A is for Ally. A is for Awesome. Aries. April. Absolutely Ass-kicking. Amazing. A is for Awfully funny.
A is also for Personality Type 'A.'
And Type A people kind of seem like assholes (also an 'A' word), pushing their way around, waiting to have heart attacks. At least that is what I get by reading all definitions about Type A personality.
Here is one definition:
A temperament characterized by excessive ambition, aggression, competitiveness, drive, impatience, need for control, focus on quantity over quality and unrealistic sense of urgency. It is commonly associated with risk of coronary disease and other stress-related ailments.
The same source defines Personality Type 'B' as:
A temperament characterized by moderate ambition and drive, accommodating attitude, cooperativeness, focus on quality over quantity and, in general, an easy going approach to life.
Apart from the moderate ambition and drive which some people (Type A) would say was "being lazy," these folks are the cool, popular, chill, everyone-likes-them folks because nothing is going to get their underpants in a bunch.
(If something does though, you have my permission to pick that bunch and go about your easy-going way. Don't let your underpants hold you back.)
As you've all figured out by now - though maybe it surprises some of you (I doubt it) - I am Personality Type A. I hate to admit it because I don't want to be seen as an asshole waiting to have a heart attack. Yet, frequently I've heard from people AFTER they've gotten to know me well what a "stellar" first impression I made.
My favorites include:
"When I first met you, I thought you were going to be a real bitch."
"You were so intense, you terrified me."
"I wanted to talk to you, but you were giving off this 'fuck off' force field."
"I wasn't sure you if you were going to be my friend or eat me for dinner."
Okay, that last one is totally made up, but the first three are true stories. (Probably somewhere along the way someone thought this.)
When I went to Girls' State in high school one summer, I quickly earned the nickname Lieutenant Intense. Clearly my personality type was overt. Unlike The Prince, I was at least still loved. (No, not The Prince as in the British Royals. And no, not as in the singer. Try, again...) This nickname was doubly fitting because I ran for the Lieutenant Governor position.
The point: I know I can be intense.
But I don't think I’m hostile or a bully (which some other site classified Type A people as). Also, my blood pressure has always been extremely healthy. Like ideal, really. So I think I'm safe from coronary disease or any kind of cardiac arrest due from stress. Not to say that I don't experience stress. The massage therapist will attest to that.
Not only do I know I can be intense, but I know that I eat my food too fast; walk too quickly where I'm going; multi-task to the point of insanity; and generally tend to fall into the pattern of imbalance. The imbalance is what gets me. (Though one could argue that with my grace (read: I don't have any) and speed, it could be that which gets me.) My imbalance results in burning out and having to hit the recharge/reset/restart button only to usually move full speed ahead into the same vicious cycle.
I recognize these things in myself. I identify them and label them. (That's the first step towards change right? Admittance?)
In January as I decided to set intentions for the year instead of resolutions, I added to the list of intentions to be more present. For me presence and mindfulness are synonymous really. It's essentially living in the moment. Being with yourself in the moment. 'Yourself' encompassing all of the senses: what you see, hear, smell, touch, taste, and then also feel and think. It's the physical and emotional makeup of a point in time. This is especially important to me as a parent- that I be fully present with my son. But this is a hard thing to try to shift when you're so much the textbook personality type that is 'A'.
I swear I try.
I start my day off with a series of mindfulness exercises in the car on my commute, from naming things I appreciate to reminding myself of my intentions. Then, I go through a mantra that I've created and say for myself, my son, and then a series of other people. When I get distracted during these exercises, I pull myself back and restart or resume, whichever is needed. I listen to classical music only on my commute in. Classical helps drown out the other noise from my thoughts and the day ahead. I feel calmer. I feel more relaxed and ready to begin my day.
Then I get out of my car and ZOOOOOM.
Full speed ahead.
Somewhere a gun fired and my horse took off and I'm holding on to its mane but my butt and legs are flailing behind its body, lifted into the air and I better not loosen my grip or I'll be thrown to the ground.
I'm beginning to think I'm incapable of any other speed.
There’s a part of me that believes I am also incapable of mindfulness meditation. I am unfamiliar with the practice of stopping to smell the roses. Maybe even disinterested, truthfully. I try, as evident by my morning routine I just shared. But, as is evident by my to do lists, Trello board’s, post-it note reminders, and mental capacity to think of the next five things I need to do and by when, I’d say that I pretty much suck at the idea of being present and living in the moment.
A lot of this is driven by ambition and motivation to get something in particular accomplished. (There's that classic Type A, right?)
