- Be Mine: Valentine’s Day
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Today was Valentine's Day. That means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. So whether you thought today was a day to eat lots of chocolate…
- Getting Things Done (GTD) – A Weekly Schedule System & Excel Template Download
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**This post includes a Weekly GTD Schedule - Microsoft Excel Template Download.** I decided it's time to try Getting Things Done in a more organized way. There are 4 major components…
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- Sand Through My FingersPosted 1 month ago
Life is hardly ever what we expect it to be. The harder we try to plan out our lives, the more God shows us that He has bigger things in…
- Letter From My 15 Year Old Self
- Letter From My 15 Year Old SelfPosted 4 months ago
It was well past the stroke of midnight. My room had been turned upside down, and I was ready to cry in frustration. How could I have lost a letter…
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Wouldn't it be amazing if, during our darkest hour, we could reach under our bed and open up a box of hope? A "box of hope" could be a figurative…
Today was Valentine’s Day. That means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. So whether you thought today was a day to eat lots of chocolate or a day to send lots of love notes or even a day made up by a card company, I think today was a good reminder to appreciate the love we have in our lives. Sometimes it’s overwhelming to think about how much I’m blessed with love in my life. It’s funny, even though I occasionally have feelings of loneliness or not being cared for, when I start really thinking about the blessing of love in my life, I realize my cup is overflowing.
One main source of love in my life is my friends and family. Their love and support through even the darkest of times strengthen me. And I have some much love for them in return. One of the main ways I show my love is through crafting. So I made some Valentine’s to give to some of my closest loved one.
Unfortunately Valentine’s Day only lasts one day, and now it’s already come to a close… until next year. But all the grand Valentine’s gestures don’t have to be a once a year thing. Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t wait to shower each other with tons of extra signs of affection until there was a designated day? I for one want to strive to spread a little bit more Valentine’s Day love during the other 364 days of the year.
So what can you do to keep the Valentine’s Day spirit year round?
Text, Email, or Call your loved ones to let them know you care and are thinking of them.
As You Wish
Tell the people in your life, “I love you” often and sincerely.
Little token gifts now and then make loved ones feel remembered. Remember it’s not about how much you spend, but about how much thought you put into it. It can even be something handmade like a card.
Heart to Heart
The most profound way to show your love is simply by being there for your loved one as they experience the ups and downs of life. Be a listening and compassionate ear!
What other ideas do you have to create an atmosphere of Valentine’s Day love all year round? Please leave your suggestions in the comments!
I consider myself a very productive person. I get a lot of things done. I’ve accomplished quite a bit. I’ve written two novels, designed many websites, worked on Alternate Reality Games for organizations like the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and The World Bank, maintain an active social, family, and most importantly spiritual life. I take care of my health with doctor’s and therapy appointments, meet weekly with my writing group, craft excessively, serve in multiple church callings, and blog now and then. My plate is overflowing, so let’s just say I’m up to some big things! However, to date, I’ve managed to do all this without any significant structured planning of my time on a day to day basis. Maybe you’ll find it impressive that I’ve gone so long without any sort of a schedule or plan, just doing what seem right in the moment, as it occurs to me. That’s code for “whatever task is stressing me out the most that second”.
Enough is enough.
I decided it’s time to try Getting Things Done in a more organized way. Conveniently for me, Getting Things Done or GTD, as it’s often referred to by its adherents, is a system for just what its name implies – getting things done. It was created by David Allen, and there’re plenty of resources in other locations where you can learn more about GTD. But for a quick overview, check out this infographic:
Once I learned about this system, and with some help and advice from others, I decided to focus on creating a schedule for myself based on GTD. The idea being I would now have set “Bucket Times” to manage all the areas on my life according to the principals of GTD. But I’ll get back to Bucket Times later.
The main problem I was facing with finding a system that would work with me was finding something I could stick with. In the past systems either were so cumbersome, scheduling and planning me so rigidly that I couldn’t realistically do it long term. Or on the other hand, the systems were so vague and abstract, focusing only on broad goals that they didn’t help me commit to anything. The third category of problem systems were ones that were incomplete, only addressing certain aspects of what I needed from an organization system and leaving me feeling semi-organized but ultimately even more overwhelmed. Why? Because now I knew exactly what I needed to do but had no structures in place to help me accomplish any of it.
To address of this, I there are 4 major components to my personalized GTD system I am putting into place initially. (This is just to get started. After these are going well I will add more.)
- Identify 6-9 Major Areas of Life
- Roles and areas are the major categories of your life such as Family, School, Faith, Friends, Work, Writing etc.
