A top three for 2018: hourglass, enneagram, and sabbaticals

 

The space between Christmas and the New Year is like a blank page between chapters in a book. The pause between those two chapters lets you catch your breath to reflect on what’s happened and prepare for what’s to come. With all that could be said about 2018, here are the top three things that shaped and impacted my life. Whatever your top three or ten are, I hope you are able to take a moment or two to look back as well before jumping into 2019.

The life changing magic of an hourglass

My brother and sister-in-law gifted me a beautiful hourglass for my birthday and it changed the game for daily quiet time. Once my kids stopped napping I realized the deep need in my soul for quiet space and time each day. Figuring out a consistent and enforceable routine that didn’t involve screens felt insurmountable most days.

One day the hourglass showed up on my doorstep in a brown amazon box. One afternoon after admiring it for a few weeks, Edith wanted to play with it. That’s when it happened — quiet time in her room for one hour with the hourglass to keep track. Since that day she and Frederick, when he has school off, spend a whole hour in their room playing, looking at books, and sometimes staring at the sand so intently they fall asleep.

The steady stream of grains is soothing and reassuring. The visual of time passing through the funnel cues the most restorative part of each day for everyone in the house. That hour of peace and stillness refreshes my introvert heart and mind like no other.

For the love of the Enneagram

For two years I thought I was an Enneagram one. I took an online test in 2016 and it labeled me a one so I read all the things about ones. Some of them resonated, but it wasn’t life changing or mind blowing. This past spring after reading The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and everything changed. If you don’t know anything about the Enneagram, it’s an ancient personality typing system that categorizes personalities in nine main types.

After reading The Road Back to You, I realized I wasn’t a one. After reading the chapter on fours it felt like something finally clicked. It was a giant mirror that reflected all the inner thoughts and feelings I experienced but could never fully verbalize — all the gross, yucky stuff and all the distinct, wonderful stuff too. The Enneagram provides language to name certain thought patterns and motivations that bubbled beneath the surface. It also gives tangible, practice-based steps to grow and develop healthy reactions and responses to ruts in thinking and emotion. Most importantly it cultivates compassion for yourself and others; something sorely needed these days.

Here are a few keys and resources if you want to begin this journey. The first thing to keep in mind when beginning is to read through a good summary of each type — even the best quiz can’t reveal your inner motivations. The second thing to consider are the numbers on either side of the one you think you are. For example, when I thought I was a one for two years neither of the numbers (a nine and a two) on each side of the one resonated with me. You will have your main number, but also a wing number that resonates a lot with you as well. For example, I’m a 4w5 which looks quite different from a 4w3.

The third thing to do is think about what you’re like when you are emotionally healthy and unhealthy. Each number will draw on the positive characteristics from one other number in health or negative characteristics from one other number in distress. A four in health will take on the positive characteristics of a one (which may be one of the reasons I tested as a one) and will take on the negative characteristics of a two in distress. The fourth thing to do is to look at the subtypes of each number. Every number has three subtypes and it was this last step that unlocked everything for me.

Here are a few resources if you want to get started or dive deeper:

This is a great website outlining subtypes — it’s incredibly valuable to read the brief paragraph of each subtype.

Books

The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron

(most accessible and easy to read)

The Path Between Us by Suzanne Stabile

(all about relationship dynamics between enneagram types)

The Complete Enneagram by Beatrice Chestnut

(a thorough and in-depth examination)

The 9 Types of Leadership by Beatrice Chestnut

(a valuable resource for employers and employees)

The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr

(written in the 1980s; it’s the first book I read and full of helpful tables in the back)

Podcasts

Typology with Ian Cron

Sleeping at Last — Ryan O’Neal has written songs for numbers 1-7 and will be releasing 8 and 9; the songs are beautiful and the podcasts go behind the scenes describing the songwriting process for each number

The EnneaApp is a helpful and well-organized resource — the paid version is worth it!

Pushing pause on social media

My word for 2018 was rooted. It was a year to go deep and dig into things below the surface — spiritually, emotionally, socially, financially, in marriage, in health, and as a parent. In order to do this well, I felt the need to step away from the buzz and noise of social media.

Twice this past year I deleted Facebook and Instagram from my phone and didn’t go on any social media for a whole month. In January it was a fresh start that freed up mental and emotional space to just be — to be with my brand new baby, Hugo, to be present for the beginning of a new year, to be myself without comparison or competition.

