November 3, 2016

Feeling Better Today

It is a good Thursday, and I am starting to feel more like myself again. I am not sure why I have been so unwell, but the past couple nights -- really -- the last 6-7 nights, I have not slept well at all. My mind has been racked by dreams, so much so, that I haven't really been able to get in a decent night's sleep since then. Last night, I turned in around 10 p.m., and I drifted off to sleep right away. I slept pretty soundly, no real dreams that I can remember, and woke up around 7 a.m. feeling better. Well, at the least, well-rested. It is a good start, a good start, for sure.

Today, I am home. I love my Thursdays, in particular, because I am home from work, but I am also so close to the weekend. Some how that thought just cheers me up. My weekend's are not times for rest, well, not the next 8 or so weekends. I have these dates blocked out as prime research weeks. I am bound-and-determined to get my research completed so I can graduate on time. For now, and for today, though, I have teacher-duties to attend to and grading obligations to complete. It is a good day, despite the workload. My Dad is at the dentist, and Mom will be over at church. My son is asleep in the next room, and I think he is home today as well (after working until midnight last night at a school function).

In all, my house is very quiet, and this means, I can rest. I can contemplate. I can enjoy the peaceful environment that I so desperately need right now. God is so very good to me. He knows that I need downtime, rest time, and peace and quiet time in order to recharge my batteries. Today is my perfect rest day. Outside my window, I see gray skies. Sprinkles and some rain are forecast for today, so really I am enjoying the fall-like way everything looks as I sit here at my desk and begin my day.

The good news is that my mind seems to be clearer, and I am feeling less oppressed. I am also feeling less pressure in my head. I think the barometric pressure change has been a relief. More so, I am taking charge of my overall well-being by making some needed purchases for my room/office. Until I have my own office, I have to contend with my little corner of the room. I am cramped in this little section, and I some more bookcases and a better chair. But, after my go-round about whether to invest in new office furniture (or wait until I move), I decided to forgo purchasing anything now (especially a new chair).  I ordered two ergonomic cushions today (via Amazon) that should help my back feel better. I bought one for my tailbone and one for my mid-back. These are memory foam cushions and should provide support and relief for my long days sitting at my desk. I am feeling confident that with some better support for my back and spine, I should be able to sit comfortably and complete my research at my desk. I decided today that until I can move and have the things I need to make my life easier and more comfortable, I will just have to make do with what I have now. This means buying small things to improve my current set up. I can't overhaul my life just yet, but I can make little changes that will improve my comfort level and perhaps increase my productivity.

Lastly, and most importantly, I am feeling better about my life, in general. I have been stressed the past couple weeks, mostly regarding my son's plans to stay at school another year. I felt so confident that we were to move in 2017, so any thought of staying put simply caused me anxiety and panic. However, over the past couple week's, I've come to see that the Lord's plans will not be thwarted. His will is to be done, so if I must stay in Phoenix, then He has a plan for that phase. If I am to go, and my son is to remain here to finish school, again, the Lord has a plan to cover that change. I need not be concerned because my focus is on graduation, my dissertation, and my promotion from adjunct instructor to full-time instructor. I cannot be distracted with these contingencies. I am to think about my life, what the Lord wants to do with my life, and the rest -- all the rest -- falls into His marvelous and more than sufficient hands. Selah! It is done!

Some Plans and Forward Thinking

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about how I wanted to stop thinking about the future, and how I was going to simply focus on the "here and now." Well, I am here to report that changing my mindset from forward thinking to present experience has had no real positive effect on me. In fact, it has had a negative effect, and what is worse, I have lost some of my forward momentum and my drive toward what I believe is the Lord's will for my life. I guess you could say that all the new-age memes that stress living in the present moment are fine and dandy given that you are content to float around, remain directionless or move in super slow motion. But, for me, well, not moving is akin to death. I simply have to move. I have to keep moving. I cannot stand still. The fact that as I have thought about this idea in rational and realistic terms -- and the more I realize that I am this way -- the more I realize that this is the way God made me. This means that I recognize and know (I comprehend, I get it) that I have been given the gift of strategic foresight, of strategic planning and goal forecasting. Strategic foresight or forecasting is defined as the ability to leverage strategies in order to meet or achieve goals (Chron.com). This is a skill that many in business use to manage effectiveness and productivity either with employees or other processes. In my case, it simply means that naturally or supernaturally, I use my analytical wiring, my brain makeup, to determine the best way to achieve a specific goal. I am always thinking about steps, about what to do next, and so forth, and in this way, I am always thinking about moving down the road. In short, I think -- I strategize -- I make a plan of attack, and once I have analyzed the possible contingencies, I pick what I believe to be the most successful approach, and then I follow it. In this way, I am very goal-oriented and performance driven.

