Five days before Christmas, and one day before Hanukkah, I took stock of my life. I acknowledged that the holiday cards were not going to be on time this year, but the fact that there were going to be cards was enough to keep me at it. Time is relative. The gifts were purchased and wrapped, of sorts, if you can place “bagging” in the same category as paper, bows, tape, and creativity. I think I may have missed all of my holiday favorites on TV, but no matter. One kid was away at college, studying his heart out over Latin, attempting to learn one semester’s worth of Caesar’s language in three and a half weeks (that ought to be the title of a movie) and the other was hunkered down with finals of her own. Rudolph the Red-Nosed would have to salvage Christmas for all the unwanted toys without me. I’d unearthed a menorah, and a box of Hanukkah candles. Luckily, I bought several year’s worth in bulk, a couple of years ago. As long as I could keep the collies from eating the gifts (difficult, seeing how much they love paper,) I was good to go.
The days crept by, the holidays ever closer, and there I sat at my computer, hiding, facing the inevitable. Time was drawing nye to muster the courage to make New Year’s Resolutions. It’s terribly daunting.
Dr. K suggested a while back that the best way to boost one’s self confidence, the optimal method of looking the New Year in the eye and saying, “Ha! You’re not going to get me!” was through the resolution he’d committed himself to years ago: not to make any more New Year’s resolutions.
“How can you do that?” I’d asked him. “It’s not right. You’re not playing the game!” Ever the guy, he shrugged it off. Heavy self-introspection isn’t his thing. Whereas I self-analyze every word that has ever come out of my mouth. I think it’s because, way back when I matriculated into college at CU-Boulder, I had every intention of becoming a psychologist, until I learned at registration that Psych 101 was full. What to do? There and then I changed my major to History, and set myself upon that downward spiral towards becoming a lawyer. Yes, woe was me.
To make up for the fact that I would never counsel people, at least professionally, I counsel myself. It’s not something I can recommend if you value your stomach lining. The personality litmus test seems to be a popular pastime; most corporations administer a bucketful of them to determine whether their employees will play nicely with each other. I’ve never taken one of these tests, at least officially, but I understand that color-coding is popular, by use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This test paints people colors based on their styles of perception and judgment. Remember, I’ve never taken it, but I’m sure that the MBTI would determine I’m a Flying Purple People Eater, a color which doesn’t appear on their chart. So, I think I’ll have to go back to self-determination. Besides, I look terrible in purple.
The problem is, at this time of year, I do what I think I’m supposed to be doing, which is tallying up. How many books was I able to cross off my “TO READ” list? How many books can I check off on the New York Times Best 100 books list? And while some day I hope to find one of my own novels on that prime indicator of popularity, the fact that I berate myself for not reading even half the list weighs me down even further. It tends to be a self-defeating prophecy, when what I really ought to be doing is looking at the year’s accomplishments, counting up what I’ve done in fact, rather than worrying over someone else’s theoretical observations of how to live correctly.
Which is why, when my friend Peggy described a personality test she’d taken this year at a retreat, I paused, and considered. This was a test like none other, a “Living History Exercise.” The title of the test is fitting, given that Peggy is an historian, one of the best I’ve ever met, and yet, this test presented an unusual method of considering how we stack ourselves up. Asking the test-taker to describe herself in terms of the five senses, it falls somewhere between, “I think, therefore I am,” and the less desirable, “to be, or not to be. . ..”
So, here goes.
The beginning was easy. My name is Emily Kemme, and I am a writer. Well, that’s actually not as easy as one might think. I am a writer, finally, is what I’d like to put down on that line. It ought to be accompanied by a cheer. Hip Hip Hooray! And possibly I could draw a stick figure performing cartwheels.
Okay. Pressing onward to the five senses. This gets tricky.
First, I Look like, hmmm, I’d have to say a poodle. This dog breed comes in a variety of sizes, and sports curly hair. Check. Sizing up at 5 feet, 2 inches (and possibly a half) I’m somewhere between a standard and a miniature, if you throw in weight considerations. I am not a toy, by any stretch of the imagination. Regarded as highly intelligent, full of energy, enjoys being in the center of things, with a tendency to get into trouble, I think the dog collar fits.
Next, I Smell like a combination of French perfume, chicken soup and collie. This last is because I frequently hug said animals, and I encourage reciprocity. If you look closely, you’ll always find collie hair on my clothing. Last Saturday night, Mopsy indulged me, climbing into my lap as I read a book — which wasn’t one of the TOP 100 for 2011 — and sipped wine. I’m not sure if she wanted to cuddle, or was looking for a sip herself.
Third on the self-assessment was what I Feel like. That’s a tough one, depending on the time of day. First thing in the morning, I’d say a creaky water wheel. But then I gradually morph into a rubber band. Expand, retract, and then repeat. All day long.
The fourth question was difficult, too: when I talk, I Sound like a cross between a California Valley girl and an Ivy League English professor. The redeeming factor is that I don’t chew bubble gum. Ever.
Finally, I Taste like a savory sauce that only Julia Child could whip up.
It all sounded very interesting, until I came to the last question. What was my latest adventure, or what am I best known for? It stumped me for a bit, and then I had an epiphany. What could have been better — a greater defining moment — than when I spelled out “zion” in a Words With Friends game on a triple letter (the “z,” no less) and a triple word, earning a total 101 points! The friend against whom I was playing promptly resigned that game.
Yes. I am a One-Eyed, One-Horned Flying Purple People Eater. It doesn’t matter which test I take, the label is there. Personally, I believe this monster is extremely misunderstood. As is the case with most monsters, they just want to be friends. They never meant to eat anyone. Curly hair notwithstanding. Most monsters are truly just poodles in disguise.
I think it’s only possible to make resolutions if you know who you are to begin with. Sometimes, that’s a tough pill to swallow.
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