I had a funny experience today as I coached with a team on Zoom. I share this with permission from that group.
We were discussing the possible return to the workplace and what they had learned about their time working from home.
C shared that she stocks up her fridge to give her an excuse to get out of the house and go to the grocery store. She leaves the house to buy food, for the sole purpose of giving it away. She just wants to be seen by people and she wants to do something for others who will then see her as valuable. Without this activity, she said she feels “bad.”
This is what she “needs” because she is “just that way.”
Her words made my ears perk up.
“Say more,” I said.
She went on to describe that in addition to the grocery store outings, she has worked like a dog lately, even with her toddler. She speaks to her supervisor almost daily and has been out and about, doing whatever parts of her job that she can. She stays active and solves problems as a way of dealing with quarantine and her unmet need for validation.
Competency is her Enneagram type’s way of dealing with life. And then there’s the going to the grocery store so that she can give away food.
Self-Deceit is what separates her Enneagram type from reality. If she can feed her ego by being a really fantastic worker and being of service to her friends and neighbors, then she can deny (for now) the feeling, conscious or not, that she is inadequate.
She was doing what her type does. She identifies with Enneagram type 3w2.
With that, T showed us his stocked pantry closet. Multiple boxes and canisters of many items. No fewer than 10 containers of instant coffee (not shown). He shared that he feels anxious if he doesn’t know he has what he “needs.” He, too, says that he is “just that way.”
Last March, the last meeting I had before I no longer consulted on-site in organizations, was with this man. He was telling me to take all of my money out of the bank; we needed to have cash on hand because we’d lose everything if “Coronavirus really took off.” He had a very clear plan, as if he’d been thinking about this forever.
Because he had.
He has been concerned about security and safety his whole life. He really wants to know what’s real, so he sugar-coats nothing. He assumes you want the same. He really wants others to meet him where he is; to respond to him with the same level of emotion that he is putting out there. This is his type’s way of dealing with difficulty. His emotional realness was really pushing my positive outlook’s buttons that day.
He was very clear on what had to be done and was sharing his “facts” with everyone in the office; even those of us who didn’t want to hear it.
Angst is what separates his Enneagram type from dealing with reality. If he can feel anxious about something happening in the future, he doesn’t actually have to deal with the present.
He was doing what his type does. he identifies with Enneagram Type 6.
And then there is me. I am no fan of grocery shopping. But I want what I want when I want it. I want to be happy and I don’t want to feel the pain of not having what I think I need. I want people around me to be happy, too. If they are happy, I am happy.
One complaint can throw my whole mood off. My desire is not really altruistic; it is all about me.
Because my type demands “happiness” as a way to feel safe, I can easily assume everyone else has an intolerance for anything less than “wicked happy,” too, right?
As I shopped in March, I told myself that I had to buy everything they want or need, and with that, “We’ll all be GREAT!”
Positive outlook is my type’s way of dealing with difficulty.
All of my fridges and freezers were STOCKED. Before you go yelling at me, I already know. And don’t forget that I had 7 people quarantined with me. Yes, I am a walking COVID meme.
Gluttony is what separates my Enneagram type (read: me) from reality. If I have enough love, food, furniture, or office supplies, I can deny the pandemic.
I do what my type does. I identify as an Enneagram Type 7w6.
So all this time, I’ve had trouble describing why your Enneagram type and the tool of the Enneagram is helpful to have.
It isn’t about WHAT is happening.
It is about WHY it is happening.
In our coaching group today, we had lots of laughs, but we also unpacked how our Enneagram type predicts the issues that will come up for us and cause us to suffer. It also predicts the things that motivate us and bring us closer to Presence. As a spiritual tool, it give us something to pray about, to meditate on, and a North Star to set intentions around.
More than anything, it identifies the lens that, when not present, exhausts us, upsets us, and keeps us afraid.
Once we see that, we can make choices about our next steps. Until we see that, we are walking around the world, unconscious, telling people
How avoiding certain parts of myself, keeps me from showing up in the world and having the impact I want.
