up in everything going on with me and forget about others. Had I not paused last week I don’t think I would have realized this.

So I haven’t run away from anything but rather I have attempted to shy away from it. I longed for a week to press pause. Now it is time to press play. Time to stop making everything about me and time to start getting uncomfortable. Pressing pause helped me see clearer.

You don’t need a week away to do it. Take whatever time you can get and stop. Take a deep breath and think about your sacrifices. Think about what bothers you and remind yourself it’s not all about you.

Moving On

I have moved several times but right now this feels different.

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An emptiness crept in I haven’t felt before. We gradually moved things out of our home. The pictures were first. Then all the clothes which weren’t necessary for this time of year. Then furniture and suddenly it became empty. All which was left were nails on the wall which before held items and gave the house so much of a voice. Now we have turned the keys in, signed the papers, and it is no longer ours.

When I get stressed out I try to keep myself busy. I attempt to keep my mind occupied so I don’t wander off and let anxiety drown me. With moving there is always something to be done until there isn’t. It seems like a never-ending task to box up every drawer and move every piece of furniture but eventually everything does get moved. All which is left is nothing. I walked in our house when it was completely empty twice and tried to soak it in. I would like to say it was profound and moving but it wasn’t. It was like looking at an empty box which once held something special.

An empty house is strange. It looks much bigger and in complete contrast to the way it was before. Like an empty canvas it is ready for someone to put their touch on it and leave their mark. Our now former house was built in the late 60’s. Many have lived there before us and have made their own memories. Now we fit in this category. It’s a reminder of how insignificant our time can be. It’s hard to grasp our house is someone else’s now.

Owning a car, land, or a house, makes you feel power. It gives you the false feeling of domination. We don’t like to think about the fact nothing we own is permanent. We only hold it until someone else has it.

The majority of our belongings are now in a storage unit. I don’t feel like we have much stuff but when you pack a 10 x 20 storage unit with 8 foot ceilings and it still doesn’t hold everything you own you realize you do own too much. Why do I need all these t-shirts from college? Why do I have this mini keg with my fraternity letters on it? I can’t get rid of it. It seems as much a part of me as memories I cherish.

Moving moves people. How many songs, particularly country songs, are about homes? None of these songs are positive. It is a depressing trip down memory lane to listen to, “The House That Built Me” or any number of tunes. I’m not sad about moving. I’m trying to live in the moment and not overlook it but this isn’t my childhood home I left. Perhaps this is why I don’t feel the attachment to it.

I know everyone says a house doesn’t make a home. I’m not sure if I agree. As I stood there and took a moment to take it all in I thought about the good and the bad. There are memories we made in the house which I will always have with me. The house seems as integral to the memories as the people and the moments themselves. It’s just a man made house but no matter how much time passes it will always be more. Like packing there is always more to be done until there isn’t. Sometimes a house is just a house unless it isn’t.

To Get Where You Want to Go

I visited Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, last month. It was my first time in the Outer Banks and I was amazed at how far away I felt when there.

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I had been holding off reading David McCullough’s, The Wright Brothers for this trip. It was surreal to read about their experiences in the Outer Banks a little over a century before I was there. Before it became a vacation destination life was hard in the area. You were a long way from civilization. The mail only came a couple of times a week and the mosquitoes bit every few seconds. The brothers were a long way from home and their support system and were struggling to fly. As I read through McCullough’s book I was amazed at every detail of the Wright Brother’s story. I most enjoyed Wilbur’s experiences in Paris. After flying for the first time in Kitty Hawk and then Ohio he worked out a deal to sell a plane to the French. I loved seeing a blue collar dude from Dayton, Ohio, head to Paris and experience the art, cuisine, and fame which came with being the first person to fly a plane. He was treated like a rock star while in France.

I have to think there were times when alone in his hotel room in the City of Lights he thought about those long days and nights at the end of the world in North Carolina. I know he and Orville had doubts about what they were doing. He had to think about quitting and going back to his day job where everything was known. It was hard to work all day and have failed flight after failed flight then lay down to sleep at night in the shack they stayed. As he laid there sweating trying to sleep in the southern heat I know he thought about quitting. Had he quit he never would have experienced flying and would have never gotten to live a luxurious life in Paris. They had to go through the beating of being there before they could get to Paris. We all have to go through something similar if we want to get where we dream of being.

