I tend to be a black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinker. When I was young, I didn’t realize how devilish this could be. There was good, or there was bad, and there really wasn’t much of anything in between. This can produce all sorts of difficulties, but the one I am going to talk about today is the small stuff.
Have you ever noticed that if you travel a certain route over and over again, the route seems to get shorter and shorter? Or if you are trying to give directions on that route, you don’t realize that the time and length from point A to point B is actually much longer than it seems? This happens to me ALL THE TIME, because my brain (and, I suspect, many brains) tend to gloss over the things that are seemingly ‘not important’ to the journey. No, I didn’t notice mileposts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 because I turn at NINE and that is the important one.
The thing is, you can’t get to milepost 9 if you don’t pass the others. Your brain may be saying “Milepost 1, then 9,” but it isn’t, never has, and never will be that way.
Well I do that, apparently, with just about everything. When I was a kid, math was easy. So I would get annoyed with the tedious lessons teaching other kids (who had trouble with the concepts) different ways for their brain to wrap around the ideas or achieve the answer. I just knew that 4+7 was 11, and 6×9 was 54, DUH. TURN AT MILEPOST NINE ALREADY. Same with reading. Very little sounding out letters for me. I got the words, I might need to look up the meaning once (though I could often glean meanings from context), but then I was good. Gimme a book. Done. Gimme another book. Done. I always read the whole thing (didn’t skip to the end), but I rarely savored the path along the way.
Now, there are many areas in life, particularly where I am less talented, where that puts me at a serious disadvantage. For instance, I am woefully uncoordinated. In 2nd grade, they tried to teach us to skip. Most kids could get it in 2-3 minutes. It took me TWO YEARS. My feet and my brain…well…I guess they are having a feud because they don’t like talking to each other. I gave up many, many times — but there wasn’t a lot of skills you had to master in 2nd grade, and that was one of them, so I was forced to practice and practice and practice till I got it. I think. I haven’t tried it for a while, I may have lost it.
Most things, though, are too easy to brush under the rug. Skipping, I HAD to learn. Most other things, people would help for a short while, then they would leave me to my own devices, and I would inevitably quit. Because, in my mind, you either get it or you don’t. You either succeed right away, or you fail. This practicing stuff didn’t even make sense to me and seemed a waste of time. If it was hard, forget it!
Now, I’ve had a lot of setbacks over the years, and most of them I can attribute to this all-or-nothing thinking.
I tried to eat better and I exercised for a whole week and I didn’t lose any weight! This will never work!
I did my physical therapy exercises 3 of the 12 times I was supposed to do them today. I don’t feel any better. At all. Physical therapy is dumb. Why can’t I just take a pill/get surgery to fix it?
I keep working on my book, but it’s taking foreeeeeeeeeever and I’m not even done with the first draft and it’s not even that good yet. I’ll never get it, never!
Whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnne! QUIT QUIT QUIT!!!
See what I mean?
But God gave me this great thing in my life called Depression. (no, really!) Depression does some dumb stuff, sure, but the great thing is that it put me in counseling. And counseling is slowly, carefully, teaching me the tools I need, along with some accountability, to make some progress. And one of the most important things I’m realizing is, just like the scripture says, by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.
It is by doing those neck, shoulder, and arm exercises many times a day, every day, that my arms and neck and shoulders will heal and strengthen and the pain will stop.
It’s by watching what I eat and forcing myself to exercise a bit more every day that I will lose the weight.
It’s by writing a few sentences EVERY DAY that I will finish and perfect this book.
How do I know these things? Because of where it has worked.
It’s by reading my scriptures, just a chapter a day, for most of the last 28 years, that I have gained an intense love and respect for the scriptures that enlightens my mind on a daily basis and gives me an understanding that astonishes people in church classes.
It’s by saying my prayers, evening and morning, almost every day for 25+ years that I have gained a relationship with my Heavenly Father that I KNOW He is real and that He loves me. It has given me a perspective on life and eternity that makes everything, EVERYTHING better.
It’s by DAILY practice to be a better person, a kinder person, a more understanding person, that I have become a better person than I ever thought I could be.
It’s by reading and constantly learning in many areas (science, art, philosophy, literature) that I have gained a better understanding of the world. (And, conversely, it’s by ignoring calculus for the last 24 years that I have forgotten it all. 😛 )
So don’t discount mileposts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8. Without them it is impossible to get to 9.