This May, I became fascinated with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I can’t remember exactly what prompted my investigation, but I am hooked. I completed two different online tests and came up as INFP (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Perception) – both times. Most of this came as no surprise, as I have mentioned multiple times here, I am an introvert and I operate purely on gut instinct based on all the feelings. However, after reading about the Perception part as opposed to J for Judgement, I began to question that P designation. Simply put, the distinction is that Js are punctual, and don’t like clutter, which does describe me.
I am surprised by the allure of this particular analysis. Every time I have brought it up in casual conversation, the other person (including my mother) has said, something like, yes, I have done that and I am ____, proudly listing their four-letter designation. On Monday, my sister and I were in her car headed to Lowes to pick up more mulch for her garden, and we started discussing the Myers- Briggs test. My niece is studying psychology and has done the test with her. She is an INFJ and immediately questioned how on the surface the two of us seem polar opposite, but, yet, could be the same personality type. I reminded her that underneath it all, we are really very similar. We are both introverts (me more than her), and we are both empaths - pulling in the energy and emotions of others.
Later that evening, my niece opened the Myers Briggs test that she used in class and had me complete it. I read the questions and answers on her computer, while she wrote down my responses. Her test confirmed that I, indeed, am an INFP, along with 4% of the population.
Obviously, the question that begs to be asked is: why do I care? I think a large part of my quest is informed by my desire to unravel the many contradictions that I see in my personality. I am an introvert, yet I purposely chose to place myself in the path of people. I am outwardly confident, strong, and determined, at the same time I am internally vulnerable and self-conscious. I like to be proactive and solve problems, but I don’t (can’t) use logical or analytical processes. I tap into the feelings they bring up in me, instead, and use my intuition and creativity to develop a variety of solutions.
The other piece is my desire to get to know how and why others behave in the ways they do. I am endlessly curious about, and, to be honest, a bit frustrated by those who are my complete opposite. It sometimes confounds me how some people can make decisions dispassionately based on data, numbers, and reasoning; it all seems so clinical, objective, and unfeeling. Which is why I have to remind myself, constantly, “oh, yeah, right - that’s the point!”
The human race needs the full complement of all sixteen Myers Briggs archetypes working together to make the world a better place. We need the extroverted peeps to keep the party going, as much as we need the introverted folks to stay at home taking care of themselves so they can use their gifts for the greater good. Those analytical statisticians and logisticians are the ones who make sure the data is accessible to all of us. The empaths are the people who take in all the pain and send out pure love. And, of course, we need the artsy, imaginative, and explorative folks who are, quite literally, envisioning and actively creating our future.
Thank goodness we are all perfectly unique, with an abundance of innate strengths and weaknesses. I can only hope that as more people become attuned to their own personality traits - that we are able to smash down the barriers (and hatred) created by polarization and pigeonholing to replace them with openness, compassion, and acceptance by recognizing the importance of honoring and celebrating them all.
My travels included the annual Liberated Learners conference last weekend at North Star in the Pioneer Valley in western MA. As always, I came away from the weekend with all my LL peeps re-energized and inspired to begin another year at DRC.
Liberated Learners, the network that DRC is a member of, is hiring a part-time social media manager to kick-start our growth and recognition factor throughout the world. Check out the official job posting here.
I am extending my summer adventures through July 5th. Please get in touch if you would like to schedule an appointment this summer. I will be available the remainder of July and August.
Don’t forget to register your child for our summer programs the last two weeks of August.
MMA Opportunity – Christopher Raymo, DRC’s Seedlings Coordinator and founder of Offensive Defensive Academy (ODA), is offering MMA classes every Friday at Deep Root Center. Check it out.
Well, technically, the main piece of this lesson was acquired during the two days I was at home, and to be honest, over my entire lifetime. However, my summertime travels have resumed and I am writing this from my “little” brother’s beautifully peaceful, scenic, organic Vermont farm, where he lives with his dog “Chester” and twenty-one very reclusive chickens. After years of growing salad greens on a large scale, he is now growing hemp.
Family – we all have them. Consequently, we all know the extreme joy, and, let’s admit, soul-wrenching pain that comes with the unconditional love, tangled relationships, unrealistic expectations, contrasting personalities, infuriating miscommunication, and to top it all off, the complications created by people who become part of that family as a result of partnerships and marriages.
My biological family has been extremely fortunate; my three siblings and I, for the most part, get along. We, obviously, have had our moments, but we are all dedicated to being a cohesive group, behaving with dignity and respect, and taking care of each other, and our Mom, despite the many, physical, miles that separate us. We realized at a very early age that jealousy, greed, and dysfunction if cultivated, can and will destroy familial relationships. Without going into detail, I will simply say, we had several examples of all of the above in both, our paternal and maternal lineage. I remember distinctly making a vow with my sister, at a very young age, that we would always take care of each other without bearing grudges.
This week, we had the opportunity to uphold that commitment. My grandfather, the man, who along with my grandmother, raised my mother, an only child, died on Tuesday, the day that just happened to be his 96th birthday. He passed peacefully with dignity, with my mom, his companion of 8 years, me, and the hospice nurse, gently and lovingly, assisting and releasing him into the next plane of being.
