If you’re into labeling, which I’m not, according to a recent Enneagram test I’m a peacemaker. It’s true. The Enneagram is an ancient method for identifying personality types but also explores the spirituality of each genre which as you know intrigues me. Basically there are nine personality types anchored around the Enneagram and I’m a nine (not to be confused with the Bo Derek’s numbering system which ranks sex appeal). I would make a great pacifist if only I weren’t so damn ornery.
In general nines are accepting, trusting, and stable. They are usually creative, optimistic, and supportive, but can also be too willing to go along with others to keep the peace. At their best a type nine presents itself as a self-possessed, all-embracing, peacemaker who is able to bring people together and heal conflicts. For example, Walt Disney, Gloria Steinem, George Lucas, and Queen Elizabeth are type nines. Worst case for a type nine is someone who can become severely disoriented, catatonic, or schizoid resorting to drugs and alcohol as a way of avoiding reality. Lovely.
I’ve inhabited all these spaces at one point in time but only as a visitor not a permanent resident.
Regardless, a true nine needs a happy ending, and if that is not the case, they simply disregard the evidence, preferring their own fantasy to reality.
I’ve discovered that life is messy and most of the time it doesn’t clean up well. There is no happily ever after, or if there is, it needs to be redefined.
It really should be a commandment, but regardless, it was firmly stated to NEVER, under any circumstances, try to determine someone else’s Enneagram number. Contrary to all that is holy and good, I decided Larry is a six, otherwise known as the loyalist, fits him like a handmade Italian shoe. Sixes are committed, security-oriented types (“Aha” the new door cams are making total sense), reliable, hard-working, responsible, and trustworthy. Excellent “troubleshooters,” who foresee problems and foster cooperation, but can also become defensive, evasive, and anxious – running on stress while complaining about it. The loyalist happens to be a perfect match for the peacemaker. Who knew?
Both of us value the loyalty and love of friends and family above all else. I have to believe Jesus was a six because loyalist will sacrifice everything in defense of those they love.
Recently Larry and I attended an 80th birthday celebration for a dear friend, after heading home with a mild wine afterglow, we slipped into our comfy sweats, and melted into the couch.
The Academy Awards just happened and I haven’t seen but three of the nominated films. I cranked up the gas fireplace, brewed a cup of coffee, and swaddled myself in a plaid throw. I lost control of the remote rather quickly but I was promised a movie so I acquiesced. Total type nine move.
Larry starts browsing through the popular movies but that usually doesn’t go well. We have opposing interests which means I end up enduring yet another film about the cruelty of war, modern day gagsters, or shark attacks.
I can always play solitaire on my iPhone (this is how I numb out), but even that won’t provide enough distraction, especially if Quentin Tarantino is directing.
Lady Bird has been recommended to me more than once which I mentioned in the most pleasant tone at least twelve times. I suppose it might have something to do with the fact I teach at a Catholic High School, but I also have two daughters who flew the coop to pursue college degrees, leaving me to fend for myself in a house full of males (even the dog is male, not that I’m trying to make a correlation, more of a commonality – that didn’t come out right).
Translation: I never get control of the remotes.
Thankfully Larry was more interested in a nap than a movie and soon I was lost in a complicated mother daughter relationship played out on screen by Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronan. It was a messy relationship from the get go, one that defied resolution no matter what was happening, and from a peacemaker perspective it did not end well.
It wasn’t all bad but there were some really bad moments.
I kept waiting for the epiphany. The point in time when after two grueling hours everything is resolved and we fade to credits with a satisfying resolution. The happily every after we all know and love but this is not the case in Lady Bird. Which is why the film sticks to your ribs like oatmeal.
People behave badly sometimes but they’re still good people.
Life is one conflicted episode after another that resist fairytale endings. We can relate on some level, feel good about ourselves on another, and maybe it stretches our ability to empathize with the convoluted plights of others. Paul Hawken says, “the most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful.”
Just as the film ends our friends ring us up to come by the house for leftover food from the birthday party, wine, and camaraderie. I roust Larry from his nap and we drive a quarter a mile down the road to the Guerra’s.
This is a family who welcomes you into their home with open arms, kisses, and dogs. Lots of dogs. In my book if a dog loves you than so do I. Massive amounts of food, spread out over an eight by six foot island, ground the kitchen with a sense of stability, hospitality, and familiarity.
About fifteen of us end up docked around the kitchen table sharing “wine, stories, laughter, acceptance, wisdom, motivation, remembering, looking forward, and love,” I quote Susan Griggs who wrote so beautifully about friendship in a recent text. Somehow the matriarch and patriarch of this clan make everyone feel as if they belong.
David Whyte notes, “no matter the medicinal virtues of being a true friend or sustaining a long close relationship with another, the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the self nor of the other, the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.” With droopy eyes Larry and I dragged ourselves away from the laden table feeling loved and accepted.
As a nine that’s all I want.
In the morning I awoke to fresh brewed coffee and Larry who was set on watching Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri with Francis McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell. Now this is a movie that defies resolution. You have a grieving mother with a touch of insanity, a dying police officer with a sadistic deputy, and the unresolved death of a young girl.
Unresolvable issues seem dominate all of our lives but after watching Three Billboards you start to appreciate simple acts of kindness.
Maybe that is all there is between the ebb and flow of utter chaos?
Recently my three granddaughters have all taken sick, ear infections and other slimy effects. I have been juggling work, child care, and life but somehow managed to drop all the balls at one time or another. The blog was one of them.
Parker Palmer reminds us, “there is a hard truth to be told: before spring becomes beautiful, it is plug ugly, nothing but mud and muck. I have walked in the early spring through fields that will such your boots off, a world so wet and woeful it makes you yearn for the return of ice. But in that muddy mess, the conditions for rebirth are being created.”
Rebirth is not a fancy name for happily ever after, it means tackling the same issues from a new perspective, and that might be as good as it gets.
“Nines demonstrate the tendency to run away from the paradoxes and tensions of life by attempting to transcend them or by seeking to find simple and painless solutions to their problems. Nines see the silver lining in every cloud as a way of protecting themselves from the cold and rain,” The Wisdom of the Enneagram. “Sixes understand that although the world is always changing and is, by nature uncertain, they can be serene and courageous in any circumstance. And they can attain the greatest gift of all, a sense of peace with themselves despite the uncertainties of life.” Especially if they live with a nine!
That’s is why the practices of Buddhism have such a strong appeal for me. “The only way out is through.” I like the idea of sitting under a Bodhi tree, completely avoiding reality, and enjoying the contours of my own thoughts, knowing my six is nearby holding the fort down. Total bliss…
“Remember, you have two lives. You get your second life when you realize you have only one.” Frank Liddy