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My family always had cats when I was growing up. Mom and Dad had two cats when I was born, Nicholas and Alice. Mom has told me of precious memories in which Alice would lay across my baby body while I was being bottle fed.

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Mister to Miss

I immediately burst into tears when, about three years ago, I heard the news that my husband’s male cousin had come out with his decision to transition into a woman. I didn’t cry out of disgust, disappointment, or judgment.

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A Literary Journey

While I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I first started reading, I do know it was at an early age. I had collections of Dr. Seuss books, fairy tales, you name it, I probably had it – and still do. I recall reading by the light of the hallway outside my bedroom when I was supposed to be asleep.

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INFP is Me

Every single personality test I’ve taken has given me the result of being an INFP – introverted, intuitive, feeling, and perceiving – or a diplomatic mediator. I cannot agree more with this perpetual result; I’m definitely an INFP. I’m proud to be an INFP, but it’s also hard sometimes, as it seems like everyone else out there is SO much more outgoing than me. I have struggled with my introversion my whole life – a virtual pendulum swinging between ultimate confidence and total self-doubt.

Only four percent of the population can be pinpointed as INFP personality types, which blows my mind; I genuinely thought the amount of others similar to me would at least be in double digits! Feeling misunderstood has also comprised a big part of my life, which is typical of an INFP, but this is sometimes hard to deal with. I find it difficult to find like-minded people – perhaps because of that dang four percent!

My intuition has been very strong for as long as I can remember. When I was a little girl, I often evil-eyed men who made me uneasy and refused to accept attention from adults whom I did not know. My mom dubbed my intense scrutiny of grown-ups as my ‘creep alarm’. My creep alarm still ticks today! While it can take a while at times for me to really see people’s true colors, my initial sense of them – even if I ignore it – usually turns out to be correct.

Shyness has been a part of my inherent being as long as I’ve been alive. While I think most people realize I’m shy, not an asshole, I wonder if others believe I’m aloof? I have no control over what others think of me though, so whatever people see is what they get. I try to manage my bashfulness by smiling and greeting others and I’m attempting to stop avoiding people I know when I see them in public. I don’t know why, but I get anxiety often when I see acquaintances – I’m always scared I won’t know what to say if I can’t just wave and move on.

I read once that introverts have rich inner lives – I’d definitely say this is very true for me. My imagination is insanely vivid and I can entertain myself very well. Reading and writing are of course great outlets for me too. However, I do like to be social, usually with close friends and family and occasionally at a party or a concert. Like most introverts, I have to unwind after social events of any sort, even holiday gatherings with family. Recharging by myself keeps me sane.

I feel deeply, to the point that I can actually feel my heart ache in pain for others or with grief. For instance, on the anniversaries of the deaths of loved ones, my heart will seriously hurt, even if it doesn’t register right away what the date is. My mom told me a while ago about her reading that research has proven that there are brain cells, cells of memory, in the heart! Crazy, I know, but this fact makes so much sense. My heart and mind are very connected.

I have intense empathy almost to the point of being crippled in my own life and focusing on the hardships of others. In addition, I can be gullible and I’ve always had a heightened awareness of my being possibly tricked by creepy people. I’ve had some close calls – when I was in college in Knoxville, I went to a park to read and got freaked out fast by this lone guy who kept watching me. I ended up pretty much running to my car after he walked away from my space, only to see him returning, with something in his hand, smiling maniacally. Perhaps I jumped to conclusions and let my morbid imagination get the best of me, but I’m just glad to still be here.

Being empathetic is definitely positive, but I can’t help but sometimes think life would be so much easier if I were a sociopath. I know that sounds really weird, but if I was devoid of true emotion, I wouldn’t worry so much about others or give a shit in general. I do know that I am blessed with the empathetic qualities I do possess; it’s just draining to feel so deeply all the time. In turn, I am easily deeply hurt when my trust, which isn’t easy to get, is broken by so-called friends and others. This fact caused me to put up walls many years ago and I’m definitely a really hard nut to crack.

I feel that I am very perceptive, which I think goes along with intuition. While I can be fooled at times, I am generally really good at reading people, especially their facial expressions, body language, and the vibes they emanate. I can feel tension and anxiety from others intensely; I also can tell when someone is being completely fake. I haven’t called out many people on their harmful intentions, I just take solace in knowing what I know and steer clear.

When I can’t read someone, like my stepmother-in-law for instance, it bugs me. I can’t seem to get into her head at all – sometimes I wonder if she’s even a person. Maybe she’s a robot? My senses get thrown off when I’m with her. She’s either one of the kindest people ever or a low lying vindictive bitch. I just can’t decide and I don’t like it. Being in the dark regarding others’ true intentions makes me very uncomfortable.

In a nutshell, I’m an introverted, intuitive, sensitive, and perceptive gal. I’ve heard of people I knew throughout my childhood commenting on how much I’ve come out of my shell over the years. I have gained confidence in myself and supplement my personal growth with therapy and appropriate medication for the anxiety I often experience. Now I’m curious as to whether the majority of INFP personalities are also afflicted with extreme anxiety and/or depression? Hmm…something else for me to research while I have quiet time!

Love, Maggie

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If you have a bit of a savior complex – PLEASE STAND UP! You guessed it – I’m totally standing up! For some reason, maybe it’s grandiosity, but at times I feel like I can save people from themselves, especially those I love. Unfortunately, time and time again, I have failed to rescue others. I may be able to apply a Band-Aid to help, but ultimately, change is up to the ones I think need saving.

