Category Archives: Inspiration

Sunday Musings: All Saints Day

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This is a section entitled Sunday Musings. It consists of thoughts, observations, and experiences that I have during or immediately after Sunday Mass. It is a semi-regular feature; I will update it on Sundays as I feel inspired to do so.

About a month ago, I was reading an excellent book called Rediscovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelly. (I highly recommend this book to Catholics as well as people curious about or interested in the faith. It is changing my life chapter by chapter.)

The writer suggests taking notes at Mass each Sunday. Before Mass begins, he says to pray the following:

God, show me one way in this Mass that I can be a better version of myself this week.

This prayer and my notes have helped me tremendously. This morning God revealed to me that I need to strive harder to be a saint (which all Christians already are); but, I need to look to the canonized saints from history, ones whose lives were filled with Godly virtues, to do my best for God each and every day.

Give it a try!

~t

 

 


Self-Pity

wallpaperhi.com

I received a comment on one of my recent posts that really hit home. You see, when I started this blog (as mentioned in the “About” section), I had the intent of beginning a ministry to help others who suffer from mental illness. Being faith-based in nature, my aim was also to help people know God.

Well, by perusing my own posts for the last, oh, several months, I was hard pressed to find much, if any, encouragement from myself.

In other words, I’ve been sulking in self-pity for the longest time. I realized it, but I didn’t seem to care. I didn’t feel the need to make any adjustments. King David used the Psalms to gripe about things, and then he threw in a praise to God at the end, I would tell myself, half-believing the justification.

Also, my posts have gotten shorter. Why? I ask myself. Because I’ve been selfish. I drag myself before the computer, I whine and complain, and then I log off, putting in my “time.”

I’m glad Jesus’ ministry wasn’t like that.

I’m FAR from being like Jesus. Really far. At times I try–

See, I just caught myself before the full-on “woe is me” stuff came out.

Thank you, dear commenter, for bringing my self-pity to my attention. I listened to you because:

  1. you were sincere,
  2. you were loving, and
  3. you know what I’m going through because you suffer from it too.

The truth be told, I came back from the psychiatrist this evening. He’s trying to adjust my meds. Things aren’t working out too well. For some reason, when I leave the psych’s office, I feel like cutting loose with sin. The doctor told me I suffer from hypermania (whatever that is), bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (which explains why I feel the world is crashing down on me when I give in to the tidal wave of lustful thoughts and feelings).

The person who left the above-mentioned comment recommended a book entitled The Temperament God Gave You. I ordered it, and it arrived a few days ago. I like what I see so far. I’m so glad a Catholic book on that topic is available.

Dear readers, the only inspiration and positive thoughts that I have for you this time aren’t necessarily Christian nor are they from the Bible. An hour ago, I was sulking in my big, fluffy chair in my so-called library, and I pulled down my copy of poems by Emily Dickinson. I opened the book to a random page and found something called “Hope.” I posted it on my Facebook page, but you can read it below:

HOPE
by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

~t


Just Before I Go: A Must-See for All of You Who Are Like Me

  

  
I was at Target recently with my sons to look for a Lego Batmobile set (which, my youngest learned in horror, had since been discontinued). While the kids were playing games on iPad demos in the store (How they quickly forgot about Batman), I took a look at the newest DVDs on a nearby shelf.

Not surprisingly, none of the titles rang a bell since I practically live under a rock. However, one title caught my eye: Just Before I Go. The actor’s melancholy expression and the tag line, Ending It All Was Only The Beginning, led me to believe that it dealt with suicide. Sure enough, I flipped the DVD over and read the synopsis. Sounded intriguing.

There was only one problem: Seann William Scott. Really?! He plays a total idiot in all his movies. Nevertheless, I jotted down the title in my iNotes (or whatever it’s called) to watch it at some point.

Tonight was the night. Friday after work. Wife and kids gone. Amazon rental. A nice bowl of Lucky Charms for dinner. I was set. I can always turn it off when the flick gets juvenile, I thought.

But… It didn’t.

Not an Oscar contender by any means, but it was GOOD. All the poignancy that I was hoping for.

**SPOILER ALERT**

I even started blubbering like a baby when Scott’s character met his deceased father on the lake during a near-death experience. 

**SPOILER OVER**

The movie is about a man who, before committing suicide, goes back to his hometown to confront some painful childhood memories “just before he goes.” I don’t want to reveal too much, except that this is not a screwball comedy. It tackles several thorny issues effectively I think.

