Category: personal

Fighting Burnout

It’s been a busy winter. Between work on the house, Denisa’s classes, my job, my writing, my church calling, kid wrangling, skiing, and countless other things, I feel like I’ve been pulled in a thousand directions at once. The good news is that there’s an end in sight. Denisa will be done with her classes this semester in just two more weeks. Once that happy day arrives, my own schedule doesn’t get any less hectic (I’ve got trips to DC and all over Maine coming up, then New Orleans, followed by Europe), but hers gets a lot lighter, which hopefully means it’s easier for us to stay on top of all the things we’ve got going on.

Not like all of this stuff is a pain. A lot of it is fun stuff we want to do. But the only way to get things done you want to do sometimes is to force yourself to do them, even when you don’t have time for it. And I’ve found that if I don’t force myself to do some of those things, they just don’t happen. At that point, what exactly is it that I’m doing? Running through life doing the things I have to get done and ignoring the things I wish I could do.

I’ve found when I look back at a time, I remember best those things I really wanted to do. All the busy slips away in memory, and I’m left with playing with the family, getting writing done, having snow days, watching movies, going on trips to cool places, etc. I’d much rather have that to look back on than a sea of tasks completed at work, chores done around the house, and life just lived, not relished.

So I press forward. But I have to take time now and then to breathe. To calm down some and just enjoy some time off. Typically I handle that by goofing around, playing video games and watching movies for a space of time most days, so I can recharge my batteries. Perhaps the reason I’m feeling so stressed at the moment is that I haven’t had the time to even do that the last while.

Having my house be a disaster doesn’t help. The bathroom renovation project (finished at last!) has put a big chunk of my living space in disarray. While I don’t mind a bit of clutter, I prefer it to be the right kind. My own clutter, where I know where it all came from, and I’m just too lazy to put it away. That’s the sort of clutter I can handle in an hour or two and feel good about myself. Power tools and construction materials in the middle of where I park my car or walk to get to my bedroom . . . is the wrong kind of clutter. It leaves me feeling unsettled, and I have a hard time really enjoying any relaxation.

It always feels like there’s something I should be doing instead.

But as I said: the end is nigh. Just a few more weeks, and things should get better. Right?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Living in Historic Times

I’ve often watched movies or read books set in a particular time period of history, and I’ve wondered what it would be like to live at that time. On the one hand, I think we each have a general idea of what we might expect. The Great Depression would be full of people jumping out of sky scrapers or standing in bread lines. The American Revolution would be everyone in the country heading out to fight the British.

Or something like that.

Except I really wonder if that was the case. The other day I was listening to a story on NPR, and they were interviewing a woman who lives in Syria near where the missile strikes were expected to take place. This was right after the chemical weapons attack. I was expecting her to talk about how crazy things were over there right now. How everything was in upheaval. How disastrous it all was. After all, there have been tons of refugees coming from the country. It had to be a ghost town by now.

But that’s not what she depicted. She talked about how normal everything was. How the kids had all been in school that day. How she’d spent the afternoon going to the gym. How people were talking about the potential missile strikes, but weren’t too worried about them.

I only caught a snippet of her interview, and I know nothing about her. For all I know, she’s the Syrian equivalent of Baghdad Bob, who spent the Iraqi War proclaiming blatant lies day after day. But her blasé attitude toward the whole thing made me wonder.

After all, I’ve lived through “historic times” of my own at this point. 9/11. The Great Recession. Donald Trump. While there have definitely been changes I’ve seen during each of these times, I’ve also seen life largely just keep churning forward. Sure, the topics of conversation might be different, and the Facebook posts certainly shift over time, but the actual mechanics of my days have been fairly constant.

This isn’t to say there’s no difference at all. There are many people who have been impacted by each of these times. I’ve had friends lose their jobs. Seen others lose their houses. Watched people head off to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I still get up at the same time each day, and I still have my banana for a snack and eat lunch at noon.

What I mean to say is that life is life. “Big” events impact a significant number of people, but for the majority, it all continues. 9/11 was by far the biggest “event” I’ve lived through. It’s altered the course of the country. But what, in the end, was its impact on me personally?

  • Security lines in airports and at stadiums are much more restrictive.
  • Class was canceled at BYU for the day.
  • I followed the news closely for the next while.
  • I had many discussions about 9/11 with friends and family.

That’s about it. On a personal level, not a whole lot happened. On a macro level, things really shifted.

So it doesn’t necessarily surprise me that people in Syria continue to live their lives. Continue to go to the gym and to school. It actually reminds me of my time living in Weimar, Germany. Buchenwald, a notorious concentration camp, is just over the hill, right next to the city. I remember talking to people who lived there during World War II, when the camp was up and running.

They said they didn’t really know what was going on there. They suspected, but they didn’t know. And it was easier not to know, no doubt. It was easier to just go along and continue living their lives. Because even during World War II, life would continue. You still had bills to pay. Kids to raise. Chores to get done around the house.

