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priority recheck

January 4, 2017

Sometimes I sit on my couch watching TV. Crazy, right? Sometimes a sudden thought pops into my head, and I rush to my bag to grab my laptop. This is about the latter.

My relationship priorities are all out of whack.

Belief: Romantic relationships are the most important relationships.

Truth: My relationship with Christ is the most important relationship.

Truth Part II: I’m not in a romantic relationship. My family and friends come in right after Jesus.

Why is that so stinkin’ hard to remember? This Fall I spent countless hours thinking about my desire to be married, and maybe 10 hours praying, studying scripture, or just plain ‘ol thinking about God.

My priorities are completely out of sync with the truth. Regardless of how I spend my time, Jesus remains the most important person in my life. My family has stuck with me for over 32 years. My longest friend has been with me for 18 years. My closest friends have been with me for 14 years. Heck, my residency in the state of Minnesota has lasted more than 8x longer than any romantic relationship I’ve been part of (love you, MN).

I want my time – including my thought life – to reflect the correct priority. So, I’m setting a goal for the week: Get up at 6am (not just set the alarm for 6am, but actually get up!), get ready for the day, and spend a half-hour with Jesus, my Bible, and my journal.

Where are your relational priorities? What can you do to make your daily life better reflect the truth?

focus on the positive

January 2, 2017

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I tend to focus on the negative experiences of my life. I create best when I’m in a melancholy state of mind, so that’s where I tend to live.

I’m over it.

The start of the new year gives me an opportunity to reset my thinking. No longer will I focus on the negative experiences of 2016 and earlier. I’m going to focus on the positive. I have a ton going for me, and, while it will be quite a change of thinking, it’s the perfect time to go for it.

So, what am I looking forward to in the first few months of 2017?

  • Going full keto for one month – losing weight, battling diabetes, and taking hold of a healthy lifestyle!
  • Visiting a friend in Nashville for 5 days. Music, BBQ, and whiskey – it doesn’t get much better than that!
  • The arrival of my MIDI controller and learning MainStage. Time to start writing music again!
  • Cigars with friends. Lots of cigars with friends.

What are you going to focus on in 2017? What fun events do you have coming up? Large or small, they’re all an opportunity to have fun!

2017 topics?

December 30, 2016

I want to try something a bit different in 2017. I want to explore various topics, creating short series of posts, rather than the usual whatever’s-on-Clayton’s-mind-at-the-time thing.

So, what topics do you want to see me explore in 2017?

Perspective

December 17, 2016

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I tend to wallow. I fancy myself a melancholic, so I just go with it. Then something happens that snaps me back to reality. Unthinkable events in the lives of friends, playing at a youth group grieving the loss of a fellow student who took his own life, and even the events in Aleppo this week have all given me a big dose of perspective.

Here’s the thing about wallowing – it’s inherently selfish. There’s a time to grieve, of course, and 2016 hasn’t exactly been my banner year. However, my troubles are nothing compared to what others have gone through in the last 48 hours.

So what can we do when we see ourselves beginning to wallow? Here’s a working list:

  • Do something for someone else. Pray, call someone who could use a friend – do something that doesn’t feed your pain.
  • Read something encouraging. I’m about to crack open Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull.
  • Focus on something tangibly productive. For example, my kitchen is a wreck. Cleaning it will give me something simple and tangible to be proud of. Plus, it doesn’t require all that much time.
  • Pray. I’ll be honest; this one is pretty difficult for me. But, this takes the focus off myself and puts it on God.
  • Work out. I know, I know. But hey, the new year is right around the corner, and, as much as I hate to admit it, I never walk out of the gym feeling as sad as I did when I walked into it.
  • Write a blog with tips for what to do when you’re wallowing. Apparently this one works pretty well!

Life can be hard. There’s no shame in mourning the loss of someone or something valuable to you. But when the pain crosses over into wallowing, it’s time to get out of bed (even at 12:30pm like I did today) and do something.

What do you do when you feel yourself beginning to wallow?

triggered memories

December 10, 2016

Why are certain experiences so powerfully linked to emotional memories? I’m sure there’s a scientific answer, but I’m not a scientist. So, I’m just going to think out loud for a few moments.

I’m sitting at Starbucks, minding my own business, when an Instagram video of a restaurant in South Minneapolis scrolls by. That just happens to be the location of one my ex and I’s last date. It’s just a stupid 3-second boomerang loop of a bowl of curry, yet my heart and mind are now flooded with emotion. I instantly remember the signs on the walls, the jokes she made about how I think I can handle spicy foods but can’t, and walking hand-in-hand down Nicollet. I remember the smell of the Greek restaurant we walked past while planning our future together. Heck, I could tell you exactly what she was wearing. That date was 4 months ago. I haven’t even seen her for 3 months. So how could everything rush to the top of my mind so quickly?

