The Yam Incident or Inside an INFJ Brain

Sometime during the holidays I’d returned from my eighth trip to the grocery store.  I put water on to boil, and unpacked the groceries.

I needed coffee.

As I put away the pasta, bottled marinara (don’t judge) and the sugary cereal, I discovered a bag of …

I wasn’t sure, but I thought they were yams or sweet potatoes or something in that category.

My initial reaction – based on years of tightly pinching** pennies – was, “Gasp, I hope I didn’t get charged for those root vegies!”  I grabbed the receipt and verified that there wasn’t a charge, which was a bit unfortunate because, had there been a charge, I’d have been able to more accurately identify the tubers.

Next thought was, “How did those get in my cart?  What kind of sicko wanders the produce section looking for unsuspecting victims and then launches a tuber attack?”

I made sure the kids knew I was incensed.  I wondered aloud.  A lot.  “What am I supposed to do with these?  Do I take them back?  Like I don’t have enough to do?!  I still have to finish the baking!  This isn’t fair!

I looked over at the kids to see if they were as worked up as I was.  They’d moved to the other room by then.

 

I sat down with coffee and iPad to search – “yam vs sweet potato.”  What do I even do with these things?  I’m not gonna go to a whole lot of fuss if my kids aren’t gonna eat them.

The voice in my head said, “Throw them away!  You don’t have time for this.”  But that prompted the other voice to say, “You can’t waste perfectly good root vegies.  They might be chock-full of vitamins and minerals!”

I got lost down the rabbit hole of tubers; recipes; holiday prep; best holiday cocktail and How to Simplify Christmas.

 

Undecided, I put the three in a bowl.  It occurred to me that perhaps they belonged to the folks that had been ahead of me in the check out line.

The voices in my head had a hay day with this new line of thinking.  “Oh no!  They got home without their tubers!  Now they can’t make grandma’s favorite recipe.  Christmas will be ruined!”

I even considered how I might track them down and get their vegies back to them, you know, in the spirit of Christmas.

 

The tubers sat in the bowl, untouched, until after the holiday, all the way into the New Year.  I’d occasionally glance at them and consider Googling more recipes, but walk away in disgust.  Incidentally, yams have an exceedingly long shelf life, making it virtually impossible for them to grow moldy so that I could throw them away without guilt.

One day, I found myself without kids.

I was alone.

In the kitchen.

With the yams.

Inspiration struck in the form of Sweet Potato Soup.  Even if I was the only one who liked it, I deserved it, dammit.  Besides, the pictures on the internet made it look so tasty.  Thanks to the multiple trips to the store, driven by the mania of the holidays, all the ingredients were found in the pantry.

This would be fun!

As I gathered the ingredients and found the seldom-used potato peeler, I thought back on the couple from the grocery store.  I wondered how they were doing.  How was their holiday?  Did they ever end up making grandma’s recipe?

With sweet potato in hand, I dragged the peeler across the rough skin to discover that this vegie – one of three that had been waiting in a bowl in my kitchen for going on four weeks – was not the kind needed to make Sweet Potato Soup.

I gathered up the other two roots, ceremoniously walked them out to the dumpster, and came in to put some water on to boil.

 

* I’d considered buying three more so that I might include a photo with this post, but I’m not going there.

**You may be thinking that I don’t really pinch pennies if I buy bottled sauce and sugared cereal.  The fact that I thought about what you might be thinking, about my lack of pinching pennies, is another example of the varied thoughts running through my over-active INFJ brain.   

 

*sigh*

 

 

Letting Go and Hanging On

Did I tell you my back quit hurting?  (Not to make it all about me.  ; )

I talked about chronic back pain on the other blog, where I also wrote about listening to the body when it screams at us (pain!) in an effort to get our attention.

I distinctly remember when the pain started – three months into the last relationship.  (Hello, RED flag!)  The pain ebbed/flowed/annoyed me through that relationship, the breakup, living at mom’s (sorry, mom, but you know what I mean), and through starting a new job at an office that was not a good fit.

I knew the back pain was about stress.  I thought I could push through with yoga, valerian root, whiskey and walking.  Sometimes those things helped, but the pain was still there, waiting to get my attention when I refused to see the stress for what it was.

I started at a new office the beginning of December.  Two weeks ago, I noticed my back had quit hurting.  I didn’t say anything to the kids because I didn’t want to jinx it.  I kept doing the yoga.  The holidays gave me an excuse to drink whiskey.  (In case you’re wondering, I have never combined whiskey and valerian root, though I’ve been tempted.)