And the suffering just over the hill? Out of sight, out of mind.

I’m not sure what the conclusion of this post is. On the one hand, it’s reassuring to know life can continue relatively unscathed, regardless of what’s happening elsewhere. On the other hand, it’s important to remember that just because your personal life isn’t being impacted by national or international events doesn’t mean others are so lucky. Maybe even other people very close to you, physically or personally.

History looks much tidier when it’s all wrapped up in a Hollywood storyline. The reality is always more (and less) complex.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

What’s Commonly Known Often Isn’t

I lead a fairly open life, when it comes to how much I let people know about what’s going on. Sometimes, I feel like I probably share way too much. Certainly I feel now and then like I go on about my writing too much. I’ll have a bit of book news to share, and I debate even bringing it up.

“I just posted about writing the other day. No one wants to hear about it again so soon.”

And yet I still run into people on a fairly regular basis who are surprised to hear I write, and they have questions about what it is exactly I write. Is it for children? What’s it about? Who published it? How often do you write each week? Things I just sort of assume everyone knows at this point, because I’ve written about it all so often.

Except of course they wouldn’t know. I post about it on my blog. I share that to Facebook, and maybe Facebook deigns to have it appear in someone’s newsfeed. Even if it does, there’s no guarantee people will actually see it. I’m on Facebook a fair bit, after all, and there’s often news that sails past me.

And really, this post isn’t to comment about my writing at all. It’s to say that if something I talk about so often can still fly under the radar for people who know me fairly well, how much else goes unseen about any number of topics?

We each have things that are important to us. We read about them at length. We follow the news when it comes out. And we talk about them with some of our friends at length. It can become easy to assume the things we follow closely are things everyone else follows as well. How could they not? We see it everywhere.

Except I think of the sensation I have when I learn a new word. “Copacetic” was a good example. I could have sworn I’d never heard that word in my life before a coworker used it a few years ago. I asked what it meant, and she seemed surprised anyone wouldn’t know it. (It means “in excellent order,” if you were wondering.) I told her I didn’t think anyone else used that word at all, but then I started hearing it crop up in people’s vocabulary off and on.

Either it was a huge conspiracy, and everyone decided to start using “copacetic” that one day and from then on, or else everyone had been using it all along, and I just hadn’t been tuned into it. Something tells me it was the latter, as much as I might wish it were the former.

So try to remember that when someone isn’t quite as informed as you assume they ought to be. Often it’s not a sign of ignorance. It’s just a symptom of too much information overwhelming us, all the time.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. Plus, did I mention the sweet perks like exclusive access to unpublished books, works in progress, and Skype visits? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

How Do You Spend Your Time Each Week?

I know this is a hard question to accurately answer sometimes, as a lot of it depends on time of the year and however things work at your individual job, but I was talking to a couple of friends last night, and the subject came up. How many hours do you work per week?

Some of this probably boils down to what you define as “work”. For the purposes of this post, let’s say “time spent at your job, away from home and family.” So if you eat lunch at work, I’ll count that as work, even though you might technically be on a lunch break. You’re not at home with your family. Likewise, if you work at home, then it would count time in your office working, not spent with your family.

Let’s also not include things like doing chores around the home, doing your taxes, or other “cost of having a life” sort of things. Maybe I need more stipulations, but that seems like a good outline to start from.

At my library job, I’m physically at work from 6:45am to 4:00pm, Monday through Friday. So that’s 9.25 hours/day. About 46 hours/week. In addition to that, I often have to do some work at home from time to time during the week, checking emails, responding to requests, etc. I’d say that takes a couple of hours each week. So for the library side of my work, it’s around 48 hours away from my family.

Then there’s the writing side of things. I’d estimate I spend on average an hour a day with that. 6 hours/week. Some times it’s definitely much more, however. Deadlines are a real thing.

All told, that means I’m doing work around 54 hours each week. Add to that my commute of about 15 minutes total each day, and that’s another hour or so, which brings me to 55 hours/week. That includes two separate jobs, however. (I supposed if you wanted to count time I spend on my church calling (since it’s away from my family), that would add another 5 hours each week, on average.)

I know that’s much less than a lot of people. Certainly speaking to my friends last night, it made me very grateful that I don’t have to work the long hours they’re expected to. Part of me feels really guilty actually for posting this. It’s not meant as a brag. I’d just like to have a better understanding of what other people are going through compared to what I’m going through. I thought it would be helpful for other people to see the same thing.

Of course, none of this really encapsulates the “work on household chores” side of things, does it? So let’s throw that in here as well. I’d estimate I spend around 10 hours/week on that. I know Denisa spends much more than that, though I’m not sure how much. I’m not including “time spent watching the kids,” because that’s hard to quantify, and I’d really like to avoid having hours overlap. Each hour can only be counted for one thing.