We have to go through things which suck if we want to achieve anything. Not a tough time due to a death of a family member or unexpected expenses with your house or car. Those things happen no matter if you are trying to do anything worthwhile or not. If you dream of doing something incredible I guarantee you it’s going to be tougher than you can imagine.

You have to deal with rejection. You have to deal with mistakes because you don’t know what you are doing because you haven’t done it before. You have to deal with pain from a lack of sleep and taking care of yourself. There is no glamour and no rest if you want to actually do something. Statues aren’t built for people who try hard and fail. A high risk of failure and ridicule is all there is to look forward in the short-term. It is amazing to me how hard it is to actually do something of value. It’s not so much about how smart you are or how great of an idea you may have but it’s more about how hard you will work. It’s tough and nobody cares until you do something which is beneficial.

Whatever you are struggling with today and whatever you feel like isn’t worth doing remember why you started in the first place. Passion will fade but remembering what others have gone through when achieving greatness will help.

When I Miss Writing

Everyone needs to see this.

lake tahoe

This was my initial reaction to seeing Lake Tahoe for the first time.

On Tuesday of last week I drove the half hour from my hotel to see it. Many adjectives could be used to describe it but none would do it justice. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I wanted to stare at it for hours because it didn’t look real. After I got back to the hotel and was looking at the pictures I took I thought about the day and about the way it made me feel. For various reasons Tuesday was a tough day for me. As I stood on a giant rock at the edge of Lake Tahoe and looked at the snow capped mountains I wondered just what in the world I’m so worried about. I couldn’t put my finger on it. My boss and I had dinner at an excellent restaurant that evening and the food was tremendous. I find as much beauty in a well prepared meal as I do in viewing nature. If you disagree I think you are eating the wrong kind of food. When you have a bone in pork chop with a fried onion underneath topped with pickled mustard seeds you know what I mean.

Last week I didn’t write. I missed it. In the last two years or so it has become part of who I am. I feel lost when I don’t write. Not because I miss the feeling of banging on the keys and trying to come up with something others will enjoy reading but because it is how I process my thoughts. When I am feeling anxious or stressed and I write it helps me calm down.

I don’t think I have ever seen anything in nature which impacted me the way it did. I wanted to lean into it. We all want to feel something in life. The touch of a loved one, the movement deep within our soul which causes us to remember we are alive. Good writing does that to me. I recently read an article by Shauna Niequist where she describes getting a tattoo, “I remember the buzz of the needle from my first and second tattoos—that metallic rattle, high-pitched. It makes the muscles in my neck twitch, remembering the nagging pain that goes along with that buzzing sound.” It’s a perfect description for getting ink permanently imprinted on your skin. I have never been to a tattoo parlor (Is that what they are called? I feel like a 70 year old man referring to it that way.) but after reading it I understand exactly what it is like to be there. That is great writing. I don’t think I ever write anything which comes close to it. I also enjoy writing which makes you feel like you aren’t alone. I try to express it here.

I forget to look at the big picture but writing reminds me to look around. It’s easy for me to let time pass by without doing things I want to do. In the name of relaxing and cutting corners on real priorities I tend to choose loneliness instead of relationships. I choose comfort instead of adventure. I eliminate risk from my vocabulary and actions. When I do feel the twinge of discomfort I shut down. While staring at the lake I had several thoughts running through my head. What should I eat (always a thought no matter the time of day), I hope my battery doesn’t die on my phone, I don’t remember how to get back to the hotel from here…

None of these mean anything to me now. I miss writing when I don’t do it. It helps me figure out things and share them with others. It makes me want to do more. Staring at the beauty of Lake Tahoe I had several thoughts running through my head but one big thing which hit me was I miss writing when I don’t do it.

