24 February 2010

Hopeless Romantic

As we prepare to close out this month of love, romance is still on my mind. Of course it is. I'm a hopeless romantic.

Have you ever thought about that phrase? I just ask, because that's what's keeping me awake right now. I should be sound asleep in bed, getting a good night's rest for what will inevitably be a very long day in the office, tomorrow, but I just keep thinking, "Why IS it so hopeless?" If you read my most recent post, you know that that mental hum accompanies me throughout every moment of my life, but it's times like these (wow, the grammar there)--it's a time like this, when I can't turn it down enough to fall asleep that I really wonder how people function without the mental hum. How do you people keep going, without the constant thoughts?? Do you sometimes just shut down and stop moving until your brain kicks back in?? Digression in progress..

So, tonight, instead of sleeping, I'm sitting in my bathrobe, with my glass of Pink Truck and the world wide interwebs, thinking about the hopelessness of romance. Why IS it so hopeless? I don't know that I'll have an answer to that question by the time I sign off tonight, but I'll at least be keeping myself amused by putting my thoughts into words. The easily bored, quickly distracted, and those who need a concise, three-point outline should check out now...

I know that I am one. A hopeless romantic, that is. Why such a downtrodden prequel to such a grandiose term? I think it works. It's desperate phrasing, and that's how it feels. It's a sigh on the end of a long kiss goodnight. It's a tear for the end of a love story. It's that final resolution of a dissonant chord that makes you kinda miss the dissonance, just a bit. That breathlessness that feeds on the anticipation of a touch is something physical, not just emotional. I don't know. Romance to me isn't the roses and candlelight. But it is. I mean, that's a kind of romance, the prequel to foreplay, I suppose. The seduction scene. But that's not ALL that it is. I see romance everywhere, and it's not all sexual stimulation and rushing endorphins. It's a jointness. Maybe romance is so hopeless because it's so big.

Ok, just TRY to tell me that any of these things is not romantic, and I promise I will immediately cease to hear your voice and mentally hum my way to a happier place than whatever you think you're selling me.

--At the end of The Notebook, as they fall asleep in each others arms...

--The man at the hospital physically feeling the pain of his wife giving birth...

--The young couple at the pricy restaurant. He's sweating with something sparkly in his pocket, and she's glowing, knowing that tonight's the night the story begins all over again...

--The scene in Fireproof where she stays home sick from work and he brings her soup...

--A gentle peck on the cheek over morning coffee...

--A small child who hands his mother a badly bruised dandelion that he picked just for her...

--The man who warms up his wife's car on a cold morning so that she won't be uncomfortable when she takes the kids to school...

--The moment at the end of a long day when there are no more words to be said, when just the knowledge that someone loves you is enough...

OK, so maybe romance doesn't equal love, but that's a part of it, right? It's not always the sexual or seductive, but just the patterns of loving in life. It makes me physically ache inside to see it, and I do know it when I see it. That's why I listen to love songs and watch sappy movies. It's a beauty that sparks a fond desire. But it's not just the desire to receive. It's that swell within your heart that longs to GIVE that to someone else, too. To SHARE that experience with another soul and know that no matter what else happens in life, THAT was real.

Romance isn't every moment. If it was, it wouldn't be special, and it wouldn't be hopeless at all. It is its very fleetingness that makes it so precious, so elusive, so finite... That's it. That's the thing. That's why. I did figure it out before the end of the post. Yay, me. Romance is hopeless because it slips away so quickly, in the bat of an eyelash. So those of us who are hopeless romantics live from romance to romance--not in a pathetic way (well, not always). It's just that those breathless anticipations, when you feel really alive, they help guage the remainder of reality... And the remainder of reality makes sure that you really feel those heightened timeless seconds.

Hopelessly romantic,

23 February 2010


In the last year, we have had a church-wide emphasis that is designed for us to know ourselves and one another better. The catalyst is the book "Living Your Strengths" and the Clifton strengths assessment and development tool that is linked to it. This book was created by the faith-based portion of the Gallup organization, and as I understand it, there are other studies that range beyond the scope of the faith-based that are now capitalizing on its development.

The rundown: The basic premise is that there are 34 basic areas of individual development that are inherent to all humans, in varying degrees, regardless of cultural development or bias, and that if the the top 5 areas of talent are identified, it would more accurately help individuals understand themselves and each other. (VERY basic.) If these signature themes, as they're called, are accurately identified and encouraged, the organizations of which these individuals are members could tailor themselves to their populations and be more effective.

So, our church has been going through the process of having everyone who cares to participate tested, and coached, so that, as a community of believers doing life together, we can exist more fully as the body of Christ-- living and acting as one cohesive unit, instead of many little unknown quantities.

To be honest, when I took my assessment, I wasn't 100% convinced that my results were accurate, but as they've grown on me, I've really embraced the fact of the matter. I am now in a class (yay) to discuss and be coached in a group setting. Tonight was the first class, and I'd forgotten how invigorating it was to be in an active learning environment. But, I'm getting ahead of myself, here...

OK. Here are my top five:

1) Input
2) Learner
3) Intellection (which my Input and Learner tell me is not an actual word)
4) Maximizer
5) Individualization

And, just for the record, yes, it does annoy me that the 34 signature themes are not consistently all the same part of speech, but I didn't make them up.

