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Hoge Poge and My Brother’s Birthday

I promise you I have been off any pain meds except Tylenol for over two weeks. Pain medicine makes my coffee taste terrible for a couple of months after I quit taking it and I am definitely addicted to my coffee.  But, as usual for someone who loves thinking about theories or possibilities instead of paying attention to the actual world around her, peculiarities still happen. I got to a doctors appointment recently and as they were taking my blood pressure, I realized I had my blouse on inside out. Of course, me being me, I didn’t keep quiet and just take the first chance alone to right it. The two nurses swore they hadn’t noticed. Which worried me a bit, because I like my medical people to stay aware of the real world in front of them, particularly when I am it.

Then a few nights ago when I was still wearing my back brace at night, I awoke to make one of my usual trips to check out the plumbing, but couldn’t get up because I was unable to move my arms. Luckily before I panicked, my attempts to free my arms made that noise peculiar to Velcro being tugged loose. It happens that the two wrist braces I wear at night for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome have Velcro similar to that on the back brace. Somehow, I had Velcroed my arms to my body. I woke my husband up with my laughter, but managed to get loose without help.

Strange things also come to memory when I have way too much time on my hands while recuperating from back surgery.
Today is my brother’s birthday. He’s my only sibling and ten years younger than I am. I was trying to remember anything about the day he was born, but couldn’t. I don’t know if I just wasn’t sufficiently impressed with that event or perhaps I was significantly depressed and blotted it out. Because I do remember riding the train with my very pregnant mom back to St. Louis when my Dad got a job there after being in the army. She was very uncomfortable in the old Pullman berth and needed my pillow. I think that was my first clue that this wasn’t going to be like getting a kitten.
I remember living on the seventh floor without air conditioning and only having screens on the windows. And when my brother was about eighteen months old I found him sitting on the window sill in the bedroom with his face pressed against the flimsy screen. I didn’t scream or grab for him, but I did get mom.  Then we had to live with those child gates on all the windows. Kind of like a kiddie prison decor.

He had natural talent in art and music, but as the “late” child never got lessons. Where as, my nun piano teacher after three or four years suggested they try me on the drum instead. Life is not fair, is it? But when he was twelve and I had married and moved to Tennessee, I sent money for him to go to the Fine Arts Museum for Art Lessons. Unfortunately, I think my mother quit driving him to them, when she found out they were doing life painting of nudes. Oh, well, at least I tried.

I have wonderful memories of the many years he came to visit us in our hundred acre, Winnie the Pooh wood.  We two city kids, that had lived seven floors up, thought we’d died and gone to heaven. He enjoyed the country even more than I did, being willing one summer to haul water in buckets up to our garden during a drought. I would have just waved good bye to those tomatoes from the house.  I fell in  love with all the weeds and rocks and spent years making crafts with them. And he would bring an empty suitcase to take back full of rocks and fossils from our creek.  He taught a class in geology in Houston which only had sand and shells.

He and I would talk until sun-up about everything from politics and religion to physics and geology. He had so much passion about everything, I loved every moment. When he was teaching in a huge high school in a very impoverished neighborhood, he was constantly at war with the administration, who seemed only interested in their own survival, not the kids welfare. I know he was a good teacher, because when he retired, the adversarial principal told him grudgingly that no matter what they asked his students, (one of whom had held a knife to my brother’s throat once), they would never “rat” him out!

So, happy birthday to my “BRO” who all my friends think is much funnier than I am. He needs to be the writer in the family, but since retirement, he has opted to fight nature and turn a flood plain into a botanical garden.  Not too different from teaching .

