Saturday, January 19, 2019

Partake - A Year of PG or Less

My one word for 2018 (in place of New Year's resolutions) was Partake.  I expected my year to be focused on truly monitoring what I let into my soul - body and spirit.  Filtering out the bad, inviting more of the good.

I'd say I had moderate success.  I didn't do well with the physical.  I didn't do well cleaning up my diet and focusing on other healthy behaviors I've let slip (like sleep and water).

I didn't do well on time management.  I didn't cut down significantly on Netflix and such.

However, I did really well at filtering out the entertainment that doesn't fit my value system.  There are books, TV shows, movies, and music I partook of before that I wouldn't really want to admit to.  Not because the world considers them inappropriate, but because I do.  They were the literal definition of guilty pleasures.

The simplest way I found to bring my behaviors and beliefs into accord was to cut out all entertainment that would be rated higher than PG.

Not everything is rated.  Books aren't rated, but many of them would be beyond PG if they were.  Music isn't screened well at all.  Old movies are often not rated.

With music, I just cut out anything with swearing or sex.  With everything else, whenever I found myself wanting to partake of something that wasn't rated, I did a little homework.

With books, I asked the people who read them, if I could.  Right now I only read for book club, so I just asked someone who read ahead of me.  That worked well.  I only had to filter one or two of them out.

I used IMDb to judge movies and TV shows.  If a show didn't seem to have a rating, I scrolled down to a section called Certificate and clicked on See all certifications.  This showed me how it was rated in other countries.  I looked at the ratings from Australia and the United Kingdom, sometimes others.  If they were under 13, I called it approved.  I also read the Parents Guide.  These helped a lot.

The trouble came when IMDb and Netflix had conflicting ratings.  Like with Merlin.  On IMDb it's TV-PG; on Netflix it's TV-14.  I watched many episodes before I found out it was TV-14 on Netflix.  Then I pondered a long time.  It's a series I've watched a couple times.  As far as I could guess, the only thing that might push it to TV-14 is the witchcraft, that gets a little more intense in the later seasons.  But it still wasn't something that went beyond my sensitivities.  In the end, I stopped watching it.  Not because I don't think it's okay for me, but because it was my goal to not watch beyond PG for the year, and I wanted to stay as true to that as I could.

There were a lot of shows that are TV-14 that I think are okay, but I didn't watch.  There were also some that were PG that I wasn't okay with, like Charmed (lots of casual sex).  Luckily, I had many options I love - like all the Star Treks (except Discovery, which . . . let's just not go there) and Doctor Who.  Most SciFi TV before 2000 is fine.  I also watched some shows from years ago that I didn't watch when they first aired, like Sabrina the Teenage Witch.  And I explored a lot of teen and kids shows and found some gems, like Wolfblood and Gravity Falls.

It was a little tough at the beginning of the year.  I wasn't watching R-rated or TV-MA before anyway, so it wasn't a huge jump.  But once in a while I'd want to watch something I thought was okay and find it wasn't.  And it was tough when the new Fantastic Beasts came out and was rated PG-13.  And it was especially tough during Octoboween, when I usually watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, both beyond my limit.

But, overall, it was a great year.  I was happier.  My soul was lighter.  I felt more clean.  And less self-reproaching.  I'm really glad I did it and that I stuck to it.

I've been debating how I want things to change or stay the same now that the year is over.  I've decided I'll mostly maintain my current status.  I'll mostly stay away from PG-13 and TV-14, unless it's something I know is clean.  I have a much better knowledge of what I'm sensitive to now and feel I can be honest with myself and take care of myself by filtering accordingly.

I watched my first TV-14 show yesterday - The West Wing.  There was a bit more swearing than I remember, but I think it was just the episodes I chose.  I'm going to give it a few more tries before I write it off again.  And I WILL be seeing Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald before too long.

Beyond that, I just don't know yet.  I've learned a lot.  I'll play it by ear - or by heart, I guess.

Friday, December 29, 2017

2018 One Word - Partake

Choosing one word for the year is an interesting thing.  I always think I know how it will play out, but it always surprises me.  I'm sure this will be the same.

It often starts with a feeling.  I get a sense of what I need to focus on.  Sometimes a clear word.  Sometimes just an ethereal idea.  After pondering on it for a while, usually several days, I settle on the word.  Always a bit before the end of the year.  I've known my word for next year for a few weeks now.