Recently, I lifted a heavy object, as a test.  I anticipated a stab.  I thought for sure my back would scream at me.  And, nothing.  No spasm.  No twinge.  Nothing.  I was able to put away the artificial tree without so much as a wince, except I did feel a little guilty about putting Christmas away so early.

I figured I was safe in telling the kids that my back pain was gone.  I did, and didn’t jinx anything.

 

All of this makes me think about resolutions and, conveniently, it’s the time of year when we might take stock in where we are and if we are happy – or at least not miserable – with where we are.

In 55 years, my success rate is abysmal when it comes to resolutions, partly because I rarely make any.

I’m not perfect.  I haven’t got it all figured out.  But I do a fine job of making myself feel bad without adding failed New Years’ resolutions to the mix.

I prefer to look back over the year and decide which things I will let go of and which things I will hang on to.

 

I will hang on to noticing when something does not feel right.  Whether it’s a conditioner or a brand of coffee, a book that seems too violent in the first 40 pages, an acquaintance that drains more than enriches, or a crappy pair of jeans that I never feel good wearing – I will let go of what isn’t good.

It’s in the noticing that something doesn’t feel right, that I learn to let go.

I will hang on to paying attention to my intuition, and let go of the stuff that does not feel good.

 

For Will:  I plan on letting go of worrying.  The worrying feels bad.  I’m tired of communicating those worries to the Universe, and to Will.  I know he is tired of hearing about it, too. (This one will be difficult, and all you seasoned parents are laughing at me because you’ve told me that, as parents, we are never done worrying.)  But, I will stop voicing my worries to him, and I will hang on to letting him know how much I care.

 

For Jen:  I will most definitely hang on to this connection we have, but I will let go when she strives for more independence.  Is that even possible?  I guess we’ll find out.

 

For me:  I will hang on to trusting myself.  I will trust myself to say, “No, thank you,” when something doesn’t feel right.  I will trust myself to let go of those things that do not make me wholeheartedly say, “YES!”

Oh, and I will let go of guilt (stop laughing!) and hang on to letting it be about me, once in awhile.

 

It’s going to be a good year!

 

Happy New Year!

 

 

Commitment Issues

I’ve got a 25% More! bottle of conditioner in the shower.  I am tired of the smell of that conditioner.  I’m ready to move on.  I want a new scent.

That doesn’t mean I have commitment issues, does it?

I’m not being silly, here.  I mean it.

Can commitment issues be detected back in junior high when I couldn’t decide between Flex or Prell, or Levi 501s or flares?

Wouldn’t it make sense that if you hesitate to commit to a deodorant, then you probably won’t commit to a relationship, either?

 

(I’ll have you know that I am a frugal person.  I’ll continue to use up that annoying bottle of conditioner, even if I use too much each time, and it makes my bangs greasy.  Maybe I could bribe Jen to finish it, or use it for shaving my legs.)

 

I’ve noticed that usually men are said to have commitment issues.  Why do women want to commit more readily than men?  (When I first typed that sentence, I wrote, ‘Why do women want to be committed more …’  Freudian?)  After all, don’t we do most of the work of relating in a relationship?  It occurs to me that if I am commitment-phobic, it’s probably because I’m tired of doing all the relating.

 

In my defense, I have a cutting board that I’ve owned since 1987.  I’ve lived with that cutting board longer than anyone I’ve had a relationship with, including my parents – even if I count the times I moved back in with my mom.

That makes me laugh.

Should that make me sad?

That cutting board has survived many moves.  It is the perfect kitchen tool – the right shape, reliable, dependable, and the right size.  If only I could find a ….

 

I once received a gift of a glass cutting board.  (Ironically, it may have been a wedding gift.)  I hated that thing.  No one can convince me that cutting boards should be made of glass.  I’d swear the chef’s knife would wince each time I’d attempt to slice an onion on it.  I’d rather drag my nails across a chalk board than cut on glass.

That “board” was a well-intentioned gift.  Should I have stayed committed to it?  I think, NOT!

 

For that matter, why must I defend myself for being hesitant to commit?  Why do we applaud the capacity to commit without evaluating what it is that one commits to? Whether it’s an office or a cutting board or conditioner or a relationship, if it isn’t a good fit, isn’t it best to forgo commitment and make a change?