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Taking Criticism

Some of us react to the outside world straight from our feelings. It’s our personality.
We were born that way. We didn’t choose it. That makes us warm, caring, enthusiastic,
empathetic, but also sensitive.
We may be able to move to logic eventually, but our first response is emotional.
If we also happen to be perfectionists, this makes us very vulnerable, particularly to
criticism.
Those of us who express our inner selves through art, writing, music, photography, etc.,
are particularly sensitive to criticism of our creations. It’s as if our very souls are up for
evaluation. Any editing or suggestion for improvements seems like total rejection of whom
we are.
Sadly, since nothing and no one are perfect, often our inability to deal constructively
with editing, criticism, even teaching, can defeat us by preventing our developing skills to
enhance our natural talents. Often, we simply give up and put our energies into something
that doesn’t make us feel so vulnerable. Usually something that we either don’t value as much
or doesn’t expose our inner selves, so not being perfect at it doesn’t destroy us.
We can end up with boxes and closets filled with our creative output, either never completed
or never exposed to other eyes. Maybe we risk sending something off once every ten years, but
when the 99 % inevitable result is a rejection letter, we quit risking for another ten years.
I’m 75 and a lot of what ends up on this blog was written some time ago.
The sad part is that I had affirmation in college from teachers and later got several things
published, but in between received some rejection letters, at least partially because I
sent them to inappropriate publications. Each rejection sent me into years of either not writing
or at least not risking trying to get published.
I explore the world with my intellect. I see connections between ideas, implications,
possibilities. On the Meyers/Briggs Type Indicator this indicates that I process information
with my Intuition. I focus more on the conceptual, than the concrete.
However, as a Feeling type my first response to the world comes from my emotions
and values. I can think and analyze logically, but that will not be my first or strongest response
to experiences or ideas.
There are other aspects of personality that influence us, like Extroversion/Introversion, which
describe where we tend to focus, on the outside world or our inner world.
And Judgment/Perception which describe whether we tend to stay focused on gathering
information or move quickly to decision or action.
I am grossly oversimplifying personality type as described by the MBTI, but for the purpose
of this article, it should be enough to help us recognize that there are particular recognizable
differences in how people deal with life.
Another aspect I’d like to emphasize is that there’s a natural upside to each tendency, but also
a natural downside to each that present unique challenges to each type. This is both a shock
and a gift once we recognize this. It’s a shock because we tend to believe our way of being in
the world, if not the only way, is the best way. Recognizing that every personality type has built
in strengths and weaknesses, challenges us to reevaluate many opinions and to become more
humble about our limits and our need to listen to others.
No more than about 15 % of the population are like me. It was actually a great relief to
discover that. Do you remember the Sesame Street song, “One of these is not like the others.
One of these doesn’t belong?” Well most of my life that described how I felt. Type has
explained a lot.
However, it doesn’t excuse everything. We do develop throughout life and should find it
easier to become more proficient in our weaker areas as we grow older.
But knowledge is power. If we can recognize the aspects of our natural personality that are
creating road blocks for us, we can work on finding ways around them or team up with others
whose strengths are where we are weak.

For me blogging is a way around my weaknesses in handling details, taking rejection, and                                          persevering at one long task.

I probably need several different blogs: one humorous/serious one on aging; one humorous
one on moving to the country; one humorous/serious one on a fifty-four year marriage to my
total opposite in personality, a serious one on growing spiritually through all of the above.
But for now, just having an outlet for past and present thoughts on all of these, either as they
hit me or as cleaning out files brings them to light, is a great motivator. And who knows, maybe
I’ll live long enough to gather my materials into those categories and attempt to publish them.
I have also discovered that many writers share major aspects of my personality. Since many
bloggers are writers or artists, there’s a fairly good chance that there are a significant number
of bloggers who speak my language. So, it may be easier to find an appreciative audience.
I need to share one very relevant experience. Years ago, I applied for a three year lay ministry
program. As part of this, we were given a battery of psychological tests, including IQ tests.
Then we were given feedback about any areas that might cause us problems in ministry.
I was told that I had two areas of potential weakness. One was that I had a high IQ and
probably always thought I was right in conflicts of opinion, but no one was right all the time.
The second was that I was oversensitive to criticism, though he admitted he thought there was
possibly a gender skew to the tests, since way more women tested high in that area.
I realize that what I’m about to share, does not reflect well on the IQ part, but does
really illustrate the problem. I went home very angry. My gut level first response was, “If they
know I’m so sensitive, why would they tell me that!”
This eventually made me deal with my oversensitivity as my problem, not the rest of the
world’s! Sometimes we are our own worst enemies.