Saturday, June 4, 2011

Great expectations

From the time I was little, I knew that I was destined for greatness. I would be an important person and do something special. God had a mission for me, something that was particular to who I am.

I still think that, even though those words don't mean the same things anymore that they did to a child. Amazingly, there are -- apparently -- many other people like me who feel this way. Well, no doubt! With names like Einstein, Shakespeare, Dickinson, ... (kidding)

Many people feel this special sense of destiny, is the revelation of the Enneagram. Yes, it is suspiciously like a horoscope ... or zodiac ... which, the Chinese version printed on those paper placemats in American Chinese restaurants, has always sounded a lot like me (the sign being the snake). "Wise and intense, with a tendency toward physical beauty. Vain and high-tempered. Your best signs are the cock and ox. Avoid the rat." (Not sure that is an exact quote, but close) (Sorry if I already quoted that here; so annoying if I am repeating myself)

So, my type on the Enneagram, one of nine, is the one with "the need to feel special" or unique. It's not a need so much as a statement of fact. I am special!! Unique!! But so is everybody.

The person I envy the most, I suppose, is John Milton. I was rereading his poem, "On His Blindness" again (no, I don't envy the blindness) and thought, how wonderful that he had a mission statement in life; he knew what it was; and he accomplished it so magnificently with "Paradise Lost." While here I am ... "They also serve who only stand and wait." Yep, that's me. Standing, waiting.

One of the tough things I am working on these days, spiritually speaking, is ramping down my expectations of life. I am only one person! I cannot save the world, even when I feel I should. I can't even save my Dad, I'm learning. What my Enneagram adviser, Bonnie, told me though, is the critical point ... I can change the way I show up. My presence in life is the way I can fulfill this sense of destiny. Everyone has a potentially huge trajectory in life that they leave, even just from their offspring, if you study genealogy at all. We are all enormous ships leaving a huge wake in our path.

I have observed that one of the most difficult ways to show up is as a mature adult, all the time, in every situation. It gets tough for me when I am tired, or hungry, or both. Those are great weaknesses for me. Or, how about when people are pushing emotional buttons?

I heard on a recent "This American Life" a story of a girl who was attending college and was continuing to live with her parents, and how difficult the relationship can be with a grown child living at home. In her case, her mom would pick these fights with her constantly. I listened to this broadcast on national radio as she described what her mom would do, which is essentially throw little tantrums about her daughter's imagined failures, while her daughter would try to be reasonable. Unfortunately, this kind of relationship is quite common between parents and children. In those cases, the children wind up having to deal with their parents' neuroses, and failure to grow and mature. Here is an area that is ripe for spiritual work for every parent. Do we always act like the adult in our relationships with our children? I know I don't.

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