HAIKU: SYNAPTEIN

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photo credit: Birth Into Being via photopin cc

To connect makes us
human, with our lives entwined
and not ours alone.

We become neurons
as we spark and stretch the gap,
searching for meaning:

the flash of exchange
a dizzy entanglement
of selves and of truths.

We reach endlessly,
Some seeking fidelity
and homophily;

others simply want
to be reminded that they
exist here at all.

And then the spark dies–
a sudden disconnect from
the frenzied coupling

as if the neurons
became aware all at once
of their exposure.

To connect makes us
naked and vulnerable.
It’s not for the weak.

As we take pieces
of others, we risk losing
pieces of ourselves.

Every transmission
seeks a nerve, laden with the
threat of contusion.

Yet we give off sparks
in the hope of connecting
and reconnecting,

part of the system,
the keepers of memories,
stokers of the fire.

To connect makes us
warm, hungry, hurt, and question.
It makes us human.

DENOUEMENT

“Tell me how it ended,” he said, over lunch one afternoon. “Was it sudden? It seemed sudden.”

The summer sun was warm on my face. Last year’s autumn felt like a lifetime ago.

“It was… and it wasn’t, all at the same time,” I replied, swallowing the aftertaste of grief. “I think, in a way, it always feels a bit sudden. But things had been unraveling for years. The threads came loose more quickly than I could tie them up.”

He nodded, “Some friends of mine had a whirlwind courtship. They seemed pretty happy for a while. Shortly after they got married and had a child, the husband just sort of snapped, like someone flipped a switch. He disappeared for a few days, and when he came home, he barricaded himself in the bedroom. He would only come out to go to work. This went on for about a week before he was just done with it all and left. He doesn’t even see or talk to his kid. He’s completely cut off from that part of his life.”

Coping mechanism… I thought. I wonder what pushed him to that point. I wonder if it’s easier that way…

I took another bite of salad, feeling for the wife in my friend’s story. So many unanswered questions. Did she blame herself?

“That’s hard–to not get closure on something like that,” I said. “That’s something I had to come to terms with over the past ten months: sometimes, you never get the answers you need, and you have to be able to move on without them or you’ll go crazy.”

The air was heavy with the weight of our conversation. An unsaid expectation danced in the breeze of the words. What badge of wisdom had I earned over the past nine years? Was it hope? Bitterness? Comfort? I sounded like I had it figured out, but I wondered how much of that was an act to protect myself. If I could convince everyone around me that I had my shit together, well, then I must, right?

He leaned back in his chair and shifted his gaze down the busy street. “What scares the shit out of me the most is how people change. You commit to a person who may be someone else completely in five years–or even seemingly overnight, like my friend’s husband. You can’t control it, and sometimes, you don’t even see it coming… How the hell do you deal with that?”

A bead of condensation slid down the side of my glass. My mind grappled for a response–something positive but also real.

Take it in stride. Don’t get married. Try to grow together as much as you can. Make sure you’re with someone who is as committed to building something together as they are to building themselves. Sometimes things fall apart so you can build something better from the rubble. Lifetime commitments are unrealistic. If only love really did conquer all…

I didn’t have an answer. I still don’t.

REMINDER: MAKE LOVE YOUR LEGACY

Let us begin. (Photo credit: Pensive Pilcrow.)

Let us begin. (Photo credit: Pensive Pilcrow.)

Life is short. This clichĂ© has been said countless times in millions of different ways, making it easy to dismiss… until you glimpse it every day.

I started the Pep Tweet Project a little over a month ago. The idea is simple: tweet little messages of encouragement to complete strangers who need it. Since it began on March 10, I’ve reached out to almost 100 people who tweeted various things such as asking for luck on exams, requesting prayers for a sick relative in the hospital, or venting about a bad day. My “pep tweets” aren’t always acknowledged, but that’s ok because that isn’t the point. If even one person a day–a week–gets some wind back in his or her sails from a tweet that took me 60 seconds or less, the project is fulfilling its purpose.

What I didn’t bargain for were some life lessons for myself in all of this. In reaching out to folks, I’ve noticed a recurring theme of life being short–sometimes extremely short. I’ve seen myriad people talking about lives being snuffed out early and abruptly, often when those lives had so much more to give. It’s been a jarring reminder that we don’t know what tomorrow holds. We take minutes, hours, entire lifetimes for granted. We bitch and moan about the smallest of meaningless things. We put off telling a loved one how deeply we care, thinking we have another day and another.

The Pep Tweet Project has forced me to ruminate on the kinds of relationships I’m nurturing in my life and the legacy I am crafting for myself. If I died tomorrow, would I be satisfied with my work in this world thus far? Would there be words regretfully unsaid or acts of kindness remorsefully left undone? Would I take moments back, longing to spend that time in a different way?

What I’m saying has been said before. This is nothing new to you. But the Universe likes to send us little reminders every once in a while; perhaps this is yours. It’s easier to let the hustle/bustle of life push the important-yet-everyday stuff to the back burner than it is to make it a constant priority. But make yourself a note if you have to. Schedule it in your calendar. Tie a string around your finger. Tattoo it on your heart.

Because this is the stuff life is truly made of. Not money, things, or how someone did you wrong. In the end, you’re left with how much you loved and how much you were loved in return. That love is how we live on–even after we are gone.

EARNING IT: A CONFESSION ON UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

Confession: It’s difficult for me to accept unconditional love. Sometimes, it’s really difficult. Unless you’re my mother, I can’t imagine a situation where I would ever deserve someone’s love without restraint, rules, or boundaries. It’s simply unfathomable to me.

