In Celebration of Love
I was awake for a few hours in the night on Sunday, as I often am. What my activities are during these nocturnal, liminal spaces can vary — I might make a list of things to do, or think of things I’d like to get for the garden this spring — I might fret over why I seem to wake up at this time most nights, and I might take a random Enneagram quiz here and there.
I was first introduced to the Enneagram in 1991. I worked for a clinical psychologist while I was in college and she had a deep interest in and appreciation for it, so I’ve known that I’m a 1 with a 2 wing for quite some time. I’m not sure anyone wants to be their type, but I have a particular disdain for mine — we’re the sticklers, perfectionists, finger-pointers — at least when we’re not emotionally healthy. I won’t delve into the fact that I’ve quizzed as a 5 with a 4 wing a few times recently, I know I’m probably very likely still a 1 and am only veering toward 5 because of the isolation a pandemic brings, so I’m going to tuck that tidbit away for later and concentrate on how the other night I was looking at a diagram that connected the types 1, 4, & 7. These three types are the idealists on the Enneagram wheel, which comes as no surprise to me. I am a dedicated improver of things regardless of how my many morbid psychological symptoms are poking out their heads. But the trajectory of a revamp or revise can go either way — for me, if it is in an unhealthy direction, there grows an obsession with the failures of everything and life becomes disappointing, to which the 1 reacts with anger, the most present vice of a person who is never satisfied. I spiral out and disintegrate to type 4. Horrific. If my intention point in a healthy direction, there can be a wonderful acceptance of imperfections as part of the bigger picture and an appreciation of the connectedness of everything no matter how wonky it may be. The dissatisfied 1 integrates to an enthusiastic type 7, who when at their best, is a real lover of life and approaches it with wholehearted vivaciousness despite presented difficulty and imperfection. I hope it is needless to say that I want to be a healthy person. How to get there? Well, get this — the word written between the 1 and the 7 was “reach.” That’s how the integration is achieved.
Ah. I have to REACH past the need for improvement if I genuinely want to improve.
Love, I’ve discovered, when one is middle-aged, is a specific thing even when it’s platonic. By the time we’ve arrived here, where I am, we’re usually a bit beaten up, weary from the battles that life sometimes requires us to fight. We’re no longer starry-eyed with the idea that there is a 100% perfect partner out there for us or that anyone else will complete us. For most of us, through whatever route, there comes a reckoning with those blindly optimistic ideas we had when we were younger and we have to make peace with the fact that adult relationships have the ability to resemble a World Summit — this side gives here, the other gives there — everyday and every interaction can be an exercise in compromise.
Maybe it isn’t. But here’s what is: growing.
And certain kinds of growing can only happen when you’re reaching toward them, when you’re being required to stretch by someone whose opinion you care deeply about, by someone you went so far as to pick (yes, I believe we do these things on purpose) to help you work out your issues, to whatever degree of success. The beauty comes, for me, when both understand that and agree to be the other’s partner in the expanding practice that is actually participating in a relationship instead of mere coasting through it. And it’s hard to do no matter who you’re doing it with — your spouse, lover, family member, or friend.
I’m grateful for every deep love relationship in my life, and the willingness of my co-conspirators to let me reach and stretch and ultimately grow through them. Thank you, tribe.
In praise of love and all that it requires from us — Happy Valentine’s Day.
Sending love everywhere.