Aligning with my previous encouragement to own your life, I believe the life best lived is the life fully lived, regardless of your circumstances. That’s why on occasion I’ll be dedicating a post on this blog to one of the four main life areas that I call the spirit, the heart, the mind, and the body.
Today I’m going straight to the heart, and I’m not talking Bryan Adams. I’m talking Schoolhouse Rock, or Schoolhouse Rock Live! to be more precise.
The heart deals with the social aspect of life and especially the relationships we have with other people in our lives. I regularly make time every so often to give attention to the important relationships in my life. A couple of weeks ago, I thought it'd be good to do something with my sister and her oldest boy. They live by Boise, so I took my four-year-old nephew and my sister to see the Musical Theater of Idaho production of Schoolhouse Rock Live!
What I thought of the show
You can read a more expansive critique of Schoolhouse Rock Live! on my personal website. But here’s some highlights if that's not your deal.
There was no real story. The play is simply a string of loosely connected Schoolhouse Rock songs. Normally I would find that unforgivable. In this case, I have so many fond memories of eagerly anticipating and then enjoying my childhood Saturday morning ritual [yes, I know that totally dates me] that I find myself overlooking a very glaring defect.
Apparently most of the audience had similar memories. I estimated about 100 (possibly 120 but no more) people in the makeshift auditorium. And (surprising to me) no more than 10, including my nephew, were children. But it was also a Thursday showing. That may have had something to do with it.
Yes, the auditorium was very makeshift. Two portable loudspeakers sat at each side of a rectangular opening in a school gymnasium with a slanted roof of corrugated sheet metal.
My nephew's experience
My nephew sat with me and his mother. Occasionally I would look over at him to see if he was enjoying the show. He had trouble seeing the stage during the first half. During the intermission, I took a walk with him to get his wiggles out of him. When we got back to our seats, I offered to move over so that he could have my seat. He saw the stage much better and seemed to enjoy himself more.
I also tried to get him involved by clapping with the music and performing hand gestures when appropriate. He seemed a little slow to follow along, but eventually he got into the spirit. As we left the building after the performance, he wanted to hold my hand so he didn’t slip on the icy parking lot. He thanked me along with his mother as he got into the car. I think enjoyed his evening even though he didn’t get one of the huge cookies he wanted during intermission.
Make time for relationships that matter
It wasn’t a huge thing, but when it comes to relationships with the people that matter most, it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to be real and often.
What relationships in your life matter most to you? Don’t focus so much on the one relationship you don’t have that you overlook the relationships you do have. Find a way to spend some quality time with one person in your life. That could be a sibling, a parent, a grandparent, a cousin, or a good friend. Whatever it is, take action to make that relationship stronger. Life is much richer when filled with strong, loving relationships.
Last week I wrote about our need to reformat and reboot ourselves. We need new habits will automatically guide us to act in ways that lead to the life we want without any need for us to think about it.
But replacing our current habits with those new habits requires us to dig deeper within ourselves. What exactly does that mean?
A five-step process
If your life seems miserable and depressing, you can transform it into one filled with joy and satisfaction. That doesn’t necessarily mean getting married, although it could. And it doesn’t matter whatever happened to you in your past. You can transcend your challenges such that they no longer challenge you. Just follow five steps:
Let’s talk about each one of these steps in a bit more detail.
First, you must examine the role that habits play in your life. After all, this is how you were designed to operate.
Also, various cultural forces have influenced you as you created your habits. Once you understand that, you can begin to replace bad instructions with good ones — better ones based on the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Take a step back
Once you understand how things work, you need to separate yourself from yourself. This means learning how to see yourself as much as possible just as someone completely unconnected to you would see you.
Many people, single or married, do not have much self-awareness. Acquiring it requires you, among others things, to live in the moment, to question your assumptions, and to shake things up in your life.
Assess the situation
Separating yourself from yourself places you in a better position to assess your situation more objectively. That increases your probability of finding the real root cause of your problem.
Another part of that assessment is knowing what you can change and what you cannot. You also need a good map that faithfully represents the terrain of LDS singles life, including the real rules to the dating game.
Dig deep enough to get to the root
Digging deep enough means getting to the core naked truth about your situation.
That's not an easy task. Most people routinely avoid looking at the truth. And most people don’t have very fulfilling lives.
