Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas ADD, Getting My Nails Done, and Experiments in MBTI

It’s almost Christmas and checkout ladies and such keep trilling “Are you all ready for Christmas?”, and the answer is I just don’t know. I don’t know because I don’t keep lists. I will tell you more about the lists in a minute, but all I know is that Christmas is very confusing this year and I don’t know why. No, I do know why. It’s because Christmas requires planning and organization and forethought and follow-up, and I spend every waking day at a job that demands those skills, and the last thing I feel like doing is coming home and applying those skills to my social and interpersonal life. I resent Christmas for essentially forcing me to work. So I put off thinking about it until the last minute, and then I get really disoriented and stressed out, and Mr. Typist’s post-Christmas birthday package gets stolen off our porch and I can’t remember if the orange cream soda is for the family gathering or for the friend gathering and I almost forget to buy socks for my friend who likes socks, and I have to keep making repeated trips to the store. This even when my own mother, who apparently decided after 43 years that I am indeed hopeless, says “Just bring whatever you want to the family gathering. Really…just anything is fine. Anything at all.” And apparently I am hopeless, because all I could muster was the afore-mentioned soda and a “family pack” of Goldfish crackers.

Yesterday, exhausted from a hellish work week and just wanting to escape from having to organize, shop, divide and wrap presents (and if you are one of those people who finish your Christmas shopping in March, fuck you), I decided on wild impulse that I was going to go Get My Nails Done. I never get my nails done. I worked for many years as a massage therapist, and I’m used to keeping them trimmed down to the quick. So I usually just ignore them until they grow long enough to annoy me, then I ruthlessly hack them off. But for some reason, yesterday of all days, I decided I wanted to get them done. And, oh, my dear chickadees, how I have been missing out! I had long forgotten how lovely a manicure is. I went to this little place on Market Street, and the shop owner fussed over me and called me “Honey”, and I lingered over a vast array of dazzling glittery polishes all arranged on a shelf like delicious little candies, and while I waited for my turn I got all caught up on the latest fashion magazines so now I know that dyed snakeskin is really in this season. The nail lady cleaned up my cuticles, moisturized my dry skin, and painstakingly applied deep smoky purple polish to my nails, which has, in less than 24 hours, almost completely chipped off due to swimming and hair-washing and present-wrapping. But I don’t even care, because this just means I have to come back, and I have decided I like getting my nails done. It’s cheap, yet it makes me feel enormously luxurious, as though I am one of those ladies who always get their nails done. It feels wicked and indulgent to simply decide I am far too busy for such piffle as trimming my own nails, and shall leave it to another to perform such labor. (And I tip really well, so I only feel a little guilty.) This manicure thing rocks! Why didn’t I do this sooner??

Speaking of lists…I’ve been taking an eight-week class at work for managers and supervisors in how to be better at bossing people around or something. Actually, it’s not just about that, and it’s a turning out to be a really good program, I must grudgingly admit. Grudgingly because although I willingly signed up for it, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of practical support or useable advice, but it turns out I’m getting both in spades. It’s been incredibly eye-opening so far, meeting all of the other people in a similar boat to me. I really want to be a good leader, a good advocate for my peeps, effective as a Person in Charge. And right now, I’m just sort of okay. I make a lot mistakes. A lot of interactions don’t go the way I hope they will. Some things I do are ineffective. Sometimes overreact and sometimes I under-react. But I’m trying, and I want to learn to be better because the folks who work for me deserve the best person they can possibly have in this role. Anyway, one of the latest classes really focused on the Meyer Briggs Type Indicator. I have a love-hate relationship with personality tests, but I’ve always found the Meyer-Briggs to be pretty solid. I took the test online and was provided with a detailed 27-page assessment of my personality, (finally, I am real!) but it basically breaks down to: INFP, (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving) all of the most wishy-washy, airy-fairy traits of the MBTI. Apparently, this is why I don’t make Christmas lists. I do make a ton of lists at work, but in my personal life, I rarely use them. 

