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Kelly: Woman, Know Thyself

I had an interesting conversation over lunch with a good friend last week. Dana and I are both very creative souls and we both work in education, but that’s about where the similarities end. I’m a Student Life director, so by nature, I’m quick to act, easily juggle, rarely have time to analyze, and frankly, don’t like to analyze. I’m just more of a “do-er.” Dana is a counselor and psychology professor. ‘Nough said? She was telling me about some books she’s been reading…all in the self-help variety…and I was trying to feign interest but just couldn’t do it. I’m currently engrossed in the Twilight series. I must admit, I’ve never read a self-help book in my life. Honestly, I can’t think of a non-fiction book I’ve read that was outside the scope of school or college homework. Is that terrible? We’ve had some long talks about relationships (hers mainly) and though I love her to death, she frustrates the hell out of me when she comes to me for advice because, in my eyes, she analyzes things to death. I’m more of an “it is what it is” kinda girl.

We started talking about planning and goal setting and laying out some future plans for her life. Do you see where this is going? Do you remember me saying here how forced the Monday Page feels for me? So I admitted I’m not much of a planner or goal setter either. She just laughed at me and said, “Well then, how the heck do you do all that you do?” and I had to think about that for minute. All I could come up with was “Um, I just do it.” Lame, huh?

I’ve mentioned True Colors here before and I think that’s where my “Orangeness” comes into play. Here’s a basic rundown of an “Orange”: I act on a moment’s notice. Witty, charming and spontaneous, I consider life as a game, here and now. Impulsive, generous and impactful, I need fun, variety, stimulation, and excitement. Optimistic, eager, and bold, I value skill, resourcefulness, and courage. Physical, immediate, and fraternal, I am a natural trouble shooter, performer, and competitor. I value freedom, adventure, play, spontaneity, and variety, and I’m frustrated with schedules (particularly being on time) and unnecessary routine. I’m independent, action-oriented, flexible, energetic, and optimistic.” Blah, blah, blah…. Hmmm, which should explain why I’m so easily bored and even more easily distracted.

I’ve been a True Colors trainer for about nine years now, and it’s amazing how much knowing the principles behind it has helped me in my life. Most of the actual training is a blur to me, but one moment I remember very clearly. During the introduction, our trainer—Roosevelt something or other—cautioned us that because of the nature of the training, we’d be learning a lot about ourselves first and might have some epiphanies that surprise us. I definitely had one of those. My best friend Jim was going through the training with me (my DH calls him my “other husband”), and he saw the moment happen, and lucky for him was the one who had to help me work through it later that night. Our training was in June 2000, six months after my mother’s suicide. I can’t remember what Roosevelt said, but I clearly remember the thought that immediately popped in my head. My 54-year-old mother thought she had nothing to live for, yet she had me, a 34-year-old pregnant-with-twins me, and my 24-year-old sister. That realization hit me like a ton of bricks. All I could see right at that moment was that we weren’t reason enough to keep her alive. I wasn’t reason enough to keep her alive. My flexible, energetic, optimistic self crumbled right then and there. Jim saw me shut down and got me out of there as soon as the moment allowed. Also being an “Orange,” his first instinct was to “do something,” so he dragged me up to my room, got me to change into workout clothes, and took me out for a ride. We were in Atlanta, and the Olympic mountain biking training course was nearby and open to the public. It was a rough ride; he pushed me harder than what I was used to (he’s done three Ironman triathlons), but it was exactly what I needed. He helped me work through that moment physically so my mind didn’t really have much time to think about it. And later that night he sat there listening as I blubbered through my tears. But I got through it. And I think that Orange nature is what helped me get through it. It took me about another six months to gain back the self-esteem that plummeted with that realization, but I did bounce back, and I know I’m a stronger woman for it.

Maybe that’s where the title to this post comes from: Woman, Know Thyself. I had to remind myself of my worth, and I had to remind myself that “it is what it is,” and I can’t control the actions of another person. So back to Dana, no matter how much someone tries to analyze a person or even your own life, your analyzing isn’t going change anything. But your action will. As the saying goes, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Maybe my experience is what keeps me from being a planner and a goal-setter. I’m a child of five divorces and a mother who killed herself. I live in the here and now, most definitely. It reminds me of Miranda’s “someday is today.” In my typical rambling fashion, I’m trying to figure out what the heck my point was in all this, but I think maybe just “knowing thyself,” first and foremost, and not worrying about the goals and expectations that others put on you, is the first step to just “doing it.” I think that’s ultimately the advice I gave Dana: stop analyzing and just do something. And now, distracted by two little redheads dressed in fairy wings and calling my name, my train of thought has gone down the track of knowing thyself needs to go play with her children and enjoy this beautiful Spring Break day.

