There's debate in the Psychology/Psychiatry fields over whether personality is something one is born with, or something that comes from learning and environment. I think it's a mixture of both. What's the body of research that has led me to this conclusion? Well, my life and experiences, of course.
Some months ago, we were headed home from an appointment that Trent had at University of Colorado Hospital. It's more formally known as University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, but that's too long and makes it sound like a giant experimental maze full of people looking for cheese. Not delicious and wonderful cheese, mind you, but some ghastly low-fat, low-sodium cheese-reminiscent abomination. So I call it University of Colorado Hospital. I told you I was opinionated!
Anyway, we were headed home and drove past an area beside the highway that is home to a moderately sized colony of prairie dogs. The sight of prairie dogs next to traffic often reminds me of Gram. In this case the memory tumbled around and took me somewhere else. Even though it might be embarrassing, I thought, I need to write about the thing which will briefly be a mystery. I jotted down a note in the terrible printing associated with being in a moving vehicle, and left it to grow in the back of my mind.
This made me think about the fact that I have always been on the sensitive side. That doesn't mean that if someone says something rude to me I will burst into tears. In fact, it's more likely to get me heated up. It just means that I have the ability to be deeply moved by many things, especially the various things suffered by others. It is perhaps a contributing factor to my protective nature. Be rude to me, so what. But be rude to someone else who doesn't deserve it, and you may get an earful from The Lunatic.
One of my few memories from my life in Chicago with my parents and siblings is of a very sensitive moment. Peter Pan was being broadcast on television, and it had gotten to the part where Tinkerbell was possibly dying. When the call came to clap your hands if you believed in fairies, I did so. I did so weeping buckets of tears. I didn't want Tink to die. I didn't want Peter Pan to lose his friend. You get the picture.
The abuse at the hands of the terrifying Alice, along with the war zone that is children and childhood, helped me to learn some ways to cope. Although my tears certainly didn't mean I was weak (a weak person could never have survived some of the things I experienced), they could be viewed as such by the less-sensitive and sometimes more cruel people around me. A bit of emotional detachment can be a great survival tool if you don't want to be eaten alive by the people around you.
A couple of weeks ago Trent and I were at the drive-up ATM waiting for our turn. Trent pointed out the beautiful yellow butterfly that flitted by our car. This is of some personal significance and will be in a blog post on another day. I turned my head and saw something flying around my open window, thinking that maybe it came into the car with us. Sure enough, there was a ladybug sitting on my shoulder. I gently lifted it up and gave it a puff of air to send it flying on its way. (I had to chuckle when I saw what it had left on my shoulder - a teensy little spot of ladybug poo.)
A few days later I told Trent about a memory of Gram and me and a ladybug. A day or two after we had gone to the supermarket, Gram got a head of lettuce out of the refrigerator. As she separated the leaves, she said, "Oh! Look at this!" Nestled in the cold leaves was a beautiful ladybug. Now, I was probably in high school at the time, but I felt so sorry for that poor ladybug. I took her in my warm hand, hoping that she could somehow survive her ordeal. And she began to move sluggishly, starting to recover from the cold she had endured for several days.
I told Gram that I knew ladybugs ate aphids, so I was going to take her out to the rose garden. Of course that wasn't enough for me. I began plucking aphids off the roses and feeding them to the ladybug. She ate slowly at first, but perked up fairly quickly. After eating several bugs, she was feeling much more lively. She walked around on my hand for a bit, and then took to the air. As she flew away, my heart soared with her. Yep. Sensitive.
I've decided just now that the mysterious thing I mentioned earlier is something I no longer want to write about this evening. Suffice it to say it was an expose of greyhound racing training and involved live rabbits. Gram was in the kitchen on the phone when I came into the room weeping.
So that's another piece of The Lunatic's puzzle. I can
Oh! I almost forgot! Why did the prairie dogs remind me of Gram? After I began to drive, I would take Gram, on holidays or special occasions, to visit her daughter's home some 30 miles away in a more rural area. An area that we would drive by happened to have a large prairie dog colony, and still does these many years later. It's just a few minutes' drive from where we now live. On this occasion, we saw a fat and sassy prairie dog getting ready to cross the expanse of the road. What made it delightful and memorable is the way he prepared for his mad dash across multiple lanes. He was literally running in place, his little legs going so fast they were almost a blur. As we drove by, he quit revving his motor and made his move. I'm glad to say that he made it across this busy street unscathed while we had a good laugh at something we'd previously only seen in cartoons. I still think of it after all these years whenever I go by that area, hoping I'll see another prairie dog revving his motor.
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