Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Frantic Family the Sequel: What I've Learned About Myself

I'm not going to bother catching anyone up to speed on why this post is a sequel. You'll have to read Frantic Family: Part 2 for that.

Writing the list of things that give me energy got me thinking about myself. (This post might not be interesting to you, especially if you have never met me. But I hope it might motivate you to reflect on yourself as an individual, too.) It's been interesting to step back and analyze myself as a person in various roles and groups.

First, the process of listing those energy-giving parts of my life really awakened me to the fact that I'm an interesting person. Or at least I think so! (I'm not going to waste writing time trying to be humble, because I don't think I'm being prideful either.) It was nice to deeply feel passionate about a few of the items on the list; editing, for example. I really enjoy correcting grammar on a page and rearranging words and sentences to flow better. Meetings also give me energy, because they often bring out creative ideas, and I love forming plans of action and delegating. Kent pointed out that he doesn't know anyone else who likes meetings, which caused me to look at the whole list and admit that no one else I know would have that same list. I felt like I was remembering that there is a "me" underneath my roles of wife and mother and Latter-day Saint, etc. Those roles certainly force me to grow and be a better person, but there is still a me that is different than all the other wives and mothers (etc.) out there. Even though I posed the question last month about the real me, I hadn't given that subject more than a few days' thought; so it was interesting to find a big chunk of the answer in just making a simple list.

Second, I was recently with a group of friends and we were talking about a variety of topics, many of which came around to parenthood and birth stories. I started to realize that my experience of life is very different from my friends'. Ever since I was a young girl, I've assumed that most everyone thinks the way I do. (Here's where my pride becomes apparent.) I figured that if others saw the facts I saw, they would obviously come to the same conclusion as I. Over the years, I've learned that isn't necessarily true. Take political parties for example. I've come to understand how people can look at one issue and vehemently take opposing sides on that issue. I attributed most of that disparity to the different backgrounds and lifestyle choices of various parts of American culture. Still, I generally held that people raised similarly to the way I was raised, with similar schooling, who share the general principles of my faith probably agreed with me on most issues--and non-issues too. But as I sat and listened to my friends share stories from their lives sprinkled with, " know what I mean...", I found more often than not that I did not know what they meant. Not that I couldn't understand what they were explaining, but that I often did not experience things the way they did. Let me give an example.

Two of these ladies were sharing parts of their experiences giving birth.

Okay; detour. I have to comment here on this topic. I find it interesting how frequently women come back to birth stories in their conversations. I don't think it's a right-of-passage thing so much as it is a very defining and life-changing moment in a woman's life--the labor itself and the effect of a baby to change just about every aspect of the mother's daily life--and it's something many of us have been through and can therefore use to relate to each other. I usually enjoy the stories themselves, but sometimes I wish that we talked more about ideas. Maybe this is another way that I differ from many women.

Back to the birth stories example. One friend talked about staying focused on her husband for support during a scary decision she was faced with at the delivery of her son. My other friend shared how she absolutely could not have gotten through labor and delivey without her husband there, and the group in general expressed how difficult it must be for military wives to have a husband deployed when their child is born. They all agreed they could never do that. I suddenly realized that though I had been through basically the same event as these women in giving birth, I did not experience it at all like they did. I was certainly glad that Kent was there for each birth, but more because it was an exciting thing for him and because I needed someone to take pictures! That sounds weird to say, but it's true. I don't doubt that I could deliver those babies--both my natural and my anesthetized deliveries--if he had been gone for some reason. When I later talked to him about it, he readily agreed that I didn't need him there (and it didn't bother him that I thought that way about it).

So I've started paying more attention to interactions with my friends, and I've learned that I am in the minority in many respects as to my way of thinking and experiencing life when it comes to my general group of friends and associates. Is it because I am attracted to people that are different from me? I do have two friends that I can see eye-to-eye with on just about everything, and I appreciate that aspect of those friendships. So maybe it's because I really am just more unique that I've always supposed. I think I like that, because it makes other people all the more interesting to me. I want to understand their thought processes and how their experiences have shaped who they are.

That's one reason I enjoy blogging. I think people generally open more in their writing than in person. (At least that's my experience because although I'm never opposed to it, I rarely have a heart-to-heart with anyone besides my husband or God. I simply don't make enough time for developing those friendships. I would like to, though.) Those of us who blog generally wait until we have uninterrupted quiet and thoughtful time, which doesn't happen face to face when small children are running about or waiting for our attention. For that reason, I really want to develop the art of great conversation. I don't want to waste the few moments I have to really get to know the people around me by simply talking about how their day went, etc. I want to find out what has shaped the people around me who I care about and with whom I find camaraderie, and yet who are apparently so different than I am. I think there is great value in our differences, and I want to learn from them.

Any tips for developing a great conversation in five minutes or less? I often want to discuss art or cultures or articles I've read, yet I worry that my first sentence about a topic that no one else has researched would be a quick conversation killer. Maybe that's why I like book club so much: everyone comes prepared to discuss the same topic, yet we enjoy each other's view points as we open new angles and possibilities to each other. If only my busy mom schedule would allow me to join/start some other groups.

What do you think? Am I way off here? Do we all feel quite unique, or do you find that you easily relate to your friends and associates?