Basically, these five things tell you a LOT about who I am, why I function the way I do, and what I value in life, should you choose to acknowledge and understand them, and subsequently, me. Here's what they mean, very basically: Input means that I collect things. I collect information, quotations, words, and physical things. I catalog the things that I collect, either physically or mentally. Learner means that I find the learning process to be fascinating and enjoyable. I want to learn everything I can. I enjoy going from ignorance to competence. Intellection means that I have a "mental hum" that is interminable. My mind is always working. Intellectual stimulation, the flexing of my mental muscles, is just part of who I am, and I thrive on it. Maximizer means that I take something that's great and turn it into stupendous. It has to be the VERY BEST it can be. Good enough is simply not good enough. Individualization means that I relate to each person according to who they are. I interact individually, and I tailor my interactions to the ability or personality of the person with whom I'm interacting.

So, all of these things work together in my every thought, breath, motion, action, relationship, etc. That is WHO I am, not just something about me. That is how I live, move, and have my being. I am hard-wired to function extremely highly, without exhaustion in those 5 things. I am most productive, most valuable, most tireless, when I live there, and when I get out of those 5 things, I get run-down and defeated.

As an example, take my relationships. In relating to people, I deal with them through my Individualization. I will relate differently to my friend Pamela than I do to my daddy, and differently to him than I relate to my mother. I tailor each relationship to the most effective communication and relation with each. (Side bar: This is why I speak all 5 love languages fluently, though I don't receive them as equally.) My Individualization relates to each individual, but it is my Input, Learner, and Intellection that drive my relatability. I take in everything I can. I observe people, learn things, find things fascinating... I'm a big picture person. I want to know how everything works and how this cog fits into the bigger machine, not just how to spin the cog. So I learn everything I can, and that applies to the people about whom I care, and the things that they care about. Because of my Maximizer, I can't stop at just being able to relate to someone. I want to relate to them and understand them and REALLY know them. Good enough simply isn't good enough, remember? So I take all of my catalogs of knowledge from my Input, that I've Learned, and I use my Intellection to process them and Maximize how to Individually relate. Got it? That's me and my relationship bent, in a nutshell.

Well, knowing these things made it much clearer to me (remember the Input, Learner, Intellection-- I learned all about the whole Strengths thing, and what that meant for me, and all 34 of the strengths so I could relate better to others) how I actually function, and the more I think about that (Intellection-- my mental hum), the more I apply it to myself, the more I understand why I function the way I do.

In younger years, I had a tendency to find relationships unsatisfying. I wanted to know all about this person, and I wanted to tell him/her all about me, but he/she didn't want to know about me like I wanted to know about him/her. Frustration. It feels so one-sided. In recent years, I've grown up enough to be able to listen to my friends without expecting them to listen to me in the same way. I've learned to not divulge who I am, and answer concisely when people ask polite questions. The reality is, the VAST majority of humanity simply doesn't want to know. That may be why I find comfort in having my own blog. It is an outlet for me to make myself known without boring the people I love. hahahaha

I desire strongly to be known deeply, for who I truly am. Since others in my life don't have the raging desire to know me that way, I content myself with knowing them as best I can. There IS great fulfillment in this for me. It is wonderfully contenting to know WHY my brain works that way, and to be able to absorb all the tiniest little details about someone without having to spew all of my details at her. It is beautiful to have an intimacy that isn't spoiled by expecting the other person to be who I am or to function the way I function, and I'm much happier, on the whole, with my Individualization, because I know that my friends and family members truly love me. Really. They don't have to KNOW me, know all ABOUT me, know every thought I think as it passes through my head, to love me. They just love me. Now, how they function that way is beyond me, but I have that all catalogued away so I can relate to them, regardless of whether I think they're nuts for not having my top 5 the way I have them...

I love the idea of being known, and I've loved it for so long that one of my favorite movies, inexplicably, is "
The Mirror Has Two Faces" with Barbra Streisand and Jeff Bridges. She talks about it early in the film-- the idea of someone loving her enough to know the little things about her, how she takes her coffee, for instance.. One of the defining instances in the movie is when she sees him know her like that, as he answers the waiter's question about her preferences, without consulting her. No she doesn't care for any pepper. When you get a chance, could you bring a little side dish of extra dressing for her salad? She'd like that. And the heart inside me sighs a little sigh of desire. Yeah. I'm pathetic like that.

I suppose that's why this quote stuck out to me so much that I underlined it in 3 colors in my copy of
The Shack (by William P Young). "So many believe that it is love that grows, but it is the knowing that grows and love simply expands to contain it. Love is just the skin of knowing." (pg. 155) Love is just the skin of knowing. I love that. I love that because I love knowing. I love learning and understanding better. I love the idea that my love for those that I hold dearest is evident in my strengths-- the knowing. I love it that God knows me that way, and that He loves me in all the abundant wealth of His knowledge of me, not in the little bit of my knowledge.. I also love it that because I understand WHO I am and how I function, that I don't have to expect anyone else to know me the way I want to know them, and that THAT doesn't DECREASE how much they love me, either.

But, I still want to be known.

Much love.

P.S. Apparently, there is a newer version of the assessment out now that you can purchase separate from the book. If you'd like to complete StrengthsFinder 2.0, you can go
here to have your strengths assessed and identified.