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Friday, April 20, 2012

What to do with Tossed Salad & Scrambled Eggs

Let me quote this paragraph in its entirety and then pick it apart. Sorry about the partial post that was up for a few days :D

"As mates, INFPs have a deep commitment to their pledges. They like to live in harmony and may go to great lengths to avoid constant conflict. They are sensitive to the feelings of others and enjoy pleasing those they care for. They may find it difficult to reconcile a romantic, idealized concept of conjugal life with the realities of everyday living with another person. At times, in fact, INFPs may seem fearful of exuberant attainment, afraid that current advances may have to be paid for with later sacrifices. The devil is sure to get his due if the INFP experiences too freely of success, or beauty, or health, or wealth, or knowledge. And thus, INFPs guard against giving way to relaxing in the happiness of mating. They may have difficulty in expressing affection directly, but communicate interest and affection indirectly."
Wow that was a mouthful. But let's get started picking this apart.

First, as far as relationships go, the only one that I can talk easily about is the last one that I was in. It is the most recent and therefore, my memory is less fallible. And he reads this blog so if I get something wrong he can set me straight.

Deep Commitment to pledges. When I did daycare in my home those kids came first. They came before anything else including the husband at the time. And work is the same way. I put work before everything else. While it would seem that it is due to needing money. It is primarily due to the fact that this job is one of the most rewarding (albeit frustrating) I have ever had outside of self employment. But also because this job came through for me when it looked like there would be nothing for me to do. And that kind of commitment goes to the man I am in a relationship... to a point.
  • so long as there is harmony & a lack of conflict
  • am allowed to use my skills to make a happy experience
  • and have the freedom to be myself in all the other ways that I am an INFP and an Aquarius.
I am committed to a relationship until I start to fall apart. If I start to see nothing but the crap in my life I will look for a way out. That doesn't sound too committed or too deep. But it is. The single most important thing to me for the people that I love is for them to be happy and content. And part of that happiness is in being in a relationship where they experience more good than bad. I hear all sorts of stories at work of how horrible some relationships are. I want my friends to be in relationships that affirm them instead of tear them down; relationships in which they can be who they are without judgement. But most of all, I want people to be in a relationship where they are not expected to fix, redeem, detangle or sustain a relationship in order for it to work. They are work. But they are not supposed to be more work than they are worth. And the key symptom of a relationship in which someone is spending too many resources than is worth to maintain is the constant arguing.

That happened in the last relationship. I saw the crap in my life and it wasn't going away. And we fought about it all the time. I felt like I couldn't breathe under the weight of my issues. We fought all the time. And then I couldn't breathe under the pressure of fixing the issues before the relationship tanked. He was miserable. I was miserable. I ended it.

Now to be fair there was another issue involved and that was a prior pledge. When pledges converge there is no simple solution. So I took some steps backward and dealt with the prior pledge while we were trying to deal with our own issues.

A lack of harmony, may go to great lengths to avoid conflict Harmony for me means that we are have syncopated rhythm with the people in our lives. And when the syncopation is absent then a  harmonious accord can be reached with a respectful distance. Take a time out and know that it is okay. They will still be there when you come back. But I have also thought that harmony meant that you avoided discord in the first place. That means that you are open and honest about what your needs are. Great. But what if you are the person who is being told that there are needs not being met?

When you hear that you are the problem then you need to hear what they say without judging yourself or the other person. Just like the rest of the planet, it is hard for me to hear criticism. But it is not hard for me to hear "Hey I need_____" I understand if someone needs to take time out from me. I can be like a high strung puppy. And I can be a little clingy. I know that about me so I can hear that and give the guy some space.

Communication is key to harmoniousness. From discussing schedules, to making plans to hang out if not deciding what to do while hanging out is harmonious. If you intend to do chores with your non-live in person during your time together it is good to warn them. When you do not, and you commandeer their time and energetic resources without telling them that is discordant. I have a family that does that and I like my relationships to not look like my dysfunctional family.

