A song of ascents. Of David.
1 My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have stilled and quieted my soul,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
3 Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love to talk about the Myers-Briggs test, and those who love to hate on it. (And, I suppose, those who have never heard of it. But there are less of those.) I’ve known people who began by loving it later come to hate it, because the test has taken over their circles of friends, and because there are individuals who begin to see life decisions through the lens of the test (“Should I date that boy? No! I’m an ISFJ and he’s an ENFP. It would never work.”) A quick google search will come up with countless dating websites that explain in detail what each personality type would be like as a spouse, and how to interact with them. Obviously, the world of Myers-Briggs has gotten out of hand.
What makes the situation even more humorous is the fact that very few people actually take the real test; since you’d have to pay around $50 to take the official test, most people take a knock-off internet test that approximates the real one. So when someone looks a friend in the eye and says she understand everything about that friend’s soul based on a fake Myers-Briggs score, I can see why people have started to get jaded about the world of personality testing.
However, I am writing in defense of the Myers-Briggs test, and other personality tests. With some caveats, of course. While the test has the potential to become a self-centered exploration of all the various and fascinating aspects of YOU, I have also known friends who have found genuine healing in the discoveries they’ve made about themselves through the introspection and perspective the test provides. One of my friends grew up in an environment where people constantly told her to “Stop being so shy!” and rewarded her peers for being assertive. She struggled to understand why she couldn’t force herself to become comfortable being outspokenly friendly, until in her twenties she took the test, in an environment where her friends were also taking it, and discovered that lots of people have introverted tendencies, enjoy being alone, and aren’t naturally comfortable meeting new people or being outspoken. Learning this about herself allowed her a lot of freedom to grow and become more comfortable with the way she operates.
In my own life, the test has taught me quite a bit about accepting the differences between my friends and myself. I used to spend a lot of time being frustrated and hurt when friends bailed on me and flaked on plans (and of course I still am to a certain extent—that will never totally change). But when I discovered the difference between people with the J initial—who, by and large, are punctual, dependable planners—and the P initial—who tend to prefer keeping their options open and going with the flow—a world of understanding emerged for me. I don’t have to take it so personally if my Friend the P bails, because the more I understand about the way she operates, the more I realize that she can love me dearly and be a flakey person at the same time (not that it will be any less annoying in the moment.)
Like anything, the Myers-Briggs test can and has been taken too far. But it’s also a great way to begin to understand and empathize with friends, uncover more about the way you yourself operate, and build community. Just make sure you follow these simple rules:
1. Never think that a person is the sum of their Myers-Briggs test results. You’ll never know everything there is to know about a person, and you can’t put people in a box!
2. Never limit your work/friendship/dating options based on your Myers-Briggs test results. Especially if you haven’t taken the real test. That’s just silly.
3. Don’t get self-obsessed. The test is not an excuse for you to talk or think about yourself for hours. It’s just one way of identifying your tendencies.
And most importantly:
4. If you begin talking about the Myers-Briggs test and one (or all) or your companions doesn’t want to talk about it—STOP TALKING ABOUT IT.
I laughed when I saw the prompt for today. "How patient are you?" it asked. Anyone who knows me probably knows how impatient I am. The number of times I went behind my mother's back as a kid, because I couldn't bear to wait for my schemes to come to fruition (and also because my policy was generally ask for forgiveness instead of permission)... let's just say one of the first things I learned about myself is that patience does not come easily to me.
It hasn't gotten much better as I get older. If I've been arguing with someone, I find myself panicking if I can't resolve the conflict immediately. I still struggle with the childish impulse for instant gratification (though I'm convinced that one of the greatest things about being an adult is that, if you just really need that frosty, you can go buy it. Right away.) Just last night I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning because I wanted to finish writing the script for my devised project, even though I knew my mind would be clearer if I waited until morning. As much as I have learned about being an adult, patience is still one of the hardest things for me to learn. And the hardest part of learning patience, as an impatient person, is that you have to be patient and wait to learn patience. It's enough to drive a person crazy!
Because of all this, I know patience will be something I continue to learn for the rest of my life. And yet there are a lot of big picture things about my life that I've already been forced to learn patience in. I don't have a long term job yet, I don't have a spouse, I don't even know where I will be living after December. Learning to be patient as these things become clear is hard, but it's also a privilege. There is joy and excitement is knowing that my place right now is transient, exciting, and full of possibility. God has been graciously teaching me to enjoy the ride.
And I'm also beginning to see the benefits of being an impatient person. I can stand to learn to be more patient, and will continue to do so. But I've also realized that, with the right balance, being impatient can be a good thing, because it gives me the urgency to be a doer. I am motivated and thorough when I have a project on my plate. As I grow in patience, I can also grow in appreciation of this assertiveness, and learn to find the balance between the two. Life is not about growing into an extreme, but into the balance between two opposites. Here's to being given the patience to learn to be patient!