A friend of mine lives right across the street from the apartment where my ex-fiancee lived while we were together 10 years ago. Every time I’m there I remember our first kiss, freezing January nights serving food to passersby, and the smell of the shampoo she used.

How can my brain store such detailed information? Why do I so vividly remember the smell of an ex’s perfume, let alone the way she wrote my name or the sound garage door makes?

The common theme is the deep meaning of these details. When you’re in a relationship, you notice the details. You remember the conditioner she uses so you can show up with more when she’s out. You remember the taste of the lip gloss on your first kiss’s lips, because it is an incredibly meaningful experience.

My exes are a part of who I am, because those relationships shaped how I now i view the world.

Lately I’ve wished the memory removal procedure in the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind actually existed. Too many memories are triggered every day, and I wonder if I’ll ever be able to get over her. “If only I didn’t remember what happened at Lake Calhoun, things would be so much easier!”

But that’s not reality. I will always remember the people who played important roles in my life.

I want to learn how to be thankful for those memories. I want to walk into our favorite coffee shop and remember the happiness of the many conversations we had over steaming cups of caffeine. I want to walk into Trader Joe’s and remember the reason I can now stomach a glass of red wine.

Our past experiences make up our current reality. I would not be the Clayton you know today without the people who participated in my life. For that, I am grateful.

Winding down

December 9, 2016

Thanksgiving has come and gone, which means we’re now officially in the midst of the Holiday Season.

The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day are fairly introspective for me. I start thinking about the goals I set for myself throughout the year, influential life events, heck, even movies I wanted to see.

I won’t lie; my 2016 held a lot of crap. It started off wonderfully, but, once late Summer hit, it crashed and burned. Here are a few highlights:

  • Coaster Thingy 2016 (visits to Six Flags Magic Mountain, Knott’s Berry Farm, Las Vegas, and Angel Stadium)
  • My first cruise
  • Cruising through my first hurricane
  • A month-long breakup after planning an engagement
  • Dad visiting for a week
  • I lost 27 pounds
  • Another one of my closest friends moved away
  • Trump… ugh…
  • I discovered intermittent fasting and the low carb/high fat lifestyle
  • I seriously upped my Snapchat game

I have no idea what 2017 has in store for me, but I have a few ideas:

  • A new job
  • A new home away from Minnesota
  • The likely death of my beloved silver toaster (Scion xB)
  • The likely purchase of a car that can actually hit 70 mph!
  • More writing
  • More blogs
  • More music

I don’t want to be held back by the roller coaster of 2016. I want to start fresh and take control of a year that will witness a vast improvement in my health, happiness, and, I hope, spiritual depth.

What steps are you taking to start the year off well? What were the highlights of your 2016? What butts (read: goals) are you going to kick in 2017?

fighting loneliness with gratefulness

November 19, 2016

Thanksgiving is usually a pretty tough holiday for me. I feel a keen sense of loneliness every year. I’m not sure why it’s this one in particular and not Easter, New Year’s Day, or Guy Faulks Day. [insert reader’s hysterical laughter here]

This year in particular will be a bummer. I thought I’d be engaged and spending the holiday with my future in-laws. But, if you know me or read this blog at all, you know that’s not happening.

This morning, as I stood in the shower, I felt myself starting to wallow in the perceived main of my circumstances. “I’m not married. I’m alone. The stupid snow screwed up my trip to Nashville this weekend. Why can’t anything ever go my way?”

Last time I checked, I live in America. I’m easily in the wealthiest 1% of people in the world. The statement “nothing ever goes my way” easily joins “I hope United is a great airline” and “I bet the third matrix movie is going to be excellent” among the most idiotic thoughts I’ve ever had.

So, I’m going to list out some things I’m grateful for today. Some are simple. Some are very meaningful. They all make me one of the luckiest people alive.

I’m grateful for parents who love, affirm, support, and encourage me no matter what.

I’m grateful for a sister who is my best friend, but won’t let me be an idiot when I’m down in the dumps.

I’m grateful for friends who check in on me, love me like siblings, and drop anything when I need them.

I’m grateful for “families away from families” – The Dekkers, Cochrans, and Lees. They have made my years in Minnesota more meaningful than I could have imagined.

I’m grateful for a home with running water, heat when it’s cold, and AC when it’s warm.

I’m grateful for a job that, though it’s not my dream position, challenges me, provides health insurance, and pays me pretty darn well.

I’m grateful for coffee. Lord, am I grateful for coffee.

I’m grateful for people who challenge my way of thinking, even when I go off about them in my blog.

I’m grateful for coworkers who make me laugh hysterically, and stand there silently when I throw out a ridiculous pun (as they should).

When it comes down to it, I’m far luckier than I deserve, and I want to focus on that more than the things I don’t think are going my way. Let’s make that our priority this week!