Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Being an introvert

I did a google search on "introspective" when I decided to use that as the new name for this blog. One of the first links that came up, was Introspectives.org. There I found a very straightforward, and almost frightfully accurate description of myself as an INFJ (see Meyers Briggs Type Indicator). Here I am in a nutshell:

INFJ Profile:

Absolutely: creative, smart, focus on fantasy more than reality, fears doing the wrong thing, observer, fears drawing attention to self, somewhat easily frightened, easily offended, private, easily hurt, does not like to be looked at, perfectionist, can sabatoge self, can be wounded at the core, values solitude, does not like crowds, organized, second guesses self, focuses on peoples' hidden motives, not spontaneous, longs for a stabilizing relationship, fears rejection in relationships, frequently worried, can feel victimized, lower energy, strict with self

Sort of: attracted to sad things, avoidant, anxious, cautious, socially uncomfortable guarded, prone to crying, prone to feelings of loneliness, prone to sadness

Not really: emotionally moody, fearful, more likely to support marijuana legalization, not competitive, prone to intimidation

Favored careers:

Sounds cool: artist, art curator, bookstore owner, freelance writer, poet, teacher (art, drama, english), library assistant, professor of english, painter, novelist, book editor, copywriter, philosopher, environmentalist, bookseller, museum curator, magazine editor, archivist, music therapist, screenwriter, film director, creative director, librarian, art historian, photo journalist, homemaker (who knew?)

Not a chance: psychotherapist, opera singer, social services worker, sign language intepreter, makeup artist

Monday, June 9, 2008

10 lessons the Presidential primaries have taught our children

The recent 2008 Presidential primaries have taught Americans a lot about ourselves.

Without a doubt, glass ceilings have been shattered, long-held prejudices have been re-examined and forced into the light, and a new vision of opportunity has unfolded for our children.

Yet, sadly, not all of the lessons provided by both parties in recent months have been positive ones. I'm disheartened, disappointed and downright disgusted with the behaviors and values that America's supposed "best and brightest" are teaching our children by example:
  1. Style is much more important than substance.

  2. Winning is more important than being honest or playing fair. In fact, winning is more important than anything.

  3. If the rules aren't working in your favor, change them.

  4. If you repeat a lie often enough, people will start to believe it.

  5. Chose your words very carefully, the technical definition of those words means more than the spirit of them.

  6. Appearance is everything.

  7. Overcome feelings of being victimized by playing the victim card.

  8. Rebut policy differences with personal attacks.

  9. If someone hits you, hit back. Harder.

  10. It doesn't matter what you say today... you can always deny it tomorrow.

I grew up in a family of staunch Democrats, but much to their dismay, I became a Republican ten years ago. Before November, I will change my affiliation again - this time to "Independent." But before I do, I want to openly apologize to Independents.

I used to think that being an Independent was a sign of intellectual laziness, that the people who made that choice just weren't interested enough in the issues to take a stand. I've thought long and hard about the issues and I care very deeply. But I've also thought long and hard about each of the Presidential candidates, both current and former. I never thought I'd say it, but at least for this campaign cycle, I've come to think that being Independent means sadly choosing "none of the above."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Less than 6 Degrees of Separation

A few weeks ago I wrote a series posts about a great book I'm reading called "Night Shift" by Dave Shive. Shortly thereafter, I got a wonderful e-mail from Mr. Shive in which he indicated that a friend had seen my initial post referencing his book and had sent him the link.

What a delightful surprise to receive a personal message from the author of a book I'm reading... something that could only have been made possible by the wonders of the Internet. So much for the theory that there are 6 degrees of separation.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

How do HSP's cope?

I know it sounds awful to say that misery loves company, but I have to admit that I'm relieved to find that I'm not the only one that recognizes themselves in the list of HSP traits. If you're one, you understand the emptiness of feeling alone in a crowd, at a party, or in a marriage that isn't working.

I've just begun to think about what this means for me and how it manifests, but just like with so many other things, I've decided to consider this a blessing rather than a curse. Of course I realize that being highly sensitive to your environment (places and people) can be problematic, but rather than dwell on that, I'm choosing to focus my energies on learning how to minimize the challenges and maximizing the benefits.

