14 January 2016

My Husband is a Rebel

The book I'm currently rereading is Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin--a book about forming good habits and breaking bad habits.  The cornerstone of her theories about habit forming is that one approach won't work for everyone, and that there are essentially Four Tendencies that personalities fall into which dramatically affect how we are able to form habits based on our responses to inner or outer obligations.

Last week I talked about my tendency: Obliger.  I am 100% an Obliger, responding primarily to external expectations but totally inept at forcing myself to do something just because it's good for me.  I spend an enormous amount of psychic energy considering what other people want or need from me and how to meet those expectations.  This is the most common personality type.

Another type is the Questioner.  This is kind of the reverse of the Obliger, because it's a personality who will do anything that he or she understands and is convinced of the value of that choice.  For example, a Questioner would begin exercising if he believed that he needed to exercise and that the type of exercise chosen is going to be effective to meet his goals.  This is also a very common personality type, and I think of my friend Reta, who very frequently asks, simply "Why is that?" in response to virtually any scenario.

More rare is the Upholder personality type, and when I read about this type, I understood my friend, Katie, in a new way.  One time she and I were traveling together and she got separated from her luggage, which had been locked in an office.  I spent a considerable amount of time trying to convince her, very Obliger-y, that it would be very inconvenient to find the person with the keys and call them back to give her the bag.  Wouldn't it be easier to just manage without so as not to inconvenience anyone?  She adamantly refused, stating that she needed the things in her bag and would not be able to go overnight without them.  We got the bag, but I was surprised at this unexpected layer of granite in her, because she was usually very responsive to others' expectations of her.  She is an Upholder, which means she responds to both external and internal obligations.

And then there is the Rebel.  The Rebel is one who rejects all sense of obligation or expectation, both inner and outer.  A Rebel wouldn't say "I should set a regular bed time so that I feel well-rested" or "People are expecting to see us at the wedding," but instead Rebels say I only do what I want to do right now.  They can still form habits, but only habits that are in line with their own strongly held values.  As I read about the Rebel's dislike for hierarchy and rules and (to them) incomprehensible social structures, I saw my husband, who was kicked out of a Catholic pre-seminary for challenging the priests on theology, and regularly spars with power-holders in our society.  His strongly held value of justice motivates him to accomplish a lot on behalf of people who don't hold much power, but he is the bane of any bureaucrat's existence, since he refuses to fill out time cards or fill out paperwork that doesn't seem practical to him.  Since he values accountability, he will collect receipts, but if someone protests that the receipts he has provided are not an acceptable format, he rejects that adherence to formality without function.

In the book, Rubin states that many Rebels marry Obligers, and they appreciate the stability that an Obliger's compulsions provide.  (For example, if Fred can't bring himself to sit down at the computer to answer emails, he delegates that task to me.  I feel so obligated by the expectation of the person waiting for a response that I readily agree and get a lot of satisfaction from it.)  Obligers find the Rebel's disregard for expectations freeing, to which I can certainly attest.  Whenever we receive a fundraising card for a wedding or a send-off, I feel compelled to give money and attend the event, even though attending the 8-hour ordeal of a casual acquaintance's wedding is grueling.  He has saved me a lot of money and stress by releasing me from those "obligations."  A good friend of mine living in Uganda is also an Obliger married to a Rebel, and I can think of one or two other couples who are probably in the same club.  I can say that I'm very grateful for my Rebel husband.  He accomplishes so much that I never would, and he inspires a lot more balance and freedom in my own life.

(Now I have the song "He's a Rebel" by The Crystals stuck in my head..."Just because he doesn't do what everybody else does, that's no reason why I can't give him all my love.")

06 January 2016

What Will My New Year Look Like?

First, an update
In the last blog post, Tears on Christmas Day, I shared about some families that we reached out to on Christmas Day to share food with them.  The response of readers has been so wonderful.  One couple, who have already helped this family a lot, are giving money for a bed and school uniforms and food for Grace, Pita and the kids.  Another family from Oregon has adopted Mama Saidi and her two little ones, giving $1,000 to build them a better house and provide some food, a mattress and some other necessities, and have committed to $20 each month to continue ensuring the health and welfare of the kids.  A church in Washington is preparing to take an offering to provide another food supplement for the other six families.

We are so excited to facilitate these gifts that will have such an impact on the lives of these vulnerable families!

Next, an admission
I have terrible discipline, but I recently read that most people wish they had better self discipline, so that made me feel a little better.  I know many people feel like New Year's resolutions are pointless, but I have the kind of personality which needs a reason and a significant point of start to make a change in my life.

One of my favorite authors, Gretchen Rubin, who has been frequently mentioned on this blog, wrote a book about forming habits called Better Than Before.  It's been out for a while, but I got bogged down trying to listen to it on audio when I really needed to sit down with my journal and take notes.  I've restarted reading it to boost the goal I made for 2016.  According to her Four Tendencies personality structure, I am an Obliger, which means that I am good at meeting others' expectations of me, but I am rubbish at meeting my own expectations of myself.  She is spot on, and I'll give you an example: When my husband is home, I pretty much bathe every day (laudable, I know), because he appreciates when I'm, y'know, clean and not stinky.  When Fred is away, though, I am hit-or-miss with the whole bathe every day thing.  (In a weak attempt to defend myself, bathing here is not just jumping in the shower.  It involves heating water on the stove and hauling it into the bathroom and bathing from a bucket with a cup.  Oh, and of course there are two toddlers who can't stand for me to be out of their eye line for more than one minute who also need to be bathed in warm water.)  Anyway, the point is that Fred's expectation of having a clean wife is stronger motivation for me than my own desire to not be grubby.

Finally, a goal
So this year, on New Year's Eve, I sat down and wrote a list of the things I am unsatisfied about in my life.  These are things I should be doing every day, but seem to take an enormous amount of discipline to get done.  When I looked at my list of 6-8 things, I realized that most of them could be incorporated into a better morning routine.  So my goal for 2016 is to create better habits in the morning,  I have a little checklist, and I'm incorporating some accountability to actually empower me to stick with my routine.  Six days in, I'm doing well, although the one factor that I thought would ensure my success--getting up earlier than my kids--is not working out.  My usually late-sleeping kids have decided that whatever time I wake up, they should wake up, so I'm dealing with a lot of static during the morning, trying to get them started well on their day at the same time as I'm reading my Bible and doing the other checklist things.

Anyway, that's what is going on around our house.  Kudos to all of you trying to make a positive change in your life right now, and if you need some accountability, let me know!