FLASHBACK FRIDAYS: WEEK 16 (Casting Crowns by Casting Crowns; and The Struggle by Tenth Avenue North)-When saying ‘yes’ all the time isn’t the American Dream, or any dream for that matter; and how to know when we’re physically and spiritually worn!

You know how a few Flashback Friday blogs ago, I mentioned that ‘…Recently I’ve been feeling tired of late. Physically exhausted, and tired in the sense that at the end of every day, one of the only things I want to do when I arrive home is to go to sleep…’, and you know how I attributed some of that tiredness to busyness in terms of our store gaining more customers due to another café in the centre shutting down for ‘renovations’? Well, let me echo that sentiment once again, because right now is when I reckon I need to share this, because we all are feeling tired and stressed (and we probably won’t feel much better even if we have Swisse!). Right now, I am weary. Right now, I am worn. Right now, I’m feeling like my legs are going to fall off any minute, and right now, I feel as if everything I do apart from the store (inclusive of reviewing and watching TV) is a chore and a burden (not all the time, but some of the time). Where did that feeling stem from though? Let me take you back, back, and back, to a time where we are madly reviewing, madly watching shows, and madly cramming 48 hours’ worth of activity into 24 hours.

From the top of my head, we’ve been go, go, go, go, go for 3 plus years, however it was really to another level in October last year. I think we reviewed 43 albums and/or singles (that’s insane really, by anyone’s standards!) and we also worked at the store, watched our weekly TV shows, did admin…basically we tried to be Superman. Jon and I tried to do more than what we can handle, and that has resulted in this month. A month where we have reviewed no albums (not even a single!), and a month where we have felt just burdened. Like the straw from the camel’s back just broke. Now I’m sure you all may feel no sympathy for us- after all, we are the masters of our own site, we choose what we want to review and what we don’t want to- so I guess any over-reviewing or doing things to an extreme, is our own fault. And in a way it was. Yet how we got here, by trying to make this site as good as it could be (and subconsciously thinking that we could ‘beat’ sites like New Release Today or Jesus Freak Hideout- how naïve were we!), is how I reckon each one of us can be if we lose ourselves to something that we long to do more of, for the sake of being better.

See I believe (and you can correct me if I’m wrong!), that every single person, for one reason or another, has a good intention that turns out sour. Like the age-old sayings of ‘biting off more than you can chew’ and ‘burning candles at both ends’, we may sacrifice one aspect of our life for success in another, sometimes leading to detrimental effects. While Jon and I have acknowledged now that we may have been placing too much emphasis on our site and reviewing (and right now are in the midst of re-evaluating the things we want to post on our site between now and in a couple of years when we need to renew the site); some of you may be too far down the rabbit hole, catching yourselves at the last moment when it’s too late- and that is nobody’s fault, but just something that happens and something we all need to deal with.

It may not be reviewing or watching TV to catch up with the latest episodes. For any one of you, it may be staying back late countless days and consecutive days in order to finish a deadline to provide for your family, or it may be cramming for a final exam and sacrificing sleep. Or partying at night time with friends the night before a critical interview. Whatever it is, I think I know what the reason is- why we do extra in our day (when we don’t even need to at all!), despite our bodies (and sometimes our mind) telling us otherwise, that some things need to give, that we’re not meant to run around forever, that we’re not living on Ever-ready batteries or Duracell. And the reason I believe, is that we think it’s the American dream (or the Australian dream!), a nice faraway idea in the sky, a Hollywood fantasy, to be able to do everything, and do it well. We think it’s our duty to say ‘yes’ to everyone, and we think we can stretch the hours in the day to fit our activities.

Sometimes plans go awry though, and what we planned and what we wanted to do today cannot be done, and instead can and should be moved to tomorrow or the next day- but what do we do? Lo and behold, we ignore sage advice, and pound our bodies further into exhaustion anyway. ‘It’s all for the greater good’, we say. ‘In the long run, I’ll be happy. When I make it, the blood, sweat and tears will be worth it’. Sure it will be, but will our health still be intact? That’s not to say that we shouldn’t go gung ho and full of determination and passion; actively chasing our dreams, but we have to know our bodies limits, realising that it’s not as if we have one day to cram our whole lives activities into. Though some people have taken the ‘live like every day is your last’ mantra to the extreme and the nth degree, I for one would prioritise physical, spiritual, emotional and mental health (as well as the health of the relationships we have formed over the years!) over any kind of success. So, if we’re feeling tired, stressed, and worn out, should we really accept that this is the new normal, or should we look inside ourselves and examine how we are treating our bodies, and how we are going about our daily activities?

We’re not robots. And we’re not meant to run on empty. When we’re hungry, we should eat, and not brush off the idea, and instead work more and more until we literally fall down in a quivering mess. Our bodies are only meant to take so much until we need to rest and recharge, and that goes the same with anything that we do. Everything in moderation is fine, but in excess- that’s when things get hairy. If we do something in excess, that’s all we’ll be talking about, and when our conversations with our loved ones are only on the topic that we love at the moment, and not to the favourite topics of others; relationships can fracture, or break beyond repair, and who really wants that to happen? Sure God can help us and can repair anything broken, but do we really want it to get to this stage?