Bottom line: If you are feeling depressed or even suicidal, do yourself a favor and watch this movie. Do it for me even. Screw what the film critics say about the film. They get paid to tear things apart. 

I loved the Emerson quote at the end:

When it’s dark, that’s when you can see the stars.

Just look up and they will always be there.

~t


God is With Us in Our Darkest Hour

  
[Rachel] was deeply saddened that day, and she went into an upper chamber of her house, where she planned to hang herself. But she reconsidered. …

At that time, then, she spread out her hands, and facing the window, poured out her prayer:

“Blessed are you, O Lord, merciful God, and blessed is your holy and honorable name. Blessed are you in all your works forever!”

At that time, the prayer … was heard in the glorious presence of Almighty God.
                                   
                               -Tobit 3:10-16

~t

(Photo by Topaz)


How to Increase Willpower in Our Struggle Against Sin and Addiction

Photo: Getty

 

Like other Catholics and Christians, I find it difficult to resist sin on occasion. Even after a great morning of prayer or right after Mass, it’s not too uncommon for me to lose my temper in traffic when, for instance, someone cuts me off. Like St. Paul discusses in Holy Scripture, “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” (Romans 7:21)

The traffic anecdote may sound mild, but my anger tends to stick with me and ruin my day. I would say my biggest daily struggle, however, is with sexual impurity and pornography. I have made great strides and even stay on the wagon for weeks at a time, but, like St. Paul says, evil is always right there with me.

When I was at a retreat this past spring, I had the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (i.e. confession) from a kind but stern priest. We were facing each other in folding metal chairs, and I’ll never forget his advice before I received absolution:

“You need a battle plan.”

Being a bonehead as usual, I failed to ask what kind of battle plan, or, better yet, what a battle plan was. In my “research,” I found some very good sites like this one. However, I felt that I was lacking something.

About a year ago, my regular confessor told me, after I had told him about my recent sins of masturbation and viewing pornography, “You… um… just need to… (sigh) try harder.”

I need to try harder?! I thought afterwards. Isn’t that the Holy Spirit’s job? To help me out when I need it?

I didn’t understand that I needed to put forth some effort. Lots of it. 2 Peter 1:5 talks about making every effort to add virtues to our lives. Also, St. James writes in chapter 4, verse 7 of his epistle: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Then, recently, I came across a blog post by Eric Barker entitled “7 Ways You Can Easily Increase Your Willpower.” I devoured the article and started putting into practice things that I had learned.

It’s a bit lengthy, but the article is well worth your time. If you are having trouble with addictions such as (but not limited to) impurity and pornography, I would encourage you to give it a read.

By the way, I’m not implying that God is not powerful enough for us to overcome addictions. On the contrary, God wants us to make every effort to “avoid whatever leads [us] to sin.” (from the Act of Contrition)

Here it the article:

 


 

 

In general, people have an overly positive vision of themselves and their abilities.

But what’s the one thing surveys show that most people have a problem with?

Self-control.

And who is most likely to give in to temptation?

Ironically, it’s the people who think they have the most willpower.

Via The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It:

Research shows that people who think they have the most willpower are actually the most likely to lose control when tempted. For example, smokers who are the most optimistic about their ability to resist temptation are the most likely to relapse four months later, and overoptimistic dieters are the least likely to lose weight.

So how can we really increase willpower? What does science have to say?

I’ve posted a lot about the subject — from research to interviewing the foremost expert on the subject. Let’s round it all up and make it useful.

Here are 7 ways you can increase your own willpower and live a better life: 

 

1) “Keystone” Habits Are A Magic Bullet

Everyone wants a magic bullet. One pill that fixes everything. The closest thing in the area of willpower is what are called “keystone habits.”

The primary one is exercise. What’s so special about running or lifting weights? It doesn’t just give you more discipline at the gym…

It also makes you eat better. And helps you use your credit card less. And makes you more productive at work. And more patient with loved ones.

Exercise leads people to create other, often unrelated, good habits:

When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, often unknowingly… “Exercise spills over,” said James Prochaska, a University of Rhode Island researcher. “There’s something about it that makes other good habits easier.”

Going to the gym is too much for you? Try food journaling. Just write down everything you eat, every day. It’s another powerful keystone habit.

So if you’re going to do anything, keystone habits get the best bang for your buck. What else should you do every day?