In July the sabbatical created room to fully engage and connect with Frederick and Edith who were on summer break. There wasn’t a compulsive pull to check in with the rest of the world when the most important people in my world were right in front of me. The photos I took were entirely for our own memories rather than experiences shared with my social network. We went on adventures and soaked up the summer free from the swirl of social media activity.

I still checked into email and Facebook messenger for personal messages as well as texting — pausing from social media didn’t mean isolation. It meant intention. Rather than stumbling into interaction with friends and family, I took it upon myself to foster and reach out in a deeper and more personal way. Social media is so valuable when handled in a healthy way and from a place of wholeness rather than out of boredom or lack. When we come to it looking to receive affirmation, get attention, or find validation it fractures what’s already frail in our souls. When held in its right place we can come it to looking to give care, share appreciation, and connect in meaningful ways.

Taking two months off this year helped keep social media in a healthy place and reminded me to approach those platforms with intention. I would love to hear the things, small and big, that shaped your life this past year.

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16. Befriend someone you don’t know

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to get them sometimes.” (A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh)

Depending on your personality, interests, communication style, appearance, and previous experiences, making friends is either incredibly fun or extremely daunting. Every season of life poses fresh challenges to making new friends.

Some people are amazing at keeping friends throughout the years and in every season. They understand how to remain connected in the midst of transition. My wise and friendly husband says, “There should always be an open spot on your friend list.”

I listened to an interview on the Ted Radio Hour where Robin Dunbar talks about how many friends a person can have at one time. His research finds that number to be 150 with about five in the innermost circle and then rippling out from there.

Last week’s episode of On Being challenged me as I thought about our interaction with social media and friendship. Anil Dash talks about how technology isn’t a separate and unrelated segment of our lives but an integral part and that includes our connectedness with people.

There’s power in self-knowledge. Once you know yourself you embrace your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses. This is so powerful especially when it comes to building relationships with people. Personality and communication tests are wonderful tools for pinpointing individual quirks. They shouldn’t box you in, rather they should teach you about what makes you sing and what makes you tick.

As I thought about how to befriend someone I don’t know I reflected on a few things:

  • Personality: I’m a INTJ on the Meyer-Briggs test – it’s an intense sounding one; a Type 1, Reformer on the Enneagram; Input/Intellection/Strategic on StrengthsFinder
  • Current interests: reading, writing, mothering, making delicious food (half are definitely solitary activities)
  • Communication style: a shaper, producer, contemplator (from Life Languages) – basically I love to plan, manage/create, and think (these aren’t super social communication styles)
  • Appearance: mom look through and through (neutral colors, semi-frazzled when out in public, almost always a ponytail)
  • Previous experiences: for many years I worked intensely hard at becoming warm and approachable because experience proved I repelled rather than attracted

“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.” (Aristotle)

I’m not an expert by any means. But, here are a few things I’ve learned as someone who struggles to connect that work for building new friendships. If you’re a natural these probably sound basic and intuitive so feel free to skip to the next section:

  • Smile and ask sincere questions
  • Be authentic to your own interests as well as interested in other people’s interests even if you don’t share them
  • When talking in person, focus on them like they’re the only one in the room (this is tough if you have kids, but it’s the effort that counts)
  • Give yourself a pass if there’s not an instant connection – some things take time and some things aren’t meant to be
  • If you’re an extrovert try to listen more
  • If you’re an introvert try to speak more
  • Know yourself and love yourself. If you are comfortable in your own skin, it does wonders to help others to feel comfortable to be themselves around you

And some thoughts on maintaining old ones:

  • Take the initiative to stay connected: whether it’s a coffee date, a Skype call, a text message, an email, or good old snail mail
  • Remember birthdays: sounds silly but a card in the mail or a phone call or text message is far more meaningful than a public post on Facebook.
  • Be quick to forgive and ask for forgiveness: don’t let little things build up and create an unsurpassable chasm
  • Be honest and vulnerable: say what you think but don’t force your opinions on them and be open with what’s actually going on in your life, not just the headlines

“Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou art in, continue firm and constant.” (Socrates)

It’s never to late to add a new friend to your life. Wishing you all the best as you grow in your current friendships and develop new ones.

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