And when I choose a new word, I tend to start changing my life to fit it, even before January first.  Can't help it.

This year's word is PARTAKE.  As usual, I have a very clear feel for what it will be, even if I can't quite say it. 

The first word that came to mind was consume, then consumption.  It was an idea that I needed to be more aware of what I take into my mind and body.  Consume was so completely not the right word, and consumption made me feel like I was in the 1800s with some disease.  I had to work on it for a bit.

But partake is so totally the right word.  It's not about devouring something.  It's about accepting something.  It has a spiritual feel to it.  It helped me flesh out my view for the year.

It's both about not partaking in something unhealthy for me and choosing to partake of things that are.  The duality of that might not be obvious.  But I can choose not to partake of certain negative things and go on my merry way without too much change.  When I'm presented with good options/opportunities, I need to partake of those.

See?  It's totally clear in my heart but tough to communicate.

I've already started to prepare and to put it into practice.  It's very compelling, this year's word.

In a simple and obvious way, I've whittled down my viewing and music choices.  I already leaned on the less adult side.  I already limited my movies to PG-13 and my TV to TV-14.  This cut out so much objectionable stuff.  (For me.  Let me be clear - this is about my tolerance, not a judgment on anyone else.)  But there's still so much that I'm not proud of, that I know isn't good for me, but I was hesitant to get rid of because I like it.

I've gone through Netflix (where I do almost all my viewing) and cleared everything from my queue that's rated more than PG.  I've also cut out some things that are PG but with content I know isn't in accordance with this plan.

I've created a new music playlist without swearing and without sex.  I already had a pretty clean selection, but once in a while I had a song I wouldn't play around other people's children.  I figure that's a pretty good indicator.

These seemed to be a good place to start, easy to discern. 

I tend to be porous, picking up on the emotions of people around me.  Not just aware of them, but carrying them, whether I want to or not.  Until now, I didn't make the connection that I have that same experience with the media I partake of.  It soaks into me in much the same way, whether I want it to or not.  I believe these changes will help lighten my soul.

But it's not just about making better choices about what I consume.  It's also about how much.  And when.  And so many other things.

And as I've begun to put it into motion, without really trying, I've found interesting thoughts cross my mind.  When I was disappointed with something and wanted to be critical, I paused.  We live in a society that seems to relish complaints, criticism, and sarcasm.  They're easy to throw around.  But when I paused I heard these words in my mind - "Partake of positivity."

I found it very intriguing.  When I stop myself from complaining or criticizing, I've always thought of it as an outward thing.  I'm doing this to them, for them.  I'm stopping negative feelings and expression from leaving me and going to the other person.  But in that moment I saw it from a different perspective.  Partaking of positivity, inviting that into my heart, stops the rest.  It strengthens me, lifts me.  It's not that I stop myself from saying or doing anything negative, because that just goes away.  It's just gone.

I know I'm not explaining this very well.  It makes sense to me.  I hope it makes a little sense to you.  And I hope I can observe and document it a bit better this year, so I can share it with you as I go along.

Do you have a word for 2018?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Year of Purpose in Review

It's time to look back on the last year and how my One Word has played out.  For 2017 that word was PURPOSE.

In anticipation, I expected I would approach things with purpose.  That I would more consciously choose what I did and choose things that had a real purpose.  A purpose of value.  That instead of running around putting out fires, which my life has so often been, I would take a breath and choose.  I would ponder, if only for a minute, what was the proper use of my time and energy.  And that did happen.  Some.

But often it played out differently.  I had something I wanted to do or needed to do and tried to find a deeper purpose in it.  I need to go to the library to pick up a book for my daughter.  But what is the greater purpose for this.  My daughter is currently house bound.  I'm going to the library as an act of service.  I am doing something for her that she can't currently do for herself.  There were many instances of that.

Or I tried to give something purpose.  I'm going for a run.  This run is to build my running base.  Or I dedicate these miles to a friend who is struggling.  Things such as this.

But most often it happened in the middle of something I was doing.  I'm on hour three of a Netflix binge.  Why?  What is my purpose for spending so much time this way?  It's an effort to avoid the struggles of my life.  It's an attempt to dull the things I'm feeling that I don't want to feel.  It's a weird way I can feel like I'm accomplishing something, as I check episodes off.  There was way more of this type of analysis than usual.