 

2) Do Important Things Early

Leading self-control researcher Roy Baumeister, has found that willpower is limited.

It’s highest early in the day but as we make more decisions, it empties like a gas tank.

This leads to a simple answer: do the most important things first. As the day goes on it will only get harder to face big challenges.

When do most self control failures happen?

At night. Roy explains:

The longer people have been awake, the more self-control problems happen. Most things go bad in the evening. Diets are broken at the evening snack, not at breakfast or in the middle of the morning. Impulsive crimes are mostly committed after midnight.

So your willpower is limited. What else can this tell us about the best way to use it? 

 

3) Improve Willpower By Not Using Willpower

Productivity guru Tim Ferriss says willpower is overrated. We have a limited amount of it, so relying on it is a bad idea.

Research shows we don’t use much willpower when something is a habit, when our behaviors are automatic.

How do you build good habits? Here’s a fantastic interview with Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit:

Building new habits is too hard, you say? Then try this:

Manipulate your environment so as to make what you should do easy and what you shouldn’t do hard.

Hide the cookies and put your running shoes next to the bed.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

Lower the activation energy for habits you want to adopt, and raise it for habits you want to avoid. The more we can lower or even eliminate the activation energy for our desired actions, the more we enhance our ability to jump-start positive change.

People who think they have a lot of willpower expose themselves to more temptation — and eventually cave. So don’t rely on willpower.

Now comes the part where I contradict myself… 

 

4) Use Willpower To Build Willpower

I know, I know… I just told you not to use willpower, now I’m telling you to use willpower. What gives?

Baumeister compares willpower to a muscle. When you use it too much, it gets tired and gives out.

But by exercising it, over time it gets stronger. So you don’t want to rely on willpower for everything. You want to rely on habits.

But you want to make sure to tap into willpower a bit every day, always pushing yourself a bit to grow that muscle over time.

How simple can your daily self-control exercise be? Merely working on your posture can produce willpower benefits.

From Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength:

Unexpectedly, the best results came from the group working on posture. That tiresome old advice—”Sit up straight!”—was more useful than anyone had imagined. By overriding their habit of slouching, the students strengthened their willpower and did better at tasks that had nothing to do with posture.

Simple is good, right? Want to know other crazy simple things that can help? Want to improve willpower in your sleep?

 

5) Fundamentals: Eat And Sleep

Yes, improving willpower is as easy as eating and getting enough sleep.

When I asked Roy Baumeister the easiest way to quickly boost self-control he simply replied, “Just eat something.

Want to wake up full of willpower? It’s as easy as getting more sleep at night.

From Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength:

We shouldn’t need to be told something so obvious, but cranky toddlers aren’t the only ones who resist much needed naps. Adults routinely shortchange themselves on sleep, and the result is less self-control.

Eating and sleeping not easy enough for you? Here’s something even easier.

 

6) Procrastinating Can Improve Willpower

Ever been so lazy you put things off that you actually enjoy? This can actually boost self-control.

You don’t even have to say no to every temptation to gain discipline. Just postponing them can help too.

Research shows telling yourself “Not now, but later” is far more powerful than “No, you can’t have that.”

From Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength:

…people who had told themselves “Not now, but later” were less troubled with visions of chocolate cake than the other two groups… Those in the postponement condition actually ate significantly less than those in the self-denial condition…

Anything other than just giving in helps strengthen your willpower muscle.

Delay, distraction, or even caving in a defined way can help increase discipline.

Okay, now’s the time for the bad news… 

 

7) You’re Going To Screw Up… But That’s Okay

You’re going to give in to temptation. That’s not defeatist; it’s reality. But what matters is what you do after.

Feeling the urge to beat yourself up over your lack of willpower? Don’t do it. No Mea Culpas are necessary.

Blaming yourself reduces self-control. Showing self-compassion increases it.

Via The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It:

Study after study shows that self-criticism is consistently associated with less motivation and worse self-control. It is also one of the single biggest predictors of depression, which drains both “I will” power and “I want” power. In contrast, self-compassion— being supportive and kind to yourself, especially in the face of stress and failure— is associated with more motivation and better self-control.

People who cut themselves slack go on to keep trying — and end up succeeding.

So how does all of this fit together? 

