I’ve been feeling somewhat dissatisfied with today. Things have hardly gone according to plan, and what I have recently discovered about myself is that I rarely tell myself what the plan is. My wife is a planner, she likes lists and schedules. I like making lists and schedules, but I eventually lose them and months later come across them on my desk and am surprised at how easily they were forgotten. On the occasion I hold the list to my heart and let it organize my day, the smallest deviation causes great stress, and then I curse lists, schedules, and anyone who thinks they are good. So I think I have become passive-aggressive toward lists. I make them, but then don’t tell myself that they exist. Then, at the end of the day I feel miserable because I didn’t accomplish anything, but I never realized I was supposed to accomplish anything.
This system of living isn’t working.
I’m fairly reactionary. I’ve had to develop this tendency because life rarely went how I wanted, plan or no plan. Early on I decided that sometimes it was easier to not have a plan and react than it was to come up with a brilliant plan and have it not happen. Unfortunately, reacting in this way to life doesn’t help one accomplish much. I don’t live my life, I just react to a series of events because that is all that life is reduced to . . . a series of events. Maybe they have meaning, maybe they don’t. It doesn’t matter because all that matters is how I react to them.
Again, I’m not sure this system is working.
When one merely reacts to life, one never develops motivation or ambition. In truth, I want to have a job I enjoy and be happy. I just don’t know what job I should have to be happy.
So . . . dissatisfaction with today. The morning didn’t go how I planned because I spent it surfing the internet and waiting for something exciting to happen. I often do this. I don’t know what I expect to happen. Maybe some friend will come on that I can talk to. Maybe some news story will break. Maybe the internet will pop out of the screen and we’ll have a deep conversation. Regardless, I do this from time to time. Perhaps it is the same part of me that watches Jurassic Park and thinks “what if this time the dinosaurs win?” It never happens and our heroes always get away, but there is a part of me that is convinced that one day they won’t.
As the morning progressed, I realized I wasn’t drinking enough water and a dehydration headache was forming. But I continued to be on the internet, looking at blogs of writers and musicians and pastors and started to realize I was once more lamenting my job.
I don’t have a bad job. I work at a bookstore. Not a corporate one, a localy-owned, used book store. Thus, things are fairly relaxed. Sadly, I had spent nearly three years in a prior job that was fast-paced, stressful, and moderately abusive. Sometimes the laid-back atmosphere freaks me out. I’m not used to it. I’m adjusting though. But the problem is that it still isn’t part of this nebulous “it’s not what I want to do” idea.
So now we go back to the first part of this entry . . . I have little to no motivation, ambition, or plan. I don’t know what I want to do but I can usually figure out what I don’t want to do. However, even in saying what I don’t want to do, I couldn’t really nail down why I don’t want to do it. I want to be happy in a career, but I’ve never defined what “happy in a career” is. Today, while laying down and allowing the headache to abate, I started thinking it would be cool to be a shepherd. Sure, sheep are stupid and smelly, but I could listen to my iPod all day and be outside.
I think I’m somewhat driven by whims and emotions where work is concerned. I’m reactionary and I’m a slacker, and this is not a good combination. I’m also an intelligent reactionary slacker, so that means I spend a lot of time thinking and not doing anything productive. And that probably makes me a bit of a pain as well.
There is an image that was planted in my head a few weeks back. I got it from a sermon. I can’t remember if it was from Tim Keel or Rick McKinley, but it was this image of the Apostle Paul in chains and being guarded by a Roman Centurion (a position Paul found himself in from time to time). And as horrible as it would be to be in prison or under house arrest, Paul didn’t see himself as a captive, he saw the centurion as a captive . . . a captive audience. So Paul would talk, evangelize, and from time to time the centurion would become a follower of Christ. In fact, at the end of the book of Philippians we see that Paul, imprisoned again, has actually converted people in Caesar’s household and many of the messages preached by Paul and the other apostles actively undermined Caesar’s authority. These were opportunities, not burdens.
I have been working on my attitude toward my job. Today I listened to the first part of a sermon on the life of David by Rick McKinley. He spoke about how David was highly regarded by God, even being anointed as king. He went from being a shepherd to a messenger, to king. He came from Bethlehem, about as backwater a place as any in Israel. So a hick shepherd became one of the greatest kings of Israel. I’m not saying that through my position at a book store that I will one day became President or anything like that, but I am saying that we have no real idea what will happen in our lives. In fact, the central figure in the story of David is God, not David. He was the one that moved David into a position of power. If not, David would have lived and died a redneck from the country.
It is the experiences and places we are that shape and define us. Unfortunately, we have to choose to let them define us in a positive way. It is easy to lament our jobs, our families, the places we live, or the problems we face. When we do that, however, we feel sorry for ourselves and wait for circumstances to change. Reactionary slacker. Or, we could be like Paul and see the opportunities around us. This doesn’t necessarily mean we make it our goal to lead our unsaved co-workers to Christ. When we struggle to find a reason to go to work each morning, how does that make it any easier? Instead, we can look for the ways God speaks to us in our jobs. Maybe we can help someone have a better day through politeness. Maybe we can answer theological questions. Maybe we can help a stressed-out co-worker who is supposed to be putting her trust in God but instead puts her trust in finances and her own ability and just complains all the time until you want to scream. Hypothetically.
All this can be summarized in Stephen Covey’s first habit of highly effective people: being proactive. Basically, we choose how we respond to our situations. We can either lament or overcome. I haven’t mastered this, which is why I haven’t finished Covey’s book. I can’t make it past the first dang habit!
I am trying to react in a positive way to my environment, especially my work environment. I’m trying to see the opportunities and respond with graciousness. This is hard. I often don’t like people. If left to my own devices I would eventually end up with a vicodin addiction and a cane with flames on it.
Sometimes I would love to be an anti-hero in the story of me, but in truth anti-heroes are typically tortured souls, unhappy, and they don’t tend to be Christians. I’ve had difficulty reconciling my anti-hero desires with Christ. I honestly wonder if many of the dissatisfactions I have with life right now are an extension of this attempt to be proactive. I guess all I can do is keep trying and be patient.
Sorry, but I never claimed to have the answers. I’m too young to know everything, even when I think I do know everything.