It was all going so well.
I eased into the new year with a sense of peace and calm. The holiday season was highly enjoyable for me — I wasn’t running around crazy for once, and allowed myself to just be at home, with no impossible schedule or high demands. It was good, if not exactly restorative, because even when I attempt to clear my calendar I still manage to fill my time with the high demands that come within my own ridiculous set of standards, but I felt at ease, even joyous.
I’m not sure where that feeling went.
The enneagram has had a recent resurgence in popularity. I was first introduced to it in, I think, 1991, while I was working for my mentor, Dr. Alice H. Frederick. Alice is a Clinical Psychologist, still practicing today at the age of 89, and I worked in her office during my time at The University of South Alabama. I learned a lot about therapy and personal work during that time through absorbing her energy and the energy of her office, as well as through the personal work I was doing, most of it guided by her wise heart and hands. I still have the book on the enneagram that I bought back then, Don Richard Riso’s, “Understanding the Enneagram: The Practical Guide to Personality Types.” The spine is broken and the pages are about to fall out, but it’s still a great companion to the book I just finished about a week ago, Richard Rohr’s “The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective.”
I was Type 1 in 1991. I wondered, after finishing Rohr’s book last week, if I still was, so I took an online questionnaire to check. Yep. Still Type 1, albeit with strong 5 and 4 tendencies, and with almost equal 2 and 9 wings. The one is driven by order, things being “right,” and is a determined idealist, committed to improving everything at every minute and encouraging others to follow such an ideal as well. The catch, and there is always a catch, is that the 1’s primary emotion is anger.
Wouldn’t you know it? Anger is my least favorite emotion. I shouldn’t have even needed to take the test again when I know that much, because I know enough to know that if I’m repulsed by something, it usually means I want to tamp whatever the something is down in myself.
The more I try to tamp it down, the more it rises.
Why in the world do I struggle with anger? I genuinely ask myself this question when I feel it bubbling up, because I suppose I forget when I’m constantly reminded of what a great life I’ve got. I can talk myself into believing that I have absolutely nothing to be angry about when I’m doing the surface peace and love song and dance, when I’m not allowing myself to be the complex being that I am who has quite a few things hanging around that I’d like to take up with someone. I wonder sometimes — how am I supposed to get through it all without losing the mind that I try so very hard to keep in check? Some days I am bowled over by the amount of heave ho I need to do to gain clarity on anything I’m carrying.
Then I’m reminded by my thimble’s worth of self-knowledge that this is why I have prayer. This is why I have silence. This is why I have meditation. This is why I have rest. This is why I have exercise. This is why I need to express myself in some way, either within a relationship with another person, or on the page, or in a tune. This is why I have to take care of myself. And if I don’t make room for those things, if I don’t make room for my self in my own life, I’m screwed, emotionally and otherwise.
So how I deal with that is by stopping. When I feel that awful primary emotion, that driving force within me that instigates productivity but also produces such a terrible inner critic hell bent on fixing everything and everyone, take over my thoughts and actions (including myself — and it’s when I can’t fix myself that I tend to focus on everything and everyone else and boy, isn’t THAT fun for the world), I, and usually after I’ve done some damage somewhere, just sit down and shut up. I have to find some sort of silence and stillness so that I can find out what’s really going on. I remind myself that at least I have the self-awareness, at well past what is probably the midpoint of my life, to do that. It’s not much, but it’s something.
Anger is a great motivator. It is also the best isolator. I have to remember to check to make sure that my sitting down and shutting up isn’t just sulking. For it to mean something, it has to have air around it. For my taking myself in hand to work at all, it has to be with a whole lot of self-love and acceptance.
Today, I have to love myself through my anger and confusion and frustration, through the feeling that I don’t know what I’m doing or should do with my life beyond the absolute have-tos, through my fear of not being able to write my next book the way I want it to read — with wholehearted compassion and as little ego as possible, through my struggles with forgiveness and inability to get out of my own head. And I have to do it slowly, patiently, and fully, without a list of rules. Oof. That’s the hardest kind of work for me.
Type 1, when healthy, integrates to Type 7, and begins to appreciate the world even though it is imperfect and can even admit her own imperfections and relax about them and have FUN with it all. Here I am, admitting my imperfections. Here I am, calling myself out again, but trying my best to allow myself to be myself, whatever that self is today. If I am angry, I need a safe space in which to let that out. If I am sad (and, of course, the primary emotion from which anger comes is sadness, but when you are not allowed to be sad you become angry – wow this is an ouroboros isn’t it?), I need to allow myself to feel that, to sit with that, to admit that and not tell myself I “shouldn’t” be anything but grateful during every minute for every single thing.
The point, I think for me, is to learn to do both of those things. To learn to allow my emotions and deal with them all on one hand and also hold gratitude and acceptance in the other. That’s balance. That’s integration.
I cannot, today, BE tired of pushing the rock up the hill. But I do have to allow myself to SAY that I am, even if it’s only here, even if it’s only to myself, and to y’all. And then I can keep pushing. I realize that my peace and calm fell away because I need to pay deeper attention to something that I haven’t expressed. That’s frustrating. I wanted peace and calm to stay. But I know they’ll show up again and that no state is permanent, not even from one minute to the next, and that the integration I long for comes and goes too.
Happy Wednesday, Y’all.
PS — Question of the week, From Randy B.:
I am a fan and just bought Crows and Blood, can’t wait to hear them. I wrote a few weeks ago to inquire about the name of the male singer who sings with Allison on No Next Time. I haven’t received a reply from anyone and thought I would ask again. He has a great voice and I would like to buy a CD by him.
Answer: My dear friend Lonesome Bob.
The last thing is, we’ll be creating an email signup for those of you who want to receive this blog in your inbox. Stay tuned.