It was in Lakes Entrance, gazing out of the sweeping front window of the holiday house onto the tiered Mediterranean garden in full bloom. I had finished reading ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin and I was inspired. I jotted down plan after plan of how I would change, what I would implement, how life would be different.
It didn’t really work.
Or maybe it did. Our parenting style is gradually morphing into a more collaborative, natural consequence version. I certainly explored issues of identity as I faced the tattered shreds of the crutches I had used to fashion my image in previous eras. We’ve experimented with different schedules during the holidays to release each other to recharge by doing activities that energise. But it certainly wasn’t the smooth abounding bliss I pictured from my armchair.
I discovered the Enneagram method of classifying personalities a few weeks back. I’m a bit of a sucker for these type of things. I dutifully answered the numerous questions and waited for the results. Apparently I am ‘The Reformer/Perfectionist’ (Type One/Wing Two) and the main motivation or driver for my type is that I “want to be right, to strive higher and improve everything, to be consistent with [my] ideals, to justify [myself], to be beyond criticism so as not to be condemned by anyone”.
That is eerily accurate, even if I had never really understood it about myself before. In hindsight it is becoming clear that there is even a hint of condemnation in Dave’s tone, the slightest comment can strike deep and take days to process.
It also isn’t really a secret that I’m always trying to reform myself. Avidly reading books about parenting, spirituality, psychology, life. Discovering Yoga, SuperBetter and the Desolation/Consolation method. Starting a Gratitude Journal, this blog, being part of an accountability group.
The process of reformation does make me feel alive. It’s the burst of energy at the discovery that there is a new method to try, a new perspective to adopt. The catch comes if I am never satisfied in the gains made and condemn myself (or others) for failing to be perfect.
Naomi sent through a clip of author Tony Robbins speaking about relationships and the precursors to their destruction. His take on suffering and choosing to suffer (due to the disappointment of your expectations levied on yourself or others) was profound. So often I do grab hold of any mistake I have made and let it carry me down a path of self-censure and criticism. This then leads to frustration which commonly overflows out on those around me. The reality is that others will disappoint me, and I will disappoint myself, but I alone am responsible for my happiness. Requiring others to perform to my (often unstated) expectations is a catalyst for relational doom.
It’s a fresh new year.
Following in Rubin’s footsteps, I have decided to spend each month of 2016 focusing on a different quality or characteristic I would like to focus on or develop further in myself. I’ve set up the following guide:
The plan is to explore the concept through reading and practice and do a post on the lessons learned at the conclusion of each month. I wonder how many I will actually end up getting through! I would welcome fellow travellers along this journey, though I’m sure your list will look different to mine depending on your own interests, passions and vices.
Already January has been awash with lessons on hospitality. I’m looking forward to doing a wrap up of these, though I do still have two more parties to pull off before we are through!
In the meantime, here are some photos of the mischief we have managed to indulge in during the holidays so far…