Wednesday, July 16, 2014

So, I Realized ...

The last few years have thrown some challenges my way. Some fairly substantial challenges ... Sometimes, I let those challenges back me into a corner with my own personal, pity party. Most of the time, I can still see the world outside of the corner where I am holed up. Occasionally though, the challenges amplify my pity party to the extent that they eclipse the larger picture -- including all the good that exists right outside my preoccupation with the stress that momentarily seems like my whole world.

I was born a free spirit. Planning and organization were not really my thing. Flying by the seat of my pants was a chronic condition, and I found a lot of joy in that lifestyle ... even if that too can breed stress. The last several years have uncovered and overdeveloped dormant organizational skills. It's a wonderful thing! Without said skills, I'd never have been able to juggle being a mom (parenting with a partner has challenges enough, being a single mom is a whole new ballgame ... at least it has been for me,) going to school full-time, working part-time, holding down callings (positions I've been asked to fill in my church -- we believe that those positions are tasks the Lord Himself has inspired leaders to ask us to fill,) date, graduate, work full-time as a teacher, and all the other little ins and outs of being a normal, living, breathing human being. The ability to look at future choices, map out all the options, and visualize the consequences or rewards of each possibility has become invaluable. And, it's allowed me to retain a small bit of sanity in the chaos of everyday life ...

That being said, when you add in the agency of other individuals, the big picture (and all those possibilities -- both good and bad) can get a bit overwhelming. Choices are so much easier when you're the only one determining which direction they should go. It's easy to let the stress bog you down a bit when the options move out of your control.

A good friend told me the other day that I borrow trouble. What she was saying is that I get so caught up sometimes in trying to plan for every possibility and every eventuality that I overwhelm myself. She then proceeded to tell me that I need to scale it back a bit, that it's all well and good to plan for the future, but that a lot of those possibilities are things that I can't do anything about and that I need to focus more on the smaller, more immediate choices, make them, and then be happy in the moment. In other words, I need to let the future take care of itself.

It's not a new concept really. The Savior said something similar in the book of Matthew.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. (St Matthew 6:34, Holy Bible, KJV)
The same thing is repeated in modern scripture. In the Doctrine and Covenants, it says:
Therefore, take ye no thought for the morrow, for what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, or wherewithal ye shall be clothed. For, consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they toil not, neither do they spin; and the kingdoms of the world, in all their glory, are not arrayed like one of these. For your Father, who is in heaven, knoweth that you have need of all these things. Therefore, let the morrow take thought for the things of itself. (Doctrine and Covenants 84:81-84)
So, maybe the point to this is that I've developed a bad habit of planning so much for the morrow, that I forget to enjoy the amazing things about today. Don't get me wrong! Planning, and even the occasional bout of worrying, is not in itself a bad thing. It's when such mental mapping traps me in my own woes or when it blinds me to the beauty of today that it becomes a weakness. When it feeds my fears, and not my faith, then it's time for the perspective to change. Life is a puzzle, and, like a jigsaw puzzle, we're not meant to keep all the individual pieces in mind all the time. Should we know what the big picture is and keep it as our goal? You bet. But, often, life -- like that jigsaw puzzle -- is about choosing a step and seeking out like pieces that will match and build the big picture that we're going for. Today is a puzzle piece, and tomorrow, all I have to do is find the next piece that matches it.