On a long drive last month, my sister introduced me to the enneagram, which my brother had introduced to her. Ask my husband, and he will tell you that the Hopkins siblings are an intense bunch. We do not do or take things lightly. This is no exception. If you are not familiar, the enneagram is a system of personality typing that describes patterns in how people interpret the world and manage their emotions using nine personality types mapped on a diagram to illustrates how the types relate to one another.
Certain none of the numbers would be able to describe me (classic quality of a four), I finally acquiesced to my obvious fourness. Fours are the individualists also called romantics or artists. We value creativity and authenticity, and can be in touch (or slightly obsessed) with our own inner workings. We are emotional and empathetic, prone to melancholy and prepared to read profound meanings into the coffee grounds spilled on our countertops or the way the daisy’s petals are moving ever so slightly in the wind. We want to be different and are not fans of conventionality. I’ll say it so you don’t have to, there are times when fours are exhausting.
I tell you this because it has shed a light for me on why I do so many of the things I do. Case in point: I once painted pelican after pelican after pelican because I was deeply sad and they moved me. Having lived nearly my whole life near the water in South Louisiana, I never really noticed them before. Maybe a better way to say it is that I never really cared about them, and then I found myself grown(ish), my life so far beyond my control, it sometimes felt hard to breathe. And there they suddenly were– everywhere. In the Bayou outside my porch window and flying directly beside my car as I drove the twenty-four mile bridge across Lake Pontchartrain. Apparitions maybe– the holy spirit descending not to make all things well, but to make me well as everything I thought sacred went up in flames.
I stopped painting them for the exact same reason I started– I saw them everywhere: every gift shop, boutique, and art booth boasting “coastal” or “local.” When it became clear I was doing what so many other people were doing, the magic dissipated, and I stopped doing it.
They still whisper to me– something like comfort mixed with nostalgia, a dash of hope. Having moved to the Mississippi coast, I still see them everywhere, and doing so still feels less like “seeing” and more like “beholding” even as I catch myself looking away more quickly than I used to.
I’ve opened this post with one of my favorite pelican paintings from a few years ago. I came across it on my phone as I was scrolling for something else. Oh, yes, I thought. I remember you. Thank you.
I don’t think our personality types are the end all be all to how we must or should or can act in the world, but they can help us to see when we’re going that familiar route and can perhaps take a detour instead.
I’m working on some new pelican minis at the moment and there are definitely times when they feel a little trite, but then I remember what deep meaning they hold for me and I paint on. What can I say, I’m a four.
My hope is that I will find an interesting way to intergrate them into some of my newer work so that I can satisfy both my need to be unique and my need to tap into what strikes an emotional chord. Does that make any sense?
Let me know if you know your enneagram number and if its given you any insights. I’ll be sure report your findings to my siblings at our next, probably intense discussion 😉
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Written by Denise Hopkins
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