 

Sum Up

Give the 7 a try:

  1. “Keystone Habits” Are A Magic Bullet
  2. Do Important Things Early
  3. Improve Willpower By Not Using Willpower
  4. Use Willpower To Build Willpower
  5. Fundamentals: Eat And Sleep
  6. Procrastinating Can Improve Willpower
  7. You’re Going To Screw Up… And That’s Okay

I’m sure to some people this sounds hard and lonely. But it doesn’t have to be a solitary thing.

Relationships improve willpower: the best way to accomplish any change is by having a supportive group of friends around you.

And the reverse is true as well: willpower improves relationships:

…the more total self-control, the better the relationship fared. Multiple benefits were found for having mutually high self-control, including relationship satisfaction, forgiveness, secure attachment, accommodation, healthy and committed styles of loving, smooth daily interactions, absence of conflict, and absence of feeling rejected.

Willpower is one of the first steps in improving any area of life — and it’s good to know that self-control isn’t selfish.

 

 Source

 

~t

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


15 Things that Introverts Would Never Tell You

Wikimedia Commons

I came across this article on the Internet recently. Anything containing the word “introvert” catches my attention like nothing else.

Why? Well, for one, articles about introverts help me to learn about myself. After years and years of hearing people say, You think too much, or, You need to talk more, it’s refreshing to find out that I’m not necessarily alone; in fact, there are scores of people who are just like me.

I think the hardest part for me is trying to fit in and pretend to be “normal” when I’m around a large number of individuals whom I don’t know too well. It freaks me out.

Another difficult thing for me is to network in my professional life. I just can’t bring myself to be a social butterfly at meetings and get-togethers, shaking hands with and flashing a fake smile to everyone who looks important enough to benefit me. I’m sure I’ve missed out on some job opportunities in my life, but I can’t do it. Sure, maybe I need to make more of an effort, but, after all, I’ve always done things the hard way.

Anyway, I would like to share the following article written by Maryann Reid, an award-winning author. If you’re quiet and “anti-social” like I am, perhaps it will help you. Here it is:

 


 

 

Introverts get a bad rap in a world that celebrates extroversion and “people-persons.” There are things introverts wish you knew about them that would help any relationship or situation. For instance, we are not anti-social or depressed, we’re just different. In fact, many envy us for our self-contained, cool manner that keeps others calm, focused, and safe. People love us, in secret. As introverts, we have many “ways” that only our closest friends understand. Here are several things about introverts you may not know.

 

1. We don’t care about your birthday.

Any introvert who works in an office knows how it feels to be hustled for birthday cake money. It makes us squirm when a random office person cheerily volunteers that it happens to be their birthday. We think they expect us to respond with like enthusiasm and interest, and maybe even accept their invitation to join them for drinks with a group of about 300 other random people to celebrate. Three hundred is a bit of an exaggeration, but it feels that way to an introvert who just wants to go home. If you don’t invite us, we’re not offended. We’re relieved.

 

2. We don’t need you to care about our birthday.

Yeah, we don’t. We have friends who genuinely know us and care, if we care. However, an interesting thing about introverts is that some don’t need to celebrate it. We’re okay with quietly honoring the day on our own or with a group of friends we’ve carefully selected. We don’t have to let the world know.

 

3. We are not really listening as you recount your weekend.

Unless you are part of our circle of friends, we don’t care what you did last weekend. We are of the mind that everyone has a right to privacy, and if you chose to spend it in a drunken stupor or beating down the door of your ex, then that is up to you. We don’t judge, and we find it takes too much energy to give it to people we don’t know. Just because we work with you doesn’t mean we know you.

 

4. We hate crowds.

Large groups of people make us tired. All the stimulation of having so many different types from all walks of life can make us a little woozy. Some introverts are empaths, so they tend to take on the energy of others easily. We sometimes feel like we “know” everyone in the room and get easily overwhelmed with the swirl of activity.

 

5. We don’t really like networking events.

This is especially hard for introverts who run a business. Networking makes us feel like we have to perform. We struggle to say the right thing and listen attentively. We don’t really care since we don’t know you. Even in business, we have to feel connected to someone on another level to get the most out of a networking type of event. This takes time to choose the right event and come up with a plan to offer value to others while getting some for ourselves.

 

6. We force ourselves to act like we like you.

This is the nasty truth. We know who we like and don’t. It can stem from many reasons that can have its roots in childhood to what we ate for breakfast this morning. Don’t take it personally. We appreciate honesty, and sometimes it hurts. To survive, we have to supersede these feelings and be nice. Nice can be harder than being real.

