I used to swim across the lake on summer afternoons or humid evenings as dinner was being grilled. It’s a narrow lake, not terribly deep and the most harmful creatures in it are probably the little snapping turtles or the sharp edges of the freshwater clam shells that can slice into the soft bottoms of your feet.
Still, swimming across has always been a courageous act for me. It meant facing my fears of murky water, of not knowing what lies beneath – and so I would swim as fast as I could, then rest at the other side and give myself a moment’s pause to catch my breath, to look out over the smooth surface of the water, and feel for a moment triumphant, before diving under and willing my body out again, where I moved by faith that no giant creature would pull me under as I made my way home.
It’s always been that way for me with water, with fearing the unknown, even the incredibly mundane and most innocent of the unknown, the small barnacles that cling to the bottoms of boats. The knowledge that you only ever see half of a buoy, and that there are chains going down, down in dark waters, holding them in place.
There has always been a fear of what lies beneath the surface, and a drive to reach the shore as quickly as possible.
This summer, I’m in the water again, but metaphorically. We’re only just getting started, but in the past week we’ve become absorbed in working our way through the Enneagram system. It’s an in-depth and challenging look at who you are (in different scenarios and in different states of mental health) and why. I’m willing myself to go deep and to acknowledge what’s beneath the surface.
I’m a Type 2, the Helper (or Giver), or more specifically, I’m the Hostess.
The title fits me, I think. Most of my friends know that I’m a social, game night hosting, lend an ear, cook you a meal, pour you a drink, go for a walk to talk, go nuts with gift-giving, compliment your shoes, sort of person. I love, and take pride in, making people feel at home and in making sure that they know that they belong.
I’ve cried three times this week.
You see, unlike Myer’s Briggs, the Enneagram system goes to your core. It doesn’t just take you out on a short boat ride to the middle of your being and give you the opportunity to take a snapshot of who you are that you can then go and compare with your friends and laugh about over dinner.
No, the Enneagram system takes you out on a boat, to the center of yourself, and makes you dive, into the deepest, murkiest waters, and then find your way home.
It’s forcing me to recognize if there are times where subconscious motivations are behind my altruism, especially if I’m in an unhealthy state. Helpers/Givers, at their center, struggle with feeling that they belong, anywhere. They struggle with feeling unconditionally loved, and thus pour themselves out to others, so that they can be indispensable, so that they won’t be abandoned. Theirs is the fear that if you don’t need them, you will leave.
They pour so much out, they focus so hard on relationships and loved ones, that they forget, almost completely, about themselves. About what they want (outside of the love of others).
I laid down on my bed after my shower this afternoon, put a cold compress on my eyes and, as I breathed in and out, I allowed myself to only think of what I want. Outside of any other specific relationship. What do I want? What will make me fulfilled, so that I can continue to help and give to others? (Without the shadow side of myself lurking in the depths and making me feel worth less than I am.)
So, I wrote a mental list:
I want to be present with my children.
I want to hike.
I want to create, for myself, not only for my clients.
I want to stop apologizing or feeling guilty for doing things for myself.
I want to remember how fearfully and wonderfully I am made.
I want to remember to sit quietly.
I want to remember that my desire to do for others is not bad.
I want to create boundaries, where boundaries are needed.
I want to write.
I want to host good friends over for good food and conversation, and I want to let them each bring a dish.
And I want to remember that those who love me, love me. Period. (No question mark.)
The tattoo on my arm has two types of flowers. I chose them for their meanings, before I had ever even heard of Enneagrams or the term “Type 2, Wing 3.” The flowers are Queen Anne’s Lace and Coriander. Respectively they mean, “sanctuary” and “hidden worth.”
It’s like my soul was already trying to tell me to remember, before I even began this path.
It’s a good hurt. It’s a good struggle. It’s recognizing myself in ways that I would rather not. But, it’s also understanding myself in the context of a larger picture – and on many levels it’s freeing.
It’s like awakening from a night’s sleep that actually left you well rested. I’m awake.
It’s the moment when you’ve fumbled across a darkened bedroom and finally reach the light switch and can see. I can see.
It’s like surfacing after that deep dive and finally filling your lungs.