Monday, November 23, 2009

Analyzing Farmville Addiction...

I have never been a person who was too crazy about Atari, Nintendo, XBox or Wii. Well, I suppose that isn't totally true because I did love me a little pong, pac-man, and tetris all in different periods of time. I also have to admit to this crazy little addiction to Farmville on Facebook.
It's crazy. Sometimes I wake up early, before dawn early, and think "I have to go milk my cows", or "I have to harvest that corn before it goes bad". Why? This is a question that I ask myself almost immediately after. If I have an opportunity to sleep in, why am I concerned about a virtual farm?
Since I am an analytical person and speak often to the self in my head I was determined to figure this out. I do not have an addictive personality usually. Okay, all that know me know that I am addicted to my big blue jug, or maybe the diet coke inside, but other than that I am a pretty sane person. After having an internal conversation about the nature of this escape into Farmville I realized it is an escape from reality. But, not only that, it is having a sense of control over something.
Control. This is one small word that I think has a big impact in our life. Control can be defined not by Webster but by Leslie in two ways: 1) Having power over someone or something 2) having power over someone or something. I know that sounds the same, but it really is very different. #1 implies overpowering, using a forceful nature to make someone or something go your way. #2 means being empowered to change a perspective or situation for yourself.
Confused? Let me explain how I happened to be aware of the importance of control. I had a very good friend who got the HIV virus from a transfusion she was given when she had her sixth child. It became AIDS and she was terminal. She certainly didn't have control over this situation. There was nothing she could do to change this medical diagnosis at that particular time. But, we don't like to give up control of our life that easily so Carolyn called on our church congregation and the priesthood to help give her back control, or in this case her life. We all prayed, blessings were given, but we also asked that we all could have the strength to survive God's will, whatever it might be. Carolyn was so brave as she faced the rest of her life. But, if she couldn't control this major aspect of her life, she could control other aspects.
This is where I learned that a survivor doesn't just give up when life doesn't go their way they look for another place that they can have control. We went to help her with her children, help her clean her house. I know she appreciated it, but it probably made her feel even more out of control. When I went to her house one day to lend a hand I was surprised when she didn't want me to do those kind of "mundane" chores, she wanted to go into her garden and pull weeds. We must have been a funny sight her leaning on me to get to the garden because she was six feet tall and a little over, I am five feet tall and a little under. But when we made it into the garden she loved shoving her fingers into the soil....it gave her so much to have a little control over something. Before she was bedridden she had also gotten a space for our congregation to use as a community garden and she was very busy organizing it, and then making it ready for all of us to use. After she was bedridden she found some control by making sure the congregation had water for our food supply by locating water bottles.
So thanks to Carolyn I am aware that if life gives us things we have no control over...like death of someone we love, illness, loss of job, divorce or a plethora of life's challenges, we may have to give up our control in that part of our life, but we can empower ourselves in another way. We can give into depression, anger, and frustration or we can look forward by manning ourselves with tools that keep us going.
Am I saying then that I play Farmville because I can control that when I can't control how my body works, or my marital situation? Yes, I guess that's what I'm saying. Maybe I am not as altruistic as my friend Carolyn but I am finding ways to keep me from just feeling sorry for myself. Really there are other ways that I have used this theory to my own good other than just playing Farmville and I do encourage others to do the same. Right now, for instance, I have a bum knee. I haven't been able to do alot of things I would like to do. Generally I like to get my house clean before I do anything else, but since my leg is in pain after just a minute or two of being up it doesn't get cleaned, and the next day I just start over again. So I was finding myself sitting in front of the "boob tube" being lazy and feeling sorry for myself. At one point I had to do laundry, no choice, so as I was sitting on the couch folding my clothes I sensed a bit of control or empowerment. No kidding, I realized I could do that and it felt good to be able to do something. So I wrote down a bunch of things I could do sitting. Write thank-you's, sort filing, reorganize my filing system, clean drawers, write blogs, write in my journal, were just a few of the things I wrote down. This took me from the doldrums and being out of control, to empowerment. Oh, and I also can do Farmville! Gotta go harvest those olive trees now. Bye.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Glass Half Full

My mother is the optimist of all optimists. Whenever she faces a tough time, or when one of us faces an obstacle she reminds us "Well, I always choose to see the glass half full....and....", then she will continue making an observation about the situation that finds that positive point of view. For instance: when I was crying about my marriage ending and how I didn't have any choice or control in the situation she said "Well I always choose to see the glass half full, and you and Bud are lucky that you are such good friends."

You can see how I tend to be an optimist myself, I was trained well. I am so grateful for my Mom's point of view. It has always been helpful to look for the silver lining in any cloud. It helps me be resilient. I think of myself like a basketball...usually in the air, in the middle of a fun game. Once in a while I hit the ground but bounce up rather quickly to be passed on to another situation and maybe even score a few. But, there have been times in my life that I have been dribbled pretty close to the ground and had a harder time finding the resilience to bounce back up and into the game. However, I always do because I have been trained to look for the bright spots, the open spaces, and have learned that it's a lot more fun to be in the game high, than close to the ground.

That being said, I have objected to my mom's theory that it's best to look at the glass half full...be an optimist. At one point when she was reminding me of her optimistic view I pointed out that I would never be a pessimist. I can't even imagine not trying to find the "sunny side" of any cloudy day. My question is how do we appreciate the glass 1/2 full and still want it to be completely full? That requires a step beyond optimism in my view, it requires a blend of realism with the optimism. Thomas Edison would never have invented the light bulb if he had been content to see the glass 1/2 full. I believe Tom was an optimist. I believe he saw the world through pretty rosy glasses, but he wasn't content to say "I see the glass half full, or "Aren't I lucky that I have a fire to study by?", or "Gee this candle is sure a bright one tonight." No, he took a look at how lucky he was to see the world as a pretty optimistic place, but how can I make it better? He had to push beyond the "Pollyanna" vision and the rose colored glasses to make life EVEN better.

I have a friend who raised way more than her share of kids. What an amazing person she was. Always optimistic and funny as heck. She wrote me a poem once thanking me for seeing her as she was...through the clown surface. "I've always been the village clown. Always up and never down..." She would help us mothers get through our grey days by cracking us up with her kids antics. She was an artist too so she had tempra paint around the house. Tempra paint is powdered and then mixed with water for the desired consistency and color. Her kids got her paint and made it "snow" in their bedroom. Can you just imagine that picture of them jumping up and down while making it snow. Well they were good kids and recognized they better clean up the mess so they put a hose through the window to wash down the "snow". Can you imagine Mom's surprise to enter to the room and see rivers of "green" tempra paint all over the room? If only I could tell the story with the antimation she did appreciating her kids ingenuity. I admired her because she could see the humor in this devastating circumstance. What I saw later in life is that she chose to see the "bright" side of situations with her children when they were older that weren't so bright, really. She helped me see that we can't always see the glass as half full because it isn't. I recognized that rose colored glasses can sometimes turn into blinders. We have to be able to see things for what they are or we won't be able to resolve them.

So in summary, I believe it is absolutely awesome to be raised in a household where we looked on the "sunny side of the street". It is good to see the glass as half full rather than half empty. But sometimes you have to recognize that the better plan is to be grateful for whatever is filling your glass, but wonder how you can fill it up to overflowing. Take off the blinders, take off the rose color glasses so you can see the world in all it's beautiful colors and for what it really is. Life. Life, full of clouds so we recognize the rainbows, full of sticky thorns on beautiful roses, dribbling the ball down on the floor to get the resilience to bounce up for a pass and a basket.