But why stop there? There are 168 hours in a week. How about I try to account for all of them? Each night, I sleep around 7.5 hours. That’s 52.5 hours total. Each week, I get together with Tomas and some friends to play Magic the Gathering for about 4 hours. I usually watch media with Denisa and/or the kids for 2 hours/day. 14 hours. I read for about 8 hours/week. I get ready for 40 minutes each morning (showering, eating breakfast, etc.). 5 hours total. I eat dinner each day. Call that another 5 hours total per week. Time each day to get ready for bed. Call that 2 hours per week. I’m at church 4 hours each week(including travel time). That leaves me with about 3 hours of miscellaneous time each week.

So my grand total on an average week is broken down as follows:

  • 48 hours at work
  • 1 hour commuting
  • 6 hours writing
  • 5 hours for church calling (High Council)
  • 10 hours chores
  • 53 hours sleeping
  • 4 hours Magic: the Gathering
  • 14 hours watching media
  • 8 hours reading
  • 5 hours getting ready
  • 5 hours eating dinner
  • 2 hours getting ready for bed
  • 4 hours at church
  • 3 hours miscellaneous

Is it precise? No. There’s some generalizations in there, but that probably represents a standard snapshot of my week.

So what does yours look like? I’d be interested in finding out.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. Plus, did I mention the sweet perks like exclusive access to unpublished books, works in progress, and Skype visits? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

When to Hide Facebook Friends

Sometimes I feel quite a bit out of place. Online talking to some of my friends, I feel like they view me as some sort of arch liberal, intent on destroying the world and ridding it of any traditional values. But then I’ll interact with real, honest-to-goodness liberals and I feel like some sort of archaic, family values standard bearer.

Honestly, this doesn’t upset me most of the time. I consider myself in between those two extremes. There are some issues where I am definitely quite liberal in my leanings, and others where I’m still staunchly conservative. It’s one of the reasons why I dislike the two party system so much and resist labels in general. A label seeks to define. I find them limiting. You’re either a liberal or a conservative. Either a Republican or a Democrat. With us or against us.

This is a problem that’s been exacerbated by social media. There are many many people that I don’t usually interact with on a daily basis. Social media makes that less possible. In some ways, that’s a good thing, right? It connects the world and brings people closer together, on its best days. But there are family members who I would normally just chit chat with about the kids and the good old days. And there are business associates who I rarely see and interact with, and when I do, it would be to discuss safe topics like the weather and how big of a pain email can be.

Sometimes, being Facebook friends with these people is a great surprise. We become closer friends and discover a lot of cool similar interests. I can say with a certainty that a lot of my new healthy lifestyle has been inspired by people I wouldn’t have rubbed elbows with much had it not been for social media. And a good deal of my open thinking is due to me talking and interacting with people on both sides of that R/D spectrum.

But there are other times when social media is definitely Not a Good Thing. Because it pushes those casual relationships farther than they can sustain. You discover just what your long lost high school friend thinks about Black Lives Matter, gun control, abortion, Donald Trump, gay marriage, and any number of other issues. Issues no one in their right mind would broach with a casual acquaintance, or someone you rarely see. Imagine going to a party, seeing someone you’ve spoken to five years ago, walking up to them, and proclaiming, “The second amendment needs to be defended at all costs. Let me tell you about this study I read the other day.”

We know better than to do this. Not because these issues aren’t important to us, but because that’s just not an appropriate party conversation to lead out with. (Sure, you could argue that it’s an issue everyone should think about, and that THEY ALL NEED TO AGREE WITH ME, but we can see that’s not going to happen, right?)

It can get even worse, of course. You don’t just see and interact with casual friends, you’re stuck talking to their casual acquaintances as well. And so social media can devolve into this sick, hellish reflection of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, where you’re debating with your dentist’s high school friend’s college roommate’s aunt about just how racist Donald Trump is. And it feels in that moment like it’s the most important thing in the world that you win that argument.

And social media encourages us to take sides. Not overtly, but by its nature. We make statements and read things we disagree with, and the next thing you know: argument.

Which is all just a really long way of me explaining why I hide so many friends on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. If I get to a point with a person where my main interaction with them is to read their status updates and get upset by what they believe, I hide them. Not because I want to insulate myself in a bubble, but because I have no real desire to let social media ruin relationships with friends, family, and business associates. Sure, I suppose this means I might not be Changing the World one Facebook update at a time, but I still write this blog every day and interact plenty with anyone who cares to comment, so I think I have that done.

What I mean to say is that you can (and should) get a wide spectrum of news reporting in your life, but it doesn’t have to come from Facebook. In fact, it shouldn’t. Go directly to a variety of news sites. Read it. Come up with an opinion on your own. But don’t rely on your roommate’s distant relation to fill you in on it all.

It’s not personal when I hide someone. I’ve only defriended one person in the past decade, that I can remember. I stay friends with everyone else, because I still consider them friends. But because I want to stay friends, I know when it’s time to not be quite so close.

That’s my policy. What’s yours?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. I’m looking to get to $10/month to justify the amount of time I spend on this blog. I’m at $8/month so far. Read this post for more information. Or click here to go to Patreon and sign up. It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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