Heaven on a tandem bike
My man and I had the most enchanted date. We rode his tandem bike to Minnehaha Falls, waving and ringing the bike bells (one on each handlebar) at everyone we passed. Did you know EVERYONE smiles when they see a tandem bike?
Once at the falls, we dined on calamari, fish tacos and cold tart lemonade at the outdoor cafe. With a smile, my guy let me know there was a homemade key lime pie waiting for us at home. Before heading back, we rode around the lake. A slight breeze aired out our sticky shirts and sunshine lit up the water. We laughed as we leaned forward and pedaled forcefully to make it up the big hill on the way home.
Could things get any better?
Hospice, hearing and letting go
As we parked the bike in the garage and walked up to the house, I noticed a missed call and voicemail from my sister. She doesn’t usually call on a Friday night. I listened to the message. Mom had had a bad day and wasn’t doing well. Her breathing was shallow and her oxygen levels were low. A few calls back and forth, a comment from the hospice nurse —If there is anyone who should come in they should do it now — and I was booking a flight for first thing the next morning.
I arrived in Michigan around 1:00PM the next day despite my 6:47AM departure. My sister, brother-in-law and I spent the day holding Mom’s hands and talking to her even though she had slipped into unconsciousness. They say hearing is the last to go. We wanted to believe that. We told her lots of things including how much we love her, how she was a great mother and … that it was OK to let go.
Around 8:00PM, she did. She let go.
Although the loss of her physical presence is obviously painful, there is another feeling I just can’t shake. It’s a combination of regret and profound sadness for the things my mom longed for but rarely experienced.
My mom had an idyllic childhood. All of my life, I heard stories about how popular she was, how her parents were pillars of the community, how she wore the finest clothing and how she had fun playing, dancing, and smoking cigars down by the creek with boys and girls.
Her friends confirmed all of this at her memorial service. While it was comforting to hear about her joy, happiness and verve as a young person, it was slightly tarnished by the knowledge I had of her adult years.
Traditional housewife, yes please
First, a brief description of my mom. She was an ESFJ in the Myers-Briggs world. Which made her a Guardian (SJ) in David Keirsey’s theories on temperament. Guardians long to belong. They are traditional and responsible. You can count on them. She was an extrovert. She loved interacting with people especially if they were open to some ribbing, like she was. She had funny sayings that we dubbed, Linda-isms, such as Straighten up and fly right and We’re off like a herd of turtles in a rainstorm.
She was happy being married, being a mother and being a housewife. All of these roles aligned with her values. My parents divorced when I was seven. Post-divorce my mom devoted her life to my sister and me. She also went to work as a pre-school teacher in the government-funded Head Start program. She took exquisite care of her daughters and the young children at school. My sister and I wore expensive clothes even if it meant less money going into her retirement account. We had decent cars to drive and trips to Spain during our senior years in high school. In later years, she and I had a standing phone call date every Tuesday night. I could always count on Mom to listen to my latest relationship/job/parenting story even if she herself was feeling down. Many times over the years she WAS feeling down. I really hope I listened as thoughtfully.
You see, Mom kept the glory days of her childhood forefront in her consciousness. If only she could have the attention of doting parents, the popularity of a strong clique, the attractiveness that draws men, the financial backing of a successful benefactor, the support of a big family, the love of a good man. Honestly, who wouldn’t want those things? The problem was there came a time in her life when she didn’t have them and she had a very difficult time being content or satisfied without them. I’m not sure she truly knew who she was or what she personally had to offer.
If you could just go internal…
My sister and I, in our infinite wisdom;), tried to introduce Mom to meditation, fitness and spirituality. We tried to show her how to go internal. She didn’t get it or didn’t have the discipline to follow through. It was easier to sit on the couch and watch Bill O’Reilly. We took her on trips with us and bought her the gifts she requested. She sent Valentine boxes to her grandchildren and occasionally entertained friends at her home. Once retired, she volunteered at an after-school program for kids. She loved her pets and collected stray cats. She enjoyed decorating her house to the nines for each holiday. She had several long term relationships but none of them especially fulfilling.
She would be happy for a while but then drift back to loneliness.
She could take care of us but she couldn’t take care of herself.
I don’t understand you, but I’m working on it
As an introvert, I cannot help but be internally focused. I pay intimate attention to my feelings, thoughts and ideas even when I don’t want to. Intrinsic motivation comes naturally to me. I am never going to be the fun, boisterous, leader of the pack type. I won’t be CEO or hostess of the year. Too much external stimulation wears me out. My internal stimulation is already in high gear, but because of that, I find pleasure and deep satisfaction in simple things like eye-gazing conversations, music that moves me and a ride on a tandem bike. High priority relationships and meaningful work bring out my enthusiasm and energy. I re-charge alone but make intimate connections when I reach out.
As an INFP, the only function Mom and I had in common was our decision-making one (F for feeling). We both prefer to use our personal values and our need for harmony to make judgments. I had a hard time understanding why Mom did not DO something to make herself more content and at peace. I even partially resented her reliance on me and material things. I have a core need to be free and she had a core need to be needed. I wish I would have honored her need more.
