“In every change, in every falling leaf there is some pain, some beauty. And that’s the way new leaves grow.”
― Amit Ray
Back in the day, changes in behavior were credited to the “stages” children were passing through. Not much attention was paid to them, and, like growing pains, most folks agreed they’d pass with time and fresh air. Stages, save for adolescence, had no names, and even that fell into a broader catch-all that identified those in that category as “teens.” It was a simpler time, and parents whose experience was mirrored in the behavior of their children,weren’t worried and rarely stressed about the state of their children’s psyche or personality development.
It was a laissez-faire approach to child rearing, designed to raise obedient and God-fearing children. That changed as education, economic opportunity and technical innovation convinced those on the brink of adulthood they could do better and be better than their parents. We became more introspective and asked more of ourselves and others.
Introspection can lead to change, but how adults alter their behavior varies. Several weeks ago, a friend alerted me to an article written by a practitioner of Chinese medicine. The article compared the creative cycle of nature to our own and equated the decay and drop of autumn to the release of negativity within ourselves. To wit, letting go of waste makes us more receptive to what is pure and precious in our lives. At the very least, it causes us to examine who we are and correct the imbalance in our lives.
My imagination often veers a bridge too far, and my knowledge of Chinese medicine can be summarized in a single sentence. That aside, once visualized I internalized the imagery of leaves falling on a barren landscape and ascribed to each leaf an aspect of my personality that needed improvement or should be shed. The pile grew quickly, not large enough for a bonfire, mind you, but impressive nonetheless. Fortunately, I knew, instinctively, that come spring that barren tree would flower and bend beneath the weight of new growth, illustrating the theory – held by me alone – that there is a yin and yang or balance to personality traits. I think that teetering balance explains why others are often confounded by what they perceive to be changes in the way we behave.
Experts in the field of human behavior use labels to describe personality types. Among my closest friends is one they’d label a nurturer. She came from a large family and has six children of her own. She was active in all their activities and her home was the one where the neighborhood children gathered. As a grandmother, she was a regular Johnny on the spot when help was needed, but this year she seemed to disengage. Her family was alarmed. They shouldn’t have been. Having finally confronted that age old question, “Who nurturers the nurturer?” she’s taking some time out for self care. Sometimes nurturers have to do it themselves.
For years I worked with an extrovert who had surprising issues with self esteem. She was capable in the extreme, outgoing and generous with both her time and money. However, talking with her was more like a job interview than a conversation. She simply could not resist telling you how wonderful she was. Occasionally, when the glad handing was done and her stories were told, her need for reinforcement would surface and her usual, “Wow, they really liked that(presentation),” became a plea, “Do you think they liked me?” I’ve always felt badly for her because no one can stay center stage forever and I have an inkling what probably happened when her curtain came down.
I’ve known introverts who love people and mediators who can be very stubborn. When all is said and done, I think that there is some offsetting balance of traits in all personality types. I, like many people raised in circumstances similar to mine, am intuitive. We are not psychic mind you, but we can sense mood. It has more to do with body language and the tone and nuance of speech than divination. There is a downside to this. It’s called stubbornness. Because intuits are often right they have a tendency to think they are always right. Add to that a streak of perfectionism and a periodic need for solitude, there are times you might want to avoid them. When I look at the pile of leaves that have dropped around my feet, I am grateful for friends who wait with me for the new growth that comes with spring.