Saturday, August 24, 2019

REINVENTING MYSELF

Gretchen Rubin, in her book The Four Tendencies, discerns four different approaches to life through the lens of how we respond to expectations. The first category, to which she admits she belongs, is the Upholder, who responds to both outer and inner expectations.  The Questioner questions all expectations but will meet an expectation that makes sense to them. An Obliger will meet outer expectations, that come from someone else but struggles to meet self-imposed expectations like a New Year's Resolution. And the Rebel--ah, there's the real challenge--the Rebel resists all expectations from oneself as well as from anyone else.  Rebels are a puzzle to themselves as well as anyone else close to them; rebel children are like puzzles or problems to which there is no answer key.  Rebels love lawlessness, disruption, freedom and choice. One of Rubin's approaches to dealing with rebels is to appeal to their sense of self or who they see themselves to be. I was a bit perplexed by this since I am a Rebel, and I hate feeling hemmed in by an obligation, an appointment, or something I have to do.  In raising six children, I was constantly running up against requirements. I didn't mind doctor's appointments because I saw myself as the kind of mother who was dedicated to keeping her children healthy. But I hated almost 
every requirement about every school system our children were in. That might explain part of the reason why I homeschooled the last two.
When we got involved in World Wide Marriage Encounter, I reveled in the fact that it billed itself as a movement, not an organization and fought vigorously when someone attempted to create an organizational chart. It was a losing battle, but I refused to take part in it and let my husband, who loved charts, participate in whatever it is you do to create such a chart.
For years, I saw myself as disorganized and someone who couldn't write a talk for one of our Marriage Encounter Weekends without months of time to write. My husband came home one day when I had several hours to start a talk. He found me surrounded by crumpled up pieces of paper. When he asked me how much I had written, I burst into tears and said, "I'm still trying to write the first sentence." 
However, when we were in leadership and had to give an average of a talk every week, I learned that it was fine to write a crummy first draft, go back and improve it, and then give it (and it was ok for it not to be perfect as well). Over the 30 years we were involved in Marriage Encounter and other marriage and family ministries, we gave many talks and wrote many articles in addition to the writing I was doing on my own, my poetry and book reviews for the most part.
When I became involved in Beginning Experience, and we had a training weekend, we were asked to write a rough draft for the first talk we might give. We had about an hour, and I sat down with the outline and wrote.  When I was asked to read in what I wrote to the other team members, one of them said, "That's 8 minutes, which is how long it should be, and it sounds pretty good." The other trainees seemed to be surprised that I had managed to do that, but I reminded them that I had spent 30 years writing talks for Marriage Encounter so I had plenty of experience!
Each time I had a talk to write, I started doing it right away. I had read that Teddy Roosevelt started working on a speech the minute he was asked to give it, and I loved the idea of being like Teddy Roosevelt--as well as not having the pressure of doing things at the last minute. I realized I had started to see myself as someone who starts things early and finishes early.  When I had to revise the two talks I will be giving in October, I had them in two weeks before they were due. This is not a matter of meeting anyone's expectations because the facilitators still seem surprised that I can do this, but of realizing that I see myself as a different person, someone who easily writes talks even when they are emotionally challenging and sends them in to the facilitators who will critique them, which means they are not doing everything at the last minute either. Since I like to be helpful to friends, this is also part of my personality rather than meeting expectations.  At least, that's the way this rebel sees it, and it seems to be working, so I'm sticking by it!

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