- List 10 Most Pressing Tasks Under Each Major Role/Area
- Most pressing tasks are tasks that currently need to be taken for that area. For example, for Family, it might be something like “Spend time with Mom” or “Game Night.” For Work, it might be “Sign the Parsons contract” or “Return Sonya’s phone call.” Any task that has more than two steps is called a Project.
- Create A Weekly Schedule of Bucket Times To Stick To Each Week
- Bucket Times are blocks of time designated at the same time every week for completing tasks in each of your Major Areas. For example, I created Spiritual Time every evening from 10pm – 11pm. During those times I will refer to my List of Tasks for that Area of Life for to do items to complete. See the Downloads Section at the bottom of this post for an Excel template tool to help with this!
- Generate Mind-Dump Of EVERY Open Loop In Life
- Open loops are thought processes that are incomplete. They keep the mind’s inbox full when it’s most productive empty. Empty that inbox by downloading everything in it! Generate a complete list of everything, every to do, action item, task, someday task, maybe task, goal, dream ,wish, hope, plan, etc. Include everything from “Remember to pick up the milk” to “Improve relationship with Dad” to “Travel the world”. Get that mind completely empty and onto something tangible and permanent that is workable for future reference.
Once I had a plan of action, it was just a matter of putting it into place…
Starting is always easier said than done.
I needed some help getting started. So I decided to enroll someone else to do this thing with me. No, not all of you readers! My dear writing buddy who I create my day with every morning. I told her all about his idea and explained GTD to her (the Cliff Notes version). She was on board.
Over Skype, we came up with our Major Areas of Life. This is mine:
Next I began to list my lost pressing tasks under each area. I’m constantly working on my list.
Then I created a schedule by which I would process the list of tasks. But instead of a rigid list of strictly scheduled times like ones that hadn’t worked for me in the past, I am working with a schedule of Bucket Times. The beauty of Bucket Times is it structured enough in that it gives you a set time you are committed to making forward progress in an area of your life, but it is flexible enough that you still get to choose what is most expedient to do within that Area. Furthermore, the whole schedule isn’t so rigid that the whole thing risks being thrown off if you go over a few minutes. As I see it, if you get behind you are often still within your bucket time for that type of item. And even if you aren’t you can rest assured that you have more time scheduled for that item soon. So file add it to your Bucket Time list for later. Lastly, the overarching rule is that this isn’t a rigid system, meaning the operative work is: expediency.
When all else fails, do whatever is most expedient in the moment.
I am committed to using this new system for a trial of the next 3 months. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing an upswing in my productivity. And more importantly a decrease in my feelings of overwhelm at not knowing how to handle the overflowing plate that is my life. In this analogy, I’ve been eating off an overflowing plate for a long long time. Sure I’ve been digesting my food and getting nutrient, but lots of things haven’t been sitting well. GTD is a set of silverware – tools to help me eat my food, so that I can take small manageable bites and digest it easily and effectively. The schedule works like a restaurant menu (thanks Paul for that one!) with various selections for each category of food or area of my life. Some items or Tasks on the menu are more bland and others are the spice of life!
Give me a helping of work every weekday. Indulge in a double portion of friendship on weekends. A spicy side dish of romance if I’m so lucky! Pile it on my plate and enjoy a delicious, nutritious, and satisfying life!
Stay tuned for Part Two of this post series on Generating a Mind-Dump of All Your Open Loops coming soon! Get an email reminder when it comes out! Subscribe to the newsletter!
I hope you enjoy the Downloads below. The Weekly Schedule Templates for Microsoft Excel should be helpful tools for planning a schedule in the fashion described in this post. Please post comments with ideas for improvements, and I will do my best to make them.
Life is hardly ever what we expect it to be. The harder we try to plan out our lives, the more God shows us that He has bigger things in store for us. Like when you try to hold sand in the palm of your hand. Relax your grip completely on your life and the pieces of your life all fall through the cracks. Plan your life too tightly and it all starts to slip through your fingers despite your best efforts. But God’s hands are infinite. He can hold all the sand of our lives and more. He won’t let any sand slip away if we allow Him to help us hold it. We simply have to turn to Him and ask for His help, love and guidance in ALL things.
Sand in it’s size is much like the minutia of our lives. Tiny in the grand scheme of things. When struggling to hang on to the little granules, we often forget to pull back and see the larger picture. We are worried about loosing a few grains of sand when we are standing on the beaches of infinite blessings if we would only look around and realize it. Not that each grain isn’t important, but we shouldn’t let it distract us from remembering who we are and where we are going as divine children of Heavenly Father on our journey back to Him.
But in the topsy turviness of life, all this is all to easy to forget. And suddenly you aren’t just loosing sand, you’re up to you’re being consumed, even suffocated by it.