Would a sense of frugality dictate that one ought to stay because of the investment already made?  That’s a sunk cost!  Move on, already.  (Except for conditioners which, one could argue, aren’t really necessary, anyway.  Besides, one is no better than another, but most of us seem to think we need conditioner.)

 

How about we commit to life?  I say we commit to experience.  Commit to change and process and the journey.  (Even if the word journey is used too often.)   So what!  I commit to getting as much out of this journey as possible.

I commit to me!

And apparently this annoying bottle of conditioner.  And flares and 501s, and my beautiful cutting board, but not deodorant.  You can’t make me.

 

 

“I’ve Missed Talking to You”

Normally, she’d have gone through the self-check line, but they were busy.  Her four items made their way down the conveyor belt in time for the clerk to say, “That’s all for you?  Looks like Italian tonight?  I’ve the best recipe for lasagna, of course it calls for spinach and my family would shoot me if I dared put anything green in a meal.  Do you know what I mean?  Like they think I’m trying to kill ’em or something.  Little do they know, spinach is one of the best things for ’em.  Do you like spinach?”

She smiled as she inserted her credit card in the chip reader.  She started to give an answer about spinach, but the clerk went on.  Luckily the boy bagging her groceries had already finished.  She said thanks, without having to jump into the spinach-in-lasagna debate.

 

She had two more files to close and then she’d be done for the day.  She opened a file just as a co-worker approached.  She wondered about keeping her head down and not making eye contact so as to avoid conversation.  If she acknowledged her co-worker, she’d be enveloped in drama and details from the previous weekend that had nothing to do with her.  But even keeping her head down wouldn’t protect her.  “Wow.  You must have a lot going on.  What’s that file about?”  What could have taken 20 minutes turned into 40.

 

Between the teller at the bank and the clerk at the post office, she learned about the lives of people that she would never meet.

She knew secrets about people who didn’t know her name.

She knows things about folks that they only learn during the process of talking to her.  She’s heard people say, “I guess I needed to tell someone that.”  “It feels good to unload.”  “I haven’t thought of that in years, I can’t believe I’m telling you this.”

If she had a dollar for every time someone said, “I’ve never told anyone that before,” she could afford to move to a deserted island.

 

A long time ago she realized that she was some sort of conduit for processing other people’s stuff.   It was not her job to fix anything.

She just listened.  She listened and let it pass through her.

Sometimes they felt a little better having been heard.  Often times, they felt embarrassed for having divulged so much that ought to be personal.  They’d laugh at themselves and apologize, and do the same thing the next time she saw them.

It was as if they couldn’t help themselves.

 

One evening found her at a social engagement that she hadn’t wanted to attend.  She’d tried coming up with an excuse.  She wanted to stay home, but The Voice said, “Come on.  You never go out.  It’ll be good for you.”

She went.  He talked.  A lot.  At the end of the night he said, “I’ve missed talking to you.”

She smiled.

What could she say?  “Thank you?”  “I missed listening to you?”  “I’m glad you like to talk to me?”

He drove away as she turned the key in her door.

She put her purse on the table and saw the cat waiting for her in their favorite chair – the one where they sat together in silence.

The Map

Margaret had spread a blanket in the grass.  Basil was unfolding the map and placing it on the blanket.  Gladys put boulders on each corner in an effort to keep the wind from stealing the map.  Margaret started cutting the pie. 

“None for me, Margaret.”

“Gladys!  Why must you insist on worrying about your waistline.  There’s really no point in that now, dear.”  Margaret handed a plate of pie to Basil.

“Old habits die hard, Margaret.””

“Thank you, Margaret,” Basil poured the coffee.   “This one’s map is a bit confusing with lots of detours and rarely a straight line from point A to point B.”

Gladys took a sip of coffee.  “She must have been an indecisive one, I figure.”

Margaret laughed.  “It certainly makes for an interesting journey that way.”

 

Just then Jon came up.  “What are you guys doing?”

“Oh we’re just enjoying another map, dear.  Pie?”

“Sure, Margaret.  I love your pie.”

Basil pointed at the left side of the map.  “Look here.  We see a relatively straight line that represents birth to about the college years.  Just that one detour when she quit college briefly, but I see she got back on course at this point.”  Basil traced his finger along a red line.  “But it’s here that we see the line veer way off course.  I wonder why she thought that was a good idea?”

