Practically Perfect in Every Way!
For the first 45 years of my life, I tried to be perfect. Apparently the next 45 are about learning to be human. My innate, inner perfectionist offers a sigh of resignation and frustration over this awareness. SIGH. While a student in the Commissioned Lay Ministry program I was introduced to a profound spiritual tool called The Enneagram. Through the assessment and careful discernment with our program director, it was determined that I am a Type 1 on the Enneagram – the Perfectionist. This fit in perfectly with the attitude I had embraced for my entire life up to that point – I had to be perfect. As Mary Poppins (still my all-time favorite Disney movie!) would say, “Practically perfect in every way.” This perfectionist manifested in every situation in my life, most especially in the world of emotions – as a perfectionist, emotions were not allowed – with one exception.
Resentment and Anger
While still living as a perfectionist, I only knew only two emotions – resentment and anger. These were the only tools I had to deal with issues of loss, disappointment, rejection, transition and change. When things didn’t go my way – rage. When I felt rejected or undervalued – resentment. When I experienced a loss – anger. While these emotions in and of themselves are not bad, for a perfectionist who can only be perfect, these emotions presented an additional challenge – GUILT, SELF-LOATHING and SHAME. One who is angry, resentful, rage-filled is not in any way perfect. So, wags the finger of the inner critic shaming and blaming me for not being perfect. ARGH! It is a vicious cycle to be sure. One thing I learned about the Type 1 on the Enneagram is that rage and anger become our ego-fixation. Harboring, cultivating, nurturing resentment and anger creates a vicious downward spiral of separation (from self and others) and self-loathing. BLECH
Somewhere along the line, I woke up. Rather, the Universe woke me up in the form of a significant loss that happened in close proximity to a trauma and post-partum. Suddenly, my anger and rage became the paralysis of depression. I sought help through a therapist and my Spiritual Director and it became apparent that I had a lifetime of grief that needed to be processed, released and healed and that in order to process this grief, I would need to be present to my true feelings. Suddenly, the Talbot’s attired, tied up tight, in control, master of my destiny Lauri toppled to the ground and a new Lauri had to be born…one that could be vulnerable, have feelings, experience pain, loss, disappointment. Once this was identified, the dam burst and I was flooded with real life. YIKES!
The Martyr and the Muse
In using the Enneagram as a tool for spiritual transformation, we learn about our Point of Disintegration and The Inner Gem. Ironically, they are one and the same. When the Perfectionist is deeply imbedded in our compulsion, we gravitate toward our point of disintegration – Type 4 on the Enneagram, here referred to as The Martyr. The Martyr is the suffering, woeful, hopeless romantic. “Oh woe is me, I am doomed, no one understands me and no one will ever love me.” Over the course of my life as a perfectionist, I have become well acquainted with the Martyr. The martyr feels EVERYTHING in spades – every slight, every criticism, every sideways glance, every perceived rejection as daggers to the heart. We are mortally wounded (or so we think) by the slings and arrows of life. Everything feels like an attack against us and our gifts. What we don’t yet know, however, is that hidden within our Inner Moaning Myrtle, is the MUSE and that this is the Inner Gem we are invited to seek, discover, cultivate and embrace. The Muse is he or she who FEELS the ups and downs of life, who experiences the fullness of emotions and who gives creative expression to these emotional life experiences so that others may be inspired, comforted, healed, challenged, empowered. The difference between the Martyr and the Muse is that the Martyr is overcome by the emotions that they feel, the Muse is present to their essential quality of Equanimity – able to journey through the peaks and valleys of the human experience gracefully and no worse for wear.
I am acutely aware of this dance between the martyr and the muse as I process a recent and significant loss. On one hand, bombarded by the chaotic and unpredictable journey of grief, I feel compelled to crawl into a corner of victimhood – O Woe is Me….nobody loves me. On the other hand, I am inspired to see what it looks like to allow myself to feel – to be present to the grief and to employ the gifts of my inner muse to give creative expression to that journey – perhaps with the intent of inspiring and supporting others one day. At any rate, I still feel as if I am learning….trying to silence the inner voices of rejection and shame and simply be present to the loss. To cry. To rage. To bargain. To deny. And to write to it all. I’m hoping that in doing this, my Moaning Myrtle becomes magnificent, beautiful and inspiring like one of my favorite Type 4’s – Sarah McLachlan. And as her songs have brought healing to my broken heart, maybe one day my poems will do the same for another. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dADn6KDS-s&feature=related