A few months and a lifetime ago… or back in November, I celebrated my 30th Birthday with a Mocktail Soiree. I was surrounded by numerous friends and family and had a wonderful time. I was in good health, and I was able to walk around the party. That night was a high point for me, and I had no idea I was headed for a very low point just a week or so later. I had plans for how I would spend the next several months. Plans I intended to keep.
Then a series of events led to a serious health decline that landed me in the hospital with my life at stake. A series of serious infections caused the autoimmune disease I have, Myasthenia Gravis, to flare making me unable to breathe on my own so that I required a ventilator just a week after my party.
Life is strange. Unpredictable and sometimes difficult to comprehend.
As I fought for my life in the hospital, some might wonder if I was left asking why God would allow me to withstand this hardship. Why would God allow me to suffer so much? And if that’s the case, what does it say about God?
To which I would answer, I asked nothing of the sort. Though it might be tempting to blame God when things go “wrong” in our lives, that is an entirely counterproductive approach. Heavenly Father provides us trials in our lives as a backdrop against which to bloom and grow. Without it we would never progress and become more like our divine parents. My health trials have given me a chance to learn things about myself that I may not have otherwise (or may have taken much longer to learn otherwise). I have become more sensitive to the needs of others and to my own needs. I have become more introspective and intuitive. I have gained faith and perspective that even the seemingly worst things come with spiritual gifts.
He also gives us trials as a chance to practice choosing and agency – or being utilizers of His gift of freewill. When we exercise our divine right of freewill and choose good, we can grow closer to Heaven Father.
It is hard to see this larger picture when in the moment. Just like it is hard to see the beach for what it is when grappling with the granules of sand. But when we put the sand of our lives in God’s capable and infinitely wise hands the landscapes of eternity will become more apparent to us. And for that we will be blessed even more than we can fathom now.
“And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.
And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.”
It’s been a long nine weeks. Another nine long weeks I’ve spent in the hosptial with whole month spent in the ICU. I’m supposed to go home in the morning finally. I’m hesitantly relieved. I don’t want to be disappointed.
Being in the hosptial for any period of time is really hard. Probably one of the hardest if not the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do. Espeically when the stay is super long and the reason is life threatening involving ICUs, ventillators, comas, and the like, it’s especially important to feel the love of those around me, to know that I am not alone in this.
And my friend and family have really risen to the occasion over the last 9 weeks. I couldn’t be more grateful for everything they’ve done for me. They have been my emotional and spirital life support while on physical life support most of the time in the hosptial. I can’t thank them enough.
When your friend or family memeber is extremely ill in the hosptial and ICU it’s hard to know what to do or say. Here’s some of what I appreciated the most to serve as an idea guide to helping support someone through a rough hosptial stay:
- Call or text ahead.
Let the person or the family memeber staying with them that you are coming so they can be prepared or let you know if its not a good time. For example, the person might be in a proceedure or be sleeping when you plan on coming.
- Ask what you can bring. Often times ICUs have restrictions on live flowers and other things that can be brought in. Very sick patients often have dietary restrictions, allergies, or simply aren’t eating at all. Don’t be afriad to come right out and ask what the situation is before you bring something. Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated.
- Bring reminders of life outside the hosptial. The most amazing awesome thing my friends did for me was decorate every inch of my room with photos and artwork and Christmas decorations for the holiday. My friend Katy took photos off my own facebook accooutn and got them printed out and posted them in a giant collage covering an entire wall under the window to remind me of all my friends and happier times. I have photos of my dog, myself as a kid doing fun things, my family, and other fun stuff. She also took a calendar with photos of Christ which is extremely important to me as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and got them laminated then hung them all over another wall. That allowed me to feel the Spirit of God in my hosptial room and be constantly reminded of my Savior’s and God’s love for me. Other friends decorated for Christmas since I spenddt the holidays in the hosptial as well. They put up gingerbread men, wreaths, garlands and more. My mmom got me a tiny Christmas tree and a star. My room had to have been the most amazingly festive of the whole hosptial because everytime anyone came in to give to a treatment or do a proceedure the ooo’d and ahh’d over my decor! It brought joy to everyone who entered my room, and especially me! I am so grateful to everyone who took the time to do it
- Promote Health If you think that you are sick, don’t come and visit! A person in the hosptial has a weakened immune system and can get much worse from a simple cold.
- Remember Their Other Family and Pets If you can offer to help out with their other family members who may also need things during this time as well as their pets who don’t stop needing walks, love and attention while your friend is in the hosptial for prolongued periods.
