Doing Less and Being More
Before Scott died, the life I lived focused a lot on the things I was DOING. I was always trying to find a way to squeeze a little more into my very busy schedule and 'to do list.' I slept 5-6 hours a night, and I rarely sat down in the day. If I did, I was riddled with guilt for wasting my time. I was always in a rush and accomplishing tasks was a higher priority than building relationships with people. Friends often remarked that I made them tired and asked me how I accomplished so much. I took great pride in their comments attributing my work ethic and accomplishments to my own effort, dedication, and perseverance. I measured my worth by what I got done in a day, and what goals I had accomplished.
However, among all this busyness, I had an emptiness.
I was doing GOOD things, but somehow I knew they were not the BEST things for me. I was stuck running around like crazy and I was wearing myself out with no end in sight.
There was a longing inside of me to BE MORE than I was.
I translated that longing into DOING MORE, but no matter what I tried to DO, I just could not find the JOY in living that I was looking for.
Inside of me there was too much stress,
too much worry,
too much fretting.
I was constantly overwhelmed.
I couldn't figure out what was wrong...
- I focused tons of my time on my family; I had good relationships with my children and husband... Check off family relationships.
- I did my church assignment, and I was having family gospel study and prayers... Check of my gospel responsibilities
- I had hobbies that I excelled in... Check off building talents
- I served in my church calling and volunteered for other service opportunities...Check off serving my fellow men.
What was I missing?
Often I felt like I was going through the motions without any added spiritual direction. I was doing service, but I wasn't feeling charitable or empathetic. I was praying for help and enlightenment, but I felt like the heavens were closed to me for the most part. I knew I was missing a component.
Maybe I just need to do more spiritual study, I thought?
I started listening to spiritual talks and speeches while I was doing any mindless task. With that new multitasking plan I was able to squeeze in several hours a day of spiritual study. Little thoughts to change my behavior or to act in certain ways popped into my mind as I listened. I acknowledged them as good ideas and made a mental note to even try a few; however, in my rush to do a hundred other things in the day I never took the time to write them down or to act on them. My study helped a little, but I still was not having any major spiritual experiences, epiphanies or direction. I still felt rather lost and empty. I knew I needed to BE more that I was, but I had no idea how to get there.
Frustrated, I continued to exist on that normal everyday living level. Spiritual highs were rare and nice, but not so different from the normal level that I was compelled to sustain them by a higher level of commitment. In fact, I think at the time, that I didn't even understand how I could sustain them. They seemed to be random, and I assumed that spiritual enlightenment is simply a rare thing, and something that I was just not capable of getting very often.
Then my husband died...
What used to be normal life was now so filled with pain and sorrow that it was intolerable. I craved spiritual highs that enabled me to deal with pain. When I discovered that those highs could actually take some of that pain from me I had the incentive to increase my commitment level.
The 20 minutes of scripture study that was drudgery before became hours of intense searching for answers. Prayers that were sleepily mumbled as I drifted off to sleep became episodes of pleading multiple times a day. I started to write in my journal things I was learning. I dreaded anything that would take the Spirit away from me. I closely began to monitor the media that I allowed into my home. Personally I quit watching television and listening to popular music. I rarely watched movies.
An amazing thing happened...
I started receiving answers. I noticed the ways that the spirit was nudging me to start to make changes in myself and to reach out to others. Not only did I notice it, but I committed to act on whatever good thought came into my mind.
This commitment changed my life.
Not only did is open up heaven's help to me, but it began to change my heart.
I felt more love, more joy, more fulfillment.
I felt directed and I knew I had a purpose. The drudgery of life faded as I saw and understood lessons I was to learn and people I was to touch. It began to help me BECOME more than I was and more than I could every have become by myself. The things I was sacrificing did not seem like sacrifices any longer. They were the means to this greater spiritual light and I was glad to give anything up to simply not have to deal with the death of my husband by myself.
I realized my mistake....
I was doing what I thought I should do to find fulfillment. I wasn't bothering to listen and ask if what I doing was what God specifically wanted me to do. With all the seemingly good things to do each day, it is easy to get so busy and overwhelmed that we run around like a chicken with it's head cut off.
We don't not have to do everything!
We only have to do what the Spirit or what God wants us to do for that day. That is the only needful thing... Listening to and following the Spirit.
So the goal becomes to find out what God wants us to do each day....
To scrap OUR massive 'to do lists' in favor of HIS list.
Now I know that we still have to do those temporal things... the laundry, go to work, make dinner, get kids to school, clean the bathrooms.... I'm not saying that we stop doing those things, but as we are going about our day, we are mindful and flexible to change our plan so that we can do the BEST things with our day.
Our focus becomes SPIRITUAL instead of TEMPORAL
I have found that those BEST things...
- always focus on people. They focus on helping and lifting others. They focus on sharing my light and experiences. They focus on sharing LOVE. It means that I am constantly looking and trying to be aware of those who could use a little lifting.
- always focus on things for me to personal learn or study. I am prompted to use my mental downtime to listen to or read things that help me grow spiritual and become a better person. I am prompted to write and sometimes share with others things that I am personally learning. I am directed to have teaching moments with my children.
- always focus me on things that I need to change about myself or my habits. I am inspired to look inward and to improve my thoughts, my desires and my actions. As I integrate those things into my life, I find that I have more things to study and to share.
I still do many of the same things I have always done in my life, but I am more willing to let some of my temporal worries go in favor of doing those BEST things. I no longer worry that my house is spotless, or that I have the perfect gourmet dinner planned. I don't spend hours getting ready with the perfect outfit. I don't spend my free time shopping. I try to eat healthy and exercise, but I no longer spend hours of my day focused on that pursuit.
I have given up many of those things that I diligently pursued in the attempt to find joy and happiness and fulfillment, and I have given my life over to God...
Despite the tragedy in my life, and how desperately I miss my husband, I am finally finding that peace, contentment, and joy that comes from leading a life that is no longer self driven. That joy comes from making a difference to people.
In the end, I have discovered...
WHO WE HAVE BECOME and
WHO WE HAVE HELPED along the way is all that really matters.