How great the length to avoid conflict? I was overwhelmed and decided to draw some very fine lines. I called a two week time out to get my breath back. And it was a total communications blackout. He took offense to that. And he should have. It was an extreme decision. An extreme solution. But no one was being heard and I had a full blown panic attack. What else am I to do?

Sensitive to the feelings of others For me that means a little bit more than just being sad when your sad; glad when you're glad... sorry. I had a Barry Manilow moment. Excuse me while I clean my musical palette with some schlager musik (keep your fingers crossed that BM isn't on the other side of the speaker. Yeah. It COULD happen.) Where was I... oh right. Sensitivity. I can feel you.

You do not have to tell me something is wrong. If you walk into the room like someone just sold your droids to the Empire I will know. I can feel your bad mood like a punch to the solar plexus. And that is because it is, in a manner of speaking. Your bad mood, if caught of guard, will give me a bad mood that makes "He Who Must Not Be Named" look like Dumbledore. Needless to say, I try to be guarded against that. And yes, for some reason I do suck at detecting deception in others. However, I am pretty good at understanding the motivations for deception after the fact. It does not make me happier. It does not make you less of a douchebag or bagette for using my back to store your kitchen knives. But in the end understanding these things, feeling these things makes me a bit more vigilant about making sure I do not develop the talent for carelessly inflicting pain.

I feel you bad mood and raise you one or a dozen comedic remedies. Mostly at my expense because that way you are not feeling the crap that you are going through. No. It does not always work. There are a lot of tough customers out there and you just have to shoot them under the table ala Han Solo.

We are creatures who like to comfort others. And those methods encompass the whole of hospitable service: food, home decor, art, music, and a host of activities that can distract or encourage a person through a difficult time. I make cookies, cakes, comfort food in the event of a natural disaster on the landscape of your soul. My house, when I have one, is layered with textures, color, scent and shades of lightness. When you come to my home in need of emotional support I become the Innkeeper. Comfort food is called that for a reason and I do revel in being able to provide such.

And if I can not do these things, be myself, then I start to feel like I do not matter. This kind of symbiosis is essential. It is part of the give and take of life. I can not give forever. Nor can I take forever. I do not always need to be asked to provide.

But sometimes I get it wrong. I think of comfort in different terms from some of the tougher cases I have encountered. In the last relationship I read those needs wrong on several occasions. And that comes from my personality. I just do not see the need to be all "We are Sparta!" about everything. Sure, if you are easily distracted your work space should probably look like a barren Martian desert. But come on. When you are home and relaxing why not relax into a pile of warm and fuzzy? What is wrong with some punch, pizazz and a little bit of smooth?

Maybe that is just my INFP showing.

Reconciling romantic idealized conjugal life with someone and the reality of day to day living with someone... [walks away hand in pockets and whistling like der Bingle while pretending that you don't see me doing that] Busted.

I do not see that every little thing that goes wrong is the at home equivalent of taking a photon torpedo up the plasma ejector ports. Pipes bust? Let's get all MacGyver and fix it. And if it helps, I'll play the theme song as motivation and a reminder that shit happens and no one needs to freak out about these kinds of disturbances in the Force. I'm the same way at work. And it annoys the Jebus out of everyone that I refuse to freak on a daily basis. Add a few chores to my long list? Great. IF you let me figure out how to integrate the work efficiently. Spring 4 hours of work on me and tell me that we have 20 minutes to do it? That is something else. I'm not Geordie La Forge. And I will remind you of that.

Shit happens. Get it done. Have fun doing it if you can. My romanticized version of daily life looks a lot like the way Charles and Caroline Ingalls worked together in a crisis, with humor following a  brief panic attack. I view a living-together-partnership as an adventure in which there is camaraderie and teamwork. The reality is that very few men that I will be with will see it the same way. I want to schedule regular maintenance whereas some are gonna wanna do it when the mood strikes. And it usually strikes when I am not in the mood or thought that we were doing something else. And you know what that means... I Strike Back! [cue Vader's march] Much as a spoonful of sugar makes medicine more palatable, a little fun while you work seems to make it go by faster.

