The Difference Between Bamboo and Violets

In my blog last week, I marveled at the creativity, innovation, and adaptability of the human brain.  This week, I am going to tackle another facet of the miracle of the mind.  It is true that our individual minds are capable of transforming to meet the needs of our individual environments.  It is also true that different brains work very differently right from the get-go. 

This thought came to me a couple of weeks ago when Max was trying to explain some fine point of Christian apologetics.  Now, I am not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I am by no means unintelligent.  I do like to think deep thoughts and consider meaningful questions.  Still, my brain’s tolerance for detail and abstract reasoning is quite limited when compared to his.  It can be overwhelming listening to Max follow a point of theology or scriptural history through a frenzied labyrinth of names, dates, and arguments.  When I try to keep up with the breakneck pace at which his synopses are firing, I crash against the wall at the first turn.  I try to slow him down, interrupt him to ask questions, and have him repeat his points in different words, but he still almost always leaves me in the dust by the second lap.  The good news is that I usually get something from the conversation.  The bad news is that what I get from it is a fraction of the information Max intends to impart.  I guess getting some knowledge beats getting nothing except annoyed (which I admit I often also get.)

I have to say that this mental pattern of Max’s is nothing new.  It is just the way his brain works.  He tends to get interested in a topic and just inundate his mind with it.  I have seen him go through periods when he has scavenged all the information to be had about The Titanic, William Desmond Taylor, East German military, cosmology, and Jack the Ripper… just to name a few of his mental renovation projects.  Some of these projects have been easier for me to grasp than others.  Now that he seems to be on the Christian apologetics kick, I seem to be particularly abysmal at keeping pace.

I was talking to our rector about the issue a few months back.  I really did feel badly that I was being such an incompetent conversation partner on such an important issue, but I also felt like there was no way I was ever going to have the energy, inclination, or nimbleness of brain to meet his need for theological conversation.  My rector was holding weekly “coffee and philosophy” sessions at a local café and I thought that it might be more satisfying for Max to have the opportunity to exchange ideas with people whose brains were more in line with his.  The rector told me that he and his wife have a similar experience.  He will be caught up with some theological point he is researching and will have to curb his enthusiasm… or at least the minutia… when sharing it with his wife.  My rector said he would be happy to have Max come to the sessions, but that I should know that it probably would not be an outlet for Max to burn off his theological energy.  He warned me that it would likely kindle Max’s desire to explore theological ideas even more. 

Max did decide to attend, but only if I went with him.  We have gone to about half a dozen of these sessions.  We both enjoy them.  My rector was right; it has done nothing to curtail the plethora of theological ideas being uttered in my household, but it has helped us both benefit a little more from the discussions. We have also had some rich conversations about how much apologetics is more than I can absorb.  We have also had some conversations about our different approaches to faith.  It is not that we disagree; it is simply a question of emphasis.  St. Anselm of Canterbury said, “I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand.”  Both of us think sturdy faith is faith that comes from both reason and spiritual experience.  I am just more on the “believe in order to understand” side and Max is more on the “seek to understand in order that I may believe” side. 

One day, when we were attending the “coffee and philosophy” session, Max alluded several times to an idea saying, “even Terri was seeing the holes in that statement.”  Other attendees kind of took him to task for making it sound like he thought I wasn’t that smart.  I did not take it that way because I knew he was referring more to brain orientation than brain power.  Max thinks I am very smart… far smarter than I am.  Max tried to explain this to the group and the rector said he knew what he meant… that my intelligence was more an intrinsic wisdom (rather than a scholarly approach.)

That got me thinking about how each person’s brain operates differently.  We all grow ideas and thoughts and solutions and relationships in the messy gray matter of our minds.  We all grow them differently and cultivate different crops, as a result.

This brings me to bamboo and violets.

Max grows bamboo in his brain…. Tall, towering, practical, sustainable ideas that are limitless and sometimes out of control.  You can watch a whole bamboo forest of ideas grow to the very stratosphere just by listening to him for five minutes.  You can literally see the bamboo of his thoughts grow before your very eyes. Bamboo will grow almost anywhere.  It has shallow roots, making it easy to harvest.  If one idea gets harvested, he is on to the next one.  He mulches and fertilizes and lets the momentum of growth carry him along. 

