Sunday, September 30, 2012

"are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?"

Dear readers,

I am not Dria. Sorry about that. Just thought I should get it out in the open before you start expecting cute drawings or adorable crochet projects. Maybe I'll show you some more cute drawings of my own, but that's not why I'm writing today.

I'm writing today to get some things of my chest and to give you all a little insight to my personal life. I tend to be a very open person, but I've been struggling a lot lately with some more of my myriad brain problems, and I usually like to keep those under the carpet so people don't think I'm as crazy as I really am. Today, however, you get the pleasure of peering into the mind of a man who thinks way too much and gets himself into mental trouble because of it.

My dad has mentioned that I have some genetic disposition to some form of OCD (from my mom's side of the family, of course, of course). Personally, I think I have a strong disposition to hypochondria, so naturally I started noticing just how obsessive and compulsive I really am as soon as I learned about my disposition toward it. I've recently been diagnosed (self-diagnosed, maybe?) with anxiety, and have started taking medicine for it (oddly enough, it is almost the opposite of what my ADD medicine does...). I'm starting to wonder if I'm really as crazy as I think I am, or if I've just thought myself into a psychological corner and now I'm trying to get out.

One ray of illumination struck me this morning as I watched this Mormon Message, extracted from this talk by Elder Christofferson. The first thing that struck me was the idea that Heavenly Father has a specific plan for me, and that my own goals may conflict with what I'm actually meant to become. That was what inspired me to go on from the Mormon Message to read the actual talk that it came from (yeah, I just dangled that participle; what're you gonna do about it?). As I read, well, first of all, my heart was filled with the Spirit. I did start my personal study with a prayer, after all, and I actually wanted to know what Heavenly Father had to tell me. This attitude is really what lead to my second discovery, which came, however indirectly, from the following quote (taken from that same talk, obviously):
Our Heavenly Father is a God of high expectations. His expectations for us are expressed by His Son, Jesus Christ, in these words: “I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Nephi 12:48). He proposes to make us holy so that we may “abide a celestial glory” (D&C 88:22) and “dwell in his presence” (Moses 6:57). He knows what is required, and so, to make our transformation possible, He provides His commandments and covenants, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and most important, the Atonement and Resurrection of His Beloved Son.  
In all of this, God’s purpose is that we, His children, may be able to experience ultimate joy, to be with Him eternally, and to become even as He is. Some years ago Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained: “The Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.”1
Maybe as you read those paragraphs, you learned something completely different from what I learned. Good! That means you're listening to the Spirit, which is teaching you something you need to know, which is clearly going to be something different from what I needed to know. Remember that; there will be a quiz on it after class.

What I learned as I read this comes down to a few simple truths:

  1. Christ's commandment to be perfect isn't an impossible standard. It is a pronouncement of our divine design and destiny.
  2. God knows what each of us individually needs to do to reach that potential.
  3. Going to church and listening to talks on Sunday alone isn't going to do me any good at all; allowing the Spirit to change my heart as I carefully listen to the Lord's personal instructions to me while I attend church will.
  4. It's more important for me to listen to the Spirit, ponder, and allow my heart to change than it is to accomplish any given tasks, assignments, or even commandments that come from the gospel or the Church.
That last point was a real zinger for me. Blame it on video games, OCD, or the fact that my parents gave us our allowance according to the number of check marks we had on our daily job list, I have developed an extremely task-oriented approach to life. Possibly my greatest sense of accomplishment comes from having a lot of check marks on my Google Calendar, or getting a maximum number of chores done in a Saturday morning. I love feeling like I'm getting a lot done! I feel lazy if I only accomplish one or two things in a day, no matter how important those things may have been. Turns out this may not be the right approach to life, though, dangit.

I recently participated in a tournament on, a wonderful community of comic-style artists who help each other improve their art, storytelling, and character design skills by challenging each other to comic "battles" and then rating each other on each comic produced. I love the growth that comes from this site, and the challenge of becoming a little better each time I compete. My wife, however, gets the short end of the stick. Because of how task-oriented I am, for each of the three rounds of this tournament before I finally quit (because I just couldn't be defeated for some reason), I was so obsessed with finishing my comic that I allowed my wife to become an innocent bystander in my grand scheme. Instead of being the focus of my life (which she is), I allowed her to be a passenger in my wild ride to fame and fortune as a comic-drawing fiend. To any men who may be reading this: YOUR WIFE IS THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS IN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE! NEVER LET ANYTHING ELSE BECOME MORE IMPORTANT THAN SHE IS!

Let me clarify: Dria is, has been, and always will be, the most important part of my life. Even though I spent so much time drawing that she started feeling abandoned, I never believed that comics were actually more important than her. My problem was being too task-oriented to realize how badly my priorities matched the way I actually spent my time.

So now we arrive back at my original point: after reading just the first five and a half paragraphs of this talk (here it is again for those of you who forgot), my heart was changed completely. I realized that no matter what I do with my life, if I'm only doing things to get them done, I'll never really be happy. To be happy, I need to let go of my obsession with to-do lists and check marks, and I need to embrace becoming instead of just doing. I spent over 30 minutes reading those first five and a half paragraphs, pondering them, writing notes to myself (one reason I love doing personal study on, and praying for personal revelation. I learned more, brethren and sistren, from those five and a half paragraphs, than I've learned from any single personal study in the past month, at least. The reason? Quality over quantity. Mind over matter. Becoming rather than doing. Esse quam videre.

From now on, instead of breathing away my days in idle busyness, I will take time to ponder, to question, to learn, to think, and, most importantly, to become what my Father knows I can be.

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