In fact, for years, I doubted such a thing even existed. I remember pensive late nights in my teenage years (must have been a day that ended in “Y”) rolling the question around in my mind. Is unconditional love possible? If it is, is it healthy? A million scenarios flashed and fluttered as variables to work into the equation. Cheating, lies, violence, betrayal–do those all merit unconditional love? I decided somewhere between age 15 and 18 that they didn’t.

But then a funny thing happened: unconditional love found me, not as a recipient but as a gifter of it. Helplessly and without end, I poured affection, kind words, and support out to those closest to me–even after they doused my heart in gasoline and tossed the match, sometimes simply to watch it burn. That’s the thing about hearts, you see. They love senselessly with abandon, and even a charred heart of ashes beats with that love.

So if I can give unconditional love this freely, why am I so hesitant to receive it? Why do I examine it in disbelief and wonder, waiting for it to crumble into dust in my hands?

Perhaps it’s this idea that I am forever a work in progress, and a work in progress needs something to keep it motivated. Unconditional love is a rather finite end; how does one transcend that level of caring? Where’s the journey there?

Maybe I’m afraid of taking unconditional love for granted. Maybe I’m scared of someone loving me that completely. But I think, mostly, I’m scared of becoming lazy in earning someone’s love…. even if it doesn’t take much to earn my own.

ENOUGH WITH THE -VERTS ALREADY

Love all the -verts!

Love all the -verts!

“Introvert” is one of the top buzzwords of 2013. The introvert/extrovert sensation rages across Buzzfeed, Forbes, Inc., etc. It sells books and moves magazines. It creates a divide of us vs. them, with accusations like “Well, of course you don’t get it. You’re an extrovert!” being thrown around carelessly.

The media has pushed us into thinking we are polarized as introverts or extroverts, forsaking middle ground. People across the globe had a “Ohhhhh, THAT’S what introverted really means?” moment when they discovered that it has nothing to do with being shy or disliking people. And maybe that’s where the trouble began: a deeply rooted misunderstanding (and sometimes mistreatment) of introverts. Introverts threw their fists into the air and shouted, “We will not go quietly into the night! We are not broken! Now leave us alone!” And thus the introvert reclamation was born.

Recently, the “ambivert” movement has been gaining traction as the key to life’s social interaction mysteries, some even claiming most of us are ambiverts. While I agree that many of us are “somewhere in the middle” of the -vert spectrum, the idea that we’re all so closely aligned to the middle of it that we can’t identify with either type doesn’t hold. Most of us, given the proper questions, scenarios, and testing, would show a preference for one mode of function over the other. Oh, and apparently ambiverts do it better.

Enough with the -verts, people.

Whatever your preferred -vert function, it’s only a fraction of your personality. One fourth, to be exact, according to Myers-Briggs. Your -vert is your energy locus. Introverts gain energy through alone/downtime; extroverts refuel their energy supplies through being around others; and ambiverts are somewhere in between. While our energy locus can color our personalities (some more than others), the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) points us to further distinguishing characteristics.

The MBTI is made up of four parts (or letters) creating a total of 16 different combinations (or types):

1) I/E: preference for introversion/extroversion – where we get energy
2) N/S: preference for iNtuition/sensing – how we gather information
3) F/T: preference for feeling/thinking – how we make decisions
4) J/P: preference for judging/perceiving – how we deal with and give structure to the world around us

Which of these seems more likely to influence the way we behave, if we understand each other, or even if we like one another? I’m betting you’re thinking of a number between 2 and 4 right now. Here’s a breakdown of keywords associated with each MBTI preference. (See bottom of post for more info on figuring out which type you are.)

MBTI preferences at a glance.

Your type is defined by which function you prefer the most–the one in the left column or the one on the right. For example, I am an Introvert who tends to trust iNtuition, value Feeling, and organizes through Judging. This makes INFJ my MBTI.

Personally, the MBTI marker that I get hung up on the most is the third one–the feeling/thinking preference. I have a difficult time understanding where a “T” is coming from, being that I strongly lean “F.” And while someone who is a strong extrovert will wear this (mostly) introvert down with prolonged interaction, I understand and get along quite well with my “E” counterparts. I’d even argue that the relationship between introverts and extroverts can be symbiotic, balancing each other out. I love going to parties with extroverts because they tend to enjoy doing all the talking, which frees me up to listen and process on the periphery.

As with any spectrum, there are varying degrees of polarity. Nothing will be one-size-fits-all, but that’s why I like the MBTI so much: rather than dividing people into two, three, or four categories like other personality inventories, the MBTI offers more flexibility and accuracy with 16 different types. It better accounts for the richness in our nature rather than pigeonholing us into narrow, diametrical terms.

So can we move on from the hype over introvert vs. extrovert vs. oh, by the way, what about ambiverts? Can we stop talking about them in terms of difference and focus instead on understanding one another? Further, can we celebrate each type–wherever it may fall on the -vert spectrum–for exactly what it is as opposed to suggesting how it can improve? That is, after all, the very basis of the MBTI: a tool for understanding others–not segregating them.

Whatever -vert you are, know that you are awesome in all your -verty glory. You “T” folks, however, I’ve got my doubts about you… ;)

P.S. This article from Scientific American puts forth an interesting question: is it sensitive introversion or narcissism? There’s a Likert-style inventory at the end to help you suss it out.


If you don’t already know your MBTI, the folks at SimilarMinds.com have a few good, easy, and free inventories to help you discover it. Here’s their quick and dirty test. There are several others under the “Jung” heading if that one does not satisfy you. And I prefer TypeLogic’s website for in-depth descriptions of each type if you’re curious about your MBTI as well as the other 15.