I, on the other hand, grow violets in my brain.  Violets are deep rooted.  They are a little delicate but are much stronger than they look.  They tend to grow out rather than up.  They need to be kept out of the direct sun and nurtured with some restful, contemplative shade.  They do not really have any practical purpose.  They are just there to be beautiful and interesting and colorful and joyful.  My brain is just as powerful, but the output is nothing big, noticeable, or intrinsically valuable.

Sometimes I wish I could have a bamboo brain.  On the other hand, the world needs violets, too.  No one who trades in beauty and joy is powerless.  I enjoy stretching my mind and finding the parts of it that could grow bamboo if necessary, but I also enjoy knowing that the best of me will always be the best of me.    

How would you characterize your brain? What kind of mental crop do you raise? What about the way you think makes you uniquely you? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a growth-filled day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Pixie Locks

Those of you who have been reading my blog for some time know that I am a bit odd on the inside.  I usually frame that oddness with the assertion that there is clearly something wrong with me. 

A few days before the country went into house arrest, I did something to smash that frame.

No, I have not all of a sudden become “normal” and quirkless.  In fact, I walked a step more squarely into the weird zone.  I decided that, if I am odd on the inside, my outside should match.  So, at 60 years of age, I got fairy hair.  I started with the idea that I would get 20 strands of glittery green and copper silk woven into my hair.  As I went through the process, though, it became increasingly clear that I was going to need more… many, many more… pixie locks.  Bit by bit, I ended up with over 50 strands.  I have so much regular hair that even that inordinately large amount of glitter is still subtle, but a girl has got to know her limitations.  I’m afraid I surpassed mine.  I have $100 of sparkly strands hanging off my head. 

I don’t think I will do this again because it did end up being far more expensive than I planned.  Still, I really like the effect.  Because it is so subtle, people have to look twice to decide if they really see something there or not.  It is like I have some sparkly, magical little secret that only people who pay attention can learn. Many people have complimented me on my fairy hair.  It makes me feel bold and brave.  My fairy hair catches the sunlight very fetchingly.  I like radiating, it turns out.  I feel like the fairy hair really does help the way I look on the outside reflect who I am on the inside. 

You see, fairy hair has taught me that “odd” doesn’t have to be negative.  “Odd” doesn’t have to mean there is something wrong with me.  “Odd” can mean shiny, sparkly… and beautiful!

I thought we all needed a little break from coronavirus conversations.  What could be further from a worldwide pandemic than fairy hair?  What little bit of whimsy can you share with us to take our minds off contagion and disease?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a sparkly day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Subtle, but you can see a few strands if you look closely!

You CAN Go Home Again

I thought I would stop feeling chronically stressed and overwhelmed once I stopped working.  I realized that work issues are not the only stressors in life.  I knew that thinking I would NEVER feel stressed again was patently unrealistic.  Still, I thought the relentlessness of the condition would disappear.  I was wrong.  The stress storm that raged inside me through my work life hasn’t really blown away.  It has abated from hurricane level, but I’m not taking the storm shutters down just yet.

I think I’ve hit on a theory as to why that constant feeling of vague panic hasn’t left.  Somehow, in the rush of changes and new experiences, I’ve become less the sum of my parts and more my role in the world.  I seem to be less who I am and more what I am.  It seems “me” is no longer a compilation of my attributes, preferences, perspectives, values, and unique quirks. To the world, I am the senior citizen living in a retirement community.  To most of my former employees and colleagues, I am the retired leader who isn’t in the loop.  To my mother, I am the administrative assistant and caretaker.  To Max, I am the strategic and tactical partner in carving out our new life.  None of these roles is bad.  In fact, they all contribute to who I am.  Still, feeling that I am always the somewhat one-dimensional role and not the multi-faceted person is stressful.    Every now and again, I observe myself in a moment just being myself and reacting to others in a way that feels genuine and effortless.  It is wonderfully refreshing.  Most of the time, though, I am doing and saying things that seem right for the role I happen to be filling at the time. The living of my life seems to be a performance and a rather forced one at that.  I often feel like I am waiting to be me.  I’ve found that this can be as stressful as postponing a priority of my own when something happened at work that forced me to change my plans.

