Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Gratitude Short List – #3

It has been impossible for me to focus this week. It was the type of week where one day might encompass half a dozen highs and lows, which wouldn’t phase some, but I much prefer to make blanket statements like, “My day was great!” or “My day was awful,” and so weeks like this one really interfere with that. It’s been good for me at the start of the evening to practice taking a deep breath, letting it go, and letting the day be what it was. Now it is Thursday, which comes before Friday, which always spells deliverance for me – the one day I get to sleep in and wake to an empty apartment. On this Thursday, eve of Friday, I am grateful for the following:

  • Favorite things, like Twiggs’ peanut butter cake that you can always count on to cheer you up and taste delicious
  • The clarity and renewed perspective that comes with the therapeutic act of cleaning your house (sometimes)
  • Fiction, and the invitation to escape your muddled thoughts for a brief while

I got a Kindle for my birthday(!), and was thus obligated to buy a book to read on it. I wanted something besides the usual New York Times Bestseller, and I chose Toni Morrison’s Beloved, which I’ve never read. I’ll let you know what I think when I finish… although I’m a notorious book non-finisher. Hopefully before the end of 2012.

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F- and T-envy

Within my circle of friends, Myers Briggs is like a second language we all speak, or a cult following as robust as that of Star Wars, Rocky Horror Picture Show, or Justin Bieber.

At any group gathering, it’s never a surprise when the conversation turns towards personality types. This week, I got to hang out with four of my close friends, three of whom are ENFPs. (It’s a good thing ENFPs are so likable, and that I sincerely love these three in particular. Otherwise their ubiquitous presence in my social circle and greater community would really drive me crazy.) We were chatting and laughing, sharing stories that explained our respective F-envy and T-envy. If you don’t speak Myers Briggs, those with the Feeling preference tend to make decisions based on subjective values, individual circumstances, and the effect they will have on other people; while those with the Thinking preference tend to make decisions based on objective logic and reason,  or what they believe to be ‘fair.’

If memory serves, a greater percentage of women are Feelers than Thinkers, and this seems to hold true for my community. Sometimes I am proud to be in the minority as a female T, ISTJ to be specific, and other times I worry that I am unwittingly trampling the emotional needs of those around me with my natural reflex of telling it like it is. So it’s always funny to me when my friends who are Feelers express their envy of a Thinker’s ability to be direct,  or their perception that T’s have no qualms about saying “no.”

This must be a case where the grass appears greener on the other side – which is true of most circumstances where you are comparing yourself to another person. It’s true that I have no qualms about saying no to someone asking for special treatment without just cause, that I am rarely swayed by emotions in my decision-making… but that hardly seems desirable. In fact, I have a tendency to distrust my own emotions in decision-making, which is hardly healthy or helpful.

The flip side of T-envy is F-envy, and the fact that I, as a Thinker, would sometimes rather be a Feeler. They always seem to know when someone is having a crappy day, and are able to empathize rather than attempt to fix. And they are so good at being excited with you about the good things that come your way. I think my ENFP friends have shown more enthusiasm than I have at most of the major milestones in my life.

I think the key, whether you are a Thinker or a Feeler, is defining yourself in terms of what you BRING, rather than what you LACK. I’ve noticed that lately I get really defensive anytime I am reminded of my shortcomings, not because I can’t acknowledge them, but because I am tired of dwelling on them. I’d rather not hear that I am not good at responding to change; I’d prefer to remember that I provide much needed stability and faithfulness to my friends and my coworkers. I’d rather not dwell on the fact that I can’t always empathize with the emotions of others; I’d prefer to rest in the knowledge that I’m a good listener, able to hear another person’s thoughts and feelings objectively, and not project my own emotions, reactions, and experiences onto them.

What is something you consistently feel you lack? There’s typically something on the other side of our deficiencies, something equally true about us, and that we can wear proudly out into the world, rather than wishing we were more _____, less _____. What would it be like to not let our deficiencies define us? Better, probably.

Miracles are to come

This past year has been one of instability – everything around me seems different, and a lot of the stuff inside me is different as well. Although change is energizing for some, for me it is incredibly draining. Necessary, but exhausting nonetheless. Young adulthood is a constant cycle of upheaval; jobs, relationships, friendships, geography. As soon as you adapt to one rhythm of life, it is interrupted. On top of all this, there’s been some painful but necessary reworking of my faith, my view of God, race, religion, and human nature. You know, just some minor things.

Within the reworking, I’ve begun to embrace the truth that I don’t know it all and neither do you. We know a lot less than we think, and unfortunately, the same goes for your mother or your father or your pastor. We know our own experiences, and the experiences of those around us, but only as much as we are able to absorb in the time that we are actually listening. There is a lot that we don’t hear because we don’t think to ask, or we do but are too quick to argue or offer solutions. This is all too true of me, and I’ve realized there are a lot of realities that I am tempted to deny or cover with pat answers: Racism is a thing of the present, and it hurts people. Trauma is a horrible thing, and it happens to people, and it changes the choices they make in ways that I may not agree with or understand because I haven’t lived it. This does not make me right. Religion has an answer for most everything, but just because it is true doesn’t mean it is helpful.

This is not negativity, this is reality. And reality is often unpleasant. With all of this, I’ve been in desperate need of something, anything, to anchor me. Not just to faith, but to sanity.

The anchor for me has been this: Every human being is a miracle. That’s kind of a given, all you have to do to believe that is hold a newborn baby. What’s more astonishing to me is for all the awful ways human beings hurt each other, in the personal and the cosmic sense, we somehow retain our capacity to love one another. To be human is to hurt each other, and to be human is to heal from hurt. The greater the hurt, the more miraculous the healing process. Let’s be clear, I’ve not been hurt that often or that badly; yet when I am, my instinct is to retaliate rather than forgive, to distrust everyone rather than risk hurt again. And somehow, there are people who have suffered abuse, abandonment, atrocities of war and they are able to forgive. It is nothing short of miraculous. I’m not sure of much, but I am sure it is God who makes love and forgiveness possible in such a mad world. It is evidence of the divine in us.

I tried to encapsulate these reflections in an art project…

… but e.e.cummings said it a lot better than me with my creative capacity of a 10-year-old.

Miracles are to come. With you I leave a remembrance of miracles: they are somebody who can love and who shall be continually reborn

This fall, I’m starting down a new professional path because for some reason I want to walk closely beside people who are dealing with extreme challenges and deep hurt. I’m starting to wonder why I thought it was a good idea. Knowing me, and knowing the field of social work, a lot of tears, anxiety and sleepless nights are in my future. I’ve begun to ask myself, why the hell are you choosing this? Because I do believe miracles are to come. If I’m lucky, I will witness one.