If you’ve ever come across the Enneagram, you’ll know what I mean when I say that I’m a textbook Three. If you’ve not, then go google it and then come back.
It’s ok, I’ll wait.
Here, let me save you some time and give you a link.
(boils kettle, makes a cup of tea, snarfs a pack of chocolate biscuits)
(some time later)
I know, what a rabbit hole, right?
So in the Enneagram system for personality typing, a Three is The Achiever. The Three derives their sense of self worth from getting shit done, being a success, ticking stuff off the list. The Three can be motivating, a good leader when they are healthy and mature. Unhealthy Three’s will literally do everything possible to look like a success, even if it means fudging the truth a little. Or a lot.
I reckon I’m pretty average, as Threes go. I’m like very much to be successful, it means a tremendous amount to me but I wouldn’t lie about things to make myself seem more successful than I am.
So I’m not going to paint a picture of the last number of weeks of me breezing through wrapping up a school year, making space for children’s meltdowns as they say goodbye to friends and familiarity, packing up a house, buying another house in a different country, organising an extended family holiday. It has been bumpy, I have had to take to my bed a couple of times, I’ve not been the patient, gentle mother I’d love to be. There have been many moments in the past couple of months when I have felt anything but a success.
And then there’s the nagging sense in the back of my mind that I’m not giving enough attention to the website, not highlighting enough of the fabulous women I’m coming across, not figuring out a way to make some money from what I feel I’m good at.
(Sidenote: Choosing to make acting/writing your profession is not a good idea if you’re a Three and success is a major motivator in your life!)
And then there was a little moment of clarity yesterday when I was contemplating shades of red for a wall in my boys’ new bedroom and feeling the tension rise as I realised I’d have to do two coats and the bunks were arriving next Tuesday, and I was leaving for Dublin tomorrow and how was I going to get it all done????
There was a moment of clarity that if the bunks arrived on Tuesday, that didn’t mean they neccessarily had to be assembled on Tuesday or even slept in on Tuesday. That perhaps there was a way to work around the schedule, perhaps there was another way that would work. Perhaps I could afford to take my foot off the gas, let the ball drop for a moment and acknowledge that if I failed to get something done according to my own timetable, it didn’t mean that I was a failure.
Perhaps success could be incremental. Perhaps it would be enough, to just get the paint, do one coat, do another next week, store the bunks in the garage for a few days and then assemble them when the room is finished. The pressure I was experiencing was not, in fact, real.
It might seem like a pretty mundane example, but there are frequent times when I miss the opportunity to reframe and take a breath. In the eagerness to succeed at whatever I have at that moment to do, I miss moments of quiet triumph.
I’ve been watching a number of women online talk about the amount of stuff they have to do, attempting to do it all while also managing children and family commitments (the emotional load is a whole other conversation) and I’m concerned that we are being driven by an idea of success that is quite alien to our own souls and our own wellbeing.
So I’m choosing to practise incremental success, success in baby steps, noticing the small victories, the quiet triumphs; like watching my 9 year old get excited about painting her little brothers’ bedroom, watching the boys’ bond grow stronger, turning the light off before midnight, getting a present off to my niece in time for her birthday. Little things that soothe the soul, still the mind and nourish the body.
What incremental successes are you celebrating this summer? I hope you can see hope and glory in places others don’t look.