Sunday, October 14, 2007

Cutting Out The Crap

I've been wrestling with the question of balance in my life since I started working full-time about a month ago. I've got to admit that the transition from the flexibility of student life to the structure of the salaried workforce has been a bit of an adjustment for me.

Over the past few years, the frequent break and detour have become my signature move... so much so that Melbo has fondly taken to calling me "Captain Distracto." Unfortunately, that sort of routine doesn't really jive with what's expected of me these days. At least not if I want ever want to see my son or enjoy a home-cooked meal with the family.

So I resolved to change my ways. The resolving was easy. It's the change that's been hard. A creature of habit with a law degree is prone to revert to familiar ways. We're taught to be persuasive... and persuasive we are. I can hardly say no to myself, and it's hard to feel bad after I eventually cave in because of who I was up against. Me. I can rationalize with the best of them.

And so it happens that I meander over to a nearby office just "for a second" and end up rehashing the weekend in sports for thirty minutes. I get online "just to check an email" and get off having responded to three while also having skimmed the front page of the Washington Post, New York Times, Deseret News, and the Drudge Report. I convince myself that a particular bill has to be paid "right now" or that I need to call and consolidate my private student loans "before I forget." And on and on. The end result is often me getting home later than I had hoped and bringing home more work than I otherwise would have to (errr... don't tell the wife).

Sadly, this cycle doesn't end at work. By the time I get home, I'm often so worn out that all I feel like doing is vegging' out with Melbo in front of the tube. We end up watching a lot of crap instead of things we always talk about doing (e.g., writing in our journals, working on our photo albums, knocking out a few more books on our reading lists, or saving the world).

Seeing me flailing about, pathetically trying to steady myself, God had mercy and told Dallin H. Oaks I needed some counsel. Several millions of people may have been listening to General Conference last weekend, but it's clear that Oaks intended his remarks for me personally. Maybe it's because, as a former lawyer himself, he understands my struggle, but he didn't characterize my distractions as bad; instead, he merely suggested that they weren't the best use of my time. He said:

We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives...
As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best. Even though a particular choice [may be] more costly, its far greater value may make it the best choice of all.

Consider how we use our time in the choices we make in viewing television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading books or magazines. Of course it is good to view wholesome entertainment or to obtain interesting information. But not everything of that sort is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it. Some things are better, and others are best. When the Lord told us to seek learning, He said, "Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom" (D&C 88:118; emphasis added).
At some level, I already knew all this. But hearing it struck a chord. I've resigned myself to the fact that balance is likely to be a life-long struggle for me, but Oaks gave me hope. While I'm not convinced an animal like myself can easily change overnight, I'm optimistic that, with time, I can at least learn to chose the better, if not the best. Tough questions still loom, however, like whether this blog rises to the level of a good or a better ('Cause there's no way in hell it's a best).


jorgensens said...

here's the best thing about blogging- getting to connect and know other people. maybe it's not the 'best' but it's way better than 'good'. I love reading your & others blogs- there's enough good mindless entertainment out there but when you get a good discussion going on- it's well worth the time.

Alifinale said...

Actually, I thought that talk was for me...have you seen how much tv I watch? Seriously, it is good to hear these things to remind us that we can try harder to do better things with our time. Good luck!

buddens said...

I loved that talk too. It's true how sometimes you know something, but it takes someone pointing it out to you (especially an apostle!) to make you really take it to heart.

Michel says I sometimes live on the Battlestar Distractica, so I feel your pain.

Pete said...

Didn't hear the talk, but I have recently cut a whole lot out of my life. I quit one of my 4 jobs (last day is in 3 weeks), and I am already feeling the freedom that will come from having at least one second of free time in the future. As for tonight - I have 2 straight all nights planned to finish some of my work left over from the weekend.

sommshine said...

Blogging can be a 'best'. Just as long as you become the best blogger there ever was!

Steinhoist said...

which he already is!!

felicity said...

I second that. Bohn is ze best blogger, hands down.

CRAIGERS said...

Ahhhh.......and at such a 'young age' you find that time is precious. Well, just wait until you are "old" (and bald and gray like me!).....THAT is when you will realize you should have done 'better' things. I have come to realize that time is really, make use of every minute in a meaningful way. Take time to enjoy the FAMILY...DO IT.

Amy Morris said...

marc- you're serioulsy not considering cutting out blogging are you? You can't, the blogging world wouldn't be what it is with out you. You're the best blogger I know and I feel like I actually learn something when I read yours.

BA said...

Bohn, I've always been amazed how how thinly you can spread yourself without breaking. (and an occasional meltdown isn't really breaking). I think what you need to do is cut your five hours of sleep per night to three. That extra two hours would give you time to listen to This American Life on Podcast, write your Congressman, check Facebook, and start addressing envelopes for you Christmas Cards. I think you can send at least 500 this year!

melbo said...

ba, I'll be laughing for days in response to that post. Nice.
Husband I'm glad it won't take much to convince you who your numeros unos are. E & I are lucky like that. But life needs some crap occasionally and I'll make sure you get just a little of it. AFTER quality time with me, of course.

Marc said...

Jorgensens - True 'nuff... guess the only question is how much time is well worth to spend on it.

Ali, Buddens - Indeed.

Pete - A step ahead of the game you are.

Somm - Hmmm... you're one of those people who likes setting high bars, aren't you?

Steinhoist, Felicity/Nanu - You don't read many blogs, do you?

Craigers - I'll do my best.

Amy - You are too kind my friend. I'm not thinking of quitting blogging by the way, it's a good release. The appropriate amount of time to spend blogging is up for debate though.

BA - Ha. Remind me to come to you for pep talks more often.

Melbo - So my crap is in your hands then?