I live for every spare moment with my wife

Are other people unhappy in their marriages? Because I feel like some are. Perhaps this is an emotionally charged rant, but there is some truth in it. Maybe people have different relationships that work for them (or that they think work for them). But, here we go:

I don’t understand why everyone wants to plan things and invite me but not necessarily my wife. I’ve had people say to me “Well, why can’t you spend a little time without your wife? or “Why can’t you go do this crazy fun thing that’s not really fun to do with kids and isn’t easy to do with kids?” (ok, that’s not how they word it). 

My wife is my best friend. Therefore I spend as much time with her as possible (between kids and work this isn’t alot). I don’t just ditch her and play cause raising children is “women’s work” so I’m always going to want to figure out how to include her and probably the kids into whatever extra activities occur. 

I really appreciate my friends wanting me to come hang out with them, and I definitely want to, I just want to figure out how to include my best friend (my wife). 

People will do the same to my wife and ask her to leave and go and have girls nights or some  church-related activity 5 times a week (slight exaggeration). It’s not that I’m not willing to watch the kids, and I have done so that she can go do something. But people treat me and her  the same way. They look at us funny when we say “well, when I have time off I kind of like to spend it with my wife/husband.” 

This occurs more with single people. Having a life style where two people try to become one and share in all they do is a little foreign to them. I understand that. The concept is different and that’s ok that they don’t just automatically understand that (hopefully it’s less foreign after reading this blog post). I do sometimes feel that if we weren’t married, people wouldn’t think it so odd that we want to spend all this time together! As if it is less odd to want to spend every spare moment with a friend instead of your eternal companion! 

But so many others are married but they don’t seem to want to be around each other.

It’s like they don’t understand why I want to spend every spare moment I can with my wife. She’s my best friend. She’s the love of my life. They don’t seem to get it.

I can’t understand how people can have both husband and wife work different schedules and therefore never get to see each other. I don’t get how they can live like that. Time with my wife is one of those rewards of life that I value above all others. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t have friends. That doesn’t mean I don’t like spending time with them. But what it means is that my family members are my most important friends. And that’s ok.

I just wish people would accept the fact that since I want to spend time with my wife as much as I can that it does not mean I am a slave. It does not mean I am attached to a ball and chain. It doesn’t mean I don’t have freedom. It just means that I like her the most. It means that she is my favorite person to be with and if I can’t do things with my wife, then I’m not sure if I want to do them. I don’t think that I agree with the idea that husband and wife should have their own lives. Why the heck did you get married if you don’t want to be together? This might work for some, but often I just think people only think it’s working for them. Time will tell. 

Friends and family are all important. But my time is limited. And my best friend just spent all day with the crazy kids and I don’t know if I want to give up that almost one hour of one-on-one time with her. 

Just a little rant from Thomas. Peace, love, and all that jazz. 

Booyah!

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Just keep learning the craft

The third in my just keep series is in some ways an extension of “just keep reading” because part of “just keep learning the craft” is “just keep reading about writing” (lots of grammar, editing, and how-to books). It also involves experimentation and getting feedback.

This step is how you transition from just a writer to a writer that keeps getting better. This separates the on-their-ways from the wannabes. 

The easiest part of this is to incorporate a steady diet of “how to write” content. You don’t want to inhale it, and you don’t have to accept everything you read as gospel, but as you read about writing your brain will start to fill with good techniques and you will think more critically about your writing.

I’ve read a LOT of how-to content. A few writers and how-to’s that are great to start with are:

That doesn’t even scratch the surface (my gosh I’ve read so many!). You definitely want to learn the tense and point of view  (POV) you’ve picked to write in (if “third-person limited past” doesn’t make sense to you, you better get reading). The point is not to read 100 how to write books and/or make a checklist of things you must read/learn before you can write, the point is to develop a consist habit of learning the craft. Be journey minded, not destination minded (that advice is useful everywhere).

One other great thing is that I reach a point when I’m sick of reading about writing and I scramble to my computer to get out my own words. It builds up until I can’t wait any longer. Others might not get this effect, but I do.

On degrees and classes… I say beware spending money on something that you could get for free. You can learn online for free. And practice is more important than study and that’s free too. Practice is one of the greatest tools to learning, and you can’t throw money at writing and expect to get good without practice. And much that you could learn in college about writing you could learn online.

Degrees are great for creating an external force to make you write, but sheesh that’s some expensive motivation! Maybe you could just work on building a good habit, or join a writing group where you have to turn something in weekly (writing groups are great for this, and I’ll do a post on those soon).

My college experience was not the greatest. Much of what I learned I could have taught myself (I have an English degree). I had one class on grammar that was absolutely revolutionary, but apart from that, yuck.

The most important thing to get from this post is this: consistently read how-to content, experiment with new things often, and read your fiction with a critical eye. Over years, you will find the principles and methods which help you to be a greater writer.

Go forth and have no fear!

Booyah.

