The resumé virtues vs. the eulogy virtues.

The resumé virtues vs the eulogy virtues | Modern Mrs Darcy

work-in-progress oil painting of our first house, by my mama

It was my birthday. I was at work. Unbeknownst to me, my mom was across town, chatting it up with an old business-acquaintance-turned-family-friend.

Will and I were recently engaged, a bit of news my mom shared with her friend.

Will and I were hoping we’d find the right place to live when the time came, and my mom knew it. Maybe she mentioned it to her friend because she works in real estate; maybe she mentioned it simply because she was a mother, and her friend was one, too, and they were sharing their hopes and dreams for their kids.

Regardless of why my mom brought it up, she did. Her friend’s unexpected response was, “They are? I have a house they might be interested in.”

Six weeks later, she sold us our first house. It was a wonderful house, in an excellent location. She could have sold it to someone else who could have closed more quickly (because let me tell you, getting that first mortgage was no joke). She could have asked a higher price, and she would have gotten it. Easily.

But she didn’t. Out of the goodness of her heart, she sold it to us.

I thought of this old friend recently when I was listening to this TED talk by David Brooks.

It’s a short talk—only 5 minutes. In it, David Brooks talks about the difference between the resumé virtues and the eulogy virtues.

The resumé virtues are the external ones: the skills you bring to the marketplace, the ones you put on your resumé. The eulogy virtues go deeper, describing who you are in your depths, and what characterizes your relationships. They’re the traits that would be highlighted in your eulogy.

The eulogy virtues are more important, but they’re not the ones we think about the most or prioritize. Not most of us, anyway.

Our friend died recently. I wasn’t at her funeral, but I can imagine what her friends and family said in her eulogy. She had plenty of resumé virtues, all right, but she didn’t prioritize them, and they’re not what she’ll be remembered for, not by Will, nor I, nor anyone else.

We’ll remember her as someone who gave a young couple their start because she could, and she believed it was worth doing. As someone who could have been shrewd, but chose to be kind. As someone who could have eked more profit out of her deals, but chose to be generous.

P.S. 5 favorite TED talks.

There are four possible levels of relationship.


I went to see my counselor recently for a check-in—no big agenda, just a friendly chat to catch up.

The talk quickly turned, as I imagine it does in counselors’ offices everywhere, to relationships.

I was explaining a befuddling situation to my counselor, when she interrupted me with a question: How close are you to this person? 

I didn’t know what to say, because the answer was frustratingly ambiguous. Sometimes, this person treats me as an intimate friend, and sometimes like she barely knows me.

I explained this to my counselor, who frowned, and pressed: Yes, but how close do YOU think you are? It’s important to know. 

I fumbled a bit, trying to explain. My counselor saved me by grabbing her legal pad and drawing up this little chart:

four levels of relationship

There are four levels of relationship, she explained. They range from shallow (our acquaintances) to deep (our intimates). I’d never had anyone break this down for me before, but of course her little chart correlated with the unarticulated ideas about relationships I’ve been carrying around in my head for a few decades.

Those four levels can be further subdivided: we can be the barest of acquaintances, or pretty good ones. We can be borderline-close with someone, or borderline-intimate. Even intimacy has its gradations.

My counselor’s little chart was so simple, but it made so much snap into place for me.

Every relationship we have, she went on to explain, can be plotted on this little chart. This status is, in and of itself, emotionally neutral. We run into trouble at the point where our behavior and our relationship status diverge.

This happens most often with familial relationships. When someone is our blood-relative, or longtime friend, our natural inclination is to treat them as an intimate—because we expect them to be, or we want them to be—when really, we’re only at the “acquaintance” level with them. So we bare our souls and spill our secrets, and then feel like crap when we get acquaintance-level behavior dished back to us.

It happens all the time; we don’t even realize we’re doing it, or why it makes us feel so uncomfortable.

Or viewed from another perspective: do you know that horribly awkward feeling that washes over you when someone overshares? It happens when someone treats a casual acquaintance as a confidant: the behavior doesn’t match the relationship status.

Just wanting to be intimate with someone—even if it’s someone we feel we should be close to—doesn’t make it so. Nor does history forge communion. It seems so obvious when we think about it—but we don’t.

The bar’s pretty high for true intimacy, which has 7 necessary characteristics:

• emotional safety
• consistency
• love
• compassion
• understanding
• mutual respect
• freedom to be yourself

(Even when we are intimate with someone, we’re not perfectly so. We’re always disappointing one another somehow.)

I’m sure when other people—with different personality types, and different backgrounds—go to counseling, they get different advice. I’m an INFP and a 9, and my counselor tells me to try not to give people my heart and the hammer to smash it with all at the same time. I’m sure when others go to counseling, their counselors give them completely different advice that’s exactly what they need to hear.

This is what I needed to hear, and I hope some of you find it helpful.

Trigger points.

I’ve had a post bumping around in my head for a while now about trigger points: I’m talking about those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. And by a while, I mean a year or two.

Someone told me a a couple of years ago that one of the best things I could do for my kids was help them recognize their own trigger points and help them figure out ways to avoid them when possible or recover from the ensuing meltdown when not.