The dog got me up at 4:00 this morning. While we aimlessly wandered around outside, I was reminded of those early morning, semi-awake times with toddlers. Remember? Barely awake on the couch, one eye open to make sure they weren’t playing with knives, but definitely not totally aware to what was happening in the room.
That’s how I feel about my life sometimes now. I’m connected to some parts of myself and completely disconnected from others. I have these shadows that run the show sometimes, but I can’t actually see them.
After Sparky and I made it back upstairs and he had curled up in a ball by my side, I was acutely aware that the world had been moving for three hours while I slept and I had missed it all.
Cuz this is what I do.
There is a pattern I’m seeing about my experience of reality. I take in the world with my mind and decide that I’ll be ok – in fact, everything will be ok – as soon as I “figure it out.”
“I just need to figure this out and then I’ll be all set.” Or, like today, it might be:
“I just need to figure out generational racial trauma, and then I can be helpful.”
So here is the pattern: I stay moving, awake, and occupied in my mind because when I am still, and just sitting in the experience of being on the planet right now, I feel all sorts of pain. To see me in a chair without a phone, computer, book, or music, is to see me in a chair weeping.
So I Do. Not. Sit.
Not only do I not want to feel pain, I want you to be pain-free, too. So sometimes, I won’t even let you have your misery, either. Because frankly, when you are hurting, it messes with the illusion of reality I’ve created about the world.
So I occupy my mind with a to-do list, agendas, plans, and anticipating my next great thing. All so I don’t have to feel those primal emotions of grief, shame, and fear.
What I’m learning, though, is that this is the least effective way to get on the other side. Whether I feel the grief, shame, or fear right now is irrelevant. Awareness of pain is not a requirement for feeling the impact of pain. The pain is here, whether we feel it or not. We act it out on our families, our friends, our coworkers, and ourselves.
Instead of feeling it, we put a shit ton of energy into NOT feeling. In my case, my brain is exhausted, thinking and overthinking. Planning and anticipating. Reading, and watching TV, and learning all I can so that I can “figure it out.”
But the reality is, our world, including me, is experiencing a lot of hurt right now. Welcome to the world of reality.
My spiritual teacher reminds me, time and time again, that my denial of reality makes me MORE inefficient in solving a problem, not less. My denial keeps me working really hard to figure it out. What actually needs to happen is for me to experience it in my body, mind, AND HEART.
When we aren’t working with what is, we are ineffective in our attempts to make things better.
It’s like having a dartboard in the basement but I am upstairs shooting darts at the family room wall.
So we keep missing the bullseye. Not only that, we get really, really tired trying. We feel frustrated. We double-down and keep throwing at an empty wall. We can’t even see that the dartboard isn’t there.
All day, I’ve been throwing darts at the family room wall. I connected with my group of seekers and they pointed out that the dartboard is in the basement. Ugh.
They invited me to experience reality. They shined a light on my shadows ~ those beliefs and ideas that are with me all the time, but that my ego structure won’t allow me to see (and hint: we all have these no matter how enlightened you think you are!).
I wept while I looked clearly at the world. I finally saw it as it is and also FELT IT as it is. I am experiencing the world instead of figuring it out. I’m all in, body, mind, and heart.
Even as I write this, I am dumbfounded by how much clearer I am. When I see things for what they are, without the beliefs about what “should or should not” be, I stop fighting what is and experience my place in it. Having a team of courageous people behind me to lovingly point out what I cannot see, has been essential to my aim.
It is so much less exhausting to shoot darts at the dartboard instead of an empty wall. When I am present to all of my innate wisdom, my gut, mind, and heart, and not just some part of it, I can always see where I want to throw the dart and might even hit a bullseye.
It was on social media. A post. No one meant anyone harm, especially the OP. Really, she posted about the frequency with which she sees women like me; I didn’t feel judged, or criticized. Nothing but mad respect.
But when I read it, I felt a zing that pushed me to check in with myself; I knew it was more about me than about her or her post.
Then the comments came.
I felt triggered (when we are triggered, we often don’t know its about us, but it ALWAYS. IS.). It was then that my inner critic said, “See? I told you so, dumbass.”
