"Life isn't about the breaths you take; it's about the moments that take your breath away."
A lot of things can "take your breath away"--a beautiful scenery, an unbelievably happy event, laughing uncontrollably, a surprise, running several miles, getting punched in the stomach...and we call this Life, with a capital "L". The biggest lesson learned here is that Life is about time. You only have so much time on this glorious Earth, and there is no end to the good (or bad) things we can do with it. It's easy to waste a few minutes, a few hours, occasionally even a few days. Months and years are harder, but people still waste them sometimes, getting lost in the whirlwind of action happening around them and feeling as if they have no direction.
I count myself lucky to have a solid platform I can build from, and a constant light guiding me to my goal of eternal life; by the very nature of this goal, I am striving constantly to make good use of my time. And boy, is that hard! I have so many responsibilities now-college (classes and homework), work, writing, church calling, mentoring, socializing, family--the list goes on for miles if I think long enough and start getting specific. A typical week for me looks something like this:
4:15 AM Wake up
Run to work
5-8 AM Work
Walk to campus
10-11 AM Class
1-2 PM Class
2-3 PM class
4:15 AM Wake up
Ride to work
5-9 AM Work
(T-Temple 9-10:30 AM)
(T-Homework 1-3 PM)
3-4 PM Class
4-5 PM Class
9-10 PM Bed
WHEW!! That makes me tired just typing it! And all of that is just the bare bones of my schedule. I have to do laundry, grocery shop, socialize, make time for myself...it's crazy. I think anyone my age attending college would agree that there just isn't enough time in a day to get everything done. And it's easy to let priorities get out of whack, especially if you're a perfectionist like I am. Balance is key. Unfortunately, I've always been the clumsy type, so I stumble along, moving between too much work, not enough spiritual/emotional time, and too much procrastination/me time and not enough work. What's a girl to do?
Well, the speaker in my leadership class this week gave me some great ideas on how to improve, things I already knew but had forgotten amongst all the busy chaos of my life.
1. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God."
Scripture mastery that I've heard a million times and yet, it seems all too easy to lose focus and start putting other things before scriptures and prayer. Like sleep, or homework. But this week I've started a small experiment (again, actually-I've tried this before). Every morning, instead of saying a groggy, half-conscious prayer into my pillow, I get up on my knees and say a heartfelt, awake prayer. Then I go to work, and when I come home the FIRST thing I do is read my scriptures. Or, if I'm about to start a homework assignment and I realize I haven't read them yet, I will do that first. I feel more focused, more in tune with the spirit, and better able to let knowledge flow through me. I know I am blessed when I do this!!
2. Keep water in your well
This is the hardest one for me, I think. I'm so much a perfectionist; I want to succeed at everything I do, especially school. College is extremely difficult for me-high school was easy, so I wasn't as prepared for the extensive workload as I could have been. So, while I struggle through the mounds of homework and learning how to study properly and still feeling like I'm not doing well enough, I completely neglect myself. I put passions such as reading, writing, and violin on the back burner of life, set on simmer, hoping the talent will remain until I can get back to it. This is a great example of one priority that is a little skewed in my life. Not that writing should take place of homework, but it should have room in my life because I go crazy without it. I can't live without writing and being creative, but many times I find myself trying to starve myself. It's like anorexia, only of creativity rather than food. I'm still working on the best solution for this; maybe committing to half an hour a day, or a certain time amount per week, would be a good idea. Or maybe a certain number of days per week, like four.
The reason this is so important, besides the fact that I would DIE without some of them, is that God has granted these talents to me for a reason, and he desires me to use them and grow in them. Even if I'm not the best student at BYU, I am the best ME--nobody else can do a better job at that! So I need to nurture those talents I've been given so I don't lose them, and so I don't lose myself in less important, although good, pursuits of the world.
