This is not a post about business, tech, millennials, or vegan recipes. This is a post about trends in Rachel’s life over the past year. They won’t inform your investment decisions or tell you what flavor of Jeni’s Ice Cream best represents your life, it’s just a glimpse into one person’s tiny perspective in a world of 7.6 billion people. Pretty limited and probably pretty insignificant… could be fun, though.
I ate a lot of tacos this year and I’m very happy with that habit. I hope I can stick to it.
This came out of those personality tests that people hate because they don’t want to be put in a box. Guess what kids, you’re already in a box – most of these are designed to help get you out of it. But I won’t get on, in, or anywhere near my soapbox.
The point I want to make here is that every test I’ve taken suggests that, if left unchecked, I may tend to occasionally sometimes become an insensitive and controlling asshole.
Enneagram… 8 (The Challenger)
Eights are self-confident, strong, and assertive…but can also be ego-centric and domineering. Eights feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating.
Myers-Briggs… ENTJ (The Commander)
The underlying thought running through the ENTJ mind might be something like “I don’t care if you call me an insensitive b*****d, as long as I remain an efficient b*****d”.
DISC… very high D (The Eagle – as assigned by me)
A person with a D style is described as direct, demanding, forceful, strong willed, driven, and determined, fast-paced, and self-confident. They may be limited by lack of concern for others, impatience and open skepticism. They may fear being seen as vulnerable or being taken advantage of.
The most interesting themes I’ve seen through all this self-evaluation are fear of vulnerability and access to anger. Not at all surprising, but interesting. More on those later.
Early last year I had lunch with a life coach. Now there are all sorts of these life coaches – some focused on fitness and nutrition, some focused on career advancement, others on relationships. This one was more of the hippie, we’re all connected, all part of the universe, that bug is probably your grandpa sort of life coach. Which means that (in true 8 fashion) it took about 60 seconds for my attention to drift from her description of my aura to her dangly amethyst earrings getting tangled around her crazy blonde curls.
She asked me to share a little about my life and as I sat there rambling, my ego convincing me there’s no way the two of us could possibly connect, she interrupted and said, “I’m seeing a theme.” Ecstatic to learn what my energy was telling her, I begged the question, “what’s that?”.
“You seem to insert yourself into places of tension.”
She didn’t have to say another word, I immediately recognized what she was talking about. I started trying to justify it, worried I was some sort of sadist or worse, that I cause the constant tension.
She interrupted again. She offered the analogy of a stringed instrument. Any stringed instrument requires tension to produce music.
I liked that. It justified my lifestyle and I was content to end there. She was not.
She suggested that tension is not enough. There is a precise amount of tension that has to be applied for the instrument to produce the appropriate sound. Strings often fall out of tune when they enter a new environment, or snap if the tension is too strong.
She tasked me with this:
Look beyond the tension to the resolution. If you can insert yourself into areas of tension, or create a healthy tension to bring two conflicting perspectives to an understanding, there is incredible potential for peacemaking.
I discovered an amazing joy in the practice of resolution. That singular moment that individuals with conflicting perspectives come to understand – not agree with – but understand each other. There’s a literal physical relaxation that happens but more importantly, there’s knowledge and wisdom gained. Ignorance and anger and self-absorption are defeated and a connection between two people strengthened, even if they do remain in opposition, staying in that healthy tension.
I think we work too hard to avoid tension. Avoiding it only results in our being overstretched and eventually snapped, forcing us to the painful process of being restrung. If we weren’t so fearful of places of tension, I think our lives would look very different.
I’ve always considered myself fairly anger-free. I don’t yell at people, I don’t get into fist fights, I’m pretty good at letting things roll off my back. But as I’ve been evaluating, I mentioned this to a friend, telling her it takes a lot to get me worked up or angry. Her response was “Rachel, it takes a lot for you to show any emotion.”
Journaling about it later, I realized I do get angry. And that anger impacts how I interact with people. And it needs dealt with.
It also led me to look at my relationships with my closest friends, how much people know about what I’m really feeling, what I’ve felt or experienced in the past, or even in the present, and how it shapes who I am and how I view the world. The last sentence in that journal entry was, “Shit. I think I suck at vulnerability.”
I suck at vulnerability. I don’t know how to do it. Or really when to do it. Do I just drop my insecurity about being in a serious relationship because I’m too afraid to disrupt my fiercely independent lifestyle and that I might fall in love with someone who won’t let my dog sleep on the bed over tacos and margaritas? Why would anyone want to ruin a perfectly good taco with personal insecurities?
Then I started reading.
Henry Cloud, Donald Miller, Thomas Merton, all the Bible guys, they all say the same thing… I need to risk being known or I will never love others well.
I’ve convinced myself that offering love to others is enough, investing in their lives, their suffering. Then Thomas Merton called me out…
When we love thus, our friends exist only in order that we may love them. In loving them, we seek to make pets of them, to keep them tame. Such love fears nothing more than the escape of the beloved. It requires his subjection because that is necessary for the nourishment of our own affections.
Selfish love often appears to be unselfish, because it is willing to make any concession to the beloved in order to keep him prisoner. But it is supreme selfishness to buy what is best in a person, his liberty, his integrity, his own autonomous dignity as a person, at the price of far lesser goods. Such selfishness is all the more abominable when it takes a complacent pleasure in its concessions, deluded that they are all acts of selfess chartiy.
– Thomas Merton, No Man Is An Island
We can’t possibly love well and only give, we have to be willing to receive.
The gift of love is the gift of the power and the capcity to love, and, therefore, to give love with full effect is also to receive it. So, love can only be kept by being given away, and it can only be given perfectly when it is also received.
– Thomas Merton, No Man Is An Island
I don’t want to confuse love or vulnerability with intimacy. While I believe intimacy is an experience that should only be shared with a select few, vulnerability is a posture that we should all work to assume. It’s a willingness to let others see our own humanity in all its beauty and all its ugly.
But let’s be real, the reason most of us have vulnerability issues is because people are assholes. They judge and humiliate and manipulate, they use our vulnerability to their own advantage. But that’s why it’s a risk. And while I’ve been perfectly content to avoid any sort of emotional pain or inconvenience, I have to trust all of these brilliant minds, loving people, and dear friends when they all tell me that the reward far outweighs emotional trauma I might experience in making my dog sleep on the floor.
So there you have it, my 2017. Full of tension, anger, domination, and tacos. I’m going into 2018 with the goal of increased vulnerability. Which means an equal increase in margaritas. Have a drink with me?