If you want a life filled with joy and significance, then you need to accept the hard task of facing your truth. And you need to keep pursuing answers to your questions until you have them.
Take out the tools you need and remove it
At this point, the only thing left is to do the actual work of removal. That means getting the tools you need and using them.
The most useful tool in your kit will probably be courage. It takes courage to face your truth and to see yourself in an unflattering light. It takes courage to run against the herd.
But it's also well worth it. Only then can you become truly free from the pain and anguish of a disillusioned life. That freedom will empower you to embrace the true you that will shine in the darkness. You can live life consciously. You can become all you're meant to become. You can fulfill the mission you were meant to complete.
Do something to change an unwanted life
We're all different, so the proper application of these steps will vary from individual to individual. But we're all also the same, which means that no matter what specific steps each of us needs to take, those steps will follow the same pattern.
This is the essence of my book about LDS singles life. Of course, the book contains many more details, so you will want to get it when it becomes available. I have begun working with an editor who will help me bring the text into “final” form, so stay tuned for more news as this project develops.
And of course we'll be discussing those details from the book and many connected items here in this blog. If you don’t have the life you want, you can make changes that will lead you to the life you want. You just need to have enough faith to take that first step into the darkness. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s not an oncoming train. It’s the other side of the mountain!
Sometimes the renewal we need requires us to dig deeper.
When my computer doesn’t work right, I try restarting it. If the problem persists, I look for a virus. If I find one early enough, I remove the offending file. However, if the virus has corrupted the operating system, I first have to reformat the hard drive and then reboot. This operation replaces everything, erasing all my data and then restoring fresh code as though the machine were brand new.
In a similar manner, many of us singles need to reformat and reboot ourselves. Our operating system is filled with so much bad code — misperceptions, faulty beliefs, cultural perspectives, and other influences based upon erroneous ideas, defunct ways of thinking, failed paradigms — that we cannot live life effectively.
If your life operating system is corrupted, then your life will leave you frustrated or depressed (and very often both). But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Get to the root
Mark Twain once said, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” You must consider that some of what you have always thought was true may in fact be false. Otherwise, you can’t depend on your eyes to see the whole problem, especially if the root of your problem lies in an erroneous belief.
In 1833, the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph, “And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God” (D&C 98:11).
That is exactly what reformatting is, taking out all that is bad and replacing it only with good. And that bad is not just in what you say and do. It is also in how you think and perceive the world around you.
Now if you're thinking you don't need this because you've been keeping the standards of the Church and honoring your covenants and all that good stuff, I got two words for you.
If you don’t reformat and reboot yourself, I guarantee you will simply follow the programming contained in your habits and keep having the life you have now.
Why do I say that? Your brain is biologically hardwired to follow instructions, much like a computer. Most of your beliefs, erroneous or not, operate in the background. You act on them without thinking about or realizing what you're really doing.
If you don’t have the life you want, then you need to change what you're doing. Period. Insanity is expecting to get different results while doing the same things over and over again. And doing things differently means thinking differently, both about yourself and the world around you.
That means reformatting and rebooting yourself.
If you can’t see the way out of a life filled with despair and anguish, it's not because there's no way out. There is a way out. So if you can’t see the way out, it must be because erroneous ideas unduly influence how you're seeing the world . That’s why you first have to understand how false ideas cloud your vision. That’s why you have to reformat and reboot.
Peaches are not apples
If you want to eat apples, then planting peach trees is not the best idea. Not that there's anything wrong with peaches. They make great pie and cobbler, and peaches are excellent with pepperoni on pizza! But peaches aren’t apples, so if you want to eat apples, plant apple seeds.
That truth may seem obvious, but few singles actually apply it to their lives. When we find our lives are not the apples we wanted, we rarely ask, “What seeds did we plant?” Far too often we instead play the victim and assign blame outside ourselves.
But if we dug deep enough within our own selves, we would see our habits are so riddled with bad instructions that left alone those habits will continue to deliver us undesired results, just like a computer operating on faulty source code.
The way to fix yourself is the way to fix that computer. You need to reformat and reboot.
You need new instructions — more effective habits — so that you'll automatically choose to act in ways that lead to the life you want without thinking about it.
How do you do that? Well, that’s what next week is for! :)
People reflect upon their lives at the start of a new year. Singles who don’t really want to be single usually bemoan their substandard reality. That can be true of anyone, single or married, whose life hasn’t turned out according to plan.