I also idealize how it is that two people comfort each other in sorrow and pain. Somehow I think that if someone wants to be in a relationship with me that they will automatically know how and want to comfort me in my need. And that the way that I want to comfort him will be the best way. That is not always the case. I also think that I am the person to point out areas for thoughtful reflection. That oft times goes over like a fart in church... with Sr Mary Don't Piss Her Off sitting at the end of the pew.

And then there is the "At times, in fact, the INFPs may seem fearful of exuberant expression... communicate interest and affection indirectly" How does this get me into trouble, let me count the ways! I have difficulties being exUBERantly (notice the German root word in the middle of this Latin looking word) excited and enthusiastic about the things in a relationship that other girls get excited about. All that Marissa Tomei/Melissa Alano/Like OMG Totally squealing and carrying on that a lot of girls do is not me. I will geek out about music. I will do a pee pee dance when Matthias Reim releases a new album. I will squee with abandon when a very special guest from Nathan Fillion's past sci-fi life show up on Castle. But I am not likely to squee over a dozen roses. Nor am I going to be comfortable with that modest bag of coconut M&Ms. Yes I love M&Ms. Yes I like getting flowers. But it does seem to me that what I get excited about will be taken away from me or cost me something in return.

You see, this part of my personality was reinforced by events in my life. I got excited about a school play so I was not allowed to go. When I was hip deep in horse hockey for the Black Stallion books my mom quit taking me to the library. Enthusiasm is not lady like when you prance around the house all excited. Enthusiasm was often squashed or silenced. "Do you have to be so loud?" or "Do you have to be an idiot all the time?"

And as for the Devil taking his Dues. I grew up with a Reward for Effort system that always backfired. "If you keep your nails a healthy length for one month I'll give you five dollars." was my mom's favorite bribe when I was 12. She couldn't offer me chocolate, which would have been worth more than money to me, because I was fat. And when I achieved that goal she didn't follow through with the reward. Her response to my indignation was that I now had beautiful fingernails and something to be proud of and that was all the reward I needed. So I continued to bite my nails to the quick until three years ago.

Academic rewards were no better. Making the Deans list was supposed to be rewarded with my own cassette player. And me, with my infinite hope, trusted her to follow through with the promise. She did not. Instead, I got the same "Pride in yourself is your own reward". And all the while, I strove to gain her approval which never did come. There was not anything that I could do that was going to make her like me or my choices. So when I am in a relationship I have a hard time relaxing. I am always waiting to find out how I screwed something up and trying to figure out when the carrot is going to get yanked away from me. It is not only with men. I had enough issues falling short of my best friend's expectations in high school and afterward that it only reinforces my apprehension in relationships. If I won honors for my art work mom dismissed them when we were alone. And in public she made is seem as though it was a genetic thing and not something that I should be proud of. My ribbons were taken away when we got home... till I got smart enough to have gramma conspire with the art teacher. And some how, that best friend liked to take credit for my art work too. I found myself hearing how I couldn't do things without her.

As a result I tend to keep people at arms length. You can not do that in relationship with someone else. You have to be able to show your happiness. You have to be able to be proud of who you are so that you can be proud of them. It makes people feel devalued when you can't share in their accomplishments. You have to be able to let your guard down. It makes the other person nervous and suspicious when you play things close to the vest. It makes people think that you are hiding something. And then you get the Greedo treatment.

All sorts of experiences reinforce for me that you just do not got excited about something. If people do not want to take it away from you then they are trying to control your expressions. That is not true 100% of the time. But to me it feels like it. In truth, my successes and talents have been claimed by others since I was a kid. I am an artist because my mom passed on the art gene not because I am any good. My (ex) best friend claims my kitchen skills were bestowed by her when in truth I had been learning to cook years before I ever met her. She just didn't like my gastronomic style so she dismissed everything that came before her cooking lessons. I have some very nice things that I was able to afford when I made 850.00 a week which my brother thinks should be redistributed because  he has nothing. I have some very nice things that were payback for helping someone which goes just a little against the grain with my siblings. They say I do not deserve them because they are too nice for me.