That’s good advice. But upon further thought, I was struck by how many adults are helpless in the face of their triggers: they don’t know what they are, can’t avoid them, and struggle to bounce back when they’re pulled.

Some triggers are nearly universal: people get cranky when they’re tired, or hungry. Others are specific to the individual: solitude is a trigger for some people; crowds are a trigger for others. Some get anxious traveling; others adore it.

Personally, I’ve only been able to articulate in the last few years that clutter is a major trigger for me, and that having something unpleasant in the back of my mind (unexplained bank charges to look into; waiting for the doctor to call with test results) makes me snappish if I don’t watch it.

I’d love to tell you about how we’re working hard with one of our kids to identify very specific triggers and very actionable coping strategies, and how the mood in our house has improved dramatically as we’ve made progress in this area. That’s a little personal for today’s post, but trust me: being able to transform a vague sense of unease into a trigger diagnosis and strategies that let you avoid it or actually do something about it will change your life.

I’ve been thinking about this post forever, and I finally wrote it—over at Simple Homeschool. There’s nothing particularly homeschool-y about it—we all have trigger points—although take my word for it: it’s much easier to teach a kid fractions if they’re not in the middle of an Epic Blood Sugar Crisis.

I need a new perspective on life. or maybe just a nap. Yeah, probably just a nap.

From the post: 

The older I get, the more aware I am that effective homeschool time management must include effective energy management. 

Creating a schedule that really hums for our family requires more than just shifting blocks of time around in Google Calendar or the DayTimer. We also need to strategically take energy reserves, emotional needs, stress levels, and self-care into account.

The potential land mines that can blow up your homeschool day are many, for kids and for grown-ups.

Having an awareness of what punches your buttons—and scheduling accordingly—can mean the difference between a successful homeschool day (week/month/year) and one that goes up in smoke.

These are the land mines that blow up the most at my house. I’m sure you have your own list, and I’d love to hear about them in comments. Self-awareness makes all the difference, so let’s help open each other’s eyes….

Head over to Simple Homeschool to read the rest.

P.S. The homeschooling archives are right here. You can also access them via the Modern Mrs Darcy card catalog, filed under 370—Education.

Walking in circles.


We were lucky to have houseguests this week—family members who live much too far away, whom we don’t see nearly often enough. On Tuesday, we all piled the kids in the minivan and went exploring.

There’s a labyrinth nearby that I’ve been wanting to explore for ages, and one of our guests is a contemplative type (takes one to know one). He spent a few years living in a cabin he built in the woods; he even contemplated pursuing the monastic life. I thought the labyrinth would be up his alley, but if I was wrong, at least it was near a beautiful park we wanted to visit anyway.

Life in the maze | Modern Mrs Darcy

The labyrinth is on the grounds of a local school. Even though we were staring at the map, it took us a while to actually find it. I was looking for something stately, something striking. I was disappointed at first when I realized it was just a circle of bricks in the grass. I might have missed it entirely were it not for the simple park benches bordering it.


A labyrinth is an old tool for meditation and spiritual growth. The visitor begins outside the circle and simply follows the path as it slowly twists and turns its way to the center. There is no right or wrong way to do it.

The grown-ups gave the kids directions before we got started: Think about something that makes you happy. (Parties! Legos! Babies!) Think about something that makes you feel peaceful. And should you pass someone else as you walk, give them a big high five.

I’d never walked a labyrinth before, not here or anywhere else. But since I’d thought about coming to this place for a long time, I had expectations: it would be contemplative. It would be sacred. It would be quiet.


I got two out of three, because I’d never imagined coming with four kids.

The lush green grass felt good on our feet, prompting some of us to kick our shoes off into the center. And then we marched into the labyrinth single-file.

As we began to wind our way through the labyrinth’s eleven concentric circles, we started to spread out. And as we spread out, our paths started crossing. Well, not crossing, exactly, because everyone walks the same path. But sometimes, when we’d be pass each other on two neighboring circles, we’d high five. Or we’d find ourselves walking in the same direction on neighboring circles, and we’d hold hands for twenty feet. Or we’d be two circles apart—not quite close enough to touch—so we’d blow kisses.

We giggled—a lot. I don’t know if that labyrinth has ever seen so much giggling.

Labyrinths have a way of spurring reflection, even if you do have four crazy kids in tow. My mind filled up with metaphors as I walked, made more poignant because I was walking with family—with my dear family members who now live so terribly far away, with my dear children I share a home with, for now, but who change and evolve and grow more every year.


As we walked—and giggled—those concentric circles carried us far away from each other and then pulled us back together. Sometimes our paths crossed just long enough to high five; sometimes our paths ran together for a stretch; sometimes we literally couldn’t be farther apart.

If you stumbled upon us, not knowing about the form of the labyrinth, you might not have realized that we were all on the same path, headed to the same destination. In our own way, in our own time.

But oh, how we high-fived and fist-bumped and giggled when those paths crossed.

Do you ever feel like you’re walking in circles, maybe in more ways than one?