27 December 2013

Obligatory end-of-the-year post

Every year around this time, I start thinking about the end of the year. I think about where I am in my life, particularly in comparison to where I wanted to be. I look at what I want to accomplish in the coming year, and what I need to do in order to make it happen.

That's where my head has been lately. I'm not currently where I want to be, but I'm on the right track to get there. I'm making positive changes in my life (both professionally and personally) to move forward. I have specific goals I want to accomplish, and timelines associated with them.

This year, I'm taking a slightly different approach in working toward my goals.

One problem I've had is I spend a lot of time thinking about the goals I didn't accomplish, and mourning the fact that I'm not where I want to be. But with all of the changes that have occurred in my life over the past couple of years, I know it's important for me to let go of what's happened, forget what I haven't done, and just move forward from where I am.

This is my life. It is what it is. And all I can do is try harder next year, next week, tomorrow, right now to be the person I want to be. And that's what I'm doing.

It doesn't matter what happened (or didn't) in 2013. I'm stepping out from this moment toward 2014, and focusing on where I am to get where I'm going. What's happened doesn't matter anymore. All that matters is this moment, and doing what I can to be the woman I am in that moment.

Who do you want to be in 2014?

18 December 2013

The guilt of giving

Image courtesy of winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
It's the holiday season, so there's a big push from charitable organizations for donations. People are more generous around this time of year, and different organizations try to use that generous nature to help fund their causes through the next year.

For the majority of my adult life, I've been not unlike most Americans. I've wanted to give to charitable organizations, but unable. I paid for college on my own (student loans) and had a job that provided for my needs, but just. Unfortunately, I didn't have the money to support these organizations the way I wanted to.

Since changing jobs toward the end of the summer, my situation has changed, and I'm able to give back to my community by supporting organizations that support causes important to me.

The problem now is that there are so many worthy causes. We live in a world where there are many, many people willing to stand up for what they believe in. From the Human Rights Campaign to PETA to Susan G. Komen, men and women work tirelessly to stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves, make a difference in people's lives, and give voice to those who have been censored for too long. And it seems the more causes I discover in my reading and roaming online, the more organizations I discover that work for those causes.

It's wonderful that there are so many organizations, and people can find ways to stand up for causes that are important to them. But when I see the different organizations, and see how many good people are being helped by them, it can be hard to decide where to place your support. How do you decide who deserves* your donations? How do you look at people and animals who truly need help and tell them, "No, I'm sorry. I'm giving support to these groups instead."

I have chosen one organization to donate to during this holiday season (though it will certainly not be the only or last!) based on what I'm passionate about in my life. For me, that seems to be the best way to decide. If it's a cause that I have a connection with somehow based on my own life and experiences, I'm going to want to support it, yes?

There are lots of people doing lots of really great things during this holiday season, and through the whole year. I hope you will stop and think about how you can contribute to worthy causes not only this month, but in four months, six months, ten months.

Do you give to charitable organizations? How do you decide what groups to give to?

*I used the word "deserves," but I don't mean it in the traditional sense. I know that all of these organizations deserve support for the good work they're doing. But this is the best descriptor for this sentence based on connotation when you have limited support to give and countless organizations to choose from.

01 December 2013

You have to be willing to suspend disbelief

One of the clients I work with is for an educational website. I create educational resources for teachers and students to use when they study novels/books. It's a great client, and I really love doing it.

One of the topics I covered for this site recently was willing suspension of disbelief. For those who don't know, willing suspension of disbelief is the reader's acceptance of the author's world as it is created regardless of the likelihood the world could exist in reality. Essentially it means that when you read something set in a world outside of reality (particularly in science fiction and fantasy) you accept the constructs of the author's world for the sake of the story. Magic is real. Dragons exist.

So I've realized that willing suspension of disbelief is a wonderful analogy for religious faith. People who believe set aside what is known and proven in the world to accept the constructs of their belief system in order to believe it. The world was created in six days. One man built an ark that saved his family and two of every animal on earth from a flood.

When it comes to literature, people easily accept the world as the author creates it. We know we're reading fiction, so it's okay that these impossible realities exist on the pages of the book. When I read Ender's Game recently for work, I didn't bat an eye that children are sent to train for a war with an alien race.

But the difference is that, generally, people don't base their world views on the fictional worlds they read about. They know that, in reality, what they're reading just doesn't work, so there's no sense in accepting it as fact.

Then why is The Holy Bible held up as reality, while the Harry Potter series is not? Why are the stories of Noah and Job and Jesus heralded as true, while Harry Potter continues to be seen as a fictional character? After all, at the core, both are stories of good vs. evil, are they not?

One important thing to remember when it comes to willing suspension of disbelief is that it is willing suspension of disbelief. The reader knows that the world created inside the book cannot exist outside of it, but believes it for the sake of the story. And I think that's what happens when it comes to people who believe in Christianity (particularly those who take the Bible as the literal, inerrant word of god).

Their logic-brain says, "There's no scientific evidence for this. The stuff in this book can't have happened in real life. It doesn't make sense."

Their faith-brain responds, "Shut up. I believe!"

They are willing to ignore the reality of their world for the sake of believing the stories they read in the Bible. They just take the stories a step further and apply them to their actual lives.

Just as, I suppose, there are people eagerly waiting for their letters from Hogwarts.*

You have to be willing to ignore what your brain is telling you is not real to have that kind of faith. Especially when what you believe thumbs its nose at what has been scientifically and tangibly proven. But, I think, to have a real, fulfilled, successful and well-adjusted life, you have to be willing, at some point, to put the book down and come back to reality.

*No offense.