(P.S. Anyone who made it to the end of this long and meandering post should get a prize. Go ahead and give yourself a spoonful of ice cream. What flavor did you get?)


mindy said...

I have more comments, but I kind of had to chuckle about your phrase about birth not being a rite of passage, as you then proceed to almost define rite of passage in your description of what you think it is. Here is a definition: "a significant event in a transitional period of someone's life". :o)

I actually think it is fun to edit, too. And when you mention the GOOD parts of meetings, I have to say I agree with you, though I feel it is just a bit too broad to say that I like meetings, because there are ALL sorts of meetings, and too many are unproductive. I do love planning stuff, though. Fun times.

I think you have to be willing to talk about the quotidian in order to establish a rapport where the other person feels sufficiently safe to share ideas. IMO, just wanting to jump right into ideas is a more male approach to conversation. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but you might find you feel more comfortable with the ideas you want to share after having developed and maintained a basic level of nuts and bolts conversation about the everyday. That's been my experience, anyways.

I think many of us think that others think they way we do. I know I am frequently at fault that way. Which is why it is more appalling that they make the choices they do. Seriously? You can look at that political figure and not think they are a complete and utter idiot. Weird. ;o) It's like when I showed my mom the funny Lawrence Welk skit from SNL, and she failed to see the humor. I thought it was nearly impossible for someone not to find it hilarious, but sure enough, she didn't. Oh well.

I think we are more different than we think, but also more alike than we suspect. As I've been able to worry less about what others think of me when I do/say certain things, I've become more open to their humanity and it seems they are generally just doing their best like me.

Not that you asked for it, but I think that you are, and like to be, a very independent person. You don't want to need other people, not even Kent, so that played into your birth experience. Could I have done it without David, yeah, but since that wasn't my reality, I leaned on him as much as possible and borrowed from his strength. Having done it with him there, I wouldn't want to do it alone, but I like needing him. It might be a youngest/oldest child thing, too. I don't really have any qualms about needing people. I know I could do XYZ on my own, but why should I?

Well, this is turning into an excessively long comment. And I would have gone and had a bite of ice cream, except I already had a brownie sundae earlier tonight. ;o)

I think you're awesome. I'm really grateful to have you in my life.

mindy said...

dang. that was even longer than I thought. I'm just glad it posted, as after I hit "Publish," i got an error message saying it was too large.

Charlotte said...

I totally get what you are saying. I can't say that Peter was necessary for childbirth, other than it was nice to both share in such an intense experience together.

I've long known that my way of thinking and "logical sequence of understanding" is totally different than almost everyone I meet.

As far as the talking goes, I've long lamented that I have no shallow end and just jump right into the deep areas. I've had to learn how to swim at the top for a while before diving.

Mary said...

Mindy--Thank you for teaching me how to spell rite of passage. I had always spelled it "right of passage", which led me to think the phrase implied an event that had to be experienced to define oneself in a new way. As with motherhood, calling birthing a right of passage was incorrect, in my misspelling mind, because motherhood can be experienced by adoptive moms, aunts, friends, etc. I'm glad to know rite of passage means what I think it should and not what I didn't want it to but thought it did. (See what I mean by I think I think differently than others?) Thanks, too, for improving my editing skills with that spelling correction!

Mary said...

Comment 2 for Mindy (because I don't want my own blog to tell me my comments are too long)--I like your observation that "wanting to jump right into ideas is a more male approach to conversation". I've sometimes been able to identify with men and enjoy their conversations more than I have with women. Even in school, I chose a major that attracted mostly men. But I feel conflicted because I would rather spend time conversing with women.

Part of the reason I don't know how to get to those conversations I want to have is that I frequently find myself in mixed groups of women: people I know pretty well and people I barely know, but want to. I think it's unfair to introduce topics that not everyone would be familiar with, so I just stick with the tried and true. I can see that I'm usually trying to build rapport, and never moving beyond that. Which brings me to a question for Charlotte.

Charlotte--Why have you lamented diving into the deep end? Has it usually backfired? Do you now find yourself doing the backstroke and never going underwater? (BTW, I like your metaphor.)

mindy said...

Re: "right/rite" of passage, all I can think of is this t-shirt that I covet:

Good thing smart is sexy. ;o)

Min said...

First, yes women always talk about birthing stories. As someone who doesn't have children, I certainly am aware that that topic comes up SO often.

What I found most interesting about this post is finding that we have a lot in common. (I like editing, and moving the words around. I like meetings - but I think it's mostly because I like being in a room with people that are talking to each other about thoughts or ideas. And I like having conversations with men; somehow these conversations feel more meaningful or more useful to me.)

And I definitely feel that I experience life differently than other people do. I know I do. Sometimes it bothers me sometimes I love it.

This has been a good post for me to see more deeply into you.

I would also like to know how to make short conversations more meaningful. If you get any ideas, let me know. Sometimes I think that we are spending our precious time on chit chat when what I really want to know is what you feel and think about life and the world. What lessons have you learned, what insight do you have. What makes you hurt or thrills you. But as you say, we never - or rarely - have heart-to-heart talks with friends.

Thanks for sharing your so much in these posts, I am enjoying them and they make me think about myself.