What I Learned in April

With a nod to Emily Freeman, I'm taking some time to reflect on what I've learned this month.

1. Success is is peace of mind.

Our culture has masny definitions of success, some more misguided than others, but I've seldom come across one as life-giving as this one from basketball coach, John Wooden.

"Success is peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you're capable."

This really got me thinking. What kind of measures of success am I instilling in my kids? Am I really modeling for them that it doesn't matter how well they do compared to anyone else, but only that they put forth their best effort? Probably not. How can I give them more freedom from expectations, freedom from the weight of what others think, freedom to authentically pursuing their best self?

You can watch this brief video for more nuggets of pure gold from Coach Wooden, including my other favorite: "If you get too concerned with the things over which you have no control, it will adversely affect the things over which you have control."

2. I am undeniably, for better or for worse, an enneagram 1.

I've been fascinated by personality theory for about a year now, but I've been slow to warm up to the enneagram, preferring to pore over the more black and white Myers-Briggs typology. Take a multiple-choice quiz and you can have the "answer" to the mystery of your personality in 12 minutes or less (this one's my favorite).  I love multiple choice quizzes. I love black and white. I'm an ISTJ, can you tell? And those things the enneagram definitely is not. You can't find your magic label by taking a quiz. You instead must spend much longer than 12 minutes learning the different types and reflecting on the darker side of your personality. Oh, and the sure fire way to know that you've correctly identified your type is the feeling of dread/shame/horror/general ickiness that you encounter when you acknowledge that you really are indeed type _______. Fun times! It's not surprising it took me so long to bite the bullet. Myers Briggs is just so much more warm and fuzzy!

But having bitten said bullet it didn't take long to reach the conclusion that I am certainly a type 1. The enneagram is composed of nine types which can be matched up with the seven deadly sins (plus two more). Each type gravitates to unhealthy ways of relating under stress and needs to grow in certain core areas to experience health and wholeness.

I knew type one was me when I read that Ones are dogged by anger, which reminded me of my favorite moment of spiritual direction ever when my pastor who had watched me closely for several years sat across from me and said, "So your issue is anger, right? And that's all because of fear." Umm, yes. Way to boil down my entire inner world into two blunt sentences.

I also knew I had found a match when I read that in order to grow Ones need to move away from rigid control and predictability, become more spontaneous and just plain learn to relax. Flashback to college when my beloved religion professor patiently listened to my inner turmoil over my theological conundrum of the week and said, "Aimee, I think you are just a little too tightly wound."

Or the pastor who sat with me as a young mom and asked, "So what do you like to do for fun?" at which point I stared blankly at him for a long time, thinking "Fun?! Are you out of your mind? I can tell you how many times I got up during the night last night. I can tell you what my kids ate in the last 24 hours. I can tell you exactly how much each of my kids weighs, what growth percentiles they are in, and when their next pediatric appointments are. But what I do for fun? I don't even know what you're talking about." Eventually I stopped the avalanche of internal indignation long enough to stammer, "Ummm, I'm kind of out of touch with that right now."

So it turns out the things I need to do to grow - embrace uncertainty, surrender control, and learn to relax in a light-hearted, spontaneous way not in a browbeat-yourself-with-a-checklist sort of way - are precisely the ways the Spirit has been leading me for quite some time. I just have a few more sages to travel the path with and a new mental framework to guide me.

So far my enneagram explorations have revolved around this book, which I would definitely recommend if you're looking to add to your self-understanding and personal growth.

3. Sometimes when you get in the mood to rearrange your whole house, you just need to go with it.

This year the spring cleaning frenzy hit me hard. Without warning I spontaneously decided to move my bedroom into Moses's room, put Abigail and Moses both in my old room, convert our living room into a school room, and set up a play room in our sunroom (spontaneity! I must be growing!). It felt like a big risk. Especially after single handed ly moving our full sized bed around the apartment five times. Spatial reasoning and envisioning what a room will look like when you move the furniture are not my strengths!
But turns out it was a big win! The kids are sleeping better. The kids are playing together better. There's no more squabbles about siblings coming into other siblings' rooms uninvited because they're both in the same room. There's no more fighting about whose toys are whose because they're all together. And there's a lot fewer toys to trip over and clean up because I threw about a car load of them away. Yay for a simpler, less cluttered living space and yay for irresistible spring cleaning urges!