To say, my mother, my siblings, and I had a complicated relationship with him would be under-representing the deeply held emotional baggage we all carry. He was a complex man to understand, with multiple layers of divergent beliefs and logic. He was distant, strict, and often times disapproving with his wife, our beloved Gram, and us, his blood relatives; yet, over the years had many close and loving relationships with those who were unrelated. The dichotomy confounds us. If you entered a room filled with both kin and non-consanguineous folks, you would hear tales about two vastly different versions of this man, which in my mind, having known him for 54 years, is extremely hard to reconcile.
We all know that this man had deeply held regrets in the days leading up to his death. We also understand that he loved us all in his own profound way. He taught us to be resilient, determined, downright stubborn, and just a bit cheeky. We are resigned that we will never fully comprehend his motivations or reasons for why he behaved as he did. However, we will extract the lessons he learned, a bit too late, into our own lives and bravely move forward with a greater commitment to, simply and wholeheartedly, love those around us. Above all, our relationships with each other will flourish, not out of resentment, but as a result of our desire to live our lives with compassion, kindness, and respect, with a ton of humor tossed in to keep us all laughing at the endless twists and turns life tends to throw at us.
After six days in Portland with Kenzie, I am back in Chicago, with Ian and Cassidy, until Sunday evening. This two-week trip, beyond getting me out of my little corner of the world, was absolutely essential to my mental health. I was tired to the point of being short-tempered and uninspired, which was not ideal for me, the people I spend my days with, or DRC. Those profound levels of exhaustion were bringing me dangerously close to burn-out. In the last few months, while dealing with everyday responsibilities and crises, along with all the tasks related to founding a not-for profit, without a significant break, in two years, I realized that despite the deep joy and pride my work produces, I was becoming increasingly ambivalent to everything I had spent nearly six years creating.
No matter how invested you are in your work – whether it is something you have built from scratch or is purely a day job, everyone needs an occasional break. In these two weeks, I have learned, once again, that taking care of myself – doing “nothing” while staring off into space, reading a book for pure enjoyment, wandering, aimlessly, around an unfamiliar city, eating food that delights my palette, sleeping and waking without a schedule, writing, and spending time with people I adore – is absolutely necessary for, not only my sanity, but also, my ability to fully engage with the folks who need me, as well as the growth of Deep Root Center.
Register here today!
My month of travel continues on Wednesday, after a brief stop at home, to visit my brother’s farm in Vermont and then the three day Liberated Learner Conference in Amherst, MA., which is one of the highlights of my year. It is where I am so very fortunate to have the yearly opportunity to connect with my colleagues, who are also building Self-Directed Learning Centers around the Country. I will spend the remainder of the month in Eastern MA. with my sister and then back in VT. to help plant my brother’s hemp crop. I’ll be back “in the saddle,” fully refreshed, the first week of July.
I have always believed that travel opportunities provide the very best education. When you intentionally remove yourself from your own comfy little corner of the world to experience other cultures, lifestyles, and types of communities, you can only return with a greater understanding of humanity, as well as yourself.
Leaving the solace of home became essential, for this highly sensitive, extreme introvert, when my children chose to seek their “fortunes” in far flung cities across the country.
This past Sunday evening, I began my two-week long journey to visit them in Chicago and Portland, OR., when I boarded the direct flight from OGS to ORD to visit my son, Ian, and his partner, Cassidy for three days, before heading out to spend a week with my daughter, Kenzie.
This was my third visit to the “windy city.” I deeply appreciate the ease of moving around urban areas; my friends and family are surprised that I miss living in Boston and that I would ever consider living in a city, again. The CTA and your feet will get you pretty much anywhere you want to go, in my case, on Monday morning, from Ian and Cassidy’s apartment in Edgewater to the Lincoln Park Conservatory and Zoo, the River Walk, “the Loop,” and back “home.” My adventure started at the corner of N. Sheridan and W. Catalpa at 9:30 am on the #151 bus.
I soon discovered that mid-morning is when all of the folks who rely on walkers utilize the bus to get their groceries and do errands. As #151 proceeded down North Sheridan, a few shouting matches ensued when those with carts and walkers got on or off and collided in the narrow confines of the front of the bus. At one point, an older woman was trying to get off with her walker and another older gentleman was trying to get on with his, which was over-loaded with his belongings. Their tires became entangled and everyone simply sat there and watched these two physically disabled elders struggle, while the bus driver waited. Hesitantly, I put my backpack down on the seat, stood up and lifted the lady’s cart up and over so that she could disembark. The remainder of the three-mile journey was a thought provoking, and, not to mention, eye-opening experience to the day to day reality of people living in poverty and hardship in the close confines of the city.
In that 40-minute trip to Lincoln Park, I vowed to make it my mission to smile and send out positive vibes filled with kindness and goodwill for the remainder of the day.
See, I believe it is possible to lighten someone’s mood by greeting them with a real smile and a “good morning,” assisting those who are encumbered with bags, carts, or strollers and other belongings, or even starting a casual conversation.