I'm big on examining my motivation for things.  But this was a bit different.  Looking for a purpose.  And asking myself if my purpose was a healthy one.  Was it good for me?  Did it serve a larger purpose?  What general direction were these choices taking me, and did that lead to my bigger purpose?  To the broader goals, the long-term goals, I have for myself.

I can honestly say I sometimes did well with this and sometimes didn't.  Finding out what my purpose for doing something was sometimes stopped me in my tracks and made me change direction.  Other times not so much.

I think this one will stick with me.  And it leads well into 2018's word.  Coming soon.

Monday, February 13, 2017

2017 - A Year of Purpose

Seriously?!  Where did January go?  This right here is exactly why I needed my word of the year to be PURPOSE.

Long story short, I choose one word each year.  Lots of thought and prayer goes into my decision.  And then I try to let that word guide my year.  I never know how it's going to play out; there are always interesting surprises.

My word for 2017 is purpose.

It can be tough to explain why I choose the word I do.  Sometimes it's totally clear.  Other times it's pretty ethereal.  Usually writing it out helps.  Let's see what happens this time.

People who know me, people who are close to me, know my life is never boring.  That's the nice way to put it.  My life is often quite complicated and difficult.  There are so many areas of my life that go nuts on a regular basis like a drop of water on a hot, greased skillet.

I often feel like I'm dancing on a moving floor.  Things are rarely predictable.  Try as I might, I rarely feel like I have my footing.  Like I'm running my own life.

But it's been worse lately.  My life has definitely been running me.  A lot!  Flinging me around like a dog with a rag doll in its teeth.  And I feel it.

I've spent way too much time lately feeling in tatters.  Like my dress is shredded, I'm missing a shoe, and one of my eyes is hanging loosely from the socket.  (Still a rag doll metaphor.  Not blood and gore.)

I'm running around putting out fires.  I'm doing this or that because I HAVE to.  I'm the flotsam and jetsam on the ocean, flung wherever the waves take me.

It's not a happy way to live.  It's not peaceful at all.  And peace is always my main goal for my life.

So as I pondered my word, my heart went this direction.  Just as a feeling.  A sense of what I wanted.  But without the words.  And then the word came.  Purpose.  I need purpose.

It's not that I need purpose in my life, overall.  I have that.  I have oodles of that.

I need purpose in the moments.  In the days.  In the plans.  In the relationships.  In the decisions of my life.

I need to steer my life.

We're two weeks into February.  I wanted to write this on January first.  Guess how well I'm doing so far.

I do have moments.  I've chosen to dedicate my runs (or hikes or whatever) to people in my life.  Once in a while, someone will be on my mind and in my heart.  So I take them with me when I run.  Not always, but frequently.  When the run gets hard, I remember whom I'm running for and why.  Usually gratitude floods over me in that moment.  How blessed I am that I can run!

And there've been other moments.  Moments I remember to stop.  Think.  Choose.

But not nearly enough.

Today was kind of an over-the-top kind of day.  I was slammed on all sides.  Stress.  Stress.  A little more stress.  Some anxiety.  And how about some STRESS?  Some irrational demands.  Some innocent demands hitting on top of everything else.  Text.  Text.  Text.  Phone call.  Phone call.  Phone call.  Request.  Request.  Request.  All day long.  And some gut-wrenching struggles for people I love, people I need to take care of.

I was not in control for much of the day.  And then I was.  And it was better.

And tomorrow it will start all over again.

Lots of opportunities for growth.  Lots of chances to find my purpose.

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Year of Run

What an interesting year 2016 was.  So many changes in my life.  So many tough things, some of which got better, others which got worse.

But a very important thing happened in 2016.  Something I never expected.  Something that kind of sneaked up on me.  Something that's changed me for the rest of my life.

In 2016, I became a runner.

In a nutshell, I'd been unhealthy for years.  All kinds of medical struggles.  They weren't dangerous, just life-inhibiting.  In 2014 some things changed in my life which improved my physical and mental health.  More changes happened in 2015, which enabled me to begin walking.  Really walking.  For miles and miles and miles.  With zero intention of running.  Zero desire to run.