- Listen and Love The most important thing you can do is just listen, love and otherwise be a emotional and spiritual support while your loved one goes through this hard experience. They need your listening ear to vent sometimes, to cry sometimes, to worry, and be angry sometimes. They need your kind words to comfort always, to remind them you love them always, to be in their corner always, to boost them up when they are down, and to always be their friend and support and cheerleader. Remind them how much they are loved and missed by everyone else.
- Visit!!! Phone calls and texts are great, but nothing beats an in person visit when you are lonely and scared in the hosptial for long periods of time. And the longer the hosptial stay goes on the worse it feels, but the less people tend to remember to come because the novelty of it starts to wear off. Don’t forget your friend is still going though it in the hospital just because it’s been going on for 2 months!
- Don’t Unload Don’t tell the person in the hosptial how hard it is for you to see them in the hosptial. It only makes the patient feel like a burden. Of course you are worried and stressed yourself but make sure you talk about it with someone who isn’t as close to the person as you are and definitely not the patient themselves.
- Be Yourself If all else fails just be yourself. The person that the patient missed from when they were well and wants to see is YOU! Don’t overly worry about what to say and how to act. They just miss you and want to be with their friend or family member. They want your company and comfort that only you know how to give because you are the only person who is you. The worse thing you can do isn’t to say or do the wrong thing but to do nothing and make the patient feel completely forgotten about and abandoned by you.
- Bring Them Home! When your loved one in the hospital makes it home, don’t forget about them then either! They often will be stuck at home for some time and need just as much love and attention brought to them there as they did in the hosptial. So bring them home!
I am so grateful for my friends and family who did everything I just described above and so much more! They made it possible for me to emotionally and spiritually survive this hosptial stay. It really wouldn’t have been barable without all of you so thank you soooo much!!! I am especially grateful to God and Christ. They are always there for me and I know that this too shall pass and even this difficult trial I have endured will be for my benefit. I know it is slowly and rather painfully shaping me into who I am to be someday. But the pain was made less by some photobombs and a lot of love from friends and family.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!!!!!
It was well past the stroke of midnight. My room had been turned upside down, and I was ready to cry in frustration. How could I have lost a letter I’ve been waiting for 15 years to open? A letter from one person who would never forgive me if I never read it – a letter from 15 year old self. It was 2:30am on October 23, 2013, and my 30th Birthday was already turning into a disaster.
Fifteen years prior, I had watched an episode of Northern Exposure in which one of the main characters, Maggie, receives a letter from her 15 year old self on her 30th birthday. She is then haunted by her 15 year old self while she comes to terms with who she is, who she was, and who she is becoming. I watched that episode on the last day of my 15th year. I was inspired! And I had little time to lose. That night after my family had gone to sleep I got back up out of bed and spent a few hours composing this letter to myself. I poured out my soul, instilling every ounce of my being in that letter, intuitively knowing that it would be so needed in 15 years. Flash back to the wee early hours of my 30th Birthday. The letter was nowhere to be found. But sitting around feeling devastated would get me no where. There was only one course left to take. Fervent prayers were answered. Inspiration struck. I remembered a 15 year old external hard drive that might contain a digital copy of the letter – the next best thing to the physical signed copy. And there it was. Right where I left it untouched by time for 15 years. I printed it out and started to read as the tears flowed down…
To: Lauren Drew Soffer
(This letter is not to be opened until October 23, 2013.)
It has probably been quite some time since you have heard from me, at least fifteen years to be exact. I just thought that you might want to hear from your fifteen-year-old self now that you are twice as old.
I try to imagine what you will be doing in your life right now. If we are anything alike then you are most likely taking a break from your incredibly busy life and something really important that you are suppose to be doing in order to read this letter. So where are you? Did you become a famous actress? Did you write a brilliant screenplay? Are you directing great movies? Or did you do something completely different?
Have you changed a lot in fifteen years? Are you closer to that idea person I am now working so hard to become? Do you still dream all of the time? I hope so. I love to dream. You remember that, don’t you? I love to occupy my hours with imaginary alternate realities of my life, present in future. Did you ever go on the Rosie O’Donnell Show like you so often dreamed? Did you ever meet Gillian Anderson? Well, it doesn’t really matter. My dreamtime is only a few steps above childish fantasies.
