Hunkering

I am currently in a state of limbo waiting for things to change over which I have no control. I’m in a holding pattern, unable to make progress. I feel like all I’m doing is converting oxygen into carbon dioxide.

This metaphysical hunkering feels similar to the hunkering I did during a three-month NOLS expedition in the Alaska wilderness in 2008. We spent a lot of time hunkering in our tents on that expedition. Sometimes because of weather, like the three soggy days spent camped by the side of a gravel road waiting for the rain to stop and the river to subside so we could wade across. On other occasions we hunkered while waiting for food or rescue.

Our first hunker was spent next to a makeshift runway we had built in a humid valley, waiting for the clouds to lift so a small plane could land with our rations. We had already been without food for two days, having been unable to get to the site where we had planned to meet the plane for our re-ration. Instead we bushwhacked through a dense forest and traversed a raging river to find a spot where a plane might be able to land, and cut down small trees to make a runway.

I hunkered here.
I hunkered here.

Continue reading “Hunkering”

Advertisements

INTP vs. INTJ: Expressing emotions

This is the second post in an ongoing series on the differences between INTJs and INTPs, as observed in my husband and myself. If you’re not familiar with them, you should first read this primer on Myers-Briggs and cognitive functions.

Both INTJs and INTPs are often perceived to be cold, unfeeling, and emotionally distant. We are not as skilled as other types at displaying and communicating emotion, but we do experience emotions very deeply and have a strong need for emotional intimacy—albeit with very few people.

This has to do with our cognitive functions. Because the Feeling function is low on the hierarchy for both types, it is less developed and our emotional ability is less mature than our other functions. For INTPs the Feeling function is extraverted (denoted as Fe) and is the inferior function (fourth in the dominance hierarchy), whereas for INTJs the Feeling function is introverted (denoted as Fi) and is the tertiary function.

As an INTP I express emotions outwardly, and I have a hard time controlling them. My expressions tend to be exaggerated, whether I’m angry or happy, causing my emotions to appear outwardly more extreme than I actually feel. My mood can change suddenly without warning. If I’m having a serious conversation with someone but remember something funny that happened to me last month, I will start laughing uncontrollably without being able to moderate my response.

My husband KJ’s feelings are directed inward because of his Fi, and he has a hard time expressing them outwardly. Continue reading “INTP vs. INTJ: Expressing emotions”

Looking to the light

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One morning I was putting AJ in her carseat when our 5-year-old neighbor came out of the house next door. She waved and asked where we were going, and I told her we were going to a friend’s house for a playdate. She replied, “Now? In the middle of the night?” “It’s not night,” I said, “it’s almost ten in the morning.” She said, “But it’s still dark outside. Whenever I wake up and it’s still dark, my mom always says ‘go back to sleep! It’s not morning yet!’”

Some Alaska moms can get their kids to sleep until noon in the winter using that trick. Unfortunately, my daughter has an impeccable internal clock that wakes her up hours before light breaks the horizon, and she’s progressively waking up earlier and earlier.

Thankfully, so is the sun. Though it still rises at about the same time AJ takes her first nap, the increasing light already makes a big difference. Everything looks better from this side of the solstice.

Winter in interior Alaska lasts for almost three-quarters of the year, and in December we only get a very few short hours of sunlight. It would all be completely unbearable if it weren’t for one thing: seasonal temperature lag, the delay in the Earth’s surface temperature response to solar insolation. The warmest time of the year occurs after the peak of maximum solar insolation (summer solstice), and the coldest time of the year occurs after the time of lowest solar insolation (winter solstice). Temperature can lag insolation by up to three months, caused by the high specific heat of water in the oceans and atmosphere, which absorb incoming heat from the sun and release it slowly.

If there were no seasonal temperature lag, winter would be evenly split between either side of the solstice, and the darkest month of the year would also be the coldest. Our first four months of winter would be an agonizingly slow march towards ever-decreasing temperatures and light. By mid-winter, we would all be in a black hole of depression with nothing to look forward to because the second half of winter would be just as long and terrible as the first.

Thanks to temperature lag, two-thirds of the winter is spent in progressively increasing light, and the second half of winter has longer days than the first half. By the time we reach the coldest days of the year, the days are already longer than they were at the beginning of winter. And even though snow continues to linger long after spring equinox, summer’s constant daylight inches closer and heralds the warmth. Thank goodness for the specific heat of water.