What would happen if, our elders were respected, honored, and taken care of as the wise people, they really are, in our society? What if everyone felt “seen” and important? Could we change the world one bus full of people at a time? I am convinced that the answer is, “yes, absolutely!”
That answer, however, relies heavily on every single one of us making it our mission to instigate a kindness revolution – fueling a transformation of our culture with compassion, empathy, and respectful dialogue, which leave blame and judgment behind.
I never imagined that meek little old me could ever be a revolutionary. But, there you have it. I, categorically, refuse to stand by to witness suffering of any kind. No, I am not in the southwest getting arrested for bringing water to desperate people, in an inhospitable environment, seeking a safe place to bring their children. Nevertheless, I am that person who smiles, reassures with a slight touch on the arm, and stands up, completely outside my comfort zone, to help another – allowing them to continue on with their day – hopefully, feeling a bit more cheerful, relevant, and less burdened.
This insurrection is dependent on every single one of us vowing to support, comfort, sustain, mentor, and simply love one another, despite all of our petty differences. Along with, understanding that diversity, in all of its forms (ethnic, neuro, gender, sexual orientation, spiritual, age, socioeconomic, etc.), can only make us stronger. And, fully comprehending that our survival as a species, totally depends on all of the above.
Yesterday, on my third day in Portland, I had the opportunity to witness a beautiful interaction between a talented, aged, busker playing drums, harmonica, and accordion at the Skidmore Fountain, a young boy he invited to play the cymbal, together with a baby in her father’s arms, who was borrowing his shaker. He played and sang a classic rock song while the boy hit the cymbals, mostly, randomly. Then he played Twinkle -Twinkle with them, while I sat on the edge of the fountain utterly captivated. This particular encounter may have seemed like an accident of my meandering explorations; however, I chose to see it as one more sign that the kindness revolution has, indeed, begun.
This was just one of a thousand serendipitous moments that pop up, every day, without any warning, to gently remind us to slow down, live in the moment, and bow in gratitude for the amazingly, creative, and brilliant generosity of our fellow humans.
Outside stimuli, which are seemingly innocuous to other folks, assault and quickly overwhelm the senses of those of us who are highly sensitive. I am particularly vulnerable to sound (loud noises) and emotional turmoil; however, I also respond adversely to chemicals, (cleaning solutions, pesticides, perfumes, etc.) visually cluttered environments, strong odors and tastes, and certain textures. My personal negative reactions vary from slight annoyance to “get me to hell out of here, NOW!” Those who spend their days with me, have come to recognize my triggers.
I recently read an article that described highly sensitive people as “canaries in the coal mine” - the ones who sense danger before anyone else. We, quite simply, experience life without filters – everything we encounter is observed (seen, heard, smelled, tasted, felt, and intuited) and then flows through without obstruction. Some set off all the internal alarm bells and others induce moments of pure wonder and awe. We, literally, have a visceral experience to the things most folks will walk by without a second glance.
I firmly believe that every single person is born highly sensitive; however, most, over a fairly short period of time, build up emotional callouses (thick skin) in direct response to the abrasive pressures and expectations of living in this world.
Picture the infant who stares intently at your face, the one who will only settle down when swaddled tightly, or the one who kicks off anything that encumbers their natural movement. Imagine the three-year-old who dances through a crowd - weaving in and out seemingly, unintentionally, avoiding certain people and embracing others. Or, think about the five-year-old who is walking through the woods darting from one amazing wonder to the next, ignoring the well-worn path, to first stare up into the tree tops to notice the tiny little nest made from sticks, mud, and fluff, and, in another moment crouching down to peek through a hollow log, and then quickly bouncing to the other end to peer from the other end to watch the line of ants march through.
Young children notice everything, especially those things that cannot be physically observed - nuances within a conversation or the emotional “temperature” of a room. They are inherently open-minded little sponges who absorb all the good of the world, as well as everything toxic.
As children enter formal society, usually through daycare and nursery school, they are given subtle (or not) cues about how to “be” in western culture. They are encouraged to remain stoic, unemotional, competitive, independent, and to “behave,” with rewards and adult approval. For those of us who "fail" to desensitize or “tune-out” by the time we are school-age, we are told to “buck-up,” “stop being so emotional,” “sit still,” “follow the directions,” and “for goodness sake, please, stay (color, walk) within the lines.” And, when those verbal admonitions are not effective, and we begin to act out, further, are soon labeled, “troubled” or “oppositional,” and ultimately punished.
Whether intentional, or not, these designations come with a lifetime of hurt and toxicity, which often translate into anxiety, depression, and low self-worth or esteem. This attempt to create conformity and obedience is all carried out in the name of education. The irony confounds!
I will argue, till the end of my days, that humans were designed in a way that life-long knowledge is innately driven by curiosity, and can only be acquired through off-trail and outside the box exploration, while we are following our interests and aspirations, and only when we are allowed to respond with all of that naturally, intense, and overwhelming emotion that springs up to engulf our very being.
I will be taking some much needed time away for most of the month of June, visiting my own children in Chicago and Portland, attending the Liberated Learners conference in Amherst, MA, and then visiting my siblings in MA and VT. I will be checking email and messages regularly and will respond as quickly as possible.
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