Annoyed, impatient, anxious, envious. That was pretty much my mood at the beginning of the week. I had said to my wife in the middle of March that April would be a reset month for me. No book launch, no ultra-marathon, no promotional work to do. I anticipated time away from the Internet and more time outdoors with the good weather arriving, and yet, there I sat on Monday afternoon wanting to throw my iPhone at the wall and just step out of the world for a while. I had recently drawn up a set of rules for my son regarding video games and watching YouTube, and as I alternated between Instagram, twitter, and Facebook—for no other reason that the phone was sitting in my pocket like an itch I so desperately need to scratch—I felt like an absolute hypocrite. I also felt trapped. At that very instant—just before meeting a client to teach a class—I deleted all those distractive apps from my phone. I also switched my email settings so that I would only see them when I checked in and not have them appear on the home screen as they arrived (because that would mean I'd have to spring into action and reply immediately). I get absolutely overwhelmed by the all the details coming my way, and because I am old school, I prefer talking to people. I have fond memories growing up without the World Wide Web. I would roll my eyes when my folks told me of simpler days and getting pieces of coal as Christmas presents—exaggerated for sure, but never let the truth get in the way of a good story or embellishment. I too find myself romanticising the past and tell my boy that “in my day” hide and seek was about as good as it got! As a writer, you are supposed to be constantly sending out newsletters and neat little blurbs about why your product is good enough for someone to shell out $14 for. There are ways to promote before, during, and after the book launch along with various other ways to diversify and get shout outs from people who can further your career. That's all cool but I want to vomit sometimes when I have to do it. I see people I know and care for that are relentless in the bid to sell, sell, sell. It might be an organisation, album, whatever.... but I truly believe there is a tipping point and unless you have a whole team of PR people doing it for you, then at some point it's time to get off the soapbox. I don't want to be that guy. The guy who people see coming and roll their eyes saying, “What's he selling now.” Life is too short for it to be self-centered, with many eclectic things out there to see and do instead of being a one-trick-pony. What I struggle with is a desire to just do things under the radar without flashing in others faces yelling “Check me out.” Posting personal blog links on social media is like tapping a glass with a knife at a party and making a speech. Some people may want to hear it, some may not. It's like this post I am writing right now. I won't post publicly but it will be here for my loyal readers who stop by. I feel like I'm not peddling anything, and that feels refreshing, like the lack of apps on my phone.
I have freed up a lot of time this week for contemplation. Not having needless noise has allowed me to listen really well. It has also taken away some of the envy that is inherent in looking at literally hundreds of snap-shots of information a week. I have been able to distill down what my soul needs to ingest and look at what I am actually doing in my life. Am I being a good father and husband? Am I being patient and encouraging to those around me? Am I congratulating my friends on the their achievements, or is the green-eyed monster stirring within? What I came away with over the past few days tells me that I am becoming reactionary and not listening, that I am loved by the Highest of all and not truly accepting it. Most of my questions were answered by scripture that I was guided to because I was tuned in. I came to 1 Kings 3:13 at first:
Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for--both wealth and honor--so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.
I must have spent half an hour on this verse. Everything I have not asked for, I will get! It is far easier for me to ask for less when I have nothing. Fact. When I lived in a tiny apartment as a single guy, I lived frugally and happily. Food on the table and healthy kids was about as demanding as I got. But then came the book, and other things, and I wanted more. Not a lot, but more. Where does the “more” end? I remember a great story I read once. A reporter asks Donald Trump, “How much more money would you need in order to be truly happy?” “About 10%” was his reply. A poor guy in a Brazilian favela was asked the same question, his reply? “10% would be enough.” I need to stop asking and certainly stop expecting things for myself. My life is richer than most.
Then I got stuck into Proverbs 4. Whoa! All of it is pure gold, verses 23-25 are especially pertinent:
23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. 24 Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. 25 Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.
It is so easy to rant about something or someone in a knee-jerk kind of way. I did it this morning after breakfast and was scathingly cynical over the mildest of subjects. I was deeply ashamed and repented, ultimately finding solace and learning in James 1.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do...... 19 ........ Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
I can't say I would have found the answers I searched for on my phone or mindlessly surfing the Net and wasting my time. My frustrations are first-world problems, yes, but I am now living in that world and doing the things I need to be doing to improve it. Writing about it in 140 characters or less will not help me find clarity, only listening and waiting on the Lord will.