INFP’s are apparently rare in the organization I work for, so once again I was singled out as being the weirdo in a group full of STJ’s, (Sensing, Thinking, Judging), who looked at me with horror when I explained I don’t use grocery lists because that makes shopping less fun and what if I find a fun new food I want to try? If I work only from a list, I might miss it. Then we all did an exercise in “How to Describe A Leaf”, where the S’s (Sensors) and the Intuitives (N’s) grouped separately to describe a leaf on a big notebook, and then tried to explain to each other why they described a leaf the way they did. True to form, the S’s focused on the actual physical properties of a leaf, (size, shape, color and function), and the N’s had to go and get all metaphorical about it and use lots of circular words like “renewal” and "protective" and  “cycles.” It was fascinating. The more I think about it, the more I realize that most of the communication problems I have most likely stem from being an N in a sea of S’s. So I performed a little prose-poem writing experiment to try and clear my head:

You Buy Four Bowls

You buy four bowls and a silver robe the same day the dog gets his teeth pulled. Something about the bowls, the robe, and the missing teeth all go together but you can’t seem to parse it out. “A leaf is a kingdom of fervid veins” is the only thought that sticks. You’ve thought this before but would never say it out loud. A leaf is not a metaphor, a leaf is not a body made of light. You’ve been told by serious people it’s a factual item, specific and concrete. It doesn’t do to always think of things as other things. You are stern with yourself about this, you promise yourself, next time, but then you’re surprised by a blue jay and it’s something about the fleeting nature of genius and breaking with routine, and also, nobility and the urge to paint a tree. Oh, no no, the serious ones shake their heads and waggle their lovely long fingers, fingers that spend all day running up and down crisp lacy lists or columns of numbers, cool marble fingers meant for holding pencils and pointers and ball point pens, but never pens with funny little pom-pom toppers or holograms of nudes, just the purely functional ones, and you are jealous of their ability to see each thing in its precise measurements, and you miss their beautiful waggling fingers when they go off write to another list. You haven’t forgotten about the leaf, and the serious ones would benefit from hearing that a leaf is a long, fine song, an infinity cycle, but in the end you decide for some, such knowledge is upending, for some, it’s best to know a leaf only and exactly as a leaf, a thin, flattened structure borne above ground and designed for photosynthesis.

--Kristen McHenry


Jo-Ann said...

I so relate to this wonderful poem. Not that I create poetry but upon seeing a leaf or a tree trunk or a bird on a branch, I hear them speak and watch their shapes shift. I don’t even have to know what is being spoken or where the metamorphosis will go … it doesn’t matter. What it proves to me that life is indeed magic: full of possibility and endless beauty. And, like you, I have had to limit my conversation with some who only see the leaf as a leaf. They see their beauty and I see mine … and sometimes never the twain shall meet.

Good luck with the family Christmas thing and when its all over I hope you have a peaceful and joyful time with the Mister.

Frank Moraes said...

You already know much more about management than I do if you refer to the people you work with as "peeps." That's very cool, but I couldn't pull it off.

I have a Christmas rule. If you have not reached puberty, you get a gift. Otherwise, if you are much younger than me, you get cash. Otherwise, you get my charming presence. But I do a lot of cooking for holidays--which I like to do.

Okay Ms. INFP. I went over and took a MB test. I've taken them throughout my life. It is interesting how I have changed, although it is only in degree and not in the overall score. I used to score as extremely introverted, now I am moderate (56%). I used to score as extremely intuitive and now I am "distinctively" (75%). I've always kind of been in the middle on the thinking/feeling, and I score as marginal or no preference for thinking (1%). And I have a slight preference for perceiving. All of this officially makes me sort of the male equivalent of you: INTP.

As I recall, 75% of all people are SJ types. Once I learned that, I understood: I really am a stranger in a strange land. They really are as weird as they seem. Of course, we are all good at finding similar people. Most of my friends INs. Most of them are Fs, but there are a fair number of Ts. And I think the Js and Ps are pretty evenly distributed.

All of this discussion is, by the way, exactly what you would expect from an INTP. But I do have one question: why did the dog have his teeth pulled?

Kristen McHenry said...

Thanks, Jo-Ann! I loved your expression of your experience of nature. I think there is much admirable in S's,T's and J's but I simply am not one and I can't control where my mind goes with things. It drives Mr. Typist mad with frustration (he is STJ), but hey. That's the price one pays for marrying their opposite. Thanks for the holiday wishes. I will be spending time with my friend and her Dad on Xmas day, so that should be fun.

Frank, I sort of had you pegged at an INTP, but I can see how you have equal preference for T/F. My preference for feeling has gone down a bit over the years (evened out, I guess.) In fact, I think all of my preferences have become more balanced, which I think is a good thing. The test I took was very comprehensive and was like, 400+ questions. It looked at areas where you are out preference, too--I have a penchant for Questioning and Early Starting, which is out of preference for an INFP. Any, the whole thing was fascinating. One of these days I would like study organizational psychology. How people behave in the workplace is an endless source of wonder to me.