There seem to be a few books on the subject, but so far I've only found one article with tips on coping strategies: 14 Success Strategies For Highly Sensitive People. There must be more. I'll keep looking. Perhaps I'll make my own list. Please feel free to post if you have suggestions.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How sensitive is TOO sensitive?

I had another "aha" moment today. For some reason, the word "empath" got stuck in my head. After following a few links through Google, I ended up reading several articles about highly sensitive people (HSPs), and not surprisingly, some references to being INFJ also showed up. I started researching characteristics of HSPs and recognized myself instantly.

I found an interesting list of the traits of HSPs that were all too familiar. In fact, I answered "yes" to every one of the following questions:

  • Do you get overwhelmed by stimuli such as lights, noises, and smells?

  • Do other people’s moods and emotions deeply affect you?

  • Are you easily startled?

  • Do you become uneasy when someone is watching you complete a task?

  • Do you become tired easily after a “normal” day of activity?

  • Are you aware of other things in your environment that most other people are not aware of?

  • Do you become agitated or anxious when you have a lot of tasks to do and not enough time to complete all of them?

  • Do you avoid disturbing or violent movies, books, or T.V. shows?

  • Do you feel the need to escape and retreat when there is too much going on around you?

  • Are you deeply interested in the arts or music?

  • Do you dislike changes in your life?

  • Do you enjoy delicate tastes, scents, sounds, soft fabrics, or beautiful works of art?

  • Have you always been labeled as shy or sensitive by other people?

  • Are you overly conscientious?

  • Do you seem to be more sensitive to pain than other people?

  • Are you sensitive to certain foods such as foods containing caffeine, sugar or alcohol?

  • Do you become unpleasant when you are hungry?

  • Do you easily sense the energies of places or situations?

  • Are you easily touched by others' experience, stories of kindness, and courage?

  • Are you attracted to the deeper things such as spirituality, self-development and philosophy?

  • Do you need time alone?

  • Are your feelings easily bruised?

  • Do you have a vivid imagination?

  • After reading this list, is it really any wonder that I'm often exhausted, can't sleep, or feel sad, stresed or overwhelmed? Interestingly, I think that the more time that I spend in intentional solitude, getting to know myself and enjoying my own company, the more sensitive I am to the influences of external factors.

    Last week I was baffled by the fact that I had a few informational job interviews and in one case in particular, the minute I walked into the office, I had a "bad" feeling about the office and the prospective employer. I tried to articulate to a friend why I knew that wasn't the job for me - even though I don't have any other firm offers - but I couldn't find the right words. I just knew that I "wasn't feeling it", as my daughter would say.

    I'm really curious to better understand the correlation between HSPs and INFJs. If you know anything about this, or can recommend good resources, please post a comment.

    Wednesday, April 16, 2008

    Accepting the Night Shift (part 3)

    According to Dave Shive, author of Night Shift, "One who enters the pit cross the threshold to 'God's tuf.' This entrance sets in motion a cycle of events and activities designed to transform proud, unbroken, and essentially useless people into vibrant servants of Christ who have a new song on their lips, a message to proclaim, and a usefulness in making an impact for the Kingdom."

    He goes on to discuss this transformational process as a series of seven stages:

    1. The Pit. The awful place of brokenness where the testing begins.

    2. The Wait. The usually long period of time spent waiting, often without understanding, for God to make His divine plan clear.

    3. The Cry. The desperate prayer for relief from waiting in the pit.

    4. The Answer. God's reply as He reveals the message that is to be the focal point of the person's future ministry.

    5. The Deliverance. Liberation from the pit, "in God's way, God's timing, and for God's purpose."

    6. The New Song. The music inspired by spiritual, emotional and physical freedom from earthly (materialistic) things, with a newfound focus on God's purpose.

    7. The Impact. The fruits that manifest as a result of allowing the season of suffering to serve its purpose.

    I have survived the first five stages and am somewhere in stage six. I wish I'd found this book sooner, as it would surely have made the first four stages more bearable. But then, perhaps that's the point. If I hadn't gone through then, I probably wouldn't be here now. I'm scared, but also excited, to see how God plans to use me.

    Tuesday, April 15, 2008

    Accepting the Night Shift (part 2)

    If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I've survived a past with more than a little violence, pain and suffering. As dark as many of those days were, the operative word is that I survived. By God's grace and mercy, not only have I overcome my past, but I'm a better, stronger person because of it.