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Cathy #

    kelly, it’s great you took a moment to recognize that what may work for others doesn’t for you and vice versa. especially if it helps you understand why you were bored with the conversation! Orange definitely seems a fitting analysis for you!

    personally, i struggle between the 2 ends of that spectrum, overthinking and spontanous. it leads me to much frustration in i want things done now, but i mull how to do them. in some cases i can just pick up and do, but then i get frustrated when the end result doesn’t ‘meet my standards’ and if i just took a moment to think about it before i started nailing those boards together, etc, or measured them first, then that boat would float, not leak.

    thanks for the chance to reflect on that, as i stare at the screen with the longhand inspiration sitting in front of it waiting to go into the manuscript. i had expected to plug that bit in yesterday, but laundry and and my ‘pooh spot’ (‘think, think, think’) prevailed.

    and once again, we have a significant thing in common as my best friend for the past 20 odd years is probably drinking HIS coffee in Cambridge, MA!

    this true color thing sounds fascinating. of course i also dabble in astrology, meyers-briggs, etc – any new mode of analysis catches my attention. think, think. think!

    March 31, 2009
  2. Now I’m sitting here wondering what my color is. I’m very much “it is what it is”, although also an analyzer. I accept that it is what it is, but I still want to know why.

    I’m a self help junkie… and I enjoyed part of the Twilight series. I say part because I got bored half way through New Moon and haven’t gone back to finish it yet.

    I think part of my reason for being so self critical and analytical is that I don’t yet really know myself. I’m getting there. Letting myself expand to my fullest. I’ve always been a people pleaser and sometimes fear keeps me from knowing myself… or rather keeps me from accepting who I really am and peeking out from behind the wall of shame that I’ve built over time. There are so many “what ifs”. Being completely vulnerable is scary. But necessary at times I’m learning.

    Fascinating stuff.

    How can I learn my color and what it means?

    March 31, 2009
  3. Cathy #

    hey, i found an online quiz and took it for an at-a-glance look. i’m dominantly green with a high blue reading, mid orange and low gold.

    i’m sure there’s more to it, but it was kind of neat and pretty accurate.

    March 31, 2009
  4. that’s a decent quickie quiz cathy, though with only two choices, it’s a bit limiting in truly discerning your color, but the spectrum you came with sounds right for you. when i just took it, it came out heavier blue than orange and that’s backwards for me, but it see that the quiz itself is a little heavily skewed towards blue overall. carolyn kalil is a blue so that may be why. my spectrum is orange, blue, gold, green.

    carmen, your knowing yourself comment really hits home with me. from reading your blog and from what you’ve said here, i’m guessing you’re a solid blue. i used to be a people pleaser. now, i don’t worry about it much any more. what changed that? my mom’s death. mom was a major people pleaser, so much so that when she couldn’t please her third husband, she killed herself. that was a huge message for me that came through loud and clear in her suicide note. tough message to learn, and a hell of a way to learn it, but it’s helped me really learn to live MY life, not the life other people think i should be leading. it’s very freeing to let others’ judgements of you go by the wayside.

    March 31, 2009
  5. That was really interesting. Of course, I wanted to play, too. I’m a green, with high levels of gold and blue. Now to figure out what that means. 🙂

    March 31, 2009
  6. Cathy #

    brittany, it means you’re like me, but tidier. hee-hee

    carmen, after you’re comment, i’m curious how old you are…i was much more of a people pleaser before 38. still some remnants, but babsically, i don’t let it affect me too terribly much anymore.

    kelly, i was really torn for some of the questions, and i bet you have more blue since having kids and some of the other things you’ve been going through of late, like your cancer scare and a couple of deaths of friends. i know you’ve been doing a lot of reprioritizing here and on your own blog. it’s possible your colors reprioritized, too. i know it’s a quickie quiz, but it definitely is food for thought.

    March 31, 2009
  7. Kelly – from that limited quiz, I did come up a solid blue. I don’t really know what that means though. lol

    Cathy – I’m 32. These past few years have been very eye opening for me and I’m seeing many, many things much more clearly now, although I still have a lot of growing and learning to do.

    Thank you Kelly for this post today. 🙂


    P.S. It was sort of “self helpy”. lol

    March 31, 2009
  8. Liz #

    What does blue mean anyway? I am primarily blue with orange, green & gold following up the rear. It says I create peace and harmony but I don’t think I do. I am very heartfelt and loving towards people, but I am pretty good at pissing them off, too! (ha ha)

    Anyway, I agree to know thyself – but also know that thyself evolves over time (like cathy pointed out).

    It is amazing, too, when we realize how our parents either molded or affected our personality. That is an important step, so that you can choose to cherish or change it!

    March 31, 2009
  9. Kristine #

    Beautiful post, Kelly. I think you embody the very essence of living within your “true self.” Your friend Jim seems like a gem, too.

    I took the color test and not surprising, I am a true BLUE all the way, with very little orange. LOL! I’m way too much of a thinker and analyzer. Always have been. Spontaneous events and situations scare the hell out of me, actually. I always have a plan.

    After reading this post and taking the test, I can definitely see how my blue personality affects my writing. I analyze everything, get uncomfortable with the confrontation scenes, and go back to my outline to analyze and think again when I hit a snag within my plot or a scene. It’s crazy (but also makes total sense).

