Sunday, January 24, 2016

Much obliged

As I mentioned before, I've been listening to a Gretchen Rubin book in my car, to wit Better Than Before. My sister Leslie said the book had been helpful to her in some regards. Of course, as I listen,, part of me is gently seething, because Gretchen and I were in college together and I envy her her incredible success. But mostly I have to admit she's worked her butt off to be as successful as she is, and that she's done good work. It's certainly better than any book I've ever published, and she seems genuinely motivated to help people with her work.

So Gretchen divides the world into four categories of people, as laid out below.

  • Upholder—accepts rules, whether from outside or inside. An upholder meets deadlines, follows doctor’s order, keeps a New Year’s resolution. I am an Upholder, 100%.
  • Questioner—questions rules and accepts them only if they make sense. They may choose to follow rules, or not, according to their judgment.
  • Rebel—flouts rules, from outside or inside. They resist control. Give a rebel a rule, and the rebel will want to do the very opposite thing.
  • Obliger—accepts outside rules, but doesn’t like to adopt self-imposed rules.
And she's got a little quiz you can take to see which one you are. In a moment of weakness, I took the quiz, and was somewhat astonished when it told me that I am not a Questioner, nor a Rebel, but an Obliger.  Part of me wanted to go back and retake the quiz, but I know that my retake would be shaded by my resistance to my initial diagnosis.

Now I know these types of instruments are not super-scientific and all that, but still, I was mildly galled. But, as I reflect on it, there is certainly an element of truth to this confusion. Although, on the face of it, going out and getting a PhD in Russian Literature while sprouting all manner of facial hair, spouting some wacky theoretical jive, and partying pretty hearty might appear rebellious, I was in many ways seeking my dad's attention and approval. And since I left that life, I have worked very hard to be a pretty stand-up bourgie guy and consider myself deeply obligated to my family. For example, even as I type I am watching the clock and thinking about the sequence of the evening:  watch Star Trek Next Gen with Graham, make fire, discuss Europe trip, watch Downton Abbey with Mary, get to bed at a reasonable hour so I can get back out there tomorrow and earn money to support all of this and serve my clients well.
I even feel somewhat obliged to blog, because I know I have a small but dedicated readership -- and I love and thank you all -- who might bail on me if I let down on some sort of regularity in posting.
At times I have felt like the Giving Tree, who gives all and has nothing left for himself. But this is a bad dynamic and it encourages me to be pissy with everyone. The fact is, I love the blog, I love Star Trek, I love my family and making fires, etc. But it is perhaps symptomatic that I find it very hard to imagine living without them, because I don't know what my purpose in life would be.

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