Monday, November 28, 2005

personality colours

It’s amazing how we can spend weeks, months even, within routine - experiencing predictable, familiar emotions - and suddenly something happens and the palette with which we colour our lives is changed. Or all the colours seem to be a different shade.

This has been a month of grieving. It has coloured my life and changed how I understand myself, family and some of the complexities of our ties.

Grandpa’s funeral is today. But I am back in Ottawa and I am very aware of the 3,000 kilometres that separates me from the rest of my family. It would be undeniably difficult to be there - I realized this week how hard it is for me to be around people expressing intense emotions. But not being there for the funeral, being back in my world where no one knew my Grandpa and few know if his passing, makes his death less tangible. It’s like the emotions of the funeral can’t reach me when I’m so far away.

And yet it was not until I came home, this home, and was in the arms of my man that I began to cry a week’s worth of tears. Their pressure was like water on a dam – pushing so hard behind my eyes that I had a headache. It was not til I was two provinces away that I could relive my last visit to Grandpa’s deathbed and cry for his parting.

How and when do we experience emotions? Am I discovering it is not so obvious as I once thought. It is not always immediate; it is not limited to a place or time.

The last morning at Mum’s house I picked a book off the shelf about the enneagram ( This ancient system distinguishes 9 different personality types, yet allows for wonderful flexibility and uniqueness within each type. I was flipping through the book and stopped to read a portion about my type. It was as if my experience of the past week was summed up in two paragraphs - how I need to feel safe in order to experience and express my emotions, how I can become distant when confronted with intensely expressed feelings from others…

This last week I saw how differently members of my family experienced and reacted to emotions. An event so heavy and significant as death was a pressure-cooker environment where everyone’s personality was in its full intensity. At times I wondered if we would be more compassionate to each other if we could understand each other the way we understand ourselves. Someone once said, ‘If we made as many excuses for others as we do for ourselves, we would be much less quick to judge.’

Sometimes I think I spend too much time navel-gazing – trying to understand why and how I react to things the way I do. But then I think that if we could all could understand ourselves better we might be able to communicate more clearly to each other and see each other’s true colours less filtered by our own lenses.

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