Jon put down his fork and looked at the map more closely.  “Looks to me like that detour taught her how to appreciate art and creativity.  I don’t see how that was a bad choice.”

Gladys pointed at a fork in the road.  “What do you figure happened there?”

Jon looked at Gladys like she had a third eye.  “How else would she have gotten those awesome kids of hers?”

Margaret nodded.  “You are so right, Jon.  And look at that spot.”  The red line appeared to be broken and a new red line started an inch away.

Jon sat back and looked at the other three.  “That was a major detour.  The one that saved her kids.”

Jon moved the empty pie plates to the side and crouched over the map.  He pointed at a juncture and said, “This is where she learned some of what she didn’t want.”  He pointed to another spot and said, “This is where she learned what she would not accept.”  He put his finger on another bend and said, “This is where she reinvented herself.  Again.”  Moving his finger further, “Here she decided she didn’t need to like football.  Turns out she never did, she just thought she was supposed to.”  They all chuckled.  Margaret said, “I never did like football much, but I liked the sound of it playing on a Sunday afternoon when I was baking.”

Jon pointed again, “Here she started a new career right after rejoining a previous segment.  It’s almost like her route made a circle.”  Margaret said, “Oh!  Isn’t that when she and her kids moved back to their old house?  That was a fine course correction.”

Gladys looked up from the map.  “Wouldn’t she have gotten to where she was going quicker if she’d taken a more direct route?  What if she’d avoided all those detours?”

Jon smiled.  “Don’t you see, Gladys?  If it weren’t for the detours, she wouldn’t be who she is.”

 

“Not all those who wander are lost.”  —  J R R Tolkien

 

 

 

An INFJ Goes for a Walk

There’s a guy at the office who calls me Smiley.

While my default expression at home is probably more like a resting tired face*, my public face is usually smiling.

I once walked around the mezzanine of a Texas dance hall.  The space was filled with vendors selling concho belts, cowboy hats, turquoise jewelry and beer in white plastic cups.  I had never been to Texas before, and while I’m not afraid of dancing, I wanted to see what else went on in the dance hall.  As I walked the loop, I greeted vendors and watched the dancers down below.  On my second pass, a vendor said, “You’re the only person in this place with a smile on her face.”

I learned a long time ago that a quick smile makes interactions more pleasant.  It wasn’t until today that I realized that it’s that smile that attracts folks to me.  All along I thought I had a magnet in my back pocket.

 

I’ve written about how the kids brace themselves before we get to the checkout line at the store because I will be paying for groceries and hear the clerk’s life story.

I can’t mail a package without learning about the postal employee’s 20 year battle with arthritis, even though I don’t have arthritis, know nothing about arthritis, and simply said, “How are you today?”

 

I left the house this morning to walk the hill at the park.  Jen insisted I take the bear spray.  We don’t live in a scary neighborhood (the bears are usually about 60 miles north and west of here), and I hate packing anything when I walk, but for her sake, I took the spray.

On my descent, I saw a fellow sipping coffee from a thermos cup.  He was the only person in the parking lot.  He turned as I approached.  I smiled and said, “Good morning.”

Does that sound flirtatious to you?

 

He talked.  I smiled and listened.

I am an INFJ.

I don’t flirt.  I don’t know how to flirt.  Watching others flirt upsets my stomach.

 

He talked of when he lived in Montana, why he is here now, his passion for studying Big Foot, his love of ceramics, the chaos over Muslims in the Middle East, Folf, his Roman Catholic upbringing, has anti-war stance and what it’s like to be a senior person on a college campus.

He didn’t have any teeth, and he wore a pony tail that looked like a failed attempt at a man bun.

I’m not judging.  I’m fleshing out the character in this story.

(Okay, I might be judging a little.  I am an INFJ.)

Some of the conversation was interesting, but I’ll admit to trying to get a word in to excuse myself.

Finally! His grandson came down from throwing a frisbee and said, “Pops! It’s time to go!”

I said, “Yeah, nice visiting with you, I have to get back to my kids.”

He stuck out his hand and said, “What’s your name?  Are you single?”  His grip tightened, not in a scary way, but I did grab his wrist with my left hand to release my right hand from his.  I waved and said, “See ya!” as I walked off.  He said, “You’re cute!  If you ever get bored …”

I walked home fast.  I wasn’t so much smiling as laughing.

