2018 has Come and Gone

2019 seemed to roll unobtrusively around this year. Not that I’m one for big New Year parties or even resolutions; I’m quite happy to be in bed well before the clock strikes midnight. In fact, I’d be rather annoyed if I was still up at that ungodly hour. Even still, it came and went like a grease-fingered pick-pocket with me barely noting its passing.

Unlike previous years, I don’t even have intentions of what I’d like to achieve in the coming 12 months (well, 11 now). Perhaps that’s because work often has me feeling like a wrung-out rag and I don’t have energy for much else… but it could be more than that. I’ve often written about my ongoing wrestle with how I should be spending my time. As I’ve written in my fictional story, Escape from Hell:

I’d always assumed I’d live into my 70’s or 80’s. I saw myself dying from a heart attack while gardening or, best-case scenario, drifting off to sleep one night and never waking up. Peaceful, placid, timely. I’d never even considered I might die from a long-term illness or in tragic circumstances. I had expected death would be accompanied by a warning, a death-rattle of sorts. There would be gradual signs of declining health as my peers began to die around me. I would live, I would grow old – and then when it was time and I’d lived a full life – then I would die. I now realised those thoughts were nothing more than a hope-filled assumption. I had never expected death would approach me so stealthily or be so instantaneous.

No matter who you are, the limited-time problem is an important question of priorities that we all need to grapple with. We only get to live once, and if we don’t ask ourselves what’s important in life – on a regular basis – and then do that, we’ll find our lives are evaporating away, with little to show for it.

As a Christian, I believe that I’m answerable to God for how I spend my time while here on Earth. It’s not just about fearing a “telling off” when I get to heaven, but a responsibility to make full use of the opportunities that I have. It’s about realising that I’m not living for myself.

As an amateur writer is my spending a huge amount of hours writing good value for time? And if it is, what kind of material should I be writing? I want to write things – do things – which have eternal value. Everything else won’t survive.

In discussing this recently with a friend, he pointed out that the arts can draw people toward God. Even if it only about drawing the creator toward God, there can be value in it. Both statements are true. And yet I want to be confident that it’s what I’m supposed to do. At least I need to listen to God and give him the opportunity to tell me it’s not what I should be doing. It’s all too easy to justify what I want to do if I’m the judge. If there’s one thing I don’t need, it’s lessons on how to be selfish. If it could be called a skill, I’ve got that one mastered.

One thing I am inspired to do is begin a Word document I’m calling “The Tome of Thankfulness”. I’m going to write down in detail, and categorise all of the things which I have to be thankful for. I expect, over time, that it will grow large. Sometimes in life, I forget to be thankful and I can start to go into a woe-is-me spiral. This document will be invaluable as a source to uplift me, to remind me of the many thousands of things I have to be thankful for.

As an example: I’m thankful that I can see colours. When I’m driving down the road, I love seeing the range of greens in the tree-tops. How wonderful is that – when you consider that it’s possible that we could only see in monochrome?

I haven’t fact-checked these data, but this was from spam I received recently:

  • If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep… you’re richer than 75% of this world.
  • If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change somewhere in the house… you are in the top 8% of the world’s wealthy
  • If you woke up this morning with more health than illness… you’re more blessed than a million people who won’t survive the week.
  • If you have never experienced the dangers of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation… you’re ahead of 500 million people in the world.

It seems to me, whether you ascribe to a loving God or not, if you can read this blog, you have much to be thankful for. And maybe if we are thankful, we can extend more grace and love to those around us and be happier about our lives.

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Preparing to Launch 2018/19

I’ll admit I’ve been a bit slack lately. Sure, there’s been sickness involved and partial-insomnia, which never helps. But there’s also been some slackness. There was some playing of Sid Meier’s Civilization V which is awesome in it’s time-wasting capacity. Because I love turn-based strategy games, that led almost inevitably, to some mucking around with a home-grown battle simulation program where I was trying out if-I-made-a-Civilisation-game mechanics… I also seem to have grown an unhelpful enjoyment of e-sports (StarCraft II). It hasn’t all been bad; there have also been some valuable time-expenses like time with family and friends or doing the necessary chores that part of being an adult.

2018 has found me busier and more spent than 2017, and possibly any year before that. (Take that with a grain of salt, my memory struggles much beyond 24 hours these days).

We’re about to tick over to a new financial year and I’m using that as motivation to regain some momentum and discipline. I’d like to spend my time more wisely and be more productive. Time, after all, is our most precious resource. We never know how much we have (though we assume) and we can’t get it back once it’s gone.

And so I am getting ready for 2018/19 by clearing the distractions out of the way. I’ve deleted most of the games from the computer, and I’m making a conscious effort to not go looking for new e-sport videos. These last few days of 2017/18 are my “training days” for the new year.

It’s been a few years since I’ve tried to make plans (and tried… more/less) to stick to them. Naturally I haven’t done this lately, because I prefer not to broadcast my failure. I know that it’s true though – goal setting is beneficial. I’m going to try to record my productivity, so then I will be able to more-accurately estimate sensible goals.

It is my intention to work toward monthly goals in a more structured approach. These goals won’t all be writing related – but are likely to be broader: writing, faith, programming, health and social.

I’d be curious to hear how you set goals and the strategies you use to keep yourself on-track.

Today Should Count

I’m counting down towards something I’m not particularly looking forward to (and it’s not related to writing). For the last few days I’ve been saying, “x days”, not counting the current day.

I picture optimism and pessimism as a spectrum, let’s call it emotional outlook. For the sake of a good analogy it’s a vertical line. Buried in the dark depths, is pessimism. Towards the top of the line, way up in the lofty sun-drenched heights, sits optimism. At the very top of the line is idealism. Depending your own emotional outlook is where you place realism.

In my detailed bio: the early years I recount how I was originally optimistic, but became pessimistic. Then, my patient and persistent wife, encouraged and cajoled my temperament back toward the optimistic end of the scale.

(Sidebar: As I write that sentence I consider the writing guideline of not adding too many adjectives. I’ve said my wife is (1) patient and (2) persistent. Both adjectives are relevant to the subject matter and therefore appropriate. But to not mention her beauty is to almost to deceive through omission, dear reader).

My point is this: today should count (especially if it’s less than 75% done). Make the most of every opportunity. Start that diet immediately, ring that friend, cross off that item on your list (after doing it).

 

What I wish for…

Within some scale of reason, what do you wish for? Something within the realm of possibility, even if unlikely…

If a genie suddenly appeared, after I’d overcome my immense shock, I’d ask to be an author who could live off my writing. I wouldn’t have to be fabulously wealthy; I’d even take a modest reduction in living standards if it meant being able to write for a living. The goal would be to get paid doing what I love, without having to take up residence in an old fridge box.

As I reflect on this desire I realize just how much it is a want and not a need. Just like my young nephew who “NEEDS a piece of cake” I realize how fortunate I truly am. I have no real needs – and really – only very luxurious wants.

I am already safe, I have no imminent fears of death or violence. I am over fed and in excellent health (on a world scale). I have a supportive family and friends. I have a good, safe workplace which provides income in excess of expenses. I can go home to a spacious house and enjoy many modern conveniences…

I don’t have everything I could possibly want, but it wouldn’t really be healthy to do so.

The truth is, I’m already living the dream.

It’s good to have goals and aspirations for the future, but let’s not forget how good we have it.