The rub of it is that this is my natural state, thus since I have been this way for so long, I don't know how to be any other way. I feel compelled, absolutely compelled to plan, to strategize, and to leverage resources in order to be productive and highly effecient. One of the reasons I think I am this way, outside of the Lord's desire for my life and the plans He has for me, is that my INTJ personality type lends to this type of thinking and behavior. As a Rational Mastermind type of person, my life is driven by steps, processes, checks and balances. Everything must be in order. I must be in control. Granted, I am happy and content to be in control under the Lord's leadership and guidance, but I must -- I mean I MUST -- have some measure or sense of control in order to feel content, happy and at peace.

I've thought long and hard about this, and I think the reason why I have been so lost, so clueless, so miserable the past several months is that I had arrived at my goal (I passed my exams), and then I felt as if there was nothing more planned passed this mark. Of course, I knew that I had to have another goal, my dissertation, and then graduation, but the lead up to passing my exams was so significant to me, that in truth, I felt let down when there wasn't any fanfare (no rockets or confetti) sprinkled to commemorate my achievement. Now, I know that is hyperbole, but the point is that for goal-driven, performance oriented people, having goals is paramount to their well-being. Without them, we are lost. So, we must always have goals. When we achieve one goal, we move to the next, and so forth. In my case, I lost my way a bit when I spent the entire summer at rest. Then, I headed into the fall, and I felt as if I would never propose my dissertation project. In good form, I did propose and passed my defense. Now, I am setting up my goal for final defense, and with that achievement, I will graduate from Regent. But, what happens next? What will I do next? I have to have another goal to sit at the outside of this one, and no matter the size, I have to have something to focus on, some measure to achieve.

So What Went Wrong?

In hindsight, when I made the decision to settle into the present way of thinking and to stop focusing on future thinking, I found that I lost my drive to achieve my goal -- all my goals. I slowed my pace to a crawl, and I started to give up. I started to feel like I was worthless, doing nothing of value, and as if my life no longer had purpose. Of course, my big goal (of my PhD) didn't really change at all, it remained "out there," but my forward movement toward it ceased to make any real progress. Thus, when I slowed down my progression, after a time, I started to feel distanced from achieving my goal, I felt as if I was wavering to and fro, and later, I came to experience a sense as if I was lost or off the mark.

It is weird how that happens to me because common sense and even biblical sense would say that it is good to focus on the present more so than the future, since the future is an unknown entity. Yet, I believe God has given me this ability, and that He has wired my brain to think this way. Therefore, logically speaking, if this is so, then God desires I use this gift for a purpose. My problem is simply that when I lose focus, drive, or even ambition, I feel awful. I feel lost, clueless, overwhelmed, and even at times, as if I am spinning my wheels to no real effect.

I realized this was happening to me yesterday as I struggled with oppression and the feeling that I was being harassed and attacked by my enemy. I was so miserable that I prayed for the Lord to open my eyes, and to reveal to me whatever was really at stake. I wanted to know the truth, and to be set free from all the negative and self-defeating thoughts and behaviors. As the Lord helped me see the truth of my situation, I came to accept the fact that God, for whatever reason, has made me to be forward thinking. He has made me this way, and when I stop using the gift He has given to me, I begin to experience a withdrawal of sorts, an almost shifting of my entire thought processes and my ability to rationally and logically think clearly.

So today, I am back on track. I am back to planning, purposing, and predicting future outcomes. The difference is that now I am thinking about my future and the plans the Lord has for me. I am not using my gift to help a business or organization, rather I am using my gift to help me achieve what I believe are the expressed plans the Lord has for my life. In this way, I am not trying to control outcomes for other people (like my students). I am only seeking to control outcomes as they relate to my life, in particular. This means that I am focused on where I am going and not where other people are going. I am like a navigator on a sailing ship. I am responsible for charting out a course. I don't make the map up, per se, that is the Lord's purview. Rather, I am responsible for following the maps that have been prepared, trusting my ability as given by Him to guide and lead me into still (calm) waters. Yes, the Lord is the Captain, but He has given me the ability to navigate this ship of His. Thus, I must use my skill and my ability to do that very thing.

In Closing

I feel renewed today. I feel as if I am back on track, and back in the driver's seat (so to speak). I am responsible for doing what the Lord asks of me, and with that in mind, He has given me authority to make decisions, to choose various ways and paths, and in all things, to proceed under His direction and guidance much like the way a CEO directs His company officers to do their individual work and tasks. I am in the role of a strategist, and the Lord trusts me to use my best ability to achieve the goals He has set for me. I am now beginning to see how I must approach the next 5, 10 or even 20 years of my life. I am set on a task to achieve certain things in His name, thus I must apply all my time and my energy to doing my very best. Day in and day out, I must do my very best. It is for His name, His praise, and His glory so I work hard, dream big, and achieve all the desires He has in His heart. Selah!

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