Until my third 5k.  I'd done my first one entirely walking, except those last 20 yards; gotta push across the finish line, right?  My second one, I added just a little running here and there.  Basically just enough to beat my time from my first one.  By the time I got to my third one, I knew I'd have to run a significant amount to improve my time.  This was all in the summer and fall of 2015.

I think I ran about a third of that last one - run until you can't breathe, walk until your heart stops pounding to the point you think it will explode, repeat.  It was incredibly difficult.  I couldn't walk the few blocks home, because I'd injured myself by pushing so hard.  And I remember thinking in that moment, "I want to run!"

It took several months of resting a little, going back to it too soon, injuring myself again before I really took healing myself seriously.

At the end of 2015, a year of HEALing, it was time to choose a new word.  I don't do New Year's resolutions.  I choose one word.  One word to guide my year.  Sometimes it's a lot of work to choose my word.  I have so many ideas run through my head.  Several of them would fit.  God and I have to talk it over for a while before I settle on one.

Last year wasn't like that.  I immediately knew what I wanted.  I wanted RUN.  I wanted to run!  But I fought it.  It seemed like such a narrow focus.  How could it possibly govern my year?  How could it affect my spiritual life?  How could I use it to govern my relationships?  How shallow a word was that to choose?!

But when I took it to God, He said it was perfect!  I still didn't know how it would play out, but I trusted it would.

It did.

I ran.

I am a runner.

Let me say that again - I AM A RUNNER!

I don't run fast or far, but I run.  And I love it!  I never, ever thought about running before.  In fact, I mocked my friends who ran.  Why would I torture myself like that?  But then I did it.

Running makes me feel powerful.  Running makes me feel cleansed.  Running makes me feel free.  Running makes me feel alive!  Running is and does so many things.

In years past, when I've reviewed my year through the eyes of that One Word, I've looked at the ways it had an impact on all those individual areas of my life.  When I chose RUN as my word, I expected to look back and see how I let it inspire me to RUN to Jesus or RUN to or from this or that.  But it didn't.  And I've learned something.

I've learned that God doesn't compartmentalize.  I do.  I'm the one who sees my physical health, emotional health, financial health, relational health, mental health, spiritual health, etc. separately.  God sees me.

I've learned that any progress in a positive direction is spiritual progress.  Because everything is spiritual.  I am a spiritual being, so my entire life experience is spiritual.

Progress in a positive direction makes me more whole.  Running makes me more whole.  God knew that.  And He knew that it was good.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

My Bipolar Self

I don't know where my baseline is.

I want to be as close to stable as possible.  But what's the real me?

Is the real me on the lower, more calm part of the spectrum?  If so, is every up day an anomaly that isn't really me and something I shouldn't be chasing?

Are the up days me, and should I fight the down days to swim my way back up?

How up can I get and still be normal before I'm into hypomania?  Or is that very up state that I see as hypomania where I am meant to be and I need to strive to be there?

If I find a medication that takes me to that higher state, should I find a way to incorporate it into my daily life?  If not, because the fact that it requires medication is a sign of a false high, what does that say about the mood stabilizer I take each day to keep me out of the pits?

And if they are all the real me, as I sense they are, how do I ever find balance?

How do I know what to strive for?  When to reach for the more up place?  When to settle in to what is in the moment?

How do I find peace in who I am when who I am is always in such a state of flux?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Preparing for Battle - A PTSD Plan

A little personal journaling as I process through my current PTSD episode --

The world is at war.  Every day is a battle.  You can choose to meet that with peace, but it will take work.  You must strengthen yourself every day.

Daily (preferably morning) -
  *  half hour meditation
  *  one General Conference talk
  *  one verse of scripture

Practice these for one week.  Assess daily.

See how you feel after a week.  Do you feel stronger and better able to live in peace amidst the war?

Right now I don't feel strong.  I don't want to be on the defensive all the time, just waiting for the attack, so that I'll be ready.  But I've worried that if I weren't on the defensive, the attack would come anyway and blindside me, as has happened so often in the past.  I would be knocked down hard.  Painful and bloody.  In the past, I've always thought that to protect myself I had to be hard.  Being hard is being strong.

But I know that's the emotionally immature form of strength.  True strength is soft.  Gentle.  Kind.  It comes from sure footing in oneself that grounds you in who you are.  You can stand immovable without being a brick wall.