Well, enough with the questions I can’t get answers to. I will remind you a little bit of a little bit about me. Aside from school where, in my junior year, I am taking one honors and two AP classes, I am involved with a few (ha ha) extracurricular activities. I am the first alternate for Varsity Tennis, I really wanted to be one of the nine players on Varsity, but my serve isn’t ready yet. Next year. I hope that by the time you read this letter, you can really serve the pants off people, or at least have a good serve. Right now I am working on a Comedy Scene for the Drama Festival with Johanna Fair, Jeff Newman, Jeremy Nation, and George something or other. Jackie Luttrel is directing. We are doing the last scene from Play It Again, Sam by Woody Allen. Now that will be an old movie when you read this. Which reminds me, do they still have videotapes, audiotapes, and CD’s? Probably not. Anyway, I just tried out for our Senior Produced Winter Drama that is Love, Sex, and the IRS. I don’t think that I did that well. Only you know if I will get a part. I am also going to do Psychodrama for Advanced Peer Counseling, which is another thing I am doing. I love it. We went on out retreat together up to JCA Shalom, and it was one of the best experiences I had in a long time. I am on the grant writing committee for PC as well. Let’s see, there is also Comedy Sportz. It is one of the best things in my schedule. It is just so much fun, and I always look forward to it. I also am training Beginning Peer Councilors, going to Film Club (when it doesn’t interfere with writing the PC grant), and going to drama club. I believe that brings me to the last but not least thing on my plate, my job at temple as an assistant teacher. I have a second grade class this year, and I enjoy everything about it but getting up early on Sunday mornings. I’m pretty busy for a fifteen year old, huh? I am a little stressed over it all right now, but I enjoy doing everything so much I can’t give anything up.
So, that’s what I’m doing. Now, onto what I am like. I believe in believing. I like to think that there is still a lot in this world worth believing in. And, if the whole world keeps on believing, there will always be hope for the future. That’s another thing. I know that the young people are our future. That is why I love my job where I get to be a part of making the future. I believe that there is no greater gift you can bestow than your love. I try to give my love everyday. I’m not perfect yet, but I’m working on it. My goal is to be a person who never runs out of love to give and who is a strength and a model for those trying to be better people. And, I don’t think that my progress is going so badly. My best friend, Leslie, tells me that I am her strength. Basically all of my beliefs can be summed up in my goal for life: Before I die, I want to leave a lasting and positive impact, I want to make a difference to at least one person, I want to leave the world a little bit better than when I entered it, and I want to be a living example of love and kindness. That brings me to what I want to do with the rest of my life. I think that I am best suited to fully that goal by doing something in the entertainment industry. I think that I can really make a difference to a large number of people though work in that field. I want to act, I want to write screenplays, I want to direct, and I might want to produce (funny how my I-Search that I am working on for English is on this very topic).
Here are my other interests. In the area of television, these I the shows I watch: I watch X-Files religiously and consider myself a devoted X-Phile, I am addicted to the Simpsons (a highly intelligent and brilliant satire of society which also happens to be a hysterical cartoon), I am almost completely hooked on Ally McBeal, and I enjoy watching Inside Actor’s Studio. I must also make a note to a show I always love to see and without I wouldn’t be righting this letter right now: Northern Exposure. There was this one episode where in a flashback to 15 years earlier Maggie writes a letter to herself in thirty years. In the present, Maggie gets a hold of the letter and a whole thing plays out, but that isn’t the important part. The important thing is that I got the idea for writing this letter from the show. There are also an endless number of movies I love. One of my very favorites is The Princess Bride. But there are so many others I adore that I couldn’t name them all or I’d be here forever, however, for a dramatic piece, I liked the Piano, for a comical piece I like Forget Paris, and for one that just sticks out in my mind as being really good, I enjoyed Fried Green Tomatoes. Some of my favorite books include The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx, Exodus by Leon Uris, and The Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert.
My social life is as follows: My two best friends are Leslie Klein and Jackie Luttrel. I am closer with Leslie, but we also go through more rough spots, like the one right now, for example. I should also mention that we went to Spain together this past summer, I’m sure you didn’t forget that. I love them both to death though. I don’t know how I would possibly get through my high school life without them constantly being there for me, mostly to just let me vent. We understand each other in a very special way. They are what real friends are, or at least are the closest things to it that I have ever experienced. I also hand out with a lot of more casual, mostly drama friends. There is Johanna Fair, Blair Anderson, Jessica Yuda, Lauren Hubert, Tarren Polack, Shelby Schulman, Miriam Krikorian, and Brittany Stabile. I have especially been getting closer to Johanna lately because of Peer Counseling and the Drama Festival Scene.