Made with love

I’m a mom of a toddler. How did that happen? My daughter AJ is now a walking, tantrum-throwing one-year-old. She babbles up a storm, communicates with gestures and sign language, can follow directions, and plays in so many creative ways. Every day she understands more, expresses more, and becomes more like herself. Before I know it, she’ll be graduating from college and I’ll be looking at her newborn photos and saying, “how did my baby grow up so fast?”

Baby AJ is the best person I’ve ever met. I think my husband is pretty great, but I still look at the two of us and wonder how we could have made such a wonderful person. AJ is so happy, curious, and full of love. Her giggles and squeaks are the most joyous sounds in the world. She gives the most wonderful hugs, and she smells like pure love.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have such bittersweet nostalgia for her newborn days. It makes me cry to look at photos of her when she was younger because I hardly had time to enjoy each stage. Back then, I didn’t know what a wonderful person she was going to become. I didn’t know how much I was going to love her. I loved her as much as I possibly could imagine, but I could not imagine as much love then as I can now. My capacity for love grows each day the more I get to know her and the person she is.

When I was pregnant, I remember thinking that I needed to savor the experience of having her in my belly, because I knew there would be days ahead when I would wish to experience it again. Not just to be pregnant again, but to be pregnant with her again. Now that I know who she is and what she is like, I wish I could carry her inside me again, close to my heart, cozy and safe. I wish I could go back and cuddle little newborn AJ with the knowledge of how fleeting that time was and what an amazing little girl she would become. It seems so unfair that time only moves in the forward direction.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

INTP vs. INTJ: living in the moment

This is the beginning of an ongoing series on the differences between INTJs and INTPs, as I observe them in my husband and myself. I used to think these two types were very similar, but being married to an INTJ has quelled that misconception. Of course there are many obvious differences between P’s and J’s—P’s like spontaneity, J’s are planful; J’s are organized, P’s are scattered; P’s are indecisive, J’s like to reach a quick conclusion. But as I continue to learn more about myself and my husband, there are many interesting differences between us that are unexpectedly influenced by our Myers-Briggs types.

My husband and I often talk about what our lives were like before we met and how they have changed since. I think that I was happier as a single person than he was, but since we’ve been together, he is happier than I am when we’re apart. (Our relationship was long-distance from the beginning, and our marriage is still quasi-long-distance thanks to his job.) This has to do with our ability to live in the moment, and whether our minds are naturally oriented to the present or the future.

As a P, I am able to live in the present really well because I’m constantly taking in information about present experiences and processing them. While I was single in the years between college and meeting my husband, I filled my life with activities and experiences that I enjoyed doing alone. My future was open, and even though I wanted to fall in love and have a family, I knew there was a possibility that might never happen, and I was okay with it because I was happy.

My husband’s mind-space is always in the future because as a J, he loves to make plans. It was always his goal to have a family, and many of his other plans and decisions in life depended on it. Without that piece of the puzzle, he wasn’t able to proceed with other plans, and he wasn’t able to enjoy the present when the future was unknown.

When we’re apart during the week, he doesn’t feel very lonely because the big picture is still present to him. Having our family motivates him and gives him the sense of purpose that he needs, whereas I am more prone to forgetting things that are not present. I enjoy the “now” of being with my family more than our future plans.

The future is much more tangible to my husband than it is to me. As long as the future looks bright, he is able to be happy even if the present is dull. If the future is bad or unknown, he can’t enjoy the present even if it’s good. I am the opposite; I can live in the moment and enjoy the present no matter what the future looks like, but if the present moment is crappy, it affects me a lot even if the big picture looks bright.

Do your thoughts live mostly in the present or the future (or the past)? What’s your Myers-Briggs type?

Know thyself

Learning about Myers-Briggs personality types has helped me in so many ways, but for a long time I thought it was no better than a horoscope. Almost every online quiz I’ve ever taken told me I was an INTJ, and some aspects of it seemed to fit me, but some were way off. So even though I’ve known about Myers-Briggs for a long time, I didn’t give much weight to it until four years ago.

Finding out that I was an INTP was earth shattering. I should have taken the official MBTI, but I discovered it on my own when, after yet another online quiz told me I was an INTJ, I happened to read some short descriptions of the other types. The description for INTP seemed to match me better, so I read some more detailed profiles of INTPs (this is my favorite one). I realized that I was reading all about myself, down to the tiny little quirks and strange habits that I thought nobody else shared or even knew about. Even things that I thought were beyond the domain of personality, like my lack of interest in pop culture and my propensity to burst out laughing at inopportune moments because I remember something funny from two weeks ago, were apparently hallmarks of my personality type.