    I spent nearly 30 years either denying or fighting my past, unable (or unwilling) to see how unresolved anger and pain was impacting my life. I knew that I was missing something very important, but I could never quite connect all the dots. I may never understand why God allowed certain things to happen to me. But now I understand that He wants me to use my experiences to try to ease the pain and suffering of others. If He can use me as a living example of how we can learn to overcome life's challenges because of rather than in spite of them, then the things I went through will not have been for nothing.

    So knowing all this, why am I so afraid? Because what I'm being called to share is very painful, and very personal. Writing this blog, and receiving the feedback that I often get, has been a tremendous experience in terms of helping me to stretch my writing muscles in preparation for writing the books that God has placed on my heart to write. But I know that writing the books is not enough. I know that I'm going to be required to speak publicly about these things too. And that's the part that scares me the most. I've heard that speaking in front of crowds is a "normal" fear under the most benign circumstances, which doesn't make it any less fearful for me. But then add to that the subject matter that I'm being called to speak about and I find it terrifying. But then I'm reminded of David. He must've been terrified too when facing that giant with nothing but a little rock and a slingshot.

    I haven't started reading Night Shift yet, but I did glance through it and saw that the author identified seven stages of the night shift cycle. I can't tell you how comforting it was to receive confirmation that I've made it through the most difficult stages and that now it's time to plant seeds and wait expectantly for them to bear fruit.

    (to be continued)

    Monday, April 14, 2008

    Accepting the Night Shift (part 1)

    I've known for some time now that God has a special purpose for my life. I jumped into into it with full force two years ago, and nearly drowned. I decided that I must have misunderstood. This work is much too hard and too painful. Surely God can't want me to do it.

    Since then, God has been slowly preparing me, guiding me, nudging me, and introducing the right people into my life to support me on this journey. I understand now that it's not going to be easy. It's not supposed to be. But even though I don't understand why God chose to use me in this way, or how He could possibly think I'm qualified or capable to do this, the conviction in my heart to move forward has become so strong that I can't ignore it any longer.

    Today I remembered a book that a friend sent me about this time of year two years ago. I didn't really understand why she sent it at the time, especially because it's signed by the author, and addressed to her mother. What a special gift. Now the purpose is suddenly clear. The book is called "Night Shift" by Dave Shive. It's written for people who find themselves being called to do the hard, difficult and lonely work that's usually not on most people's list of fun projects to volunteer for.

    I liken it to working the night shift in a hospital. Most health care professionals choose not to work the night shift for reasons that make perfect sense to most of us. Yet the reality is that "someone" has got to do it, and it looks like I've been drafted. Of course I believe that God gives each of us free will, so I'm not saying that I'm being forced to do this. I guess I'm saying that as much as it scares me and overwhelms me, now that I've clearly heard the call, I have to respond. I have to take a giant leap of faith and believe that God will give me the tools, the skills, the resources and the people that I need to do the things He'd have me to do. And when I'm able to meet His challenge, doing so will be another testimony to His power, because He knows that I know that I can't do this by myself.

    (to be continued)

    Friday, April 4, 2008

    Less really is more

    Now that I'm less than 12 months away from turning 50, I've been thinking about what that milestone is going to mean to me. What amazes me is that while I'm earning less money, have less professional prestige, and claim fewer close friendships, I also have less stress, less drama and fewer debts. In reality, I have more... more peace, more authenticity, more creativity, more self-confidence, more spiritual maturity, more meaningful relationships and more joy. Is my life challenge-free? Absolutely not, but age and experience have given me a different perspective. Big problems are much smaller when you learn to focus on the big picture.

