Fun with Personality Types

If you're not familiar with Energy Profiling, there are lots of people teaching this concept, but the basic idea is that people are made up of four elements, just as in nature:  Air, Water, Fire and Earth.

We all have all the elements, but we lead with one.  By looking at my blog's content, I am pretty clearly a Water.  The label "Water" invokes smooth, flowing lines, a desire to connect,  meandering, chronological thoughts all tied together.  The need to be comfortable and help others around me be comfortable.

Me:  Water/Air

My secondary element is Air, bringing to mind upward and outward thought, lightness, buoyancy, and a desire to be free and happy.

Earth, my husband's strength, is characterized by seeking to perfect, being still and private, (not enjoying being categorized), being simply poetic, and having his own strong sense of justice.

My Husband: Earth/Water

From what I have read, most married couples share one dominant element.  Each child is generally some combination of their parents' dominant elements.

Here is my family breakdown:

                                      Me ------------------------ My Husband

                                 Water/Air                         Earth/Water

                             Daughter                  Son 1                      Son 2

                            Air/Water                Earth/Water               Air/Earth

Each element is associated with a certain level of movement and a particular focus for why they do things.

For example, when faced with a page of long division problems, my husband (Earth - slow methodical movement and a critical eye) would seek to precisely and clearly solve each problem in turn.

I (Water - wanting to form connections, be as relaxed as possible, and have an elegant experience) would wonder how everyone feels about so many math problems on one page.  I would also need to resolve my own feelings about the complexity of what someone is asking of me.  Then, I would look at each of the problems like a story.  I'd tell the story over again with each new problem.  I might get the answers most correct, but I will have definitely sought to enjoy the process and tell others about it when I'm done.

My (Air/Water) daughter, would get 3 seconds into the first problem and realize this is not as much fun as she had hoped.  These problems are soooo long and there are many other things that would be more brilliant and exciting right now.  "I can't wait to be done!" she'd think.

My Daughter:  Air/Water

My (Earth/Water) son would approach this page exactly like his dad.  Without his dad's experience in long division though, he might feel thwarted by his inability to completely and accurately solve the set of problems like he wanted.  He might choose to point out that it would be more efficient to choose just 3 problems of varying complexity, rather than a whole page with needless repetition.

Older Son:  Earth/Water

My (Air/Earth) son, who is one of the airiest people I've ever met, would draw a face and a body on some of the numbers and leave the table.  "Not fun, not important. Squirrel!"

Younger Son:  Air/Earth

Faced with the same situation, each person in my family would handle it differently.

I find the reasons for this fascinating and after reading a few of Carol Tuttle's books I can recognize certain traits in my family members and in myself that explain our actions.

Recognizing these tendencies helps me be more compassionate and actually allows me to enjoy  my family in ways I couldn't before.

It would be easy to pigeonhole someone into their energy profile, but that's not the point of this idea.  It's to help give us a framework for understanding ourselves and other people.  Instead of saying, "My child only cares about results and I don't understand why he can't enjoy the process!" a mom can know that she has a Fire for a son and that quick, results-oriented actions are his favorite way to work.

It's so much easier not take things personally when you understand the reasons behind the actions of your loved ones.  It's not to hurt you, it's to honor their own true nature.

Easily relatable symbols found in nature are a clear, yet graceful way of describing the different personality forces at work in our lives.

That Moment

If I imagine my days full of purpose, I can see myself as a figure holding the strings of a few dozen balloons.

Some days, I struggle needlessly to rearrange the strings.  They become tangled and I am dancing around in circles trying to right the tethers.

Other days I'm running and laughing and the balloons are bobbing along in the air behind me.  I don't even notice them.

Every once in a while, I will feel a tug and then a weight on one or several of my balloons.  It becomes a chore to carry on.  I liken this weight to the crazy expectations I gather from popular media and my balloons are things that are important to me.

I should be a glamorous, fashion-forward Sex in the City character.
I should emulate Martha Stewart's impeccable home-making.
I should inspire millions of people because Oprah does.
I should be a politically aware, responsible citizen, but also stay current with the latest Minecarft mods.
I should be a good role model for my daughter by taking care of myself and being a balanced woman.

Combined with my idealistic personality, these impossible standards just push out the finish line until I can't even see it. 

I would not put these expectations on my friends, my husband or my children, yet I measure myself against fictional or larger-than-life media moguls.

I'd like to say that I snip the string and the weight falls away, never to return.  But my exposure to t.v., books, and other human beings means I will inevitably start gathering more unrealistic goals, not noticing their presence until they start dragging me down again.

This desire to better myself is a productive and important one, but not if I feel lacking constantly.

To help me remember that I'm good enough right now, I'm going to post a picture at my desk of a couple of my best friends.

These people love me just like I am.  When I look at the picture I see their eyes shining with happiness just to be with me in that moment.

I want to see myself like that.

A Woman's Place - Part 2

As the unofficial welcome wagon in our old subdivision in Arizona, I met nearly every new family that came through our part of the neighborhood.  Some of the people that I grew the closest to were Latter Day Saints (a.k.a Mormons).  At first, it was difficult for me to understand why so many women willingly chose to become Mormon or to stay Mormon.  It turns out that I wrongly equated their doctrine with keeping women in their place.

To figure out how women didn't run screaming from the patriarchy, I posed endless questions about their religion.  Their answers made me think a lot about my own beliefs, or lack thereof.  I met so many Mormon women who loved being mothers.  I mean they loved it, and not in a cutesy polka-dotted apron kind of way.  They dug deep within themselves to help everyone they cared about get to church activities and understand why it was so important to do so.  They taught their daughters that their worth came from their strength of spirit, not being overtly sexy or trying to impress boys in the wrong ways.

