Fresh and Inspired

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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10 on 10 Photography Project

#13. Unplug from something and do nothing

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Dylan Thomas once wrote, ‘The summer talked itself away,’ and I am a little bit afraid of having to say some months from now, ‘The fall emailed itself away.’” (Katie Roiphe)

Figuring out how to use technology in an empowering and connected way rather than working for technology and feeling fomo whenever our phones aren’t in our pockets is a uniquely contemporary conundrum. A couple weeks ago, I went on vacation with my family and didn’t check any social media or email for four days. It was the most amount of unplugging and doing nothing that I’ve done since getting my first smartphone in 2011.

There is so much research out there proving the benefits of unplugging and doing nothing. A year ago, I read an article titled I Quit Liking Things on Facebook and began to think more about how and why I engaged on social media. Did I want it to be a mindless activity used when bored or tired? Was is something I used for a narcissistic need for constant affirmation? The power and potential in social media is astounding. It connects friends and family spread across the country and world. It brings messages and stories to public spaces that may never see the light of day.

The thing is, we were never taught how to use social media. I have spent most of my adult life embracing and taking on new technology without ever asking myself, “What’s the best way to use this?” I’m neither a luddite nor a cynic. I love technology for all its potential and productivity and ability to connect people, but over the past year I’ve begun to think about it more and engage in new ways.

Rather than emailing the fall away, I want to take notice of the small changes and create margin and space to embrace the season. Instead of scrolling through a feed, I want to look outside the first fall mornings to see tiny spiderwebs that dot the entire yard making a sparkly patchwork of white on the green of the grass. Rather than catching up on the latest trends, I want to take fashion notes from my two year old who decided September is a month for tutus and rain boots. It’s about pausing to see that everything green is turning gold and brown, once lush corn fields transform overnight with the leaves.

E. O. Wilson writes about biophilia, an inborn craving for wilderness and green. He talks about how we are built for nature and how spending time in green spaces improves our immune system and emotional health. It is vital and essential to our well being.

The smartest, most creative people know when to let the mind wander and when to knuckle down to work hard. In other words, when to be slow and when to be fast.” (Carl Honoré)

I find it personally challenging to make room for letting the mind wander. Some people naturally lean towards slowness while others speed. I have always loved work and found movement and speed satisfying. Here are a few things that have helped me become more intentional with technology as well as making space to slow down:

  • When at home, keep the phone plugged in at one location
  • When out with friends, put the phone away and out of sight
  • Go on social media when there is time to comment and give thoughtful reactions to posts
  • Check email at predetermined times during the day
  • Turn off every notification besides text messages (something about not seeing red dots is incredibly freeing)
  • Take one day a week to rest from social media (a sabbath of sorts where no apps are opened and the laptop stays shut)

Sometimes we need still small moments to pause from the buzz and activity of technology. Sometimes we need to be fully present with technology to engage in meaningful ways through this medium that we’re still learning and navigating as it grows right alongside us.

Here’s a little peak into some of the four unplugged days away soaking in the moments big and small.

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Monday Moments

Tuesday thoughts on balance

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Is it just me or is balance one of the most evasive and difficult things to have, find, and establish in life?

I’ll be the first one to admit that I approach life super intensely and intentionally. I give whatever I’m doing 150%. I think about everything all the time. I overthink and over-process conversations I’ve had, things I’ve done, and decisions I’ve made.

Because of these tendencies, I consistently find myself re-evaluating and re-establishing things in my life to have balance. Balance for me will not look the same for anyone else, and that’s why it seems so difficult to have and maintain. It evolves and changes depending on the day, week, month, season of life.

Here are a few areas that keep surfacing in conversations and life lately.

Time spent playing with kids vs. time doing housework/making food. It seems the pendulum has swung in popular discourse towards the side of spend time with them while they’re little. Which is so true and important. However, keeping the house somewhat clean and organized helps my own sanity and general state of happiness while playing. Balance.

Organizing kids’ play vs. giving them independent time and space to be bored. I’ve been reading so much about the importance and value of letting kids, even from a very young age, have time to get bored so they create and imagine on their own. When it takes 5, 10, even 15 minutes of whining and complaining for them to get to that point, my nerves and ears are shot. Balance, once again.

Time and energy spent on social media. This one is so personal. This past month I’ve had numerous conversations about the value, pitfalls, and necessity of social media. Certain people seem to eschew and despise things like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. for philosophical reasons (it’s not personal enough – if people really care it should be expressed more individually, it’s too publicly personal – privacy is impossible, it’s a waste of time, it causes offenses, fights, and unhealthy comparison). I could keep going. Needless to say, balance is tough. I personally find social media very useful. I try to limit time spent on it to specific times during the day and throw my phone on airplane mode at the same time every night to shut it all off for a good chunk of time. For me, social media has become an essential part of contemporary society and lack of participation seems to marginalize people from friends, family, community, and even job opportunities.

Spending time with family and friends vs. time on one’s own. This one is huge. Introverts, extroverts, and everyone in between has their own beliefs and boundaries. Here’s one thing (or two) I’ve learned: it’s essential to be around people, people who love and support you as well as people who are different and challenge your opinions. I’ve also found it’s 100% necessary to spend time alone doing things that nourish one’s own body, soul, and spirit. Either way – balance in this area is probably the most difficult for me.

Health and food. January seems to be the month of resolutions and attempts to be healthy. A couple weeks ago, I dove back into two of my favorite books: French Women Don’t Get Fat and French Women for All Seasons by Mireille Guiliano. The one thing I appreciate about these books is Guiliano’s push for équilibre or balance in food and exercise. She brings up équilibre in a 100 different ways. Basically, eat a wide and diverse variety of fresh food, indulge in moderation, and move frequently and intentionally. Everything about this approach to food and exercise is countercultural in the US which makes doing it super difficult. Once again, balance, even in embracing and taking on things I really believe in.

I could keep going, but I’ll stop. Balance, right? It seems so easy to do pendulum swings in life. Maybe it’s a natural tendency to make radical and short term changes rather than find equilibrium and establish long term and lasting balance. Either way, I find myself challenged in this and I think that’s ok for now. I’m sure I’ll never have it all figured out, which is probably how it should be. Here’s to spending a life learning and changing in each season.

A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight. When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. – Proverbs 11:1