Follow the Prophets

The First Presidency message for January is written by President Monson about a crucial turning point in his life between World War II and the Korean War.  President Monson found himself in a situation that I imagine many men found themselves in at that time.  My father has told me of his fears of being pulled back into the infantry and sent to the front lines in Korea so I can empathize with President Monson and the mindset he was in at that time.

Seeing war looming in Korea, President Monson was doing everything he could to qualify for an officer’s commission in the Navy.  Serving as an officer is vastly better than as a non-commissioned officer or sailor.  After much effort, he received the letter offering him as an ensign in the Naval Reserve.  Shortly thereafter, President Monson was called as a councilor in his ward’s bishopric.  Knowing that he couldn’t serve both his calling and the Naval Reserve, he wrestled with the decision for some time.  Eventually he consulted with Elder Harold B Lee, who had been his stake president and now was in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  President Monson shared how much he valued the commission and his difficulty deciding whether to choose the bishopric or the Naval Reserve.

I am surprised at how clear and definite Elder Lee’s counsel to President Monson was. Elder Lee said “Here’s what you should do, Brother Monson.  You write a letter to the Bureau of Naval Affairs and tell them that because of your call as a member of the bishopric, you can’t accept that commission in the US Naval Reserve.  Then write to the commandant of the Twelfth Naval District in San Francisco indicating that you would like to be discharged from the reserve.”

Brother Monson followed Elder Lee’s counsel and declined the commission and requested a discharge from the reserve.  President Monson’s discharge from the Naval Reserve was in the last group processed before the outbreak of the Korean War. His headquarters outfit was activated.  Six weeks after he was called to be a counselor in the bishopric, he was called as bishop of his ward.

President Monson is certain he would not be President today if he hadn’t prayed about that decision and not come to appreciate that the wisdom of God often appears as foolishness to men.  But the greatest single lesson we can learn in our mortal lives is that when God speaks and his children obey, they will always be right.

Not many church members have the opportunity to receive one-on-one  from an Apostle as President Monson did.  But we have many opportunities to hear the prophets teach.  The Church has many programs to spread the words of the prophets, including monthly messages from the First Presidency such as this one to broadcasts and recordings of the semi-annual Church conferences and other events that Apostles speak at.

Procrastination & other expressions of anxiety

Before I get into my diatribe, I have to share this joke:  I’ve been meaning to post about procrastination but never got around to it…

I’ve had a problem with procrastination all my life.  I remember as a child staying up late many nights doing homework that had to be turned in the next day.  But I’ve never understood why I procrastinate.  I’ve always felt powerless trying to overcome it.

Recently, my therapist and I have touched on my issues with procrastination while discussing other stuff.  Her comments have prompted me to dig a little deeper into why I procrastinate and it looks like the more detrimental episodes of procrastination result from anxiety and avoiding stuff that provokes anxiety.

That makes sense historically; I remember one term in college where I flunked one course where the final grade was determined by the term project and another class that I got a C because the final grade was split 50/50 between exams and homework.  I was so anxious about my homework that I couldn’t bring myself to go in the labs to work on it. My grades mystified my professors and teaching assistants.  My exam scores were so much higher than everyone else’s, they deformed the curve so much it couldn’t be used to assign grades across the class.  Given my exam grades, they couldn’t fathom how I could possibly earn only a C final grade for the course.  If I turned in virtually any homework, I ought to have a B and given that I could score so high on the exams, I couldn’t possibly be that wrong on the homework.  The problem was that I couldn’t get myself to do the homework – My anxiety made it impossible to face the labs where it’s done.

This is a very insidious kind of problem to have because if something provokes anxiety, procrastinating  about it will make the problem worse which will cause even more anxiety.   It’s a vicious circle that starts almost before you know it; certainly before you can head it off.

I’ve been trying to think of ways to help me derail the procrastination when it becomes a problem.  But I haven’t come up with anything that will work in spite of the anxiety that triggers the procrastination.  So I’ll explore ways to deflate my anxiety that might enable me to oversome the resulting procrastination.  It seems like the anxiety is a bigger nut to crack than procrastination.  But it seems that I can’t face the procrastination when I’m severely anxious.  So I need to defuse the anxiety so that I have a clear enough mind to handle the procrastination.

