Saturday, August 2, 2008

Vocation and Personality Type

I am an INFP. If you don't know what that is, please google MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator); I won't try to explain it here. Anyway, I'm an INFP, with a strong tertiary T but a very weak fourth S. I actually scored "0" on the S scale once (that's rare); it's a little more developed now, but still weak enough that it is starting to dawn on me that I may never be a good "homesteader". I may never be the kind of person who can grow her own food, make her own clothes, and build her own house, with her own two hands. Oh, how I want to be that person! It kills me. I believe passionately in Wendell Berry's world: I believe that it is a poisonous lack of humility and a grave sin of our modern culture, to refuse to sweat for one's meals and insist on buying them with money instead. I so want to be the person who can cobble together leftover materials and make something beautiful and useful out of them, making do with less. I want to take a sewing pattern and adapt it, effortlessly, to actually fit the contours of my body. But it's not effortless. It's painful. I finally broke down this week and paid somebody a whole lot of money to do an amount of yard work that shamed me and left me speechless. 3 guys, in 12 hours, managed to get done -- not what it would have taken me all summer to do, but what I never, ever would have gotten done. Yard work is like dishes or dusting, it is never finished. You can't just weed out one bed and then be free to focus on another one. The stuff grows back! I don't keep up with the dishes and dusting, either, and it makes me miserable -- not living in a messy house, but seeing myself failing to be the kind of person I wish I were. I am endlessly mentally creative, but not the least bit physically creative.

I knew all this, but I have been trying to shove my round self into that square hole until I am black and blue around the edges. So what do I do now? I adjust my expectations and my goals, I guess. There are a few places this epiphany is sending my mind. One is that I have to work on my interdependence skills. I am really bad at needing people, and asking for help does not come naturally. For one thing, you will remember I am an INFP, not an ENFP. But people are, surprisingly, ready and willing to help. T has been my teacher here: he's an introvert, too, but he has a wonderfully open and generous heart. He says he has hundreds of friends, all of them really friends. People are not always available when I want something done, nor will they always work exactly to my specifications. But aha, there is another opportunity to exercise evangelical poverty: I don't have to get everything I want, exactly when and how I want it, to be happy. Instead of convenience and control, I get friends. What a concept. The flip side is, of course, being willing to be inconvenienced myself sometimes, stepping out of my introversion when someone else wants help. Living in this town -- a small municipality within a large urban metropolis -- has also taught me about community. It is a genuine community, unified in diversity.

This self-insight also, of course, has some implications for my future, my vocational path. Not having the aptitude to be physically self-sufficient doesn't mean I can't be a good and happy hermit. A hermit is a member of her community, albeit not a very visible or vocal one. Julian of Norwich,e.g., was entirely dependent on her community for her sustenance. In exchange, the hermit-monks provided spiritual direction and inspiration that grow out of their more focused contemplative and prayerful lifestyle. I can do that! People tell me I write very well, probably well enough to generate some income. To begin with I should probably change this blog as A suggested; keep this jotting journal as a sort of back page, a notepad, but use the public front page for more thought-out, polished essays. I loved leading the Spanish RCIA program at my former parish, guiding people through their spiritual development into full-fledged Church members. People kept coming back, so I guess I wasn't too incompetent at it. Even Fr. H, my spiritual director, last week wondered what I am getting from our meetings, since it often feels as if our roles are reversed. (It often feels that way to me, too, but I don't think that's a bad thing!) And I have been very much enjoying my interaction with D at the co-op, and from the focused way he makes eye contact just when I throw some piece of guidance at him, I think he is listening and taking it in. (sometimes that is 2nd-hand guidance: yesterday it was a suggestion to read about the AA 8th & 9th steps in order to better support his neighbor, who seems to be teetering on the threshold of willingness to make much-needed amends to his kids). I have self-knowledge, personal relationship with God, empathy and compassion, and an ability to express myself in words; spiritual direction is something I can do, do well and enjoy doing.

Then again, I can still keep my kitchen garden, and just accept that it may never be as lush and tidy and productive as the one in my imagination. And if I have too many cucumbers, and I don't get around to pickling them, I can give them to the poor (why haven't I done that yet this year, with all these city soup kitchens around??). If I give my excess to the hungry instead of letting it rot, then surely my Father in heaven will not let me go hungry, either. I can still keep my chickens and goats, too. Animals are harder to neglect, I think they are good for me. Maybe I shouldn't stress my weak "S" function too much, but I will still benefit from developing it, gently and self-compassionately, and animals help with that.

Today I leave for a week in West Virginia, visiting a consecrated hermit of some 30-odd years. I will be taking my paper journal with me, and I hope to do a lot of discernment..... I'm sure I'll have plenty to blog about when I get back. Pray for me!

Regina Terrae

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, this is a great post; and, boy, can I identify! My identification is with the Catholic Worker movement. Here there is a strong belief in family and communal farms and manual labor. I am a clutz with a brown thumb. I will never again try gardening. What needs fixing up around our place usually stays broken until I can be nagged into hiring someone to fix it. I am the one thing I wish I wasn't--an intellectual; and now in retirement, even a "free" intellectual!