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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Patience Is Key

"Patience is key," I say often. It's one of my most repeated phrases ("That's not gonna fly" would also be up there) and it's one I say just as much for others as for myself. I say this phrase a lot because it's a life lesson that I must CONSTANTLY relearn.

I've said this phrase to my siblings, my cousins, the various children I've taught in my various jobs over the years, and even to my friends. But this phrase means more to me than just a go to thing, it's a lesson and a good one. I was once again reminded of this last week when I was growing increasingly impatient with a lot of things.

When I get impatient, I tend to force things; I want to solve them myself, my way, and in my time. This was quite apparent during my two weeks of illness in late October/early November. I was told, repeatedly, by my friends to hit the doctor's office but I didn't. I waited for it to get better and when it didn't I forced things. That didn't exactly work out (I ended up in the hospital).

Now, you think with that lesson taught to me, I wouldn't have to have it taught to me again; but I did. This past week I was getting impatient and beginning to go into my "force things" mindset. As a friend of my calls it the "psycho" part of me. We all have the "psycho" parts of us, the parts of us that want something despite knowing it's not for the best. My "psycho" part was desperately wanting to force things hardcore. You'd think I'd know not to listen to it...but I was beginning to.

But I refused it and not more than a few hours later, I was rewarded for my patience by having a few issues I was growing impatient on resolve themselves. Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor? (not me)

So, the moral of this story is that patience is key. Sure, it's one of my most used phrases, sure, everyone who's been around me has heard me say it at least once, but it's still as true today as it was when I first started using this phrase, nearly a decade ago. Patience is key. It's important to realize that things will work on their on time table as the lord wills it.

I realize this. I ignore it a lot but that's because I'm stubborn. I'm also incredibly stupid when I get incredibly stubborn. Don't be like me in that respect, be better.

Remember folks, patience is key. It's applicable in every respect of life. Even the respects of life we'd rather it not be applicable in. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Is Life A Numbers Game?

That has been the question boggling my mind for the past week or so. Life seems to be a numbers game; numbers determine a lot about our lives; the amount of money we get paid determines what class we are. Our GPA determines what schools/scholarships we get. The gas mileage our car gets determines how far we can go. The list of examples goes on, and on, and on; ironically, the list of examples is countless.

This past week and still this week, I struggle with numbers. Numbers are very much a prevalent part of my life and my mind is analytical (ask those that know me-I have so much useless analytical knowledge that it's astounding). I like analysis. I like the ability to statistically predict what will, can, or may happen. It's comforting to know that the odds are playing one way. That's not to say I gamble because I don't; I suck at bluffing, and I'm far too cheap to put any amount of money on anything.

Even with all the stats, analysis, and observations I can make, I still can't quite convince myself that life is, for a certainty, a numbers game. I can't bring myself to make that assessment, simply because I've beaten a few numbers recently that I thought I would never beat. I never thought I'd be below 200...and I never thought I'd be below 180...and I certainly never thought I'd fit comfortably back into size 32 pants.

The numbers indicated a few years ago a lot of things that are not true now. Numbers, odds, would have told you that there was no way I would have ever gone up to Virginia, found a second family there, and made some life altering changes. Yet, I did. If life were truly a numbers game, there would be no way that I would have succeeded as I have so far.

Life can't be a numbers game but then, so much is still determined by numbers. And here I find myself, going back and forth on this argument. Is life a numbers game? Yes and No. Which is about as good an answer as "Maybe." Maybe is lame. Maybe doesn't give any closure, one way or another, and certainly doesn't help. It's just filler really.

I can offer pros and cons for both sides of the argument. I've beaten the odds, I know others that have beaten the odds, I can cite cases back and forth that show, if life was a numbers game, these things could not happen. On the flip side, I can cite cases that show that the numbers were right.

I can't really decide which leaves me wondering if I'm even asking the right question. Instead of asking "Is life a numbers game?" should I be asking "Do humans make life a numbers game?"

And the answer to that second question is more immediate; yes, humans do make life a numbers game. Why? Because we want control. I'm guilty of wanting control. I love control. Without control we, as human beings, would easily kill ourselves a thousand times over. As a species we would be extinct long ago. Self-control has allowed us to become the dominant species on Earth; that's not saying we're good like that all the time, we're not most of the time, but it's those key moments that we exert self-control that allows us as a species to live on.

We can control numbers. Stats can make anyone look good and can be controlled just like everything else. We like that. We make life a numbers game and we have control of life, because we have control of the numbers.