So how do I stop living in the role and allowing myself to be who I am?    I have a few ideas.

I need to notice what is happening when I observe myself just being me and do what I can to replicate those conditions.  I think those “me” moments often occur when I am talking about something or doing something that is quite apart from any of my roles.  I guess the common denominator is that I am usually focusing on a passion of my own.  For instance, I joined a book club about a year after we moved.  I have always loved books and revel in the artistry that goes into truly elegantly constructed literature.  About a million years ago, I majored in English in college.  During my career, I was not called on to discuss books.  However, many of the most satisfying aspects of my job involved analysis, discussion, and communication.  Those elements of analysis, discussion, and communication are certainly present in the book club.  I find the conversations at the book club to be fascinating and wonderfully soul-nourishing.  The club discusses a wide variety of genres and styles, which broadens my understanding of the world.  The other members’ comments enrich my understanding and enjoyment of the books.  I also love it when I can offer a perspective that the majority haven’t considered.

I also need to allow myself to speak genuinely of my interests to the people in my life.  I find that I have started to communicate in a rather sparse, functional way.  Instead of sharing my thoughts and feelings about my passions, I often edit myself and only talk about what needs to be done in the context of the role.  For instance, if my mother asks me how the book club went, I may just answer “fine” and move on to asking her about how she feels or what tasks I need to complete for her.  There is no reason to withhold my thoughts about the book club discussion.  It isn’t a secret society or anything.  In fact, my mother is interested in what I do when I am not with her and is always pleased to hear about my activities.  Maintaining relationships instead of merely fulfilling roles requires honesty and sharing ourselves generously with others.

Another strategy that will help is to protect the time I’ve set aside for doing fun things with Max and enjoy the day adventures we take.  I often find myself most relaxed and light-hearted when we are sitting watching a movie at home or spending a whole day together at a theme park or shopping mall.  Unfortunately, though, I will sometimes sacrifice that time either to do something that needs doing or compromise it by overscheduling myself and feeling rushed when I should be having fun.

I also need to make time for activities on my own.  I love doing things with Max.  I love doing things with my mom.  I love doing things with my new Florida friends.  Still, it is really fun and refreshing to sometimes just go out and have an adventure on my own without having to worry about what the other person wants or needs.  When I was working and before we moved, it was relatively easy to do something on my own because malls and events and other activities were all around us.  It was pretty easy to stop somewhere for an hour or two on my way home from work to get a little “me” time.  In our new home territory, things are more spread out, so going somewhere on my own is a little less automatic.  With a little forethought, however, I find it is possible and necessary to have Terri Time.

And, finally, I CAN go home again when I need to feel like me again.  Usually, that “going home” means a phone, text, or email conversation with a much-loved faraway friend.  However, planes do fly both ways and I certainly can travel to visit the folks who understand the real me best.

A few months ago, I made a quick trip to my home state to do just that.  I had not intended to go back so soon after moving, but there was a confluence of circumstances that motivated me.  A dear friend from another state was coming in to my home state for business.  The opportunity to see my three bestest friends in the same geographic vicinity was too good a chance to miss.

It was a whirlwind trip and very busy. I did not sleep late or loll around doing nothing.   It involved lots of planning and scheduling and visiting multiple airports.  I rushed hither, thither, and yon to spend time with the people I cherish.   I rented a car and drove about 800 miles in the four days of my visit.  I didn’t spend more than one night in any one location.  Still, I arrived home feeling re-energized, happy, and loving life.

When I thought about why the trip had been so wonderful, I realized that, to the friends I visited, I was just me.  They didn’t need me to do anything for them.   They relished in hearing me talk about our common interests and about my new life.  They had been looking forward to just being with and laughing with me.   I was not filling a role.  I was simply Terri- their sister of the soul.

So what are your thoughts?  Have you ever felt “on-you” after a major life change, like retirement or a move?  What did you do about it?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at 

Have a wonderful day!

Terri 🙂

Note: Next week, I’ll be back to posting on Wednesday morning.  Thanks for your understanding…. and for reading!  You all rock.