April 14, 2020
I woke up to a reminder that today is my dog Parker Paisley’s official adoption day. Two years ago we made her an official part of the Tipton-Andersen household. She woke me up at 6:30 a.m. with her favorite ball ready to play! Easter candy is now 50% off. (Starburst jelly beans and Reese’s eggs are my favorites) I bought new shoes online two weeks ago. They finally arrived today. They’re fancy and I got them at 1/3 the original price. I love a good deal! I did some joint telehealth visits with Kaitlyn and Brandon today. A patient smiled. One fell asleep while Kaitlyn sang. One even said I was good looking. These are just a few of the good things that happened today. But I don’t feel “good”…and that has me worried.
It's part of my personality to be cautious of the world around me. I am untrusting. I am ever vigilant for the next disaster, even on good days like today. (Enneagram Type 6) When I’m deep in my stress I become suspicious of others. When I’m in harmony, I’m the loyal and supportive of the team. I say these things not in judgement of them but in affirmation that they are part of me. Knowing these traits make up the bulk of my reactivity and response (ability) to the world around me helps me navigate tricky days like today. Why do I look at all these lovely things with one suspicious eye darting around the corner?
This is how I protect myself from the bad days. It is a safety mechanism I learned and is how I survive. It isn’t something I can change, per se, nor is it something I need to change. It’s part of me like which hand I write with or the color of my eyes or how much curl is in my hair or which sock I put on first when I get dressed. It’s the left one by the way. My personality, my 6-ness, is a gift I gave myself when all else failed. What I must do now is learn to use it and employ it; to recognize when I’m being sucked into my stressful reactivity and make better choices.
This is called “response-ability.” Only when I am fully integrated and healthy, when I am true to myself and others, can I be fully response-able, empowered and harmonious. Maybe I’ll always be a little suspicious, eyeing the corners for the imaginary threat. Maybe I’ll always be waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I have learned to be healthier, more integrated and more self-aware. Sure, feelings still sneak up on me and I might become defensive or angry or sneak off and isolate in my Hobbit hole. Most of the time though I navigate the broken and fearful world around me with grace and fortitude.
The key to our ultimate survival is understanding who we are at our deepest levels. Have you spent any time recently getting to know yourself? Have you looked bravely at your truth? Have you loved the "you" you want to hide? It’s ok if the thought of self-discovery scares you. Navel gazing and introspection can feel like a luxury in times of crisis. Some of you may even feel like it’s a waste of time or self-indulgent.
There is a concept in spiritual caregiving called “unconditional positive regard.” Chaplains and spiritual navigators make every effort to regard (receive/esteem/observe) others with an unconditional (without restriction or qualification) positivity (affirmation of worthiness). The hardest person we offer this concept to is ourselves. We often meet ourselves in the mirror with shame, contempt, or blatant disregard. The hardest person to love is often the one you spend most of your time with. That person is you!
A mentor of mine once told me he had an exercise of observation he does with couples in therapy. He tells couples to practice vulnerability by standing nude in front of a mirror with their intimate partner. For this to be safe, both of you should be nude, both should be consenting and both of you should feel safe. The idea is for one partner to go from head to toe and acknowledge or point out the parts they see in the mirror that the like. When finished, their partner will affirm those places. Then, gently and with loving intent, ask about the places their partner skipped or overlooked and ask “why don’t you like…?” The observing partner is expected to affirm why they believe those places too are worthy of love.
The goal here is to see and be seen. To know and be known. To accept and be accepted. It is hard, vulnerable work to know yourself and be known fully by another. The chaos and disorientation we are experiencing only enhances and sharpens preexisting personalities and behaviors. There is now no better time to stand in the mirror and get to know yourself. You might even fall in love with something you’ve long neglected. You might discover within you an invisible strength pushing back at whatever it is the world has pushed upon you.
My advice today is to thine own self be true.
We do that through discovery. We do that by learning, affirming, and acknowledging truth. Find a personality inventory. The Enneagram, MBTI, Management by Strengths and many other inventories can give you a glimpse behind the curtain. As a word of caution, however, these are only glimpses. They are tools we use to build. They are only useful when used correctly and astutely. Getting to know the truth, integrating that truth into your living and maintaining balance and unconditional positive regard for the self is an artform that must be practiced, nurtured, learned. Be patient, you are still becoming.
I leave you with this thought, author unknown:
They say love is blind, I disagree.
Infatuation is blind, love is all-seeing
Love is seeing all the flaws and blemishes
and accepting them. Love is accepting the
bad habits and mannerism, and working
around them. Love is recognizing all the
fears and insecurities, and knowing your role
is to comfort. Love is working through all
the challenges and painful times.
Infatuation is fragile and will shatter when
life is not perfect.
Love is strong and it strengthens
because it is real.
Love and Light!