The State of the Mind vs. The State of the Heart

Happy December, everyone!

It’s official – the Christmas music has begun, and oddly enough I am enjoying the din of Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Bing Crosby and Mannheim Steamroller as we go about our evenings around the home, feeding the dog a little extra popcorn and enjoying the decorations and nip in the air. That, combined with whirring lightsabers, battle cries of fallen soldiers, and the cacophony of assaulting AT-ATs in the new Star Wars video game (which happened to lose EA a cool $3B due to terrible decision making) provide even more elements of fun to the Christmas cheer. And if you think Star Wars is out of place at Christmas, let me just clear the air so there is no confusion: Die Hard is the greatest Christmas movie of all time. Fact. Shove it, Rudolph!

The blog tank has been a tad empty recently. A reflection of the season’s busyness, and commitment of energies elsewhere. Fortunately, the lack of writing means I have had tons more time to think, and as we all know, the pool is the best place to do your thinking.

Hot off a trip to Florida, where it was literally a hot Thanksgiving, my mind is full of thoughts and ideas (shades, anyone?). The family time is always appreciated, as is a change of scenery from the beautiful ruggedness of Nevada.

As many on the web have pointed out, it’s sourly ironic that less than 24 hours after the one day of the year where we’re supposed to express thankfulness for the great abundance we have (in the U.S.), the stores and malls and online gateways to instant gratification are packed with the gaggles of people obsessively chasing after the next shallow pleasure – cheap stereos, Furby collections, PS4s on sale for the price of one day of groceries, and that instant pot you always wished you owned (but not really). I don’t need to tell you the horror stories about people being trampled, crushed, smooshed, decapitated, or shoved aside in the name of getting a good deal.

Frankly, it’s pathetic

Usually, I’m very Scrooge-like in my disposition and view of the holidays. It’s an imperfect sheen on a very shallow set of events designed to make us feel better about our lives. The older I get, the more my holidays seem full of drama and stress and cooking and plans and bills than they do togetherness. But maybe that’s what being thankful is all about… getting a new perspective on things when you most need it and being thankful for it.

Modern society is a tad confused about the difference between what your heart lusts after and where your healthy desires stem from. They claim that you need to be happy all the time. Me, me, me with no one else mattering. Well, not quite… (Here’s an article on happiness vs. being content). Here’s a refresher:

In the grand scheme of things, happiness is a feeling that comes and goes. As stated on, happiness is related specifically to feelings “over a particular thing.” I can be happy because it’s Friday or happy that I’m seeing Thor: Ragnarok next week, but the feelings associated with Friday or awesome superhero movies disappear just as quickly as they come.

On the other hand, being content is finding satisfaction with what you are or have, not being limited to material possessions or experiences. Contentment is appreciating your place in life and accepting the many blessings that you have, such as wonderful health, a fantastic job, loyal friends, and supportive pets.

The mind craves stimulation and a glutinous pursuit of the piles of loot we love to stockpile. It gets a kick out of scoring the latest OLED 4K QHD television, or the $75k Mercedes Benz, or even the 4000 square foot house. But as with all “objects” in life, those things quickly lose their gleam and shine. I can’t say I’m guilt-free… I’m infatuated with the latest cycling and triathlon gear, and love a new pair of shoes more than the next guy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with treating yourself, but where we seem to get in trouble is when the mind says “get it now – you deserve it.”

The heart side of the coin is not much different. Our hearts often mislead us (just try watching one of the Hallmark holiday specials), but it is in the heart that thankfulness begins. And yet thankfulness is also a mindset. The two things that drive us to an insane pursuit of more, more, more are also the areas we need to bring true perspective and focus to. Being part of something greater than yourself – your community, your church, unwavering committment to your spouse, etc. – is where thankfulness originates.

I sat on a plane for five hours sitting next to two people I am incredibly thankful for en route to a late Thanksgiving dinner. We were watching The Croods, and it made me realize how utterly ridiculous and yet amazing families can be. There’s a lot to be thankful for when you realize that people tolerate you for who you are. This may be a surprise to you, but you aren’t the gift to the universe ;-)

Thankfulness is the soil in which joy thrives.

This year my thankfulness is stemming from the intangibles of the world. The support from a loving wife, the amazement I had watching the kiddo put a broken Lego (my bad) back together without instructions, all my silly friends, and for unconditional love from parentals and sis alike. I’m also thankful for never having wanted. Sure, I have things “I want” – but I don’t have needs that are unmet.

I enjoy a good shopping deal as much as the next peep, although my lady is the Couponing Queen, but this season I’m working on flipping my perspective. Listening to the things that my heart is thankful for and shutting out the societal noise. I’ve got all the gifts I need – and that is a good place to be in life… I can only hope that my joy speaks for itself.

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