I walked in the door and Jen asked, “How was your walk?”  I told Jen that I was glad she’d insisted I take the bear spray.  When I explained, she said she was glad I’d taken the spray, too.  She wasn’t at all surprised, because she knows what I attract.

 

As I sit here typing this post, I’m smiling.  I’m smiling at the Universe for continually putting these types in my path.  I never really understood why before.  I didn’t know what I was doing to bring this into my world.

Now I know it’s my smile.  It’s my smile and my ability to listen, and there are so many people out there who just want to be heard.

 

 

*Why must they refer to that as a Resting Bitch Face?

 

 

I

 

Oh! The Problems

I’m not well-read.  I’m not one of those intellectual sorts – those cool people – who can quote verse or lines from a classic.  Could be that my memory sucks.

I tell my kids that I’m fun to watch movies with because I could have watched it last weekend, but by this weekend, I won’t remember how it ends.  So, yes, if you want to watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty for the 47th time, I’d love to.  (But, seriously, that movie is a favorite.)

I’ve never gotten into poetry, which is weird because I love art.  I occasionally read a poem that clicks with me, and then I think, “See? I could get into poetry,” but I never pursue poets or collect favorite poems. What am I supposed to do with a poem?  What does it fix?  Does it make me better?

You probably love poetry, and at this moment, you are typing a response about how poetry leads to escape, and transformation, and understanding and beauty.

And one day, when I’m not the mom and the dad and the realtor and the teacher, I’ll find time to read poetry.

Maybe.

 

I start a lot of books, and read until my mood changes.  I have several different books laying around the house – non-fiction, self-help, fiction and more self-help.  Depending on my mood, I’ll pick up one, read a bit, run out of tea, make a cup, and come back.  By the time, the tea has brewed, my mood has changed, and I pick up a different book.

Maybe I have commitment issues.  (That made me laugh.)

A few years ago, I declared that I was done with self-help books.  I checked out two at the library last Tuesday.  I never will be done with self-help.  It’s an addiction, like coffee and complaining.  All three feel good, even if they aren’t always good for me.

So it’s no surprise that when I was driving to the office with the muffled sounds of public radio filling the car, thinking about phone calls to make, and documents to download, Garrison Keillor read a line from a novel that I wasn’t familiar with.  (Garrison Keillor could very likely make me enjoy poetry, but I digress.)

 

“Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own,” from Nelson Algren’s novel, A Walk on the Wild Side.

 

I was pulling into a parking spot as he read the words.  Luckily I didn’t scrape the car next to mine.

My mind raced with, “How come I’ve never heard that before?”  “Sure wish someone had told me that 45 years ago as I was about to venture out into the dangerous world of relationships!”  “Now you tell me?

(To be clear, I changed the gender to make it more applicable to my experience.  Never sleep with a man …..)

As I set up my laptop to get some work done, I thought through the list – it’s not a long list – of “relationships” and their problems.  Okay, the list of problems was long.

Yep.  He had more issues than me.  Whoa, he had way more problems than me.  Uh huh, he had problems that I shouldn’t have touched with a 10-foot pole.

And then I thought about all my problems.  Who’d want to touch those with a 10-foot pole?

WE ALL HAVE PROBLEMS.

Gawd!  Why do we bother sleeping with anyone?  Show me one who doesn’t have problems!

The worst part is, the problems aren’t revealed until the vulnerability sets in, and that’s usually after we’ve jumped in bed.  Could we really discover those issues beforehand?  On a first date:  “So, here’s my list of issues.  See that one there?  I’m working on it.  That one there, well, honestly, that’ll never be resolved, no matter how much I throw at it.  Show me your list.”  He reaches into his jacket pocket.  “Here’s mine.”  Some are highlighted.  One, in particular, has been crossed out so much she can’t read the letters underneath.  “What’s that one?”  He winces, “Oh, that’s too embarrassing.”

They shake hands, split the bill and decide they would be better off not sleeping together.

Right.  Like that is part of any relevant reality.

 

I’m still chewing on the line from Algren’s novel, as the last stack of documents come off the printer, warmed by the process of tumbling through the machine.  I decide, “Yep.  Never getting into another relationship again.  Never.  Never.  Never.”  Too scary.  Too many problems.  Too much isn’t revealed until it’s too late.  On my side, and his.

I could take up poetry, learn to paint as well as 14, listen to more of Keillor’s soothing voice, become well-read, or learn to love fishing like 18, and keep my list of problems to myself.