Priceless Pictures

I am at a point in life where college doesn’t seem as though it was very long ago, but I don’t want to sit back and actually calculate the years.

photo credit: Barney Moss via creative commons

photo credit: Barney Moss via creative commons

For the first part of my college life nobody had a smartphone. Taking a picture with your cell phone was similar to the quality of picture taking in 1915. Digital cameras were a must for quality pictures. As a dude I would always end up taking pictures for girls so they could post it to Facebook the next day after uploading the pictures to their laptop. This seems like the most archaic time period of my life. When I look back on pictures from college I love the random moments the best. It’s fun to look at Spring Break pictures, formals, or my fraternity’s beach week but the photos which bring me the most joy are the random Tuesday night with friends. Life is full of these moments and they can’t be replicated. But they are easily forgotten.

The past two years Morgan and I have gone to Jamaica and both of us have turned our cell phones off for the most part. It’s been amazing and weird. I used my phone to listen to music and take pictures but for the most part it stayed in the safe in our room. Even now when I think about Jamaica I don’t think about the dinners or the waves I photographed. I think about inside jokes. We recall laughing at the clothing (or lack thereof) people wear on the beach. The random moments bring joy.

The pictures I have which bring me the most joy are sometimes the ones nobody understands but me. There are exceptions such as my wedding pictures which are incredible and I wouldn’t trade for anything. They are certainly priceless. However, I love looking at pictures from an arbitrary evening because of the story they tell which isn’t what someone who is unfamiliar with the setting would know.

A picture can tell a thousand words, but a few words can change its story.”
– Sebastyne Young

The pictures which mean the most to me are the ones which tell a story. I can take pictures of a sunset and it may be beautiful but it’s hard to translate the beauty into a picture. I can look at Timehop and be reminded of a moment long forgotten and that is what brings joy. Priceless moments bring joy. It can be from the best day of your life or from an insignificant weeknight but there is something which ties it together.

I am ready for a vacation but I’m not taking one for a while. I’m reminding myself vacations are great and certainly memorable but they aren’t the only times in life where priceless pictures and memories are made. There are plenty of Tuesday nights which I sometimes easily forget which were memorable. I’m not going to try and create these moments I’m simply going to be present and embrace them as they come.

The Ugly Truth about Fear

The truth about fear is it is addicting.

photo credit: Maxime B via creative commons

photo credit: Maxime B via creative commons

There have been times where I wanted to give it up but I keep coming back to it. It numbs the pain of not accomplishing my goals.

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to start something on my own. It’s definitely what has drawn me to writing. I like expressing myself through words and I have the freedom to write about whatever I want whenever I want here.

Often times I find myself writing about something I think is meaningful but will definitely make others uncomfortable. I think it will be good to post on here but before I do I get a sense within my chest I shouldn’t. The fear rests squarely over me. I decide not to post it and experience a feeling of soothing disappointment.

I like the feeling of comfort. It’s not satisfying but it’s normal. It brings an odd sense of peace. The more I choose to resist fear the more it brings me in. Others will always tell you when you fear something it means you should lean into it. I have said this to people. It’s easy to tell other people how they should handle fear. It’s much harder to handle it yourself in the same way.

I do believe anything worth doing will cause some sort of fear in your life. I also believe the feeling of fear can become something which hangs over you like a bad habit. I know fried food isn’t good for me but I eat it anyway. I’m not addicted to it but I like the taste. I know I should write about something and not worry so much about what others think but I want everyone to like what I write. It’s not possible for it to happen and it’s not something I should even seek but I find myself lunging at it like a child chasing seagulls in the sand.

I don’t think fear is something which is ever fully defeated but rather it’s something you have to fight off daily. I’m focusing my attention on it. I don’t want to live a life where I am OK with being afraid.

Night Driving

Stories of Faith in the Dark Synchroblog

This is part of a synchroblog Addie Zierman put together for her new book which comes out today.

Night-Driving-Synchroblog

It was darkest in my early 20s.

It wasn’t dark because I lost sight of my faith in college or because I had no moral compass. I actually went to church regularly while in school. I also attended a campus Bible study. UT wasn’t a godless place. I was never challenged directly while in college.

Going to church didn’t make me feel better. I often felt something was missing. I wanted to connect with people but being the introvert I am it was difficult. My first year of college I met a ton of people. I forced myself out of my shell and those relationships I developed from the start satisfied my hunger. I went against everything which was in my personality when it came to meeting people. I was outgoing and I met many friends I still have to this day. However, as college went on I got back in my routine of not being outgoing and it wasn’t until my anxiety was raging I realized this was a problem.