You can’t choose to be perfect on your own

We do not have the self-contained ability to be perfect. Does our agency give us the ability to be perfect? No. It might technically give us the option, but it does not give us the power nor the knowledge.

Could Peter have chosen not to doubt when he started to sink? Technically yes, but he didn’t. And I think he really couldn’t have. He is human. He is weak. His lack of strength made him lack the drive to choose perfect faith in that moment.

Christ, when he was born, was not complete nor perfect. But, he lacked all of our inherent weaknesses and had within him every possible strength. At least the strength of perfectly relying on God. And in that strength, he only made right choices.

You will make mistakes. Remember that because you are weak, a human, and NOT a God, mistakes are inevitable. As you rely on God and continue to strive to make better choices, you will be more able to avoid mistakes. But until you are perfect they will always be there. Not because you are wicked and malicious, but because you are human. There are moments when your agency will not be enough to overcome your frailty and you will do wrong.

You can build up strength now through prayer and effort to avoid some future mistakes, but the best strategy is to not let past mistakes bother you, instead use your energy to repair the damage and to prevent future errors.

My son, perhaps technically, has the right to choose to speak perfectly, but not the ability nor the knowledge. He has no external restriction placed upon him, only internal. 

We can’t just choose to be perfect. We can choose to rely on god, and then his knowledge and power will help us to slowly go through our metamorphosis. To use this cocoon of life and hardship, and to emerge as something greater.

Booyah!

Do you like or share without actually reading? 

Why do people “like” articles without reading them? They read the title, or see the featured meme, and just give it a like without knowing the full extent of what they have just promoted.

I had one blog post for which I used a cute meme for the featured image and I noticed that it got many more likes than the blog post where I simply posted a link alone without a picture. I think many, on first glance, thought I was only sharing a meme. And therefore liked it.

I was excited that so many had liked the last post, but I didn’t want them to like the cute cartoon, I wanted them to read the blog post! So I decided I’d rather have less interactions that are more meaningful. People don’t mistake it for a meme if the picture on my blog post has no words.

I don’t want my blog post to get shared through the like-osphere and never get actually read!

I fear that that happens a lot. People like and share articles based on the picture or title alone and most don’t read the article itself. This blog post about Bernie Sanders becoming president through a weird loophole talks all about this.

You can chart out a whole network of people who shared that article and only a tiny percentage read it. How many articles suffer the same fate?

Don’t be a shallow sharer. Share less. Read more. Think more. Social Media is shallow enough. Dive deep. Learn more. Then share only what is truly valuable.

Go forth and be epic!

Booyah.

How to keep working when you feel burned out

I have a theory that there are (at least) 2 types of work. This theory has been stewing in my head for a few months, and I’ve recently tried putting it into effect. I think it works for me!

The first type is more commonly known and understood. I’ll call it exhale work. It’s when you put forth outward work, expelling energy and effort out from within yourself to some external thing. Hammering in a nail, speaking on a phone call, or typing up a report are all forms of this exhale work.

But often I’ll have times where I have a super productive 4 hours and get a lot done, but dang I need a break! Even after a 15 minute break or a 30 minute lunch, my brain is still sore.

So what do I do? I can’t just take the rest of the day off. That next report is due soon! It’s like I’ve just let out a very long breath and now I need to breath in!

The same can happen with creative work. You can only output so much before you need more input. And you can only breath in (read or watch shows) so much before you have to breath out again (write/create).

That creative analogy holds the key. I can’t have my output be writing fiction and my input is eating a sandwich (that had a very different output). Therefore I can’t expect to output research reports if my input is a YouTube video.

Now legitimate breaks have their time and place (hey man, I didn’t say the breathing metaphor was perfect). Sometimes you need to be not working at all (that’s why it’s the law to have two 15 minute breaks and one  30 minute lunch in a standard 8 hour work day), but I’m talking about something else. I’m talking about eating calories before you output physical effort. I’m talking about reading the minutes before planning the next meeting, I’m talking about casually reviewing your boss’s comments on your report before revising it.

I’m talking about inputting the raw data into myself, in a calm and stress-free fashion, with no thought of output but only thought of input. 

It’s the type of work that keeps you at the station, it uses less energy as you’re trying to recover, and it helps you keep your momentum, like jogging or walking for a few minutes when you are out on a long run.

You have to know the difference between inhale work, exhale work, a break, and a false progress activity.

The other day I thought I was doing a type of inhale work but was really doing a false progress activity. I was working on one report and didn’t want to use my brain, so I decided to just make tons of charts to “get started.” It took me hours. It turns out that when I make a conscious and strategic decision of how to present all of the data (what to not include at all, what to mention in a simple sentence, and what to put in a chart) that the work is harder mentally, but much shorter. I make real progress on outputting the report.

I have to make sure that my working breaks are motivated by exhaustion rather than laziness. When I try to be lazy, I waste time making fifty charts when I only needed ten. And if I needed some inhale work? I should have just read the unfiltered data and wrote the report later.

