Good morning beautiful Monday! Today I return to the world of probabilities, rhetoric and packed lunches, and my slightly exaggerated week of alone time finally comes to a close. I have never been so relieved to drive down to the Sacramento airport and fetch a friend back into my life. Missions trip week and spring break scattered my roommates and friends across the globe, leaving me talking to the stray cat we feed, striking up conversations with strangers in the store, and teaching myself how to make coffee, despite the fact that I’m not a coffee drinker (unless the cup is overwhelmed with creamer and sweeteners).
I have been having a fascinating time coming up with ways to amuse myself—mainly ways to stay out of the house. On day one, I managed to eat all three of my meals in different outdoor locations. The ideas are not the problem; convincing myself that they’re worth following through on alone is the problem. Creativity isn’t quite as fun unless it’s shared. But I resolved that I was not going to mope around in my empty house. After a few tears (yes, I cried), I thought to myself, “good grief Amy! You have a life! Please enjoy it, even if it’s all by yourself!” I think I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this—just me.
Life has an uncanny way of giving us unavoidable situations in which to deal with things we would otherwise sweep into the “uncomfortable” pile. There are some things we only look at squarely when we have to, and the topic of being an individual is one of those issues for me. I am one too easily defined by the people I hold closest. I love adapting and getting to know what brings others joy. But sometimes, I become so caught up in all this that I forget what it looks like just to be myself. Then, when everybody goes away, it’s like I left too. It’s uncomfortable, not just because I sincerely prefer to live life with other people, but because I forget how to live pure and simply as me, without having others around to shape what that looks like.
I read once people with my personality (ENFP) can “get into another person’s shoes and identify with that individual’s thoughts and feelings so readily, they run the risk of virtually losing their own identity.” Awesome. And yes, I run into that problem from time to time! To compensate, I find myself constantly scanning the world I share with those around me, looking for the pieces I bring into it, because those are the pieces that are mine; those pieces are me. Sometimes I have a hard time seeing these pieces on my own. What may seem obvious to others is completely lost to my eyes, and I am definitely guilty of relying on the feedback of others to help me find them. Because of this, I have always been curious as to whether all us ENFPs share a common need for the Words of Affirmation Love Language. It’s like each of those words adds one more dot in a dot-to-dot drawing I am trying to piece together.
Being alone can be a terrifying thing. If you lose all the other people, even for a week, you lose all the little landmarks that help you make sense of what is defined as “your life”. You are forced to be an individual, and in the case of a confessing ENFP, discover how little you know about being one.
Henri Nouwen, an author who challenges the way I think says, “our solitude roots us in our own hearts,” and that “solitude always strengthens community.” I didn’t like him very much when I first read those words. Those words were true, and I disliked him putting me in a spot to accept it.
So much of what I value is coming together, sharing life, and practicing community. But can I truly be me in the context of others, if I cannot be me by myself? It seems counterintuitive that to do this “being together” well, I have to step away and stand alone. I walk a continual journey in discovering that there is no “us” without a “me” and a “you.” There is no community without individuals. Only from a place where I am myself, can I then bring the free gift of who I am to those around me. I get to bring me without the grey of demands. You can only give gifts if you know what you have to give away. In as much as I need the people around me, they need me to be me. And sometimes to do this, I need to walk a mile in my own shoes.