The comments were the ones we often see. Where the experience of the person posting must also be the experience of everyone else. Where they state to the OP with awe-like wonder, “Wait, that REALLY happens?”
You know the ones where people want to respond to the OP and make sure they aren’t like the women the OP is posting about (and a reminder, the OP was actually doing a service, not spilling the tea).
And this was about money.
One of the big three.
Sex. Kids. Money.
So you can imagine the comments.
Assumptions about how if one partner doesn’t know the deets of the family financials, it must mean the other partner is intentionally keeping secrets and holding all the power in the relationship.
Or that her head is in the sand. Naive, maybe.
Finally, it might be about blind love and trust and the implication that blind love and trust in a marriage is unhealthy.
The truth is, for me, there is some truth to all of it.
At one time or another, my husband has made decisions about the money and not told me.
Sometimes, I don’t ask about the details. In fact, for years, I didn’t ask much at all.
There were times when I figured that he was earning the money and it was easier to have him hold that bag in its entirety. Why slow things down with conversation?
And finally, I do love and trust him. That has not changed. It actually never occurred to me that there might be other reasons to do things differently.
That is all true.
And, that’s not the whole truth.
There are other truths, as well. THERE ALWAYS ARE.
It’s also true that I had 4 kids in 6 years. I “suffered” the privilege of choice and lived for years with both feet in the world of a working mom and both feet in the world of an at-home mom. I had a total identity crisis and presented myself differently in different places. I don’t actually have four feet.
So my work mom worked a ton, and my at-home mom was with kids and volunteered and joined boards. Instead of choosing one identity, I held both. You would not find one friend or colleague who would describe me as disengaged. I didn’t give myself a break. It was exhausting. I learned so much from that. It, that part of me, eventually became my wake up call.
I did not know how to sit still. I had been working since I was in 6th grade; first as a babysitter, and then by 13, at a farm because I didn’t need a work permit to work on a farm.
As a mother of four, I was knee deep in bedtimes that lasted for hours because I was giving 4 kids 4 baths every night and, since that was my only time with each of them alone, was reading to them each 1:1 almost every single night. I was going to do it all right. And by right, I mean perfectly. Bedtime lasted for hours. And then they’d get up and crawl in with us. Or want us to crawl in with them. Literally hours.
There were several years when my husband traveled. They were really little then. I spent those nights alone with the kids and it was hard for me (I then came to love those times being alone with them, but hadn’t learned to love it at this time in my life).
The difference was that if I happened to be away, everyone worried about him. They’d invite him and the kids for dinner, offer to babysit (I was never gone more than 2 nights, I think?)….when he traveled, it was radio silent. It was expected that I could manage it all. And the truth is, I gave everyone that impression. I looked like I had it all together. I have come to see this now, but I felt invisible to those people who made sure he, but not me, got help with the kids back then.
I had my girlfriends who took care of me and I, of them. We had dinners together, in and out, we never woke a sleeping child so if a play date was happening with an older child, one of us dropped off AND picked up so that the other didn’t have to risk messing up whatever semblance of a sleep schedule was possible at the time.
We loved and cared for each other (and still do) and since we all felt like we were sort of hanging on by a thread, we wove those threads together and soon we were sharing a blanket.
There were notes from daycare to read, hours of paperwork to do, and Italian language classes (why, yes, we were the only non-Italian family who showed up at the Italian school on Saturday mornings to learn the language and culture!) to take. Soccer, skating, skiing, music hour at the bagel place, cousin time, and yes, work. Remember? I still had two feet in and two feet out. I was loving every bit of my life so much that I couldn’t let an experience get by me. I wanted it all.
Lice and mono and Lyme disease and nutritionists. We’ve never had braces and we’ve never seen an allergist. Throw me a parade.
So, yes, not only did he control the money, but I begged him to keep it that way.
He tried to get me to partner with him, but I. Had. No. Bandwidth. Left.
Yes, he made decisions and didn’t include me because I was making decisions in every other area of our lives and for him to own this, I was so grateful. Decision-Fatigue is a thing, friends. For reals.
