Myers-Briggs, ‘Big Magic’ and a Rowing Machine: Living Creatively

“When I refer to ‘creative living,’ I am speaking more broadly. I’m talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.” -Elizabeth Gilbert

In my second-to-last semester of a Bachelor’s degree program for Nursing, I took an elective class that seemed to be categorically unrelated to anything I’ve studied seriously: fiction writing. As a quick read through a few of these blog entries will relay, I’m a strong narrative writer. I’ve also got a creative background in classical music (having studied piano, violin and flute), visual art (having dabbled in ceramics, a bit of painting and some drawing), photography, some cooking (particularly the ‘Jilli Originals’ of my childhood) and fiber arts (sewing, knitting and crocheting in particular).

In the rhythm of this fiction writing course, I meditated regularly upon the place of the creative process in the life of a Created one. By creative I reference not just ‘crafty’ or traditionally ‘artistic’ proclivities, but as Elizabeth Gilbert says in her book Big Magic, “…when I refer to ‘creative living,’ I am speaking more broadly. I’m talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear,” (page 9). If I take seriously the idea that human beings, in general and myself specifically, are made in the image of God (as the imago Dei), living from a place of curiosity resonates so harmoniously in my spirit.

While I’m not interested in categorizing myself based on a computerized assessment, part of my graduate studies in seminary required me to complete the extended, full-blown Myers-Briggs inventory. Personality tests usually make me feel squirmy, like I’ve somehow gotten a bit of popcorn kernel stuck in a leg of my pants and I can’t sit still until it’s gone. I feel the same way about horoscopes and astrology; I think confirmation bias runs the show in all three of these. Lately, though, I’ve been practicing using these assessments as a place from which to begin and launching point for further inquiry & contemplation. While my scores put me very close to the middle of the range for most items, my Myers-Briggs type is ISFJ. Also known as ‘The Defender‘, people with an ISFJ personality type are said to be ‘true altruists’ and enjoy practicing generosity in the context of work they believe in.

Much of my adult life so far has been devoted to learning the nuanced differences genuine altruism and my ancestral legacy of codependency. If/when I ever figure that out completely, I’ll let you know. It surprised me to realize consciously what my spirit already knows: I serve because I enjoy doing so. I enjoy working in healthcare because I get to do my favorite thing: love people! I enjoy running with Team World Vision more than I ever enjoyed running for sport because this team has become family and the generosity of my friends and family forever changes the lives of kids who receive clean water and connect with sponsors.

My training for the 2018 Twin Cities Marathon begins in April-ish with base training, before June marks the beginning of ‘real’ training. In the mean time, I’m working to outsmart last year’s foil (intense, enduring hip pain between mile 17 and all the way to mile 20) by developing greater core strength, flexibility and endurance. Earlier this week, I used a rowing machine for the first time. I’m mostly sure that was on Saturday but the current soreness of my glutes and hip flexor group muscles makes me an unreliable witness. Rowing surprised me because my back felt so much stronger and painless after rowing; I attribute this to the activation of muscles in my core that my body has learned to function without. With MS, sometimes strange things happen in my body and it just is part of the deal. My neurologist, his collaborating nurse practitioner and I have been pondering my lower back soreness in the past year. While we’ve used lidocaine patches and considered muscle relaxants (thinking there was a mild, MS-related spasm occurring), it turns out in my case that this was perhaps a function of strain on the lumbar spine as a consequence of core muscle weaknesses.

As I practice living from a place of curiosity this year, I’m gearing up to spend more time cross-training and building a solid base before marathon training intensifies. Last year, I almost didn’t run the marathon because I was scared. I finally decided to do it because (as I feared at the time), if that was the last year in my life where my body would let me do it, I wanted to know I had gone all in. Now that I know how much fun this can be, I’m excited to get ready for training again. I’ll get back to the rowing machine a couple of times this week, as soon as I can sit down again without pain.

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