I’ve written a bit about my best friend, Brian, who died of an accidental overdose due to mixing prescription pills in 2003 at age 19. I can’t remember if I’ve written at all about him here at The Caramel Files, but I go pretty in-depth with his death and its effect on me over at The Bookkeepers’ Secrets, where I co-blog with Lila and Claire.

[my post about Brian can be found here]

Regarding Brian, we both knew he was a drug addict. I hoped to be a positive influence on him, to eventually help him decide to go to rehab. But, he died before he got to make what could have been that life saving step. I still wish I could go back in time and call 911 that last night I saw him. I had an uneasy feeling when I left the party, but sadly ignored it.

I felt guilty for a long time following Brian’s untimely demise. Thankfully, nearly 14 years later, I have forgiven myself and let him go just a little bit more. I now understand that I was just a baby myself – I was 20 at the time; I didn’t know then what I know now. As they say, hindsight really is 20/20.

Brian’s overdose was a catalyst in my decision to major in social work in college and eventually earn my master’s degree. I have worked with children and families in turmoil and emotional upheaval, which has been very difficult – rewarding at times, but difficult. Many times I wished I had a magic wand during my time in the field so I could wave new, happy lives devoid of problems into my clients’ experiences.

I still want to help people, I just need to continue working to train myself to keep my social worker hat on and avoid getting too personal and biased when listening to those dear to me. I find it easy to solve other people’s problems, my own, not so much. Why is this so? I think it’s weird. But, I also find it easy to stand up for other people, even strangers, over myself.

While I do continue to worry about ‘my’ people, primarily when they’re going through tough times, I’m learning to stay out of their business. This can be hard when my people spill their hearts out to me – I want to help and I feel that I have solutions, but others need to reach their own conclusions in order to become true change agents in their lives.

So, I shall continue to listen and offer my shoulder for tears – I just hope no one else dies…

Love, Maggie

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Gettin’ Phishy wit’ it

I have never written a tribute to my favorite band – I hope I can do it justice. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m an uber fan; I don’t know basically every lyric ever sung like my husband and a bunch of friends; I usually take a minute to figure out which song has come on, unless it’s a hands down favorite; I can’t dance for shit.

My favorite band is Phish – there is something magical about the band members, their music – lyrically and instrumentally. I attended my very first Phish show in Cincinnati way back in 2003 – it feels strange to type that number 14 years later. I saw them again in Indiana that summer – a week after my best friend, Brian, overdosed and died. He was supposed to be at that show.

You know how music evokes memories? Like where you were, what you were doing, what was happening in your life, the times you hear particular songs? I think that’s a big Phishing draw for me – there are so many songs of the band’s that are special to me, especially their words.

For instance, one of my all-time favorite Phish tunes is called Waste. Its primary lyric is ‘come waste your time with me’ and it’s an all-around beautiful ballad. The song always makes me think of Brian – I wish he could still waste his time with me. Of course, I heard that song at the concert he missed due to his death and cried in public – it was rather cathartic.

After 2003, my newly discovered band went on an indefinite hiatus; which devastated me. So, I went back to see them after ten long years in the summer of 2013 in Chicago. Let me just tell you, people in Chicago are SO nice – I met some beautiful people. I don’t know if it’s just the awesome, laid-back atmosphere in the audiences, but Phish seems to bring out the best in people – at least in Phans.

I’ve gotten to hear a bunch of my favorite songs in person, which is of course always exciting, but Phish has so many original jams and does so many great covers, it’s hard to get every song squeezed in. I have a friend who has been to 80+ Phish shows and there is a particular song she is haunted by and has heard in concert a minimum of 15 times!

Anyway, Phish is definitely reminiscent of the Grateful Dead, not only in that they’re a jam band, but have a vast, hippie-type following. I’m no hippie (I don’t think) – Phish draws a variety of crowds, for sure.

One of the best parts of going to a Phish show is the inevitable reunion my husband and I always have with his old friends and friends we’ve just met through traveling to shows and mutual Phish love. We have pals in Oregon and Florida we can almost always count on seeing at a show, regardless of the location.

Phish is definitely the band I would stalk if I had the resources to follow them everywhere and see every show imaginable. It’s so much fun to predict which songs they’ll play at each show. It blows my mind that the band is having a 13-day concert, known as the Baker’s Dozen, this summer at Madison Square Garden! I would adore to go, but there is no way feasibly for us to attend. However, we will be present in spirit, as our Florida buddies are seriously going to all 13 shows!

A cool thing about Phish shows is that they’re all so different – you never know just what you’re going to get. We heard them do a Talking Heads cover – which was awesome – in Nashville last year. For one huge Halloween show – all Phish Halloween shows are epic – the band played the entire White Album by the Beatles. Now, I’m not a Beatles fan AT ALL, but I think I would have enjoyed Phish playing the old school tunes.

Trey Anastasio, the lead guitarist and singer, is fantastic, as are Mike Gordon, the bass player, John Fishman, the drummer whose perpetual concert costume is a muumuu, and Page McConnell, the pianist. Mike’s Song, by Mike Gordon, naturally, is my son Jack’s favorite Phish song, as he loves the drums!

In summary, Phish has been a special band to me for the past nearly 15 years. Listening to them play has opened up my musical horizons greatly – I never would have given the Grateful Dead a chance had it not been for them. Phish has helped me to appreciate MUSIC, not just popular and/or fancy stuff. Also, my many amazing concert memories and the warm and fuzzies I feel when I hear certain songs give Phish a special place in my heart.

Love, Maggie

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