Last year, I made a note to myself on today’s calendar date. It says, “Expect discomfort, make room for joy.”
Today is my birthday. Before you go assuming that the expected discomfort is about the number of times I’ve spun around the sun – today marks 43 years since I left the amniotic space walk – let me assure you that I have yet to hit an age that wasn’t my favorite age yet. I’m open to the possibility that there is a number that will arrive like a kick in the gut – or, more likely, a poke at the grave – but so far, I’ve found each decade more delightful than the last and have no longing for days passed.
The discomfort, I realized last year, is in large part thanks to a personality trait that the Myers Briggs Personality Inventory – that is, Carl Jung polished by Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers – describes as being a Perceiving type.
If you have this in your four-letter MBTI descriptor, it shows up as a P in the last space; otherwise, you have there a J for Judging though in this context that has nothing to do with finding your neighbors slovenly or your coworkers boorish.
Instead, the Perceiving/Judging quadrant is about how we put ourselves into the world. Are we people who see the world as a place to organize and/or fix (J) or a place to experience and be a part of (P)? Do we love a settled decision (J) or prefer the possibility that comes from a still open option (P)?
For Perceiving types like me, a decision that has been made is a bit of a bummer because every decision involves releasing a whole lot of possibilities. If I choose this Airbnb, then I can’t stay at any of the other ones, or a VRBO or an old school bed and breakfast or an easy and anonymous hotel.
Mix that with the perfectionistic driver that I will spend my life untangling myself from and a preciousness about days that feel somehow more mine than others (as though I couldn’t choose to make some other random day – an October 23rd or April 19th – a day filled with activities and foods I love) and my birthdays tend to be a touch fraught.
As in: This is my day and I want to use it perfectly only if I plan ahead, I may lose the perfection of spontaneity; if I don’t plan ahead, I might lose the perfection of something that must be planned; if I choose this thing, I might lose the perfection of that thing. Gah!
Lemme tell you, there’s not much room for joy in that gremlin spiral, hence my reminder to myself.
“Expect discomfort,” is about preparing myself for acceptance. It’s a way of reminding myself that this is just what I do; there’s nothing bad or wrong or broken happening, just a human being human in a way that she sometimes humans uncomfortably.
“Make room for joy,” is an acknowledgment that when I choose it, I can find plenty of delight even in the midst of loud gremlin activity. Back in April, I described an attempted gremlin hijack that I managed to move through in the course of a car ride home from a record store; a part of not letting it – that is, not letting my gremlin alter-egos – wreck the day was remembering that I could still choose to enjoy that sparse stretch of time off together with my sweetheart.
While I may continue to agonize over how to spend this day until bedtime comes, a decision to be more present with my person is one I never second-guess.
During a recent road trip Q&A game, the question of what I would do if I knew I had only a year to live brought from me an answer that perhaps wasn’t romantic but was honest: I wouldn’t stop coaching. Coaching is where I most easily put my best into the world, it’s the contribution I have to give. If you’d like to see what I mean, reach out to me before the end of June 2021 and I’ll see about getting you on my schedule for a gift of a laser coaching session from me to you!