When I was at my darkest point I didn’t have anyone around me I could talk to about what I was going through. The loneliness and despair this brought me was terrible. I remember one Sunday morning going to church and wanting so desperately to feel better. I felt like it was a trip to the doctor’s office. I wanted an injection or a prescription to give me relief. I remember the exact pew I sat on that morning but I couldn’t tell you one song we sang or what the pastor spoke about. I sat alone and felt sorry for myself. There was nothing wrong with the church and nothing wrong with the people in it. I had isolated myself. I went to church to get something out of it. I went to feel better about the decisions I made on Friday and Saturday night. Most of the time it did make me feel better. However, when I was at rock bottom and needing help I didn’t have anyone to talk with there. I was alone and afraid. It’s hard to think about this moment much less write about it. I don’t remember all the details well because it is a dark place and I couldn’t see everything when I was in the middle of it. I didn’t anticipate the loneliness being as strong as it was.

The scariest part about being in the darkness of faith is there is not an easy way out. I’m not a very stubborn person but there are times when I can act hard-headed. I don’t like changing my ways. At times when things are the darkest in my faith I realize I need to change but something prevents me. I know a solid relationship with others who I can walk with in faith is what I desperately need but it’s not something which can happen overnight. It needs to be nurtured and cared for over time.

The most comforting part is time keeps moving on. No matter what is going on in my life the minutes, hours, and days continue to roll forward. When anxiety bothers me the most this always encourages me. It can be stressful but when something is heavy on my mind it always brings me peace to know at the end of the day I will lay down my head on a pillow and several hours later the sun will come up and another day will arrive. When your deep in despair and nothing seems to matter this brings hope. It’s not something which brings hope in the middle of your struggle but rather when you look back you see it. It slowly builds upon itself day after day

I forget sometimes my relationship with God is a journey. I want to believe it is constantly going in a steady line upwards but in reality it is all over the place. There are ups and downs. There are times when it’s not in a good place and I’m learning to be thankful for those times because it is in those moments I grow. If you are in one of those moments now reach out to someone and tell them. Chances are they have been there before and can help. I wish I would have reached out to others instead of fighting alone when things were darkest for me.

Maybe Next Winter

Winter is almost over.

photo credit: Dustin Iskandar via creative commons

photo credit: Dustin Iskandar via creative commons

I have the feeling you get after a long run when you can see your stopping point but it’s far enough away you have to keep churning your legs.

The past few winter’s I have told myself I will not let the weather get me down. I start off well but somewhere in January or February while scraping the ice off my windshield I have had enough. I hate the cold and what it does to me. It sucks the optimism from me like a vacuum getting loose change between the seats of a car.

One bright spot is there are certain foods I like more when it is cold outside. Some days we let soup cook in the crock pot all day while we are at work. When I walk in at the end of the day the smell is permeating through the entire house. For a moment I forget the cold and taste the food in my nostrils. I love the warmth chicken tortilla soup provides. I put shredded cheese and Crystal hot sauce on it and the concoction is something Jimmy Buffett should write a song about. The soup warms me up to my core. I don’t crave chicken tortilla soup when it is warm outside.

I feel we all have Seasonal Affective Disorder to some degree. I don’t want to diminish those who have it severely because I know it is a very real thing but all of us struggle with it right?

Seeing a dead tree come to life reminds me things do change. I’m so tired of looking at dead things. I’m ready to see green. There is something wonderful about a tree coming back to life. I don’t sit on my deck and watch the leaves turn or find beauty in it by reflecting. I pass by and don’t notice it for days or weeks. Then suddenly there are green leaves everywhere. It jumps up and catches me by surprise. I’m so thankful warmer weather is here but I know in a few months I will take it for granted. One of my biggest strengths is taking things for granted. I usually hold this back during a job interview.

I’m happy winter is almost finished but I’m not thrilled with the way I handled it. Once again I allowed myself to be manipulated by the season.

This post from Addie Zierman about a recent car accident she experienced this winter reminded me others struggle with this same thing.