 

7. We know how to get stuff done.

We pack our alone time with activities – projects, phone calls, emails, rough drafts and blueprints for world takeover of our next big idea (which we have lots of). We value solitude because it lets us experiment with new concepts, plan, and stretch our imagination. Anything is possible when we spend time alone, and what we create may change our lives, and yours, too.

 

8. We like to write things out.

We love email because it helps us get what we need without interruptions. Interruptions throw us off course, and we need to expend more energy to get back on track. So, please don’t call unless it is a close-ended question.

 

9. We feel safe with the right people.

When we have the right people in our lives, we give our all. We give our best selves. We become protective warriors who will fight almost any cause for someone we love. Just ask our friends. We blossom in the right company and shine. It takes us time to find the right people, and when we do, we don’t hold back.

 

10. We do have friends, who really like us.

Introverts like people, and people like us. Most introverts have no issue with hanging out in groups and spending time with others. If we have friends, it’s because we consciously chose them. We’ve put effort into the relationship, and our friends know that. We go to bars, parties, and meet new people. The difference is that not everyone we meet becomes a friend.

 

11. We can do the extrovert thing… for a while.

We have to do that to get along. We can be the life of the party, host the networking event, and be the chairperson of the charity. We do this willingly, knowing that at the end of the day we can go home. When we get there, it may take days or weeks to replenish ourselves and feel ready to do that again.

 

12. We are not shy, rude, or uptight.

At first, we may seem that way. Get to know us, and we can actually make you laugh and hold a conversation that lasts more than 15 minutes. The thing is, we don’t share this with everyone. Being “social” or “sociable” is an option, not a way of being. We can’t fake happy or excited really well, and we show what we think on our face, not as much in our words.

 

13. We are okay alone.

We have lots going on in our heads and don’t need more. Unlike our extrovert counterparts, we don’t need others for stimulation. We’re constantly working out life in our heads. We entertain ourselves with creative projects and know how to take ourselves out for a good time. More people means more stuff to deal with, and we’ve got enough of our own energy to hold.

 

14. We hate small talk.

We’re thinkers, and we relish conversations about big ideas, theories and ideals. We rarely get into small talk and do so comfortably.

 

15. We make a choice to be with you — appreciate it.

We value our alone time and are picky about who we let in. Letting in the wrong person will drain us, leaving nothing for ourselves. We tend to attract extroverts who suck our energy and search out like-minded introverts for our groundedness, deep thinking and sense of control. We appreciate our time with other introverts and have an understanding of each other’s limits and boundaries.

 

 

Source: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/15-things-that-introverts-would-never-tell-you.html

~t

 


Laughter is the Best Medicine

alien-hands-far-side

I recently read this article about a type of OCD called scrupulosity. It’s basically the fear of sin or punishment from God. The article is definitely worth the read.

Of course, I’m not saying that it’s suddenly okay to throw caution to the wind and start sinning. Far from it. However, the article got me thinking about how uptight I may be; I tend to be a living example of the ironic process theory: If someone tells you not to think of a pink elephant, you are automatically going to (like you did just now).

While I continue to deal with habitual sin, I’m learning to make an effort to enjoy life and trust God as I go. For instance, my two young sons and I have been playing soccer in the backyard after dinner each night, and it’s so much fun! I have also come across some comics and memes on the Internet that make me smile.

Laughter and fun times are a welcome reprieve from the daily spiritual battles that we face.

Nuns at Six Flags

Last night, my sons and I were trying to steal the ball from each other in our scrimmage. As we battled against each other, my kids were giggling like crazy. Afterwards, my oldest, who is quite serious and emotional, suddenly asked me, “Daddy, why is laughing good for us?”

Taken aback, I replied, “Well, because it makes us feel good. Plus, we forget our problems while we’re laughing.” It was one of those moments where I inadvertently taught myself something.

So, in the spirit of all this, I have posted some comics and things that I’ve run across in the past few weeks. They are entertaining to me, but, after all, my sense of humor is a bit twisted. 😉

 

 

25-motivational-posters-part-II-exercise

 

If you’re a fan of this series, I apologize!

 

 

Since I’m an English teacher, I particularly like this one:

 

 

This one isn’t a comic, but it has really spoken to me during the past week. My dear sister in Christ, Jet, recently posted it on her blog:

 

 

Have a great week, and remember to laugh periodically.

 

~t