    If you're a woman over 40 and you've never read an issue of More magazine, I highly recommend it. It's a wonderful magazine that celebrates the joys of being a "well-seasoned woman." In honor of their 10th anniversary, the magazine's editors posted a list of 10 reasons why we're really glad we're over 40". Here's the short version of their list along with my editorial comments in italics.
    1. We know our own style. I feel absolutely no need to wear trendy clothes that cost a fortune and make me look like a clown. I didn't want to look pregnant in my 20's, and I certainly don't want to look pregnant now.
    2. We've honed our ability to allow things to roll off our backs. I know that there's always going to be at least one person in any social setting that's going to say something "stupid". Better them than me.
    3. We feel absolutely no compulsion to have a MySpace page, and no need to apologize for not having one. What's MySpace?
    4. We've grown to appreciate the singularity of our own selves. I'm much happier being a late bloomer than being the most gorgeous girl in junior high school who now looks like she's 65.
    5. Sex is better than ever, largely because we're not afraid to ask for what we want and realize that faking orgasm only reinforces male ineptitude. Enough said.
    6. We are able to embody the confidence and wisdom of Coco Chanel, who once quipped, "I don't do fashion. I am fashion." When the situation warrants it, I can definitely "clean up well." But then, I can look good in jeans and bare feet too.
    7. It's a cinch to say no. That would be "no" as in no more overcommitting to things I have no interest in doing, no more giving my phone number to people I don't want to call me, no more attending social events out of a misguided sense of politeness, and no more apologizing for things I'm not sorry for or that I have no control over.
    8. Younger men are now old enough to have real careers and order a round of martinis. Yes, there's something to be said for younger men when you reach my age. :)
    9. We've finally absorbed the reality that no pair of $3,000 sandals will ever be as sexy as quarterly dividends. $3,000! I'd never pay $100 for a pair of sandals!
    10. We've regained all that time we used to spend freaking out about turning 40. True.

    I've decided that I want to do something extraordinary for my 50th birthday, but I have no idea what yet. If you did something wonderful for your 50th (or 60th or 70th) or you're planning to do something wonderful, please share!

    Tuesday, April 1, 2008

    Gratitude Journal: March 2008

    It's the time of the month again when I share a partial list of all the things I have to be thankful for during the month just ending. This was a particularly difficult month for me, partly due to the snowballing effects of being laid off and losing my health insurance. I've also undergone a personal crisis that zapped what little emotional energy I had left.

    Yet, in spite of the challenges, and they were HUGE, I am so thankful that God has been more than faithful this month. He has shown me that He does and will provide for me in ways that seem incomprehensible and inexplicable to my modest mind. He has also answered complex questions in ways that can only be explained by Divine intervention. He has given me comfort when I thought I was inconsolable, and once again, He's given me hope.

    Here's just a small listing of all the things He's done in my life in the month of March alone:
    • My daughter came home from Iraq for nearly 3 weeks. I hadn't seen her in a year, and she came home in March to celebrate my birthday. We had a wonderful time together and she's doing so well. I am so proude of her.
    • My weekly women's group meetings have been absolutely awesome. God has taken a group of women who didn't know each other at all, and created a tightly-knit, Spirit-filled support group where we can share our deepest fears and our most private prayers. Even though the official 8-week session ends in two weeks, we've decided to keep the group going on our own.
    • Every Sunday this month I've heard exactly the sermon I needed to hear that day, including this past week's message which was entitled "Men are like waffles, women are like spaghetti." Yes, it was hilarious, but it was also an awesome tutorial on the differences between men and women and how we can learn to communicate with each other better.
    • My discount prescription card came just in time to help defray a portion of the added expense of my medications now that I don't have health insurance.
    • A wonderful woman from church has recommended me for a job opportunity with a colleague of hers who I'm meeting for coffee on Friday morning.
    • I'm working on a full-time time contract which is helping to pay the bills for now. And, it's less than 5 minutes from my house.
    • I joined the church I've been visiting for the last few months and I'm absolutely convinced that it's exactly where God wants me to be. I've even been asked to prayerfully consider enrolling in upcoming Small Group Leader Development training so that I can co-facilitate a new women's group.
    • The final copy of my book came back from the printer and it looks great. I'm about ready to start marketing it (stay tuned for more on this soon).
    • I had a great lunch with a very dear friend that I hadn't seen in years. It's been a long time since I laughed so hard.
    • I got a box full of wonderful birthday gifts from my dear friend Susan, including some items that had been hers and/or her Mom's that she chose to share with me. I am so honored.
    • I completed a small consulting contract.
    • No matter how much money I've spent this month, the balance in my checking account has somehow stayed the same. I can't explain it other than to say that even when no money was coming in, I continued to give offerings at church and to the charities I support.
    • I was able to take my daughter to have her first full-body massage. She loved it!
    • The facilitator of my women's group introduced me to an entirely new way to "pray" that has made a miraculous difference in my relationship with God.
    • I've lost the extra 6 lbs that I've been trying to lose for the last year.
    • God is answering my prayers about a personal situation in ways that can only be described as miraculous.