The whole accident is essentially a microcosm of the book I’ve just written: You are knocked out of control by some winter; you find yourself crashing into the artificial lights that you’ve erected to keep yourself out the dark.”

That’s what winter is isn’t it? Maybe next winter I will remember it’s only weather. And it’s the cold weather which allows me to enjoy the taste of chicken tortilla soup.

305 Days

There are three hundred and five days left of 2016.

photo credit: Hey Paul Studios via creative commons

photo credit: Hey Paul Studios via creative commons

Next week I will eat better.

Next week I will finish that book.

Next week I will do whatever it is I have been pushing off for weeks.

These are several things I have been telling myself throughout 2016. I procrastinate about procrastinating. I am good at handling certain things but others I will put off as long as possible. I’m trying to find a balance between handling everything and being at peace with a lack of perfection. I’m never going to watch every movie I want, read every book which interests me, or visit everywhere.

It’s not the most optimistic way of viewing things but it is realistic and it brings peace. Attempting to do everything you want to do brings frustration. Deciding what you want to do and making it happen is satisfying. I find a lot of the stress in my life is brought on by worrying about what I am not doing.

There are certain things which I am never going to want to do. Scheduling a doctor’s appointment is not something I want to handle but I find the quicker I do things like this the better.

I’m a stickler for a budget. I make sure it is set before every month begins and put every dollar in its place the Dave Ramsey way. However, there are always unexpected expenses which happen. An emergency room visit, water line exploding in the front yard, and a million other things can and seemingly do go wrong. When it happens I don’t throw away the budget and spend like crazy. I don’t wait for next month to roll around and decide I will do better then. I prepare for these things by having money set aside for the problems. For some reason I don’t treat other situations the same way. I’m learning to adapt my goals and things I want to achieve to this model. I’m creating margin in my life to complete the things which are most important.

Chasing perfection is something which is consuming me recently. I am learning there will never be a perfect house, perfect day, or perfect candidate. I was encouraged by this post from Allison Fallon last week about the damage this way of thinking can bring.

I hope you hit all of your goals for 2016 but don’t let your satisfaction with life depend on it. There will always be a never ending to-do list and something you want to improve. If you wait for happiness to come when you are done with everything you need to do it won’t happen.

A year from now you won’t remember your to-do list but you will remember the people who matter most in your life. You will remember the time spent with them and the memories you made. Make sure to focus on what matters most for the next 305 days.

Don’t Fit the Mold

In 8th grade I took a class called Technology Education. You could choose different rotations in the class designed to give you an idea of what you would like to do for a career. You could learn about radio and TV, nuclear engineering, but my favorite option was to create a CO2 dragster.

photo credit: Frédérique Voisin-Demery via creative commons

photo credit: Frédérique Voisin-Demery via creative commons

The object during this rotation was to was to create a fast car. I learned about aerodynamics and got really into it. At the end of the class everyone who designed a car would race it in a single elimination tournament. We designed a blueprint and then the teacher would create the car for us. The back of the car had a small hole for a C02 cartridge to propel the car. I was so excited because I knew the car I had designed was going to beat everyone else’s in class. When I turned my draft in the teacher grabbed my blueprint and immediately handed it back to me. He claimed this car did not adhere to the standards he had created. I didn’t recall this rule he had claimed I violated and I also didn’t see how it mattered at all. I was mad and had to make any changes by the end of class so I wasn’t able to make good adjustments. I had to make a generic car to fit the mold. I got smoked in the first race. When I think about it now it makes me mad. I’m not blaming the teacher because I don’t think he had malicious intent, but I do think he could have allowed more creativity.

Something I have realized in life is it isn’t the people who fit into a predetermined mold who make a difference. Those who really make a difference are the ones who throw away the cookie cutters and create something nobody else has thought of before. Life isn’t about seeing how good you can make something someone else already made. It’s about innovating a new way to do something.

There are a million good ways to do something nobody has tried yet. Why waste your time messing around with something someone else has already done?

I look at the way others I admire write and I want my writing to look similar. Instead of trying to emulate someone else I need to focus on creating my own style. In whatever it is you are passionate about, choose your own style. Don’t fit it into the cookie cutter others are choosing. Create outside of it.