I had always thought I was weird, because I had never met another person like me. Now I knew for the first time that I was not weird; I was a perfectly normal INTP! My Myers-Briggs type accurately explained, or at least described, almost everything about me. This revolutionized my life. It changed everything from my self-esteem to the way I interacted with the world.

By knowing that I was in fact completely normal, I no longer felt like I had to conform to social expectations of personality—which is a good thing, because studies have shown that in American culture, the most favored personality type for women is ESFJ, my exact opposite. Reading more in-depth about INTPs taught me about how I could grow as a person in a way that was in line with my personality. I felt free to pursue my full potential as an INTP instead of focusing my energy on pursuing the ESFJ skills and interests that I was pressured to adopt. I can grow a lot more in the natural direction of my type than if I tried to go against the grain.

Knowing about Myers-Briggs also helps me to better understand others. After learning about each of the personality types, cognitive functions, and their traits (and using my iNtuition and Perception), I am able to figure out someone’s type quite easily, and this really helps my interactions and relationships. I am able to have more empathy for those with personalities that clash with mine, or who have values or opinions that I don’t understand or agree with, because I can see when they are influenced by their Myers-Briggs type. When I don’t understand why someone is behaving or thinking a certain way, knowing their type can help me determine whether they truly are being irrational or unreasonable, or whether their behavior is logical in accordance with their type.

Myers-Briggs is a great help in my marriage, by helping me and my husband to understand each other better and get to the root of many of our differences. When conflicts arise, it helps to know whether they are due to personality type differences, background and values differences, or whether one of us is being illogical. And as a parent, I am always mindful of my type’s natural strengths and weaknesses, so I know what I need to work on and how I can use my INTP-ness to be the best mom I can be. As my daughter grows up, I will be mindful of her Myers-Briggs type so I can better meet her needs and help her grow into her full potential. I hope it also helps her to understand her parents better.

Thinking en plein air

Before I met my husband, I spent most of my time alone, absorbed in thought. My life was simple, peaceful, and quiet, if sometimes lonely. Throughout my days, no matter what I was doing, unrelated thoughts simmered in my mind. Thinking was my main activity and favorite pastime, and I had the luxury of spending hours every day in uninterrupted thought. I weaved long braids of thought over the course of days or weeks, collecting slivers of ideas from past and present experiences, things I’d learned, things my senses perceived on daily walks and hikes, and vague notions from my dreams. Past experiences continued to unravel in my mind for days or weeks or years, until their full meaning became clear. I could steep in a collection of ideas for days at a time, until it softened and a theme emerged.

My life was a series of themes, each spinning off variations of thoughts. Some became blog subjects, personal writings, or other projects. Each theme and train of thought changed me in some way as it became part of my inner landscape, and faded to a conclusion just as a new theme arose, organically.

For the first year after I met my husband, I thought mostly of him, our love, our future, and our life together. Even so, I was still able to produce long webs of thought. I did a lot of writing, mostly for or about him. Those thoughts were mostly feeling, aroused by an intense romance that was spiritual in fervor.

At some point, as our life together became more real than imagined, my thoughts about the future left the ecstatic realm and entered the mundane. We began to spend most of our time talking and thinking about things like financial planning, car maintenance, home buying, car seat safety, and baby poop. The thoughts that simmer constantly in my mind now are purely practical rather than philosophical. I have no mind left for extracurricular thinking.

Since becoming a mom, I’m lucky if I can continue one train of thought for 15 minutes without being interrupted. My mind is never still enough to fan thoughts into flame. Being a mom of an almost-toddler requires me to be constantly vigilant. When I’m with my daughter, and even when I’m not, I’m always thinking: Is she safe? Is she getting into trouble? Is she hungry? Does she have to poop? Whenever I germinate a thought that seems worthy of weeks of contemplation, my attention is called elsewhere and within five minutes I’ve forgotten it entirely.

I miss the way I used to think. I miss my INTP-ness. I want to get reacquainted with my mind and luxuriate in thought again. If I weren’t breastfeeding, I think it would be refreshing to my spirit to spend a whole day away from my daughter in uninterrupted thought. It would be even better than a day of uninterrupted sleep.

Oh, but I would miss my daughter so much. I would want to shelve my thinking just so I could kiss her chubby cheeks and tickle her and watch her crawl around talking to her toys.