So, when you’ve been outputting a lot and you feel like you need to breath, the breath. Find what the intake when is for that task, and do it. If you need a break, take it. Trying to output all the time will kill you. You’ve got to breath in.

Now for me, and I am writing this at 11:16 at night, which is late for a dad. And I need a break break before I can exhale any more life.

Booyah!

Picking the right philosophy to solve your problems

I find that we humans sometimes become obsessed with philosophies that we think will help us overcome our flaws or that are the opposite of our weaknesses. We find the exact opposite of our reality and repeat it like a mantra. Sometimes, this works!

But have you ever found yourself repeating a mantra that doesn’t work? The problem persists? More often than not, we pick philosophies that only sound like the solution, but in actual practice they don’t work.

Sometimes you just have to keep striving and the philosophy will help you. Just because something takes a while to work doesn’t mean it’s wrong. But, sometimes you’re backing the wrong horse. Sometimes you’re trying a philosophy that really won’t help you.

I’ll use myself as an example. For years I felt powerless over certain weaknesses and habits and I sought a way to overcome them. Many talk about how you should “man up!” or “just do it!” or “pick yourself up by your bootstraps!” (a physical impossibility, you need something to push off of to pick yourself up, all you’ll do is tighten your boots if you follow that advice!). They say that by throwing agency and willpower at problems that you can conquer anything! You can be anything that you want! Like in the poem below. I once had it memorized and repeated it thousands of time. Hoping that it would give me strength:

Invictus
by William E. Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may
for my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

Sounds awesome right? Sounds epic? How many memes and songs are out there today that are all about “Look at the awesomeness of me! I can do anything!”

Well, the poem didn’t fix me. I fell prey to the same weaknesses over and over again. Anger. Selfishness. A desire to consume entertainment and mental stimulation to excess. I was powerless to break my habits.

Thomas S. Monson (one of my Church’s leaders) said: “It is a great poem. It places upon the individual the responsibility for what he does with his life… But on the other hand, it may sound arrogant and conceited in terms of the Atonement.”

I learned over time that I couldn’t overcome my flaws by agency alone. That poem didn’t give me power. Why not? Why couldn’t I “man” myself out of my weaknesses? After some new understanding, I found this other poem which was written as a response to Invictus:

The Soul’s Captain
by Orson F. Whitney

Art thou in truth the master of thy fate?
The captain of thy soul?
Then what of him
who bought thee with his blood?
Who plunged into devouring seas
and snatched thee from the raging flood?

Who bore for all our fallen race
what none but him could bear–
the God who died that man might live,
and endless glory share?

Of what avail thy vaunted strength,
Apart from his vast might?
Pray that his Light
may pierce the gloom,
that thou might see aright.

Men are as bubbles on the wave,
as leaves upon the tree,
O’ captain of thy soul, explain!
Who gave that place to thee?

Free will is thine–free agency,
To wield for right or wrong;
But thou must answer unto him
To whom all souls belong.

Bend to the dust thy head “unbowed,”
small part of Life’s great whole!
And see in him, and him alone,
The Captain of thy soul.

Whether you are religious or not, the example works. Both poems are used as a solution to a flaw: feeling powerless to overcome weakness. One says grit your teeth and be tough, the other says use your agency to rely on something more powerful than yourself. You need someone/something to help lift you.

I had felt powerless that I chanted “I’m powerful!” a thousand times. But now I know that I am powerless. And only through the surrender of my will and my life to God do I find power.

Now, by switching philosophies, I have made much more progress with my flaws. I’m not perfect, and don’t expect to be anytime soon. But when I encounter a weakness, I surrender the battle with it to God. I bend with the wind, letting it pass over me, letting God take care of it. And the wind doesn’t break me nearly as often.

Not my will. His will. Not my glory. His glory. Not my battle. His battle. Let go and let God.

There are others that I see chanting their mantras such as miserable people who say “Do only what makes you happy and you alone.”

Those who have hurt others that say “If it’s in the past it doesn’t matter, accept what everyone does, have no expectations” and say nothing of the need for repentance, forgiveness, and restitution for harm done.

Those who are promiscuous and say “This lifestyle makes me happy” yet end up wondering why they are so sad and lonely.

Likely the greatest and the most harmful is the modern philosophy: “To follow your impulses with no restraint is freedom” and those who repeat that often learn too late that following impulses alone with no control leads to a life of slavery to addiction and to habit, with no friends or loved ones, broken and weak. Lonely and alone.

If you take a hard look at yourself, past the lies you tell yourself, you might find that the mantra or philosophy you keep repeating isn’t yielding the results you want. You might see that you need to double your efforts and persevere, you might see that you misunderstand the philosophy you are repeating, or you might see that you are trying to implement a philosophy that just won’t work. The philosophy is either a lie, or a half-truth.

Good luck! Keep trying, or give it up!

Booyah.