I planned on being married by my late 20s at the latest. But after almost two decades since my mission, I’m just as single as I was when I stepped off the plane that brought me home. So, yeah, I can relate to plans not exactly working out.
Many surrender to discouragement and even disillusionment when their reality consistently falls below expectations. They tell themselves that someone else is to blame for their plan not working out.
I got three words if this describes you in any way. Own your life.
You make your reality
When you focus on what lies outside your power to control, you give away your control to those people and areas outside of yourself. As I point out in my upcoming book, your focus becomes your reality. So when you focus on what you don’t have, you will always feel lacking. When you focus on how other people never choose in your favor, you will always feel down on your luck. Stuck in that focus long enough, you will eventually feel cheated.
Don’t like your reality? Change your focus. That starts by owning your life. That means looking inside yourself and taking responsibility for how your life has turned out. That means accepting the truth about why you are single. That means feeling awkward and even emotionally repulsed by what you find. That means hard work.
But the alternative is harder. Living a lie will keep you fixated on some place “out there” when the problem is really “in there” inside of you. The disgust you feel with yourself and your life will only grow the longer you ignore the real problem.
Don’t surrender the power God has given you to enjoy your life. Accept the responsibility for however your life has turned out and begin again. Own your life.
Don't focus on your past
Many singles focus on their past so much that their reality is one of despair from which there appears to be no escape. That’s like driving a car by looking in the rear view mirror all the time. You won’t get very far unless you start looking forward and then move forward. Accept that whatever happened to you has happened and then move on from wherever you are. Own your life.
This isn’t coming from someone who’s never been there. I’ve been nowhere but there. Most recently I was laid off from my job, then my position was eliminated, then I ended up moving back in with my folks (which isn’t entirely bad but doesn’t exactly help when you’re trying to attract the ladies), then my cat died, and then I keep getting reject notices for every job I apply for. Do I have some sort of target on my chest? Because it sure feels like it. Kind of reminds me of an old Far Side cartoon.
But I’m still owning my life. I’m grateful I have a place to sleep and food to eat. Since I won’t be homeless any time soon, so what that all my job applications ended in rejection? I'm free to learn and to grow from pursuing other options. Sure, losing my cat suddenly was hard. I haven’t had a good night's sleep in the past three months. But my will isn’t following my cat to the grave. I’m writing a book about my cat and the legacy she left behind. And I’m using that draft as a platform to interact with other writers in my community. The potential for adding to my circle of friends and exerting a positive influence on others is immense.
Don't stay down
In short, I refuse to stay defeated. I’m choosing to change what I can. I’m reaching for the life I want. I’m owning my life.
We’ve all heard that when life gives you lemons you should make lemonade. I say scratch that. Make lemon chicken instead. After all, lemonade is so cliché and with all that sugar probably not that good for you either.
Or choose something else if you don’t like lemon chicken. But don’t just follow the herd and throw another pity party or concede that your life will never be enjoyable. Start the new year with a new you on the inside. Become a better person in 2014. Own your life.
Welcome to the new home for my blog.
It all started back in 2012 — 12/12/12 to be exact. I couldn’t let the opportunity to start something on a date like that pass me by. Little did I know that my first year would be training for what you see today. And I’ve changed along the way. Now that my blog has a new home and we’re starting a new year, I thought it only fitting that I establish a few expectations. This first post may turn out to be the longest post I make, so if you aren’t comfy, now is a good time to get there.
First, it's not about me.
When I started my blog, I had some ideas that needed expression. Many of those ideas were in a book about LDS singles that I've been working on since January 2011. In researching how best to publicize the book, I found the ubiquitous advice to start a blog and use it to promote the book.
But that doesn’t work for me.
See, I started with that idea. And I found along the way that it led me to make everything about me. I felt the tendency to make outrageous comments to drive more traffic or to write for search engine robots to increase page ranking. But things like that don’t matter. It’s people that matter, and it's relationships with people that matter most.
That’s why I started writing my book in the first place.
It’s a longer story that I can share later if you’re interested. Bottom line = I wanted to create something that would help the growing LDS singles population confront and conquer the challenges of LDS singles life.
So I’m turning conventional wisdom on its head.
