Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: labels

An Ambivert? Sunday Repost

I’ve learned a new word. Ambivert: A person who is neither clearly extroverted nor introverted, but has characteristics of each.

You guys! I cannot believe it! Another week has gone by already and here I am, spending most of my morning on the couch with a new novel, trying not to feel bad about “wasting” a day to rest.

Rest from what? Playing? Yes.

I’m a fairly social being and lately I’ve been feeling a bit…stretched thin. I need one day a week to be alone much of the day, with nothing to do but wander around in my own mind.

ambivert

When I opened up my old blog and landed on my post, Sick Of “Community” from September 2018, I knew it was the one I would share with you today. Why? Because I’m still sick of the word “community” but not the idea of it, although my idea has changed a bit.

Here’s what I had to say nearly four years ago. Keep reading to hear my newest thoughts on the concept.

Community. I hear that word every day. I see it in print. I hear people talk about it online and on TV.

“Get involved in your community!”

“Everyone should have a community of people they rely on!”

“Know what’s going on in your community!”

“Community brings people together!”

Ugg…I’m tired of hearing it and tired of trying to make it work for me only because that’s what everyone says is important.

I want to be a part of community in some sense. I enjoy the company of friends from time to time. I like having people to invite over for a BBQ, but is that community or just friends?

What about the past? I’m looking at rural farmers and fur traders, people that lived pretty isolated and only came together in groups a couple times a year at most. Were they lacking in community?

I’ve always had a hard time finding my people. It’s me, not the people. I just don’t feel like I really fit in. The more I try to work in a group, the more frustrated I become. I end up not helping the group or myself. It all seems so futile. Then I started thinking…maybe not everyone works well in groups!

Maybe being alone more will help me focus and create. Maybe, for me, Monday’s here, Wednesday’s here, Saturday’s there, volunteer at this, help this cause, etc., is just too much for me and I lose myself in it.

I’ve never been physically alone for an extended amount of time. The longest in recent years has been a three-hour stint sitting in the car waiting for my son. I read a lot. What would happen if I were alone for a whole 24 hours? 48? I’d like to experiment with that idea in the near future.

And now here I am four years later and not much has changed for me, other than a better understanding of my own needs and acceptance that this is who I am.

In the recent past, I’d begun to identify myself as an introvert. When people asked if I wanted to go somewhere or join something, I’d simply use the excuse “introvert” and walk away. But it didn’t feel right. I do enjoy the company of people, but not all people, all the time. I’m selective and I’ve finally decided that it’s ok.

Are there only “introverts” and “extroverts?” Is there more than a dichotomy? Could there be a spectrum? The answer is, yes. I’m starting to think there are no real dichotomies in this reality, everything has shades and leans one way or another, and nothing stays the same.

Why do we feel the need to label everything anyway? Maybe “community” can simply be the people that you choose to associate with, and those people are constantly changing.

Want to read last Sunday’s repost? Check out Slightly Painful Reminders.

Can We Stop “Selfing” For A Moment?

What does “selfing” mean?  In the book he says, “there is not absolute separate “self” in the first place, just the process of continual self-construction or “selfing.”

“If we could only recognize the process of selfing as an ingrained habit and then give ourselves permission to take the day off, to stop trying so hard to be “somebody” and instead just experience being, perhaps we would be a lot happier and more relaxed.” From Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Continual self-construction. This is who am, not this. That is who am. I don’t know about you, but I have struggled with that most of my life. My awareness of it started in high school when I wasn’t part of any social group. I had a few friends in the theater, in band, in sports, and in classes. But who were my people? A remember a girl, one in the 90’s we called “goth,” telling me the reason why she liked me. I didn’t dress like them or act like them, I simply hung out with them at lunch sometimes, talking about the darker side of life. I didn’t seem to need to blend in and become them.

That was a rare moment that I felt accepted just as I was. And strange, I can’t remember her name, just her words and that feeling.

It was the same at university, at work, and then once I was married with children, it happened again. Moms have cliques. Did you know that? Stay-at-home moms, working moms, single moms, attachment parents, cry-it-out parents, vegan, organic, eat whatever you want please just leave me alone for a moment moms. The list goes on and on. They separate out into smaller and smaller playgroups, and I was a little bit of all of them.

When we decided to homeschool…oh man. The separating into those like me and not like me exploded. There I was again, not exactly like any one group. On the outside again.

Religion, politics, health, etc. I don’t seem to fit into any group completely. Does anyone?

It’s all based on this continual self-construction idea. We let words and ideas define who we are and how we should react to the world around us. We separate into camps and put up barriers between them.

What if we didn’t? What if we took a break from being “somebody” and just experienced being right in this very moment, with these very people? If we did it successfully for several days in a row, we’d probably never go back.

That’s what I’m doing today. I’m nobody. Each experience that comes across my path today, I will greet and embrace with curiosity and a smile. It does not add or subtract from my being. It only exists, as I do. It feels incredibly freeing to let go of labels and titles.