Well, I guess that just about wraps it up for now. But I do want you to remember a few things. Lauren, you are an amazingly strong person. You have the power to change things in your life. Never feel like you have to settle. Remember the wisdom of the car commercial: “If everything were just good enough, would anything ever really be good enough?” Never loose hope, never stop dreaming, and never loose sight of those dreams. Don’t be afraid to make your dreams a reality. You are an incredibly talented person. You can do anything. “If you think it, want it, dream it, then it’s real. You are what you feel.” Never forget that Matt Kaplan always believed you could make it as an actress. Remember to remember what is really important in life, what makes life worth living, and place that thing above all else. Remember to spread light and to give and receive love openly. If you have forgotten any of this in the past fifteen years, then remember that it is never to late to change. Don’t forget the road less traveled by, it can make all the difference. Remember that, as Abraham Lincoln said, “People are just about as happy as they make up their mind to be.” And finally remember the great Dr. Seuss’s words from Oh, The Places You’ll Go,
“So be sure when you step
Step with care and great tact
And remember that life’s
A Great Balancing Act
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed)
Kid, you’ll move mountains.”
Lots of love,
(Fifteen Years Old)
October 22, 1999
When I finished reading the letter, I went right back to the beginning and read it again. Crying all the way though. It was so full of hope. So full of love. So full of excitement. So full of confidence. So full of wisdom, especially for a 15 year old.
Lots of things stood out to me. For instance, I did meet Gillian Anderson and I did get the part in Love, Sex, and the IRS. But what stood out to me the most was the last paragraph containing advice. It was wise beyond years and exactly what I’ve been needing to hear. In fact the one line that most stood out to me was, “If you have forgotten any of this in the past fifteen years, then remember that it is never to late to change.” That hit me really hard. And I have forgotten some of the qualities I had at 15. Namely that level of confidence I once had. I want that back. And as I said, It’ s never too late to change.
The only thing I have left to do is write another letter to my 45 year old self, but this time I need to find a way to hide somewhere more obvious. No need to go through all that stress on my 45th birthday again. Until then, I have mountains to move!
Wouldn’t it be amazing if, during our darkest hour, we could reach under our bed and open up a box of hope? A “box of hope” could be a figurative thing that we reach inside ourselves or out to God to find. But sometimes you need something more. Sometimes you need a literal box of hope. And that is just what I created for myself during my darkest hour.
When I was 16 years old, during my senior year of high school, I was immersed in a deep and serious clinic depression. My Obsessive Compulsive Disorder had just been diagnosed but was not yet under control. I had constant intrusive thoughts of hurting myself – of ending my life.
Looking back I really had amazing self control on the whole. But I could only handle so much. The second time I caved in to the constant bombardment of intrusive images of self-harm, and I ended up cutting myself using razor blades my parents had forgotten to hide out in the garage.
Afterward I was on the phone with my therapist at the time. She was telling me I was at a crossroads… that if I chose to continue down this path of cutting I would probably end up in a hospital. I wasn’t really listening to what she was saying. Instead, I was transfixed by what was sitting on the desk in front of me – the candle-lighting piece my mom had made for my younger sister’s Bat Mitzvah. She had glued this tiny shells all over the outside of it go with my sister’s tropical theme. And it struck me then with incredible intensity how very beautiful those tiny shells were – how simply amazing it was that something SO tiny could be SO beautiful. And if something that tiny in life could be that beautiful… well all of life was beautiful and precious as well.
I rushed to get off the phone with my therapist. I knew that I had to find a way to hang onto this feeling. I had stumbled upon my internal box of hope! But I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to tap into again. I had to find a way to make it physical while it was fresh in my mind. I had to find a way to remind myself of this epiphany every day because I knew there would be many dark days ahead where I would desperately need to draw on my box of hope.
So I had my mom (who is good at crafty things) help me cover an old shoe box with some bright pretty wrapping paper. I wanted my box of hope to be private and inconspicuous on the outside. I didn’t tell her what it was for, but perhaps sensing my urgency she kindly helped me anyway. Then I took the box upstairs to my room and set to work.
Going through pictures and old magazines I decorated the inside of the box with things I wanted to do with my life, places I wanted to travel, people who cared about me, things that filled me with hope. I hadn’t yet found out if I had gotten into USC Film School (a few months later I did), so I put a picture of a director’s chair with “USC Alumni” written on it. I glued in some of the very shells that had led me to make the box to remind me of how beautiful life could be.
I put a picture of myself as a child to remind myself of happy memories of my childhood innocence. I was obsessed with The X-Files and desperately wanted to know how it would all end, so I put a picture of that as well.
Most importantly I wrote in large purple letters:
I CHOOSE TO CONTINUE LIVING
I WILL GET THROUGH THIS
Then it was time to fill the box. Inside I placed a smiling drama mask to remind me of my love of theater and the creative arts since creativity had always sustained me during dark times and given me something to look forward to.
Next went the rug I wove myself while learning about Native Americans in elementary school. I had always hated looking at it when I was younger because I hadn’t done it perfectly like my best friend Jennifer. But over time I came to love it for it’s imperfections. In the box, it reminded me that imperfection could be beautiful too!