They never spoke about their husbands in disparaging terms.  I found this very refreshing.  I could see their joy and delight in every little thing that happened in their families and how they saw everything else as a chance to grow.  Amidst my depression and general feelings of worthlessness, I tried this on.  I tried on what I thought these women were all about - sacrificing their own needs to support their families.

I discovered that Mormon doctrine does not intend for women to sacrifice their own needs.  Their church leaders know that this kind of lifestyle is destructive to women.  It took me a surprising amount of time to figure that out.  I was pretending to be Mormon the wrong way.

In fact, when I got to know some LDS ladies much more personally, I was in awe of their happiness to serve their family, while they took care of themselves.  That means different things to different women, of course.  I will always be grateful for that education, given gracefully and lovingly by my LDS friends.

After we settled into our new house in Missouri, I reread some of my favorite books, including one by Bell Hooks.  I found a few passages that I could not possibly have understood until after my soul-searching journey with the Mormons.  I already knew that Latter Day Saints believed that God gave our spirits the choice to come to here with free agency, but without remembering ourselves in our original divine forms.  They believe that you can choose to do whatever you wish in your lifetime.  (Important to note that this doesn't mean there will be no consequences for your actions, just that you are free to choose.) Then I saw this:

"If any female feels she needs anything beyond herself to legitimate and validate her existence, she is already giving away her power to be self-defining, her agency." - Bell Hooks, Feminism is for Everybody.

The choices women make are complex and difficult, but it sounds to me like Bell Hooks and Mormons are speaking the same truth:

Be who you are fully and without apology in the face of scorn. 
I love it when two things that are seemingly opposed, are united by one immutable law and they suddenly make sense together 

I believe that raising the status of women raises the status of everyone.  I'm still not sure if I'll ever be a part of any organized religion, but I finally understand why I was so drawn to women who are deeply religious.  They are living their truth and that is beautiful.

For insight into some of the most important lessons I've taken away from considering how Feminism and Mormonism intersect, read "A Woman's Place - Part 3" coming soon.

A Woman's Place

When I ask this question of myself: "What is my place?" the answer comes straight out of the first scene of Napoleon Dynamite: "Whatever I feel like, Gosh!"

As the title suggests, some people feel that a woman's place should be dictated to them.  Whenever I hear blatant misogyny or even subtle, insidious sexism, I am fascinated.  Instead of feeling threatened, as I did when I was younger and less sure of myself, I find myself wondering how it happens that one person feels superior to another.

Since we are all worthy of love, worthy of joy, and meant to know it, how does sexism play into that bigger story?

What was this person's upbringing?

What stories define their view of women?

How can they let go of old stories?

I wish I could suggest a simple way for men and women with this particularly damaging story to heal from it.  Since I can't, I hope to do what I do best--share stories and reframe the events to share with others.

Over and over again, this has been my path to remembering my own innate worth.

Just as a stream turns over the soil, washes away muck, and nourishes the life around it, perhaps words, flowing in just the right path, can wash away thoughts that smother and contain, and thereby breed the desire to smother and contain others. 

Organizing is like crack...

Truly,  I've never tried crack cocaine, but the high I get from trendy colors and patterns on binder tabs and specialty note pads is addictive.  I think I can stop at just one cute set of desk accessories...

And four days and night later I haven't showered or fed my children, but I have color coded and organized a year's worth of cleaning schedules, homeschool plans, and personal goals.

The definition of addiction is: "Doing something repeatedly and excessively even though you understand it's bad for you."

It all starts with the six week check-in that I perform for homeschool record-keeping purposes.  I also take that time to make sure we are meeting Common Core objectives.  It is a lot of paperwork and lists.

I enjoy looking back over my kids' work to gain perspective on our successes and failures.  I do not enjoy tediously checking boxes on lists of standards.  Since it has to be done, I want it to be visually pleasing and easy to read.  I figure while I'm at it, I might as well tidy up other areas of my office...and things become increasingly frenzied from there.

After organizing binges, I inevitably return to the beginning of the cycle, realizing there is no way I'm going to dust the blinds quarterly or rotate batteries our of our emergency supplies semi-annually.  I'm going to do those things when I'm not already busy and it's raining, and I am scraping the bottom of the barrel in my Netflix queue.

I definitely benefit from reviewing the details in our household budget and homeschool plans.  Über-organizing is bad for me, though, because it sets me up to fail.  I cannot possibly maintain this frightening level of self-monitoring.  It is dangerous perfectionism. It can detract from actually completing tasks when the focus stays on planning the tasks.

One of the quotes framed and hanging in our school space is:

"Ma chère enfant, rien n'est plus perilleux
Que de quitter le bien pour être mieux."        -Voltaire

My translation:

"My dear child, nothing is more perilous
Than to leave the good for the better."

Common translation:

"Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."  

This quote has multiple translations and can thus be skewed to mean different things when removed from the context of the original poem.  I take it to mean that the pursuit of perfectionism can put your light out.  When you have a detail-oriented personality, you can quickly lose sight of the overall picture.

So I must ask myself, "Do I really need to put my 5 year old's sketches in chronological order, laminate them and bind them in color-coordinating binders?"  Probably not.  Instead I'll pick my three favorites, take digital pictures of them and keep the images in a folder on the computer.

I see what I'm doing.  I realize that it's my need to control and feel like I've accomplished something.  Since at least a third of my time is spent doing dishes, laundry, cooking and cleaning I need to measure what else I've done to feel good about it.

A final note on the dangers of organizing-- Routine and structure can quickly eclipse any organic learning that homeschool offers.  If we are intent on finishing Unit 4 in a math workbook by the end of the week, we might not take time to study the cloud formations right outside the window.