I’m the worst atheist at Christmas

Exhibit A: my many baby Jesus nativities

Exhibit B: I love the music, especially the really religious songs like Handel’s Messiah, Silent Night, and Away in a Manger. I also love the old-school Amy Grant Xmas album (as in, the one from the 80’s)

I also love the Sufjan Stevens Christmas album, which includes my very favourite hymn:

completely incomplete

Scanned Document

Here’s our Xmas card for 2016 — you’ll notice there’s two more names than there are people in the picture. These two aren’t yet a part of our family, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about them every day.

I’m not sure if Olivia and Eli ever check this page, but in case they do, here’s a message, just for them: I don’t know you yet, but you should know that you are already in my heart. Your pictures are up, your stockings are hung on the fireplace, and there is a space for you that will always be here. So please, come to us. Meet me for a coffee and cake, and I’ll pay — plus, I promise to just listen. Much love.

more introverted me

from “6 Illustrations That Show What It’s Like in an Introvert’s Head”

I’ve been wondering why my blog here has been so quiet over the last couple years (outside of NaBloPoMo) — especially since this used to be the space where I would take so much time to process and write about what I was thinking/going through in my life. I initially thought my lack-of-posting was due to being too busy, or the fact that it’s easier to throw a thought on social media than it is to post a blog entry, but …

I think the primary reason why I’m no longer posting so much here is due to how my personality has been changing to be more inward in nature.  My shift from an E[xtravert] to an I[ntrovert] is finally complete. I’m just not that outward when it comes to processing what I’m thinking inside.

Now granted, part of my posting hesitancy is due to knowing that there be trolls who stalk me online (hi!!), but even beyond this oft-neglected blog space, I’m finding that I’m just not that vocal with others about what I’m thinking about.

Beyond my therapist (who I only check in with a couple times a year), I’m just not that talkative about what goes on with me. Maybe it’s just easier to get someone else to do the talking, because I do like to listen & help. But I can’t help but think that this inward drive I’ve been experiencing over the last little while isn’t helping me out as much as I think it is.

shrinking my own head

I’ve got a new fascination: neuropsychology.

It all started last year, when I had to work through some conflict in one of my classes. I asked for some advice from one of my girlfriends, who’s a mediator. I learned all about the limbic system, and how our response to conflict is dictated by our body. When our body’s in stress, the brain has this weird way of directing how we process — so when we’re really upset, the blood in our body is directed to go to our extremities (so we can “fight or flight”). In these cases, we aren’t able to think or respond rationally, because it’s physically impossible to do so.

I never realized the physicality that’s involved in our emotions. Whenever I get so upset “that I can’t think straight” — it’s actually because I can’t think straight!  Which makes sense — I love how the most profound truths often are the ones that are so obvious.

Which leads me to the newest book I’m reading: Wired for Joy.  This book is all about Emotional Brain Theory (EBT), a neuropsychology theory that my therapist introduced to me a week ago. EBT is a way of training your brain to scale down the level of stress you’re feeling, to better understand yourself and find contentment. It’s not about ignoring the emotions you’re feeling, but finding a healthier way of processing them.

This method is so attractive to me, for many reasons. First, I’m really excited about the science and research that’s behind it — I’m so wary of some “self-help” books where there isn’t much to back up what’s being advocated (see: The Secret and its ilk).

I’m also excited to learn and practice EBT because it’s a way to acknowledge the powerful role of emotions in a person’s life. I’ve always been known as someone who’s been considered (too) “emotional,” and often I feel my emotions are discounted or disregarded. EBT acknowledges that the only way to reduce stress is to work through your emotions, and then teach your brain how to process them in a healthy way.

I’ve only just started reading the book, but I’ve already learned a lot. I’m looking forward to adding to my understanding of the role of my body and brain, and how these physical systems influence me in how I interact with the world around me.

P to the J

Lately I’ve been in this self-discovery kick, where I’m really trying hard to understand how I work and why I do the things I do, and see the world the way I do. Part of that process has been to revisit where I fall on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) scale. According to the mighty Wikipedia, the MBTI is an “introspective self-report” that is “designed to indicate psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.”

When I first took the test, in my mid-twenties, I was an ENFP. Later, after having a little one and teaching full-time, I drifted over into being an INFP — mainly because after talking all day, I really needed the time to introvert myself. But lately I’ve found myself shifting yet again, and this time it feels more seismic — now I’m an INFJ: a shift to more of a J (judging) than a P (perceiving).

Now when people hear that the “J” in the MBTI stands for “judging”, they usually equate that with being judgemental. Nope. According to the foundation behind the scale, the J or the P part of the descriptor:

[The J/P] pair describes how you like to live your outer life–what are the behaviours others tend to see? Do you prefer a more structured and decided lifestyle (Judging) or a more flexible and adaptable lifestyle (Perceiving)? This preference may also be thought of as your orientation to the outer world.

Which makes sense, when I think about it. These indicators are preferences we have, and so often they can shift and change because of the context we find ourselves in. I started thinking about when I started to notice this shift in myself — and I think it was around the time I started acknowledging the end of my relationship with Jerry. It was then that I probably became more ‘judging’ in my personality, rather than my usual ‘perceiving’ mode.

And, it makes sense this would be the case.

Toward the end of my relationship (and much earlier, if I’m honest with myself), I really had to get more organized and structured with my reality. I needed to take control of making sure Emma was taken care of (from her school to her activities to her welfare, etc), and I also had to make accommodations for Jerry to see her (working around his crazy shift-work schedule), all while trying to navigate my full-time job, my grad work, and my personal life issues.

And if I’m being extra honest, I think I lean more to judging because so much of my personal life feels like it’s in turmoil — so having some order and structure makes me feel a little more safe. I’ll interested in seeing if my J ever shifts back to a P when (if?) my life calms down again.

These days I often find myself feeling so misunderstood — so there’s also a part of myself who takes comfort in finding some commonalities with this MBTI personality, because apparently it’s one of the rarer ones out there (according to this website, it’s less than 1% of the population).

So far, the best description I’ve found of the INFJ that best resembles me is this one: Care & Feeding of the INFJ (if you’re in my life, and wanna know more about how I tick, I would probably bookmark it).

ask me how I am one month from now

When it comes down to moments like these, sometimes the only way I get through it is to think of where I’ll be in one month from now.

Because, somehow, the amount of work and effort that I’m sure will be required for me to make it to that day, one month from now, seems like it is too much to think about.

For posterity’s sake, here’s a quick to-do list of everything I need to survive until December 4, 2016:

  • write and edit and submit my MEd final project proposal (which is still in its early – nay, nonexistent – stages)
  • mark ~70 midterms
  • revise article on rapport-building I’m co-writing for peer-review
  • mark ~70 assignments on integrating sources
  • finalize my contributions for the group project in the grad course I’m taking
  • mark ~70 5-minute speeches
  • teach teach teach (3 undergrad courses, 1 grad course)
  • sleep. occasionally.
  • plan and present the group presentation for the grad course I’m taking
  • mark ~70 10-page research reports
  • develop materials for a new course to be given in January
  • begin to develop my final MEd project (to be completed by March)

So, yeah. If I’m still here in December, I will count that as a win.

Tomorrow I’ll try to get more reflective about my internal state — which is in enough turmoil to require me to need some physio to get my body back in check.