I put in a bracelet I made when I was 11. All the beads were pretty by themselves but together well… it reminds me that you can have too much of a good thing. But also to have fun and to have a sense of humor in all things.
Second to last I put in a rope I tediously made myself during Outdoor Education in 5th grade. I spent over an hour with my hands going numb in an icy cold river laboriously pounding all the moisture out of a reed before braiding it into a rope. It reminds me of the power of hard work. And the rope itself, which could hold my whole body weight, reminds me to always be strong.
Finally I included a letter that saved my life one day. I was home alone after school and feeling very suicidal. I was searching for a knife to cut myself with. Suddenly, I had a prompting to go check the mail before I got any further. I almost never received any mail, but on that very day the following letter was there for me.
I cried when I read the letter. It quite possibly saved my life that day. I stopped looking for a knife and starting trying to figure out who could have sent it. I didn’t think about hurting myself at all for the rest of that day. The letter reminds me that I am loved even when I don’t realize it or it doesn’t feel that way, and that God is there working miracles in my life.
I looked at my box of hope every day for about a year. It got me through a lot of very dark hours and days and months. Then there came a time when I could carry my box of hope around with me in my heart, and I didn’t need to look at it so often.
Now it mostly sits in my closet, but I always know it is there if I need it. But today I was talking with a friend who is going through a very dark time in her life, and I told her about it. I offered to send her photos of it, but, I thought, why not go a step farther and share it here? Perhaps there is someone else who needed a little box of hope today.
I first published this post on my Box of Hope in 2010 on my now mostly retired blog, NovelPatient which chronicled my life with multiple chronic illnesses. At the time, I was surprised by how positively the post was received. I have since realized that everyone needs a box of hope to draw on in times of trouble. For most people that box is figurative. But for me… my hope is now something I can pull out of the closest whenever I need it. I can wrap myself in my blanky and see, feel, smell and touch the contents of box, encircled in eternal hope.
Has anyone else made a box of hope or something similar? Please share and post about it in the comments!
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
Yesterday my friend gave a talk in church, quoting this scripture. It’s one of my all time favorites, and it inspired me to make this poster to hang on my wall to remind me of the importance of having a “perfect brightness of hope.”
Hope is what keeps me going most days. It keeps me positive. It helps me endure to the end. Without hope I couldn’t have faith, which is hope in action. Taking action increases my faith and that gives me more hope. It builds upon each other wonderfully.
I am so grateful to have hope both in this life and hope in the next through my Savior Jesus Christ. Through Him all things are possible. Through His atoning sacrifice I can return to live with Him and my Heavenly Father again. And that gives me eternal hope!
Feel free to download my poster. Or download the poster in black & white for easy printing. I only ask that you please provide attribution and link back to this page when reposting the image! Thanks and enjoy!
It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to go forward with a great desire forever beating at the door of our hearts as we travel toward our distant goal.
Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.
I set goals for myself every morning with my friend over Skype. We talk about the space we are in, clear the air, and set goals for what we want to accomplish for the day and the kind of people we want to be while we accomplish it. For example, I might set a goal to write for two hours on my novel, and I create a context of doing that in a playful and creative mood. But setting the goals is only one side of the coin. The followthrough is just as crucial as the goal setting. Why do I set goals? I set goals because it gives me direction. More than that it creates the idea of the future I can then live into. It’s a powerful thing. The President of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, told this anecdote:
Several days ago, while driving to my home, I approached the entrance to Interstate 15. At the on-ramp I noticed three hitchhikers, each one of whom carried a homemade sign which announced his desired destination. One sign read “Los Angeles,” while a second carried the designation “Boise.” However, it was the third sign which not only caught my attention but caused me to reflect and ponder its message. The hitchhiker had lettered not Los Angeles, California, nor Boise, Idaho, on the cardboard sign which he held aloft. Rather, his sign consisted of but one word and read simply “ANYWHERE.” Here was one who was content to travel in any direction, according to the whim of the driver who stopped to give him a free ride. What an enormous price to pay for such a ride. No plan. No objective. No goal. The road to anywhere is the road to nowhere, and the road to nowhere leads to dreams sacrificed, opportunities squandered, and a life unfulfilled.
Thomas S. Monson, Which Road Will You Travel?
But how do I turn goals from dreams into reality? I find that it’s all about accountability. And accountability starts with a good plan. I was recently introduced to the SMART Goal Method of goal setting. SMART stands for:
- Specific: What will I accomplish?
- Measurable: How will I and others know I’ve reached my goal?
- Attainable: Do I have the commitment and resources to realistically achieve this goal?
- Relevant: Why is this goal important to me?
- Time-Bound: When do I expect to complete this goal?