3. 10 second rule
I REALLY like this one! I had never heard of this before, so I thought it was really cool, and I've started implementing it every chance I get. The idea is, I pray so much for guidance from the spirit, but how often do I listen to those promptings and obey them? Not often. Actually, a lot of the time I dismiss them as my own silly thoughts, and I suffer needlessly for that. The ten second rule is as follows: Every time a thought or impression to DO something--such as call someone, start an assignment, anything like that--within ten seconds I have to either WRITE IT DOWN or DO IT. It's amazing how well this works!! It solves the memory problem I have sometimes, even if I have to write something down several times a day, it helps. And it really helps with things like getting out of bed in the morning-acting on that thought "I should get out of bed right now." Instead of laying there thinking about it is enormously beneficial! I'm not late to work nearly as often since trying this. And getting assignments done instead of wasting time is always good. I am definitely using this!
4. Choose the BEST over Good and Better
This is referring to the talk given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks titled "Good, Better, Best." Great talk...not so easy to actually act upon. It's extremely difficult to prioritize things at times. There are so many GREAT and WONDERFUL things I can do with my life and my time...but what is BEST? Only God really knows, I think. But something that has started to help is that in our group class this week our group leader had us write down our life goals and number them. I numbered some of mine, not according to IMPORTANCE necessarily because many are based on events taking place or time passing that I don't yet have control over. My goals looked something like this:
1-Study Abroad to England
2-Publish first Fantasy novel before age 21
3-Get married in the temple
4-Editing internship at respectable publishing house
6-Education-related debt-free within 5 years of graduation
7-Have a BIG family
8-Serve a mission (either at 21 or later with my husband)
There are more, of course, and many of these may switch places or be replaced as other goals become apparent. Like the internship, and the publication of my book...both of those could happen at the same time, a long with marriage, as could the marathon. But as far as preparing for those things, I tried to put them in perspective as to what I should focus on FIRST and FOREMOST. Marriage could move to the top of the list (unlikely, but...that's an observation to be discussed elsewhere), if I meet the right man and it's the right time. Or serving a mission could happen instead. But the idea is that the most important aspect of my goals, the reasons behind them, will not change, that I will still DESIRE and AIM for a temple marriage, even if it doesn't happen for a very long time. I liked mapping out my goals...it put a lot into perspective for me, and made me see what's important to me. The best thing is that I know these are all righteous desires, and my Father in Heaven will support me in my endeavors to succeed.
5. Focus on people, not processes or things
This is one that will come gradually, but at the same time it's something that I already do for the most part. I'm still learning, of course. It could mean that sometimes friends should be put before school, or even writing. Christ made people his focus during his mission on this earth, and I should always strive to express love to those in my life, supporting them as they do me rather than selfishly using all of my resources to further my own goals and dreams.
I know that despite any improvement these things bring to my life, there will always be room for improvement. And no matter how often I find balance, there will always be a situation or trial to come mix it up so I can start over again. But this inevitable learning process is essential to my spiritual growth. If I "endure it well" and patiently, always looking to Christ and following in his footsteps, I will return to my Father's presence and obtain the blessings I inherit through my divine heritage; that is, eternal life and godhood.
**Saturday, February 20th, 2010
I just had a pretty neat experience that involved the implementation of several of these principles. So I got home from work and decided to read my scriptures, put God first in my life and nurture my spirit. As I was reading, a thought came into my head--I had forgotten to set up visiting teaching with one of the women I am supposed to teach. I at first thought, "I'll do it later." But the thought came again instantly, so I acted. I got up, walked next door (because I couldn't find the phone number), and knocked. I wasn't expecting success because she is rarely at home, but lo and behold, she answered the door! We chatted for a moment and set up a time and I walked away, whistling and holding a warm cinnamon roll she bestowed upon me. I realized as I came back to my apartment that even though scripture study is great and important, this young woman I visit teach is more important in many ways. Not that I could replace my scripture study with visiting her, but rather, interrupting my personal scripture study to reach out and touch her life when prompted will bring further blessings and more harmony to both of our lives.