Monday, August 12, 2013

Doesn't It Bother You?

When we lived in Boulder, Phil and I were blessed with several fun boarders who lived in our basement from a half year to three years. One of them passed through town last week, and I was the lucky one to visit with him, his father, and two others over dinner.

As I was driving home, I thought about the evening. In response to a question about how we were surviving without farm income, I said something like, "I get paid well for my job, and I am very good at what I do." It made me laugh a bit, because in the enneagram, a system of dividing personalities into nine different people types, I have the need to be perfect.

How nice for me that, if I'm not perfect in my work, I enjoy a high degree of competence and regular ego boosters from users over the products I work on.

I feel like that in my parenting, too. If I take the boys out, I enjoy compliments (maybe less now that they are older, but there were several years where every time I went somewhere, I had comments on my delightful children). I wonder sometimes if that's because I have four blondes, and if people discriminate in favor of blondes; I'd prefer to think that it's because we all seem happy together.

In my homeopathy studies, I remember again that I am a good student. Being a good student does not necessarily equate with being a good homeopath in the end—just because I can write a good essay in a short time does not mean that I have the intuitive sense of what remedy a person will need—but, again, I am doing something that strokes my ego.

I manage pretty well in living conditions that most would consider stressful. When I taught Sunday school, I was a very competent teacher. I make my loaves of bread each day and train the boys and enjoy homeschooling.

In some ways, I have ordered my life so that I can fulfill my need to be perfect. In less pathologic terms, I might prefer to say that I'm working within my giftings. In either case, I can look at my life in various ways and say, "Yes, I am awesome!"

But as I was driving home, I suddenly realized that Phil doesn't necessarily get any of those strokes. Although he was a gifted and successful engineer, that's not something he uses much anymore. I don't think most people will approach a man and say, "What lovely children you have!" That's more something to say to a mother. He listens to lectures daily, and so is always learning, but no one will give him feedback on his learning to say, "You listened to that lecture so intently. Great job!" He would love to do more teaching on the Word of God, but despite offering multiple times and in multiple ways, he is passed over at church (it could be that it's just not quite the season; he does extensive prep work!). He moves the cows daily, but "rotational grazing" doesn't have quite the same cachet as "homemade bread."

Instead, he's stuck doing construction and working on a farm that is still not really productive, despite four years of hard work.

If I was Phil, I would be miserable!

So I asked him about that. "Does it bother you that you don't have anything you can be perfect in, or even feel pretty competent?"

"No, it doesn't bother me at all."

Oh, how different we are!

But he had a good perspective. "When I got out of college, during those horrible months interviewing, if a person asked the awful question, 'Why should we hire you?,' I would have nothing to say. I couldn't think of a reason to hire me. [I think he was overlooking intangibles like creative thinker, honesty, diligence, good mind, and so forth.] I had no experience, and didn't really know what I was doing. But after a decade, if someone were to ask that question, I could tell them why to hire me, because I had both head knowledge and experience.

"In some ways, that's where I think I am now. Maybe I just got out of 'college'. I have a little experience, but in five more years, I'll be that much more competent, with that much more experience. And when I look at most successful farmers now, so often they are second or third generation farmers. I don't think I'm Joel Salatin; more like Joel's father, trying things out, doing what I need to.

"I'm learning every day. I can see how much better the land is now, and I have optimism for the future. I'm just thankful we can get by, so that the pressure of actual survival doesn't depend on my farming ability."


  1. Either I'm dreaming , or you posted something very similar last year...???? Your husband is a remarkable picture of the virtue of patience and perseverance and the results will come.
    On a different note, we got our cast iron tub when I was 30 weeks pregnant, it was a life saver...enjoy!

  2. No, you're probably right and I just have a short memory. I think it was really just stark the juxtaposition between me feeling like I have all these areas in which I'm awesome (ahem) and wondering how he manages without really any. So I can be surprised again that he really doesn't think just like I do!