Writers use blogs as marketing tools to promote books. To me, that’s all backwards. I intend my book to support the blog. And I see the blog as a platform for changing the culture within the Church. We need to get more serious about building Zion. A big part of that means changing how we think about what it means to be single in the Church. Too many LDS singles feel like second class citizens in the Church of Mormon Families Who Sometimes Talk about Christ when they should feel like equal members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But the culture will never change if we don’t do anything.
We need to start having a conversation about LDS singles life, one that encourages all of us to change the way we think about what it means to be single in the Church. There are changes that marrieds need to make and many more changes that singles need to make. We need to support one another in these changes.
That means we have to cut the crap and speak the truth.
I’ve been single now for almost 20 years. That’s two decades. So I’m tired of all the high school games and other associated crap that I’ve dealt with in that time period. I want real. I want to connect with other people on a real level and not have everything revolve around my marital status and my desires for eternal companionship.
So when I see crap from anyone, I’m calling them out on it.
That means some of you will discount me or try to ignore me because what I have to say will contradict whatever agenda you have. Others I will simply annoy. Still others will outright hate me. I’m okay with all of that. You see, I want real.
I understand that not everyone is prepared for the truth. That is part of what my book is all about. We all develop habits in which we continue to believe lies about the way the world and our lives are constructed, because those lies make us feel more comfortable. But I’m done with all of that. I want real. That means embracing the truth, no matter what it may seem to do to me in the here and now. And I got three words for those of you who aren’t prepared to hear the truth.
I don't care.
That’s right. Again, it’s not about me. It’s about changing the culture so that we LDS singles can more easily confront our challenges and we can all — married and single — get about the business of building Zion for real. That is, after all, what all of us covenanted to do at baptism and in the temple.
Oh, and I don’t care applies to just about everything.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to trample intentionally on the feelings of others. It doesn’t mean I won’t attempt to regard the views of others with respect and courtesy. I probably won't always succeed, as imperfect as I am, but I will strive to be a gentleman.
What I don't care does mean is when you read one of my posts, you’re getting real — the real me, what I really think and feel, and all presented in a real way. I don’t care about search engine robots because I write for people. I don’t care about page rank or other Internet statistics which in eternity will be meaningless. I don’t care if I continue writing posts week after week which generate no comments. I don’t care what anyone thinks about me or my opinions. I want real, and I can’t get real if I put on rose-colored glasses and pretend that everything is just peachy when in reality it’s putrid. If a cow crapped it out, I’m going to call it what it really is — cow crap!
That means that a lot of conventional wisdom and me just won’t mix.
I’m done trying to be someone I'm not just to impress someone into having a relationship with me — and that’s any type of relationship, not just the romantic kind. I’m done living the lie of a life on autopilot. I’m done going through the motions of being an “active” Latter-day Saint. I want to do what I do because I truly feel it deep inside. I want what I do to mean something. I want real.
Real also means I don’t look on people reading my blog as customers to be marketed to constantly. I don’t like receiving constant emails telling me how I can’t live without purchasing XYZ, so I’ll never send anyone anything like that. It’s not about me or my book. It’s about building a community through which we can change the culture by changing the way we think about LDS singles life.
I refuse to believe it cannot be done. I refuse to follow the herd just because everyone else is doing it. I refuse to believe what I say and do makes no difference. I refuse to believe I'm second-rate or that God must want me to be single because I haven’t yet experienced the subcultural rite of passage that is temple marriage. And I refuse to back down.
Sure, I’m imperfect, very much so. I've got more imperfections than Swiss cheese has holes. I understand that my endeavors may result in total and complete failure. But that just brings me back to the three words I shared earlier.
I don't care.
You see, I’ve failed so many times in my life at just about everything in life that I am not certain whether failure has any real meaning anymore. But I am certain that just going through the motions is meaningless. I want real. And real is what you will get from me.
I envision a glorious future in which LDS marrieds and singles come together and build Zion – a place where everyone cares for everyone and everyone looks out for everyone. That is the place where I want to be, whether or not I ever find my eternal companion. Of course, such a place is more made than found, which brings me back to my first point.
It’s not about me. It’s about lifting a light so that others can see amidst the darkness. It’s about bringing hope to those in despair. It’s about changing the way that we all think so that we can unite and build Zion. And it’s about becoming more like our Savior so that we can live there and feel like we belong.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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