As I prepare to delve into the world of relationship coaching, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research. I am re-reading Eve Delunas’ book on temperaments under stress called, Survival Games Personalities Play. Within it, there is valuable information on how to help a Guardian thrive. Below are the key points:
Ways to Make a Guardian Feel Appreciated and Fulfilled
— taken from Eve Delunas’ Survival Games Personalities Play
- Help them turn the focus from others to self
- Show them how to say No so they are not overloaded by others who need them too much
- If they have endured a major life change such as a death, divorce or a long distance move, help them feel part of things, needed and useful again
- Teach them how to ask for what they want
- Teach them it is OK to have fun
- Get them to do volunteer work
- Get them to make changes for themselves by showing how it helps others
- Show them they are valued and special by giving them tangible gifts: Cards, flowers, special meals
- Help them let go of resentment, grudges or fear by creating rituals for transition times (i.e. burning, planting, announcing, creating, etc.)
- Tell them visualization, therapy, stretching, meditation and massage are practical ways of relieving anxiety
What do I know?
I’m not saying I have it all figured out. I definitely do not have it all figured out. For many years, I lived out my mom’s dream life, seeing security as the ultimate prize. I expected others to provide fulfillment for me. I played roles in order to fit in, in order to belong. Eventually, I was so miserable I couldn’t stand it. I then broke hearts and promises and messed up the whole picture for many people. Living from the inside out is not always the most popular way to go but now I have a chance at living authentically, at being fulfilled.
The night I learned of my mother’s grave condition, I ate a piece of key lime pie. My taste buds were dulled by worry but I tasted the thoughtfulness behind it. That night, as I lay in my man’s arms, I felt the deep contentedness of being alive, known and loved. I cried and hoped my mom felt the same way at some point in her life.
How does the internal nature of introverts benefit you? Do you know anyone with the Guardian temperament? If so, when are they happiest?
If this post moved you in a positive way, please share with others.
Thank you for this. Since the early days of our marriage, my husband has pushed me to develop a friendship with my mother in law (ESFJ, as you explain it). I resented her and my husband for demanding that of me. I could not make her feel needed or useful as I am fiercely independent. I recently understood that my resentment stems from the fact that she drains me with non-stop chatter, repeating stuff, ribbing (which I cannot take), being overly competitive. But now, after this post, I do see where she’s coming from. Maybe I can make an effort to do some of the things Delunas suggests.
My mom used to say “It takes all kinds.” As I grow up and get a tad wiser I realize she was right and that everyone has something to add to this world. Some it simply takes a little more effort to see and tolerate their gifts.;) I hope you find a way to show appreciation to your mother-in-law.
You are truly amazing Brenda, you are really gifted at expressing your thoughts. Im an Infj but every time I read your posts they mirror and nourish my thoughts so beautifully. Im sorry about mommy passing and I feel inspired to reach out and honor needs of the ones I love
Thank you Pearl. I am so happy my words resonate and nourish you. Please do reach out and honor those you love.:)
It sounds as though you really cared about your mother and did the best you could to let her know. I don’t think it is possible when you’ve lost someone not to have at least few regrets about things you wish had been different. Sending you some extra love….
I am an INTP, my husband that I’ve been with for 30 years is an ENTJ, and his first wife (mother of their 3 kids from who he was divorced several years before I met him) is, as far as I can tell, an EFSJ which, as you know, is as opposite from me as one can get. Oddly my husband and his first wife shared the EJ but differed in their basic temperaments (Rational versus Guardian) while he and I are both Rationals. Unfortunately for me he still doesn’t get my need for solitude and he’s definitely a Fieldmarshall.
Anyway, my husband and I occasionally see wife #1 because she lives near 2 of their 3 kids and associated families. She’s always very nice to both of us and I guess the number one negative thing I’d say is that I find her boring. She talks all the time about what seems like nothing. As an example for some reason I remember her telling a long story about going somewhere with a friend that went on and on including why they’d driven whichever car and where they stopped for gas and where they went for lunch and what they ate and I’ve totally forgotten whether there was any point.
To answer your question I’d say she seems happiest when she’s at the center of the family and knows what’s going on in everyone’s life. Also holidays and birthdays have to be celebrated, preferably with a get-together at her home. She seems to love having a grandchild or two for an overnight or longer stay and enjoys their rituals such as a grandchild’s getting to choose the dinner menu.
I also have a friend who is some sort of Guardian. It seems that she’s happiest when she’s treated in a way she considers fair and reciprocal or what another friend of both ours calls “quid pro quo.” For example, my Guardian friend has complained more than once that she always sends her stepdaughter a snail mail birthday
card but is lucky if her stepdaughter remembers to send her a text message on her birthday. And she gets quite upset if her daughter-in-law’s parents get a longer holiday visit than she does.
Thank you Connie. I miss you my friend. Hope to see you soon.:)
Ps…see you soon as the seasons begin to change:) xx
Yes, summer is so chaotic for me. I have no work time and very little workout time. Bring on fall! 🙂 Miss you!
I am an INFP too. Your writing just shows the rich contents of your thoughts, how you try to figure people out and try to know what makes others happy and what-not. I am sorry your mother felt depression, that can be hard. Your mother does sound like a lively, loving soul 🙂 I love the way you guys help her hand while she wasn’t able to talk. I believe that she is happy that you guys made that beautiful goodbye.
Thank you Mon.:) It was a peaceful, loving, goodbye. Always nice to hear from another INFP. We are a unique and faceted type. There is beauty in our ways but it’s not always easily understood.
Yes indeed 🙂 <3