It’s fascinating when things happen in different parts of your life that coalesce into one collection of insights. Right now it’s been “okay-hood” and how to cope when advice overwhelms me.
One area in which this happens for me is the issues I’d been having with Apache and his sudden backsliding in behavior. I’ve appreciated all the advice I’ve gotten from a variety of sources, very much. At first I started to get worried that I’d upset people if I didn’t do THEIR idea. Then, upon further reflection, I realized that I know the horse and he knows me. I know our abilities. I can take what I’ve heard and learned, and incorporate it in a way that works for us. And if it doesn’t work out, I’ll try another thing. It’s okay!
For example, I decided I didn’t want to use the bit for the foreseeable future with Apache, but was willing to listen to input from Chris and Sara about other options than the halter. Sara gave me this rather sad-looking side-pull bridle (one that does not use a bit, but combines nose pressure with reins attached at the sides of the mouth) and I said I’d give it a try.
First I had to clean it up. That was really fun, because the dang thing turned out to be a completely different color than it was when all covered with mildew and ickiness. Saddle soap is a great thing!
Chris and others have suggested a hackamore (another bit-less type), but we can’t find any around here to look at, and I’d rather touch it before buying it. I am proud of how I took all the complicated and overwhelming input and figured out what I was comfortable with.
As we know, I’m introspective and think a lot about how I can move toward interacting with the world as close to my highest self as I can. Sometimes it makes me seem serious.
For example, yesterday I’d received quite a bit of input from Chris, Lee, and others about how my personal style has some issues (all with lots of caveats of “we all have areas of growth” and stuff like that. I wasn’t upset. It was all good feedback, but at some point, I got a bit overwhelmed.
I fell into a really ugly mood where I was interpreting everything anyone said as pointing out yet another area where I bugged the family or wasn’t meeting expectations. I am absolutely sure no one was doing that intentionally. I’d just hit a wall in my ability to absorb criticism, even the nice or unintended kind. I even wrote a dumb thing on Facebook to which people responded kindly, I must say.
I took a walk, breathed, reminded myself that I am okay just the way I am. I came back, put on my friendly and fun-loving face and enjoyed the rest of the evening with Chris and Lee.
Later on, I asked Lee to tell me something good about me last night and his answer was, “Well, you’ve been rather self-absorbed lately.” Ouch! I pointed out that, as a person with empathic tendencies, it’s really hard to even drag myself up to neutral in a world filled with upset, angry, fearful, and people with whom I feel a great deal right along with them. It’s who I am. I’m not magically going to go POOF and be able to set aside the issues of others and just focus on my immediate circle.
After I said I can’t be anyone other than me, Lee and I ended up having a really nice conversation about each other and our relationship as it changes through the years, and I ended up feeling pretty good. That’s how relationships should be! I accept Lee as he is and vice versa, even if some things bug us. That’s normal, even good!
Reading Material of Okay-hood
Okay, even though it was suggested, I haven’t run off and re-read I’m OK You’re OK, since I’m not gonna suddenly start doing Transactional Analysis. But, I did help with okay-hood for a lot of people in the past, and I enjoyed that my friend Mark mentioned it on my goofy Facebook post thread.
I went another new-agey direction. Someone, perhaps my therapist, asked me if I was familiar with the Enneagram, and I realized I hadn’t been keeping up with what I’d learned a long time ago about the 9 ways of being in the world found there, though I’d found it useful many years ago.
So, I picked up a brand-new book that talks about the importance of embracing both the great parts of your type and the shadow areas, because all of the aspects of your personality have something to teach you. (I will review The Enneagram of Belonging: A Compassionate Journey of Self-Acceptance in full later.)
That seemed to be a message that resonates with my current path of accepting myself the way I am, and not feeling obliged to appear or act differently just to please others (a thing that has failed repeatedly). It sure fits in with the learning to step up and make my own decisions about the horse, and about talking to my family about how some of the things about me are just how I am.
The author of the book, Christopher Heuertz, said that people are often horrified when they learn about the “shadow” aspect of their Enneagram number. Oh sure, I thought, not me. Then when I saw that mine was “sloth” I was horrified. I’m not lazy! Then the dude said, “It doesn’t mean lazy,” and I was relieved. It is more that I, and others like me, go way out of our way to avoid conflict, criticism, and uncomfortable areas, because our goal is to have a life of peace and calm. The sloth part is that sometimes we just don’t speak up for ourselves, let things drop, or not mention how we actually feel. AHA.
I do that, yep. What I liked about the discussion of the shadow side of my predominant type is that the Heuertz points out that this is a useful part of my personality that can bring me messages and help me feel whole, when used to inform my decisions and serve as checks and balances to the rest of my personality.
That feels so good to me. My sloth is a part of me I do not have to be ashamed of or hide. I can use it to grow. Now I have to read the rest of the book to see how, but still, there’s some okay-hood I found! (I also think you don’t have to be a convert to the Enneagram to get something out of these ideas. Having compassion for all aspects of yourself fits right into Christianity, Buddhism, modern paganism and many other belief systems.)
Personal growth is painful. Sometimes you hear what you don’t want to hear and sometimes you get overwhelmed. But, wow, the results are worth it.