I’ve also found it really helps to think of the most powerfully positive outcome I can have around this goal. So I ask myself the following questions:
- If I were to have a breakthrough miracle in this area, what would my life look like?
- What are the benefits of achieving this goal?
It is great to make goals, but it’s vitally important to put a plan for that goal into action. So I make a list of tasks or to-dos that will help me achieve the goal with target completion dates.
It’s important to have a contingency plan for possible challenges I might encounter while achieving my goal, so I make a list of possible obstacles and ways to overcome them.
Finally, I find it infinitely helpful to have someone who helps me stay accountable in my goal making. That is why my morning goal making has been so life changing. Out of that I’ve completed multiple drafts of both my novels, increased my productivity at work, and found more time left over to do the other things I love to do. I also haven’t forgotten to be grateful for how precious this life is and enjoy the journey.
In order to facilitate my goal making, I’ve made a custom worksheet in PDF format. If you download the worksheet you’ll be able to fill it out on the computer (you’ll even be able to check the to-do items off your list), save and print it. It’s free to download. I only ask that you don’t sell it. Also please don’t republish it without attribution (a link back to this article). Finally, please let me know if you have any feedback or suggestions on how to improve upon it! Enjoy!
Most people feel that snail mail is dead. When they want to communicate favor email, cell phones, text messages, Facebook, and Twitter over sending a letter through the United States Postal Service. But most people I know still love receiving heartfelt cards and other physical mail. I know that I always feel warm and fuzzy when I get a card from someone I love in the mail. In fact, a well timed letter in my mailbox most likely saved my life as a teen. That’s why I make it a point to devote a large portion of my crafting time to card making. I enjoy making them and I know that people get a kick out of receiving them. At the very least, it’s certainly better to get one of my cards in the mail than a bill. Over the years of card making I’ve picked up a few useful tips for making beautiful handmade greeting cards more effectively.
Save Your Scraps:
I keep a large file organizer or all of my scrap papers, organized by color. This is so useful for making cards which don’t require large pieces of paper for purposes of decorating.
Plan Before You Plant:
I always cut and lay everything out (including stickers which I explain next) before I glue down anything. Following a measure twice, cut once philosophy results in much more efficient card making and more professional looking cards.
Sometimes it’s hard to plan out where to put stickers without actually placing them, so I cut out the stickers still on their backing so I can place them on my layout without sticking them down.
Here are some examples of cards I’ve made:
Why are so many willing to give so much in order to receive the blessings of the temple? Those who understand the eternal blessings which come from the temple know that no sacrifice is too great, no price too heavy, no struggle too difficult in order to receive those blessings. There are never too many miles to travel, too many obstacles to overcome, or too much discomfort to endure. They understand that the saving ordinances received in the temple that permit us to someday return to our Heavenly Father in an eternal family relationship and to be endowed with blessings and power from on high are worth every sacrifice and every effort. - President Thomas S. Monson President Of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Sometimes the greatest blessings come after the greatest stuggles. Today, my first day back at church after three long weeks in the hospital, I was called to be the Chair of the Temple Committee. My focus will be promoting attendance in the Temple and helping the ward to live a Temple centered life. I am really excited about my new calling (or job) in the church. I am eager to be of service and make a difference in the lives of the people in my ward. I am also blessed to have a Temple assignment as a Temple worker. I’m a secretary there one day a month. Serving this way, though I’m rather new at it, has already reaped great blessings for me.
But what is the Temple and why is it so important? The Temple is a place where Latter Day Saints (Mormons) worship Heavenly Father. We perform special ordinances and make special covenants there that bring us closer to Him and our Savior, Jesus Christ. We often go there to learn and receive personal revelation or answers to questions. It is a place of reverence, beauty, serenity, Spirit, and peace. I have such a strong testimony about the importance of keeping the Temple the center of my life. On the days and even the weeks I go to the Temple, I just feel better. I feel lighter. My burdens feel easier to carry with me. I’m often told when I’m in the Temple itself that I physically look like I’m glowing. It’s not me. It’s all God’s illumination. The Spirit. And it’s no coincidence. The blessings of the Temple are great in number. Too numerous, in fact, to count. Blessings of clarity and personal revelation and power from on high just to name a few.
Being in the Temple reminds me of how blessed I am. So very blessed. Which doesn’t mean life doesn’t have it’s extremely difficult trials. It certainly does. But being in the Temple reminds me to have a divine perspective and to try to see my life from my Heavenly Father’s point of view. When I look at it through His eyes, I feel very humble and grateful for all that I have been given in this life. If you live near a Temple I invite you to go check out its Visitors’ Center where you can learn more about Temples. Find a Temple near you! Read more about Temples and their importance!