Saturday, July 29, 2017

Finding Gratitude

There's a million things I haven't done. And not having done them drives me crazy.

Some of you may or may not be aware of this, but for the last few months my depression has been worse than usual. My parents and other responsible adult figures have encouraged me to make going to work at my job my number one priority. Which means no taking time off of work for cosplay (no Saturday events) or for family (second year in a row I've missed the Fourth of July in Arizona). 

This year in general has been rough. The few cosplay events I have been to have usually been accompanied by some degree of anxiety, so I haven't really been able to enjoy them as much as I would have wanted. 

Photo from this spring

The stuff I usually agonize about is, with all this on top, harder to manage. I just want so many things that time and money prevent me from having. When I don't have them, when I have to wait longer for the money to buy that new costume or order that new t-shirt, I get frustrated. When I get home from work, I'm tired and I don't feel like working on costumes or writing, let alone put in the effort to work on actually finding a real job. So the things I want to have get delayed...and delayed...and delayed. I pass the time at work gathering wool about what to put into my stories, but I get home and I am too eager to find an excuse to not spin it. I don't get to eat out every weekend. I don't have a lot of food in my fridge, and I don't feel like cooking much. I'm stuck at a job that I don't want, I don't have money to buy everything I need or want, I'm not going to the places or doing the things that I want to do. And worst of all, I never get to spend time with the people I want to see the most.

I never get what I want, right when I want it, as much as I want it. 

All I focus is on what I want.That just makes me more miserable.

This morning, I had a moment of inspiration. Instead of thinking about what I don't have and haven't achieved yet, I could instead feel gratitude for the things that I do have. The things that I have done. What I HAVE accomplished.

Last September, right before Comic Con, I was having a really bad time. All I could focus on were the areas where I was failing. But during a phone call with my mom, she reminded me of the things that I have achieved and the things that I had to look forward to that very weekend. Her sharing that with me was a reminder that I am worth something. That I am capable of doing things--good things, great things, difficult things.  

You know, I could use the same kind of perspective right now. 

I don't get to see my cosplay friends a lot. But we have shared a lot of good experiences. Why be sad about the fun I could be having, when I can look back and remember the good times? 

There are a lot of costumes I want to build or I am somewhere in the stages of building. I don't have time/resources to allocate to creating one-hundred-percent-screen-accurate-costumes right now. But I have already created outfits for a lot of my favorite characters. I've sewn a few of them myself, even. I'm not the best at crafting things by hand, but the stuff I do put together looks good, and it tells a story. People recognize these characters and appreciate me for bringing them out. And I've been able to create some beautiful art through cosplay.

I don't have time to be a full-time writer/author right now. It makes me sick sometimes, to think of all the story ideas that I have that I don't have time to sit down and write, even in my spare time. Guys, being a writer is hard work!

But I do have these stories to tell. I have places to go in my head and my heart. I have stories that I can plan out in my mind. When I get the chance, I can sit down and chip away at them, a little bit at a time. Even though I can't share them all right now, the ones I have created have given me a place to go where I can be happy and safe, and where I can find a different way to analyze my fears. 

I know I haven't posted as much in my blogs as I've wanted to so far this year. But looking back, I have actually written a lot of posts over the last two years, and some of them are actually great.

I don't get to travel a lot. I haven't been outside of Utah since Christmas. I haven't been able to travel anywhere new lately. The only time I ever left the country was when I was three, and that was for a wedding in Mexico I don't even remember. I did get to go to Nauvoo and Florida when I was little, but I feel like it doesn't count. I haven't really BEEN anywhere cool since becoming an adult. And I've been telling myself for years that I was going to save up money and travel. 

But I have been to fantastic places. Right here in the West. I see these places sometimes every summer. I know where they are. I can always go back to them in my mind.

There are friends I don't see in person a lot. But I post things on social media to make them laugh. I still know them. They still know me.

I haven't been able to go out much this summer. But I have made it to four wedding receptions in the last three months--that's actually kind of a record. And I have also been doing a lot of reading--more on that coming next week.

Some of you know, I have invested a lot of my soul in Salt Lake Comic Con in the last few years. Salt Lake Comic Con regularly has a high turnout of big-name celebrities. But I have never had the money to get photo ops or autographs with any of them--except for Carrie Fisher and John Rhys-Davies. Those were two experiences that I will never forget. I also met Ray Park and Daniel Logan in passing. And LeVar Burton. I may want their autographs but I HAVE met them and that's saying something. I may not have gotten their autographs but it was still just as cool to meet them. I've meet some of my favorite authors as well, and been able to meet up with my friends in the professional geeking world. 

And as for the other celebrity guests--Mark Hamill, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Anthony Daniels--I've been able to go to their Q&A panels. I've been in the same room as them, and been entertained by them with thousands of other fans. I saw and heard them in person. Some of the things they've done at Salt Lake Comic Con have gone viral over the internet, and I am able to say that I WAS THERE. And there are guests that I want to come or to come back very badly to upcoming conventions. But if I complain about them too much, I'll forget the good times we HAVE had with the people who HAVE been. And when looking back, I shouldn't listen to the snarly voice in my head that says "You should be grateful for what you already got and stop asking for more." No. Just be grateful. Just feel it.

Image result for salt lake comic con 2015 anthony mackie

I don't live in a penthouse. I don't have an apartment all to myself. I'm still living in the Provo "bubble." But I do have a nice place to live. And I can decorate it however I want. I'm walking distance from BYU campus and some good shopping areas, fast food, and I can get to a bus stop easily. (Plus I haven't misplaced my UTA farepay card for the last several months. There's something to be said for that).  

I'm not a perfect person. I'm not a flawless Molly Mormon. I don't go to the temple EVERY week. I don't make it to church sometimes because I sleep in. Sometimes I only read my scriptures for five minutes instead of fifteen. I haven't done any visiting teaching this summer. And I get angry. A lot. Over stupid little things.  But I am striving to be a good person. I do things that invite the Holy Ghost in my life. I'm trying to socialize more with my ward. I go to the temple when I have the time and energy, and I've been doing better the last couple of weeks. I've started reading through conference talks with my scripture study. 

I have my temptations and weaknesses. But I don't let them define who I am or who I want to be.

I don't have a car, but walking everywhere keeps me in somewhat good shape. My job requires physical activity as well. I'm actually pretty tough physically. And even if my mental health is a mess my physical health problems aren't usually worse than the occasional cold. 

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Remember that meditation I posted last year, Your Focus Determines Your Reality? If all I do is focus on how badly I want something, then the negative feelings will harm me. If I focus on everything that is going wrong, then my life is, indeed, a disaster.

If I take time to look back and think about the things that I do have--a place to live, food to eat, a decent job with reasonable hours, lots of costumes, lots of memories, lots of friends both near and far away--then I realize that I not only have a lot, but I AM a lot. 

What I have may not be the same as what the more-accomplished-adult in the Ritz has, but I shouldn't give in to the trap of thinking that what I have isn't "real" or as important. 

This line of thought inspired me to re-read a talk that President Uchtdorf gave in conference a few years ago, "Grateful in Any Circumstances." It's humbling that I've finally figured out what that talk was about and that I have a reason to apply it. Gratitude isn't so much counting off your specific blessings as it is having the capacity to appreciate those things--the capacity to feel that these things are gifts from God. Especially when times are hard. Seeing the good in the world, in your life, requires faith.

I know my posterity may not be satisfied that I have not kept very consistent personal records over the last several years. But I hope that when they read these blog posts, they will be able to see how I was able to find the positive in difficult circumstances. That's all I want for anyone who reads this next week to get from it, too.

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