Of course, there's a problem with that; we routinely beat the odds we set on others and on ourselves. We beat the numbers in the numbers game we, supposedly, control. It's anarchy I guess, maybe chaos theory, but whatever the case may be, humans like to make life a numbers game. We want that control. We want to be able to predict, anticipate, and plan for life.

But you can't plan for life. It's a lesson that I must constantly remind myself of every day. There's a phrase a dear friend of mine often repeats to me when I tell her about struggles or successes with my weight that doesn't make sense to me...that doesn't fit into any pattern; she says, "your body's not a machine."

I desperately wish it was. It is, to a certain extent, a machine, but not one that is as precise as I would like. I can't make it work some days and days where I fully expect it not to work, it does. It confuses and frustrates me.

But what she says about the body is also true about life. "Your life is not a machine." As much as we want it to be a numbers game, as much as we would like it to function like an equation with a known quantity, and as much as we predict what should happen...some of the time it doesn't work out like that. Life is not a machine, it doesn't respond the same way twice to the variables we put into it.

So, if humanity wants life to be a numbers game and we routinely beat the odds we set upon ourselves...then life can't be a numbers game. We don't have full control over life. We have some control, mind you, but not full unbreakable control.

We wish we had that full control but we don't.

That, out of everything, is probably the hardest thing to accept.  

Friday, March 2, 2012

Remember Others, Forget Yourself

I find it hard some days to keep other people and their struggles on my mind. As a human being, I'm naturally selfish, inclined to only care about what directly affects me, and I don't like to think about the multitude of problems other people have. Let's face it, it's not like we like to think about problems-we hate to think about them. We hate thinking about our own problems, let alone other people's problems.

This week has been one where I've been entirely too concerned with the one person in the world I should just forget about-myself. I have been incredibly selfish this week in my estimations and the worst part about it is, it took me a week to realize it basically. This week I've been all about Zach and not about anyone else really.

It's been a tough week for me, relatively speaking. But my problems are my own doing and my fault for the most part; I deserve them really in the grand scheme of things. Self created issues, my problems, and ones that I will have to solve. This week my mind has been cluttered by them and it's taken today to drive home the point that "Hey, I should be the LAST person I think about."

I'm guilty of falling in a classic trap. For most of the time I was awake this week, I was concerned about me. Not until I went to bed, not until I put up my prayers for night, would I think about other people and their issues. How quickly we human beings forget our fellow man or woman.

Just this time last week I had a friend on my mind, who had just had surgery and was recovering. I was worried, I was glad she came out of the surgery all right, but my mind was constantly on it. I did my best to distract myself and I managed to do a decent job of it, but I was still worried about them, their family, the entire situation.

Today...I didn't think about that once while awake, not until more news came down from them that, had the surgery of theirs not happened when it did, things could have been a whole lot worse. And by worse I mean cancer worse.

Cue me, hearing about this, thinking almost immediately "Zach, you selfish SOB." Only a WEEK ago was I actually thinking about this, concerned over this, and in that short span of time I shifted the focus from my friend to myself. Quite an amazing act of human nature, that was...but man did I ever feel bad.

Too often I find myself forgetting about others and keeping myself the focus; oh sure, I'll shift my focus for a few moments on facebook, comment, ect, but then I'm back into "Me Mode" and that's it. Most weeks, I have a decent handle on this, this week I lost that handle completely.

And I feel like a jackass for that. Other people have problems, some worse than yours and some not. The important thing is to actually devote some time to thinking about them, their situation, and not just allotting a few minutes to them before bed.

That's the trap. I'm all for praying for them whenever you want, but I know that in my case, that usually happens before bed and that prayer usually lasts a few minutes at most. For those that know me, you know I'm not some super religious person. I can't quote scripture to you on the drop of a dime, I don't roll with a bible in one hand and holy water in the other, but I do my best. My best isn't good enough...ever, it's why I got Jesus in my life; his worst is better than my best any day of the week.

Though I bet I could make a better batch of sweet tea than him, but that's a complete aside.

Bottom line, I'm not a holy roller, a bible thumper, a super religious nut, or anything else. I'm an average sinner, with issues, character defects, and a human nature that gets the better of me some days. But I know that merely allotting a few minutes for others is an issue.

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one with this problem. Too often we get caught up in our own lives, our own feelings, our own problems, and we forget everyone else. That's wrong. So, this week I'm challenging myself to devote more time to others and less time to myself. People shouldn't be regulated to a few minutes in thought, they should get their due...not sure what that is in time, but maybe an hour of mediation or something.

Whatever the case, I challenge you to do the same. Remember others, forget about yourselves. Maybe if we focus less on ourselves our problems won't seem so big.

Because, really, in the grand scheme of things, most of our problems aren't.