In true lizard brain fashion, my siblings have been the Devil's hands. I have had some things come too easily for my liking and so they have decided that they will be the rock in my path that teaches me the value of hard work and paying dues. I have had many hands take away the "too much" of the things that Dr. Keirsey mentions here. The thing is that they have set the level for what is enough and what is too much instead of allowing me to give that which is above what I know I need. From either perspective it is never enough. But also too much. Huh.

Now that I know this is my personality and that the paranoia regarding the other shoe dropping is reinforced by "more than your fair share of experiences" [shrinks words not mine] I have to ask myself if I am locked into a cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy. Or do I just not find the best compatible match?

Did I look for the Devil in the last boyfriend's actions and words? And, in the man that I sought to explore with during the grey areas leading to break-up? Do I not see the Devil in his details because I have kept him far enough away? I could not relax into the old relationship. But I have suffered under the impression that I could relax with the other. Can I? Is it in my constitution? And what about the way that I communicate?

Communicating interest indirectly. The last boyfriend wanted me to say that I wanted to spend the night and have dinner. In those words if that is what I wanted. I preferred the less direct "Do you wanna hang out?" First in defense let me say that it shows some respect for what he has going on in his schedule. "I want to___________" makes a frontal assault on his time and interests. I feel assaulted when someone does that. So I ask openly but indirectly. You do not have to tell me what you are doing. Just that the space of time I ask about is full. And secondly, the way I prefer to ask leaves the agenda open for suggestion and spontaneity. He was not spontaneous. With my indirect approach he may have felt that I was leading him into an open trap of his own past experiences. Oops.

But I also prefer to make a card and put time, heart, soul and thought into the process rather than use verbal communication. Words fade... sometimes. But tangible things like cards let you revisit those sentiments as you need to. Keepsakes are called keepsakes for a reason. So that seems really sweet and it seems a shame for anyone to be upset about receiving such a special thing.

And yet...
Oh come on. you had to know there was going to be a "yet".

It can be viewed as deceptive. Indirect communication leaves the back door unlocked to make a quick get away if the communication was taken the wrong way or not appreciated. I have had more than my fair share of rubbings, drubbing and snubbings for Valentines cards. Every 14th of February from first grade through 8th when we quit with the mandatory card exchange was a date to be beaten. Like clockwork I could count on that one boy in particular to be waiting for me on my way home. And not in a good way. His most creative attack was trying to extrude my face through the chain link fence around the playground like it was a Play-Doh Fun Factory. Good times. And as an adult I have twice been rewarded with a verbal take down for offering the offending bit of sentiment. And by both men who have occupied the majority of my thoughts on relationships. Though the last boyfriend was not as loudly obnoxious about it, it still hurt. He was my boyfriend and asked me "Why did you give me this?"

Uh... because you were my boyfriend. Because it was a good excuse to give you something home made and heart-felt. The rest of the exchange mentioned doing Valentines later in the week and not having a card for me. And I should not be upset that the card and celebration never came because I did get many wonderful gifts from him in the course of the relationship. But it did hurt because that was the second year in a row that I didn't get a John Cusak ending to the start of my script. I never gave him the rest of the cards that I made. And the other one has learned not to react badly to his gifts. But still I am reticent to give those gifts to any but a handful of girls I know and small children. Children love getting any thing and they have no hesitation in their glee. And they don't make you wish that you hadn't bothered in the first place.

How much of this is nature and how much is nurture? Can any of this be overcome so that I can be in a relationship that is more than skin deep? Am I even a personality type that should consider having a relationship in the first place?

Going back to the previous post about the whimsy and imagination that is the INFP, I have quite an active inner life that may be able to sustain me without the need to have a relationship of the intimately exclusive kind. Need and want being two separate things, I want. Life has taught me that I can not have what I want.

But I chose not to believe that. So where does that leave me?

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