If I think about it very deeply (and I’m sure the same goes for Jon as well!), the life I live right now is pretty sedentary, and pretty much the same for the past 3 and a bit years (which is sad!). Work, pay bills, do MYOB, review albums, do Flashback Fridays blogs (or Top Tens or Message Mondays or any other blog!), watch TV shows, eat, sleep, catch up with friends once in a while, sleeping in on days off, going to Koorong on days off, lamenting about the non-existent love life that each of us have…the list goes on. As Jon and myself have done this day in and day out for the past however long; it’s no wonder that we are feeling the pinch and the heat, and it’s no wonder something gave. That something just so happened to be reviewing (for 3 whole weeks!), and that has never happened before. It was unsettling me so much, that I had to write an explanation on Twitter, detailing my thoughts about the future of the site and what I hope will make the site into a better space for us all to be inspired.

But other than me taking a stand in the sense of deciding what I will actively change and alter content-wise on the site, there are still other aspects of my life I need to sort out (and Jon too!) so that it isn’t that monotonous moving forward. Namely watching less TV shows. Although I’m not sure how that will look like, considering how we want to review several upcoming new series for our site, and also want to watch other shows live (particularly the superhero ones on the CW) simply for our enjoyment. So I guess now the future is a bit blurred, but because right now I know some of the areas I need to address, hopefully there will be a more active change, and move towards a more balanced life sometimes in the future.

A philosophy professor once stood up before his class with a large empty mayonnaise jar. He filled the jar to the top with large rocks and asked his students if the jar was full.

The students said that yes, the jar was indeed full.

He then added small pebbles to the jar, and gave the jar a bit of a shake so the pebbles could disperse themselves among the larger rocks. Then he asked again, “Is the jar full now?”

The students agreed that the jar was still full.

The professor then poured sand into the jar to fill up any remaining empty space. The students then agreed that the jar was completely full.

The professor went on to explain that the jar represents everything that is in one’s life. The rocks are equivalent to the most important projects and things you have going on, such as spending time with your family and maintaining proper health. This means that if the pebbles and the sand were lost, the jar would still be full and your life would still have meaning.

The pebbles represent the things in your life that matter, but that you could live without. The pebbles are certainly things that give your life meaning (such as your job, house, hobbies, and friendships), but they are not critical for you to have a meaningful life. These things often come and go, and are not permanent or essential to your overall well-being.

Finally, the sand represents the remaining filler things in your life, and material possessions. This could be small things such as watching television or running errands. These things don’t mean much to your life as a whole, and are likely only done to waste time or get small tasks accomplished.

The metaphor here is that if you start with putting sand into the jar, you will not have room for rocks or pebbles. This holds true with the things you let into your life. If you spend all of your time on the small and insignificant things, you will run out of room for the things that are actually important.

In order to have a more effective and efficient life, pay attention to the “rocks,” because they are critical to your long-term well-being.

ROCK, PEBBLES AND SAND STORY, Author unknown

Doing it all, and especially focusing on the sand instead of the rocks in your life, is foolish. When you’re in the thick of it though, sometimes it’s hard. But through this blog, I hope and pray that you realise that you cannot physically do everything, and the things you do right now, should matter. Chasing after an American dream may be fun from a distance, but what is it going to cost you? Will you be worn at the end of it, losing all key relationships? Will you think you’ve won, when it is the opposite way around? Again I’ve rambled on and on and on, without coming to the crux of this article, and that is encouraging you all to listen to a couple of albums that have spoken to me over the last few days- especially when this week the 2018/2019 fall TV broadcast schedules were released, and I became overwhelmed with the number of shows I felt I had to keep up with. Casting Crowns’ 2003 debut, and Tenth Avenue North’s The Struggle in 2012 both speak about the need to do something meaningful with our lives (although the former is more proactive, and the latter is more existential)- Casting Crowns hit the hammer on the nail with “American Dream”, one of their most confronting and controversial songs ever, as they recount that we do not need to chase what we think we want, but rather focus on what is before us now; while Tenth Avenue North encourage us to rest when we’re worn and weary, and give everything to Jesus in “Worn”, and also remind us in the title track that when we’re in the struggle, the tension of living in the moment but also living for Jesus and living a life of meaning and purpose, that we ought to also give it all to Jesus, and He will make our path all the more clearer. While I could go on and on about these two albums (and maybe I will next week and the week after!)- this topic of doing more to reach our goals deserves more than one post, deserves more than one gloss over.

So here we are. With no distinct answers except to say that the future for me and Jon will contain less reviews (in terms of quantity, not quality; and even then not a drastic reduction!), less TV show watching, and more living. And a ‘revamp’ or sorts, not in aesthetics, but in mission and vision, on our site. What about you? What is your future looking like? Over the next two weeks, I hope and pray that you revisit this Flashback Fridays series. Because we will be talking about these two albums more in depth, unpacking the rich, relevant truths in each of these timeless projects. So I’ll see you next time, and below, you can watch trailers to some TV shows we are planning to review, and take a listen to these two albums from Casting Crowns and Tenth Avenue North that have won me over, before we dive deeper next week!

 

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