While this makes me reliable, dependable, organized, detail-oriented - all the things that a lot of people around me enjoy and rely on - I’m not sure how much joy it’s bringing me. Now that being said, I find it really difficult to slow my pace. I mean this exactly as I've said it. Even something as simple as walking on the sidewalk to my car after work is challenging for me to do slowly.
Quite literally the moment that I started thinking about writing this post was when I was stuck behind two middle-aged women moseying on the sidewalk. They literally stopped to smell and look at a rosebush. I nearly laughed out loud at the irony. Clearly it was a sign from the Universe.
I thought to myself,
You should be the type of person to stop and smell the rose bush.
On some level, I want to be that person. I want to give up my personality type for another.
In reality, all I could think about was barreling them over to get to my car so I could continue about the next part of my day. Fortunately that was going to pick up my son and having the evening with him. The whole way to the car I’m thinking about whether or not I’m any better at being present when I’m with him then when I am not. (Because the other thing I do is overthink and over analyze. Also something needing desperate correction.) I very much want to be present when I’m with him, focusing on his every new word and every new curiosity in these early developmental stages. I don’t want to miss a thing. (Cue the song.)
I try to be very cognizant that the dishes can wait, the cleaning can wait, the laundry can be folded later. Whatever it is that I want to get up to, is either not as important as him or can wait until he’s napping or he’s in bed. For the most part I think that I do these things.
I guess we won't know until he's old enough to verbally provide an evaluation my parenting. Lets hope I get a good report.
Why, then, is it that I can convince myself to do this more when I’m momming- it but not when I’m just showing up for my own life?
I guess it’s because he matters to me more than I matter to me. Or maybe it’s because he’s 3 and if I’m not present he may get hurt and DCF will come and if they come than I will have fucked up my life and his all because I was not paying strong enough attention. Could be the whole accountability and ownership piece; he is relying on me. The way that I have determined or defined reliant in some part has to do with my being present in the moments with him.
When I am out with family or friends, I’m not plugged into my phone the entire time. Or, I don't think I am. (Friends alert me if this is not true!) I'm not focused on what I need to do when I get home or what emails are in my inbox. I can’t say that I’m 100% good at this. There are some times where I am definitely distracted by texts or emails. The family and friends I’m with are likely the same at times. Mostly I think when I'm with others, we are all paying pretty good attention to each other and the time and place we are in. Again the issue seems to be when I am alone.
When I am alone Type A Monster (TAM) emerges. Like a werewolf that sheds its human disguise. TAM doesn’t know how to slow her roll. She needs a makeover.
Here is where the real resistance lies. I don’t want to lose all of the steam, push, and progress, I feel I am making in creating this writing life that I want and turning it into a legitimate career opportunity (not just some side dish or affair). Being a momrepreneur or career-writer requires action, determination, energy, force. It’s hard for me to see how mindfulness or slowing down or being present during the hours that I’m alone (where I can focus on these ambitions) seems to fit.
Yet, I also recognize that after a few weeks of continuous, considered, and deliberate effort, I get a little cranky, a little burnt out. All of a sudden I come screeching to a halt, recognizing I have pushed myself too hard, too fast, too long. Then I end up needing serious time for respite to recharge and get back on it again.
Truth of it all is, I’ve got work to do. My personality type helps get it done.
I’ve not claimed to be a perfect person or a work of art. I am definitely in-progress. I’ll continue to strive for a better balance, one that includes mindfulness and being present. But damn it’s going to be hard to tame the TAM.
TAM is complicated. I love her and need her and also hate her and want to leave her on a doorstep somewhere.
Maybe I need to buy TAM a rosebush so she has the responsibility to water it and care for it every single day, and because those roses will be relying on TAM for its survival, TAM will have no choice but to stop and smell them. Then maybe TAM will chill the fuck out a little, find her balance, and when people meet her they won't run screaming from the room because she scared the shit out of them with her intense, asshole-ish ways that caused her to have a heart attack right there on the spot.
And that's really why the person went screaming from the room. To get help. Because TAM finally lost her shit and needs Oprah, Dr. Phil, and some cute doctor from Code Black, to help her get it together. And if they can't and we lose TAM, may her tombstone read:
Here lies TAM. She's very irritated by being put to rest. She still had 500 more things to do.
I don't want to go out like that. Truthfully. So, I better figure out a better way. Get TAM out of control and pick a different personality type to live with in this world. (But it's likely not going to be Type B either.) Is it too ambitious to create my own?