I was earning money and had no idea how much I was earning; I didn’t care. I loved my work and was just grateful to be using my mind in a place where people thanked me for working my ass off.
They thanked me. I need to say it again. I felt appreciated and useful.
(Yes, it is a little weird that keeping 4 children alive didn’t make me feel useful).
Did having my “head-in-the-sand-naive-love-and-trust” mindset cost me something (pun intended)?
The four kids are grown and we are facing, literally, one million dollars in tuition costs within a 10 year period. Wrap your brain around that for me, will you?
Do I wish I paid more attention? Yup. Do I think I could have done better? Absolutely not. Like most other things, I would have approached it differently, but I am absolutely sure my mistakes would have been equally as impactful.
Regardless, we were doing the best we could to keep our family functioning. I once dropped my youngest off at school, in my PJs, and the only words I could muster as she got out of the car, were, “Don’t get lice today,” while the principal held the door open for her to get out.
Parenting at its finest, folks.
And there is something else to all of this. I am blind to issues of self-preservation. If it even occurs to me at all, I procrastinate it. Food, money, time, order in the home….it’s not my thing. Really, none of it.
Instead of knowing this (I learned this was actually a thing as I was approaching 50), I judged myself, felt less-than, and just saw myself as someone who couldn’t get out of their own way. I didn’t know that my instincts were different from those of you who are on top of your self-preservation needs.
My instincts lead with social organization. I lean in to groups, am comfortable with navigating the complexities of relationships, I can intuit social hierarchies, and who is likely to move towards, away, and against, others. I spent my time focusing on the social development of my children and keeping my own social needs met through heavy volunteering and community engagement.
In fact, I can’t help it. It’s instinctive. It runs me. Maybe in the same way knowing the details of the money runs you.
Look around. You’ll see. We are all run by something. Self-preservation, social, or intense experiences. We put one on top and will sacrifice everything else to get that need met. And we have no idea we are doing it.
I sacrificed my self-preservation needs for the social needs of my children and myself.
Ironically, I did this to self-preserve. It kept me alive.
So before you judge that mom for not understanding the money, know that she has different instincts and different ways she’s leaning into her life. And she might not even know it.
Get curious about her.
Maybe even ask what she is honoring in her life? It may actually be more important to her. I guarantee you: if she is a mother, she’s not doing nothing.
Be gentle with her. She’s likely hard enough on herself for only being on top of 99.9% of her household and not that additional 1/10 of a percent. She holds herself to a standard to which no one else could hold her. While she is beating herself up for not meeting that standard, she is also beating herself up for not being more loving to herself.
Self-judgment is a place of familiarity for her. She knows things are hard and instead of just knowing that, acknowledging it, being with it, she is attaching herself to all kinds of stories about how it “should” be different.
How SHE “should” be different.
Is it important for her to know more about her personal finances?
Is it important for her to partner with her partner and share the burden? Which might not even be a burden? Couldn’t it just be information? See how we create these stories? I just did, writing this. Caught me.
The answer is, “Maybe.”
But something would have to give, and imaging what that would be, what thing she’d leave to chance, is as daunting as having to think about her financial survival. Giving up an experience she wants to have or changing a habit might be terrifying to her. If she lets go of something, the whole blanket might fray and come unraveled.
She might come unraveled.
So stay curious about her.
She’s probably busy being grateful for a husband who holds the bag for that ONE. THING.
Because it’s one thing she doesn’t have to hold the bag for.
So thank you for the comments. Yes, they triggered me, but they also forced me to look at those triggers and get curious about myself. They helped me to see that I was doing the best I could. That I had other things going on and I just didn’t know any better. And writing this helped me to see that there is not only one way to do things.
But there are better ways to do things. I trust that that that mom, like me, will do better when she knows better.
She’ll deal with the money when she is able. When she is willing. When she is desperate.
Just like me.
And she’ll be met with a kind, empathic, firm, yet gentle accountant who will know exactly what to say and how to help her. And she’ll learn. And she’ll do better. Because it will be the right time. The Universe is benevolent that way.