Solving this problem might also help my daughter that appears to have inherited my anxiety tendencies.  Her anxieties can completely overwhelm her so much that she can’t get out of bed. Now that I see my own anxieties inside me, I need to let her know that she’s not alone, it’s not her failing and she can find a way to be okay with it in the long run.

George Clooney received Cecil B DeMille Award at the 2015 Golden Globes

Check out his excellent acceptance speech:

http://youtu.be/j7I1i9Ysncc

I think he hit every possible point, from thanking the Hollywood Foreign Press to commiserating with the other attendees, 80% of whom will be “losers” tomorrow. pushing for support of “small” films, highlighting the “Je suis Charlie” campaign supporting free speech and of course telling his new wife how much he loves her.

Was Ronald Reagan this smooth in his Hollywood days? Despite Clooney’s protestations, I think he would do very well in politics.

Found a photographer I like…

baybridgeatnightcpleblow had this picture of the Bay Bridge at night featured as the background of the tumblr login page.  That lead me to his tumblr blog and other photos he’s posted.  I don’t know how good he is but I like a lot of what I’ve seen, especially his shots of the Bay Area skyline.

My New Years resolution didn’t last long

2 days as a matter of fact.  What remains to be seen is whether this is a hiccup or the beginning of the end.  At least this time I didn’t go off the air for weeks.  This happening does point to a couple of reasons that resolutions often (usually?) fail.  First off, resolutions are usually made about things that are especially troublesome for us.  Not only because they’re important but because we’ve had trouble just following through on it without having to make a big deal out of it.  That trouble is why we resorted to making a resolution for it.  But if we’ve had trouble with a goal before making a resolution about it, it’s possible that it’s an impossible goal for us.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that many resolutions fail; we pick goals we have trouble achieving.   If we’re smart, we’ll realize when we’re making the resolution that we’ve already had trouble with it so we should frame the resolution in a way that acknowledges the difficulties either by not being so ambitious or including support mechanisms that haven’t been used before.

It’s also important to not abandon the resolution if we run into difficulty.  Treat each setback as a learning opportunity where we can see what works and what doesn’t work.  Then make adjustments to reduce the likeliness of setbacks in the future.

Creating a successful situation is not just a matter of working hard and hoping for the best.  We need  to frame the goal in an achievable way and we have to include support mechanisms that will increase the chances of success.

This learning opportunity showed that having an easily identifiable schedule helps me to recognize when there’s a problem and to get back to posting.  It also points to  a problem or problems trying to post every weekday.  I either need to slow the posting schedule down or find ways to write articles faster.  We’ll see what works…

Living in the left brain sucks!

One of the better known books about dealing with stroke was written by a brain scientist who survived a stroke.  She described her post stroke reality in almost mystical terms…  She felt one with the universe; could feel time flow around her; she was on vacation from her detail-oriented life.

She experienced a “left brain” stroke that caused her brain to rely more heavily on the unaffected right side of her brain.  My experience was less mystical…

I had a “right brain” stroke causing my brain to use more of my unaffected left side.  In addition to the functions lost as the areas that handled them were fried, I also found that my subconscious way of looking at stuff changed from “big Picture”, “intuitive” to “step by step”, “detailed”.  Instead of seeing everything as a whole that connected everything, I saw everything as a bunch of parts which may be connected, although the connections was not as important as each of the separate parts.

It’s impossible to realize how thoroughly it affects how you look at the world, view yourself and relate to others.  I don’t like this new reality and really wish I could go back to my old reality.  I now have to separate myself from the way my brain works.  Kathy often hears me apologize “Sorry, that’s the way my wiring works now.”  She doesn’t always buy it but it helps me remember my values and how what I am isn’t defined by how my brain works.  I just need to remember to consciously think and act the way that I want to.

I suppose that we could think of this like changing all my habits at the same time…  When you’re changing a habit, you have to consciously think about what you want to do instead of automatically following the habit.  Eventually, the new habit will replace the old habit and you won’t have to consciously think on what you want to do.  I can  only hope that this is applicable, at least somewhat, to my situation.

If you have any comments on this, right brain vs left brain or how this compares to habit changing, I’d love to see your comments…