    I have to admit that I used to read a lot of self-help books. I love trying to understand and “analyze” myself. I actually dabbled in psychology in college but then went with Journalism because it was more “practical.”

    When I was younger, I used to be a big people pleaser (which I blame on my upbringing), but having children changed all that. Maybe it was the hormones.

    Thank you for this post, Kelly!

    March 31, 2009
  10. Thank you for this post, Kelly. You are so honest about difficult issues, and I think that’s a gift to all of us.

    It used to bother me when others said that you can’t really know yourself until about 40, but now that I’m nearly there myself, I understand the truth in that statement. I used to be filled with angst about what other people were thinking about me; was I doing the right thing or the wrong thing. I would analyze every situation to death — then resuscitate it and analyze it again.

    I don’t do that anymore. I no longer apologize for breathing. When you know you’re in the wrong, stand up and apologize for it. Otherwise, no apologies. I don’t think I’m an “in your face” pushy jerk, either, but I strive for a place of authenticity. Acting out of honesty and respect for myself. Caring for others without losing myself. Learning to listen to my inner voice and acting from that guidance.

    I no longer spend time with people who make it difficult for me to be authentic. When someone sets off my alarm bells, I know better than to hang around for the “intellectual challenge” or just because my impulse is to be accommodating and empathetic. I don’t have the time, interest, or margin for that.

    For me, knowing yourself is in part as simple as knowing what feels right and what feels wrong. It means being able to focus on your priorities and letting go of the chaff. You also need to be able to identify your own BS and call yourself on it. I have enough experience now to know the difference between my inner voice and my inner BS. I think that’s part of the wisdom that comes with turning 40.

    Growth is important — lifelong growth — but just like plants, we need to grow toward the light. Before you can do that, you need to know what your light is. Otherwise you’ll wake up one day to discover that you’re a sad, limp piece of white asparagus, trying to grow in a room without sun.

    (I took the quiz too — very green.)

    March 31, 2009
  11. So glad that I have a color-mate here. Was very worried that I was the only green one of the bunch. 🙂

    When I was younger, I hated myself and my analytical personality. I desperately wanted to be a free free-spirit, and not be chained-up-with-worries-and-rule-following. For all you astrologers, I’m a very conflicted Capricorn, with an ascendant in Libra and a Moon and Venus in Aquarius. I have wild and reckless impulses dominated by a very VERY firm and no-nonsense British nanny. When I picture my inner life, I think of Whistler’s Mother on a unicycle.

    In the past 5 years or so, I’ve come to embrace that side of myself. I still don’t think I’m cool. But I do think I’m interesting and authentic. And so what if inside I’m 95 years old, love shopping where the old ladies shop, love eating in cafeterias, and love wearing comfortable shoes and being around comfortable people? It’s who I am. And finally in my thirties, I’m ready to be the person I grew up to be.

    April 1, 2009
  12. Amen, sister!

    April 1, 2009
  13. Cathy #

    exactly! ditto! how’s a little age for perspective?

    it’s all about taking it easy and not worrying so much about what others think or how i’ll make everyone happy anymore. it never made me happy to always bend in the wind/whim of others. finally, i can relax after 40.

    and the cool i tried to be when i was younger is so overrated by youth. i like conan o’brien’s recent statement to that effect, and i am seriously paraphrasing here, ‘i hate cool. enthusiasm is what turns me on.’ if enthusiasm makes me a geek, geek i am.

    and that’s why, not matter how cross-eyed my son k looks at me when i do this now(as he aims for cool) i still tap dance at random in the kitchen. it’s very freeing to act the fool. and i do so honestly, with integrity and enthusiasm.

    my new fellowship is trying to get me to sign up for this committee or that function, and 10 years ago i said yes to all of it and resented most of it. now i am finally comfortable saying ‘thank you for considering me, but i just can’t do that at this time.’ it’s about the nicest way of saying no i could come up with. and it works quite well, esp when i shove the baby in their face!

    i feel very fortunate (with a touch of guilt) that i am currently able to be home with c and to write as my pace reveals itself. i feel very indulgent, too, but mostly i am able to take a breath and appreciate that i can be home to do this now. next school year may be a different story, but for now, i can write and i can be with my kids, be a better mom for not being harried for the first time in my life.

    i still have inner struggles with just do it/analyze it first, emotional/intellectual, neat vision/cluttered space, big ideas/non-functional thought ie: i knew what i was going to do next before i turned around and forgot in the middle of it because my mind is going in 6 directions at once as mom, cook, house manager, writer on one project while new ideas abound, keeping a song in my heart and just ekeing by. the difference, now, is my heart rate is much healthier because i know it’s all me. i’m not ‘letting the bastards get me down’ anymore.

    April 1, 2009
  14. wow! i just got back in town and i’m glad to see this post generated so much chatter! it was interesting to see ya’ll’s results from the short TC quiz. i had guessed at all your colors correctly except liz. liz, i did find that that particular short quiz leaned a little bit towards the blue. glad you all enjoyed the process.

    April 1, 2009

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