Tuesday, February 14, 2017

THE BEST VALENTINE'S GIFT IN THE WORLD

by Sonja Stone



An unexamined life is not worth living. --Socrates


valentine's day hike, scottsdale
The weekend started with a beautiful evening hike in the McDowell Mountains.

PERSONALITIES IN LOVE

In honor of Valentine's Day (a holiday that, as a general rule, I loathe), I'm gonna talk about couples in relationships. Specifically, couples in relationships based on their Enneagram numbers.

For those of you not familiar with the Enneagram, it's basically a system of typing personalities, a little like the Myers-Briggs, which I talked about in WRITING THE YOUNG ADULT THRILLER.

The Enneagram system describes 9 basic personality types. The full test is rather lengthy, but there's a quick version here, if you're interested. If you already know your type, you can read about your personality traits in full on The Enneagram Institute's website. There's a great feature on this site that talks about relationships (specifically, how any two types interact with one another).

As my Valentine's gift, this past weekend my boyfriend treated us to an Enneagram Couples Workshop. We spent 17 hours learning about our personalities, how we interact based on our inherent beliefs and motivations, where our strengths lie and where our blind spots hide. This was a really thoughtful gift. Not only do I love exploring personalities (and talking about myself), but my bf and I got to spend basically the whole weekend together. 

Some of you know that I'm not really into "feelings." I'm comfortable with anger, but sadness, vulnerability, tenderness... I don't have a lot of use for those. My boyfriend and I joke that we have reversed gender roles--he's the extroverted feeler and I'm the introverted thinker. Our Enneagram types further confirm this hypothesis: I'm an 8 ("The Challenger"--confrontational, direct) and he's a 2 ("The Helper"--demonstrative, people-pleasing). 


The Enneagram with 9 Basic Types


EVERYTHING IS RESEARCH

The reason I bring this up on a blog authored by eight thriller writers is this: I'm currently working on the sequel to my young adult spy thriller, DESERT DARK, and I've really been struggling with the relationships between the characters. It's an issue I had with the first novel, too. My agent would send back my draft with notes scribbled in the margin: "Okay, the action is great, but what is she feeling here?"

What is she feeling? I really don't know. Does it matter? She's angry--do I care what's underneath? Is it relevant that her anger stems from fear of losing someone she loves? She's pissed and she's got a knife. Sounds like everything's going swimmingly to me!

Of course, I know that it DOES matter. I know that feelings are ALL that matter. I don't know this because it's what I believe; I know it because people who can better express their feelings tell me so. People I respect and seek counsel from, people I love, people I pay $150/hour to listen to me ramble (I don't ramble, I'm very direct. Because I'm an 8 on the Enneagram. Get in, get out, get on with it).

During one of our breaks at the conference, I took a second to jot down the personality type of each of my main characters. I'm really excited to do a little research and see how all of the types interact with one another (admittedly, this may be just another creative procrastination ploy cooked up by my if-you're-not-working-you're-wasting-precious-time brain, but either way, I'll probably learn something, right?).

So back to why I loathe Valentine's Day and the gender reversal thing. My boyfriend says, "What do you want for Valentine's Day?" I say, "Nothing. It's a stupid holiday fabricated by consumerism and does nothing but make people feel bad about their current relationships because it's impossible to live up to the hype." He nods. After a moment of silence I ask, "Um, what do you want for Valentine's Day?" Then he answers the same way that disillusioned lovers have been answering for millennia. "If you loved me, you would know what I want."

FYI, being in love doesn't grant me extrasensory perception. 


P.S. THE WEATHER 

Our topic this past month has been weather and how it weaves its way into fiction. My blog sisters have done a great job exploring this. K.J. Howe talked about self-care in the winter months, Jamie Freveletti ran down a few of the classics inspired by the Dust Bowl, and S. Lee Manning offered practical tips for incorporating weather into your fiction

I've heard weather and setting should be treated as their own character, but since I can barely eke out an emotion for an actual human, I leave this to the more skilled. Also, I live in Phoenix. It's 70 degrees and sunny. It will BE 70 degrees and sunny until mid-May, at which point the climate will change to 120 and sunny, where it shall remain until late October. Then--you guessed it--70 and sunny. Have you gleaned the pattern?


P.P.S. THE BOYFRIEND

First of all, for the record, I'm pretty sure he was kidding about that whole if-you-love-me-you'd-know thing. Secondly, I'll admit, I'm thrilled he ignored me when I said not to get a gift. I meant it, and I would've been fine without one, but we had a great (educational) time. In case you're wondering, I got him a gift certificate for a massage and a facial. And filled the empty flower box in front of his house with geraniums, snapdragons, petunias, and alyssum, which really was an act of love, because I think annual flowers are a ridiculous waste of resources. I mean, if they had some medicinal value, sure. But planting something just for the sake of it looking pretty? Something that will die and never come back? 

Because of our weekend-long workshop, I understand WHY I think that's ridiculous, and I also understand why my boyfriend thinks such things are a necessity. Apparently, you can teach an old dog new tricks. :)

Do you enjoy Valentine's Day? Are you a romantic like my boyfriend, or a skeptic like me?

photo credit, Enneagram: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/how-the-enneagram-system-works/

6 comments:

  1. Oh, dear, Sonja, such a wonderful blog. I love the way you weave in our human characteristics (do we every understand ourselves? should we? whatever happened to the mystery of life????)with writing the emotions of charcters. Sometimes I have to see my characters act and talk before I can really begin to understand who they are. They have to tell me. I love that you gave your boyfriends window boxes of annuals. That is just the sweetest, most unselfish gift!

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  2. Sonja -- what an interesting post. I took that test and while answers put me in a bunch of categories, the highest came out "Motivator" -- not sure what that means except that I am certainly motivated to compliment you on an excellent, most thought provoking blog. Also -- I agree with Gayle - glad you planted those flowers for your boyfriend!!!

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  3. Type 2 here. Spot on. Thanks for sharing this eye opening quiz. I would like to use this with some of my characters in my WIP.

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  4. Gayle and Karna, thanks for the encouragement! He absolutely loved the flowers and said they were one of the best gifts he's ever received.

    Debi, thanks for sharing your type! I always love to hear what other people find out about themselves. Good luck on your WIP!

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  5. Best Valentine's Day present ever! I'd say that man is a keeper!

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  6. Thanks, Chris! I think so, too. :)

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