Can This Cardinal Rule of Politics Apply To Any Discussion?

What exactly is a “cardinal rule” anyway?

It’s a fundamental rule that acts as hinge to other interactions. Breaking a cardinal rule is something that can make a big mess of things, end discussions and relationships, and burn bridges.

“International politics is indeed a little like the mad tea party where Alice had to learn that you can mean what you say without saying it, as well as say what you mean without meaning it. The cardinal rule is this: Never reason from labels.”

The Philosophy of Peace by John Somerville

I read this and was floored, mostly because I’ve come to that conclusion myself and here it is again, in a 70-year-old book. This book was about politics, so the cardinal rule was related to that, but the rule applies everywhere and in every sphere.

What does it mean to “reason from labels?” I’m considering a scene where I’ve done this very thing…

I’m sitting in the grassy shade beneath a tree at the local park with my young “school age” children. They’re up on the monkey bars, swinging from the feet and hands, doing the crazy things young boys do. Another mom is in the park doing the same thing. It’s noon on a Tuesday during the public-school year, so I assume she’s probably like me, a homeschooler.

I approach and ask if she’d like company. She’d love it, she says. Being at home with kids all day, it’s nice to talk with another adult, especially another homeschooler. We can skip the usually why, how, and what about socialization questions.

We sit in the shade, sipping our iced tea, sharing stories about the kids. Her stories are filled with getting the kids to events, meeting with teachers, and testing. She has a been having trouble getting the kids to sit and stay focused on their assignments. One isn’t going to pass a class. And the other is below grade level. She asks how I deal with these things and I’m at a loss for words. I have no problems like these.

In my mind, I’m beginning to grumble. “This is not homeschooling!” is my main concern. I feel like she’s used the wrong label. I’ve bought a product and begun to use it, yet the contents of the package are not what’s on the label. What am I supposed to do with this?!

We’re at an impasse, unable to honestly communicate.

She could say the same about me. I used the label “homeschooler” and describe an entirely different (and probably shocking) life with my children. We have no teachers, curriculum, or tests. There is no grade-level, no assignments to complete. We simply read books together and go places. We read, talk, listen, and experience the world around us. That is our “school.”

When you put labels on people, you assume what’s inside based on your preconceived definition, instead of discovering the specific person you are talking to. I can create a profile and put a slew of labels on myself, and when you read it, you’ll think you know the kind of person I am. But you’d be wrong.

Time and time again, I’ve found a label for something I do or feel, discover a group with that label, and jump in. “These are my people!” I think, only to find that the people inside that label aren’t at all like me. “I must be a freak. I belong to no group at all.”

We do the same to others every time we label them and put them in groups. “You’re not a real (insert label here), because you don’t do this like me!” Then we all isolate each other.

What if we stopped? What if there were no other labels than your name? And when we talked to each other, we simply listened to the other person describe their feelings and experiences, their reasoning and the way they live, and we accept it as valid and correct for them?

What if we had conversations with people without labeling them or ourselves? Instead of thinking, “That person is a (label) and I’m not (label), so I can use none of that information.” We can instead think, “This person has an interesting way of living or thinking, maybe some of it will work in my life.” We may actually get somewhere, adopt some new and exciting behaviors, and make new connections in ways we didn’t know possible.

Labeling is the same as name calling. It pushes everyone not exactly like you outside of your circle. It make everything “us vs them” and ends any productive discussion.

I posted about The Philosophy of Peace by John Somerville when I started reading it. Click that link to read the post! I also found a great article about the ideology of peace and war called “Peace, War, and Philosophy” at Encyclopedia.com It was a nice summary of some ideas and led me, once again, down a rabbit warren of new things to read.


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Battles

Something I’ve found very true over the last several years is that people really love their labels and will fight you to the death to keep them.

The biggest battles I’ve heard between good people are over who is a “real” Christian, homeschooler, vegan, etc., and who is not. There are millions of other labels out there. I’m sure you can think of a few that you put on yourself.

I was warned years ago, not to put labels on my children as we raised them without school. We learned to look at that individual child, their likes and dislikes, their quirks, their preferences, their patterns, and love them. We supported them to get they wanted or needed, not because that’s how this label needs things, but because that’s how this particular child learns best at this moment in time.

This past month I’ve been looking at and discovering some new ways of living and relating. I instantly began to label myself and as I looked at that label and the myriad of different people that choose that label, I started to feel bad about myself because I didn’t seem to measure up. I wasn’t “real.”

And that’s when I saw it. Labels really do suck. They tie you down to a prescribed list of details that may or may not relate to you, that may not help you at all but hinder you because you can’t wrap your head around that part of the label.

I dropped the label in my mind. I stopped following and attempting to join groups that called themselves by that label and suddenly I felt so much better.

I’m not a “real” anything but the “real” Michelle.

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