I am in the middle of a devising process for my culminating project as a MA candidate. The theme of the performance piece is a personal exploration of what death means to us as individuals and as communal creatures. As part of the process, I have been asking my actors to bring in personal monologues in response to a variety of prompts. This is my own response to the prompt, "What is death?"
When I’m hungry, I eat. When I’m thirsty, I drink. When I’m tired, I sleep. But there are desires I can’t fulfill with anything around me, and sometimes I feel like I’m pressing myself into a mold that is constantly shifting its shape, confounding me without satisfying me.
Death is, most definitely, separation. The hardest thing about losing someone is that in a few weeks, or months, or a year, you’ll find yourself with something to tell them, and no way to say it. That absence is unnatural. Death is the one thing that unites us all, and yet we all know in our bones that death isn’t right.
But I think that death is also connection. Those unsatisfied desires that I feel in my spirit lead me to the presence of God, and when I die—when those around me die—I think the veil of this world is either removed, and we come face to face with him, or we choose not to be with him, and that’s that. Pretty simple.
Death is strange. It presses all around us, and we want to ignore it. And it isn’t just people—it’s everything. It’s change, and it’s place. There’s something kind of holy about place, don’t you think? The way a place holds an experience, and gently preserves it. The loss you feel when a place is gone. The way you can touch and breathe and hold a place, and bear it in your heart, long after you can’t go there anymore.
Death is loss, and the inability to do anything about it. Death is being patient, and waiting to see more than just a pinpoint of reality.
Nicholas Nixon began taking photos of his wife and her three sisters in 1975, and has taken a photo every year since. The result is incredible.
"Throughout this series, we watch these women age, undergoing life’s most humbling experience. While many of us can, when pressed, name things we are grateful to Time for bestowing upon us, the lines bracketing our mouths and the loosening of our skin are not among them. So while a part of the spirit sinks at the slow appearance of these women’s jowls, another part is lifted: They are not undone by it." -Susan Minot, writing for the New York Times
This photography project is one of the simplest and most beautiful I have seen in a long time. As we click through these photos, we see, gently and gradually, what it means to be a woman, a sister, a human. As the lines on these women's faces slowly deepen, it's tempting to read into them--to wonder what experiences have shaped them, how each sister differs from the others, and the story of each photograph. But while the four women have allowed us a glimpse of their faces each year, that is all they have allowed us. Their openness--close bed-fellows with their privacy--makes this project remarkable, poignant, and beautiful.
Check out the photos and New York Times article here.
Today I was asked, “What do you hoard?” My first thought was, “Well, nothing.” I don’t think of myself as a hoarder, especially since I live in NYC where no one has spare closets for luxuries such as hoarding.
I started to think about the items I have—I own quite a few books, and dresses, and a sizable collection of DVDs. But none of them could be classified as hoard-sized, and besides, isn’t hoarding more about the attitude attached to the items? Isn’t it more about the fact that a hoarder cherishes those things and returns time and time again to them to remind themselves simply that they’re there?
As I pondered this, I suddenly realized that of course I’m a hoarder, just not in the way I typically think of hoarding. I don’t hoard material things, but I tend to gather up the way people talk about me—good or bad—and store it in my soul where I can go back and consider it. I grow hungry for a compliment or a word of affirmation, and I feel the need to compel someone to flatter me, just so I can add it to the treasure trove of compliments in my heart. Or, on days when I’m sad, I stack up embarrassing things I’ve done or said around me like a fort and sit in the middle, berating myself for being an idiot.
There’s nothing wrong with reflecting on the words of myself or others, and it’s a good thing to be aware of how we are affected and affect others. But like someone who hoards material possessions, the problem lies in my attitude—the fact that I gather these things to me for the purpose of dwelling on them and viewing myself through the lens of their presence. If I am truly building my joy and contentment on what people have said about me or to me, I am going to be sorely disappointed.
It’s easy to remember that last sentence in moments of clarity, and much less easy to remember it when I’m on the high of a compliment or the low of a negative word. But this past weekend I went to a NEEDTOBREATHE concert, and as they played one of their most famous songs, I was reminded of the simple truth in their lyrics:
Even when the rain falls
Even when the flood starts rising
Even when the storm comes
I am washed by the water
If I’m going to hoard anything, it’s going to be words of life like these.
Hannah and I have decided to introduce a new format to our blog: one post, every day, for 365 days.
Some of the posts will be in response to prompts, some of our own initiative, but we want to start posting consistently, and we hope that this new format will be as exciting to you as it is to us. Look for the first post tomorrow!
~ Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl, ND Wilson
~ He Held Radical Light, Christian Wiman
~ An American Childhood, Annie Dillard
~ On the Incarnation, Athanasius of Alexandria