This included no fewer than two sets of twins--of which, of course, my sister Sandy and I were one. I have two younger sisters, who are also twins. And an older brother. So: our mother was only intermittently responsive. Of course your mother was intermittently available, you might respond quite rightly in her defense--especially if you are yourself a mother or a father. Positive thinking is a mental ability that you can learn. It is simply the psychological choice to open to satisfaction and the delight of life. The optimist has culminated in this capacity and dealt with their psyches. They utilize this capacity in regular day to day existence to concentrate on their objectives and leave zero chance for negativity. Regardless of whether something turns out badly, they just observe the positive. You can be certain if you look for the positive qualities in an individual or circumstance sufficiently long, you will discover it. Such a change, however, requires significant investment. You're going to program your subconscious. Now, because of my travel schedule, I had a few weeks when I was able to lift only twice at a gym with a barbell. I had one week when I traveled so much that I was able to go to a real gym only once--I had to spend the rest of the time using a hotel gym, which didn't have any of the equipment or the weights I needed to properly exercise. However, when the Energiser's strength in involving and energising others is exaggerated and overdone, it may be seen by others as frenetic, intrusive or indiscriminate. If conflict persists, people react in different ways - they may compete, accommodate, avoid, compromise or collaborate. The Energiser will often adopt the `compromise' strategy - perhaps give up some of what they want in order to reach agreement and maintain harmony. This can help to move forward, but may also delay the resolution process. Remember, you have a choice in how you interact with others.

You can adopt a different style and energy pattern if you choose. Lily, a senior manager in a utility business, often came up with new ideas at work and explained them enthusiastically to her colleagues. When they challenged her thinking or were critical, she tended to push back, speaking more quickly and loudly and giving them even more information. If that wasn't successful, she would eventually back down and leave disappointed and resentful. She was coached to take a different approach, in which she first listened to their concerns and then responded to them calmly and slowly. The hardships they did remember provided leverage on the present. Didn't they make it through the Great Depression or the slow and grinding death of their spouse? In our conversations, Ruth often talked about her years spent caring for her dying mother, her dying husband, and an older sister--the smartest of us--who died after a long decline from Alzheimer's. These memories seemed not to pain her but to send her to memories of more pleasant times. Her oldest daughter, Judy, who runs an agency serving low-income seniors, said she often saw this resilience in the people she served. Anybody who makes it to eighty-five or ninety has tremendous strengths, Judy said. Someone like my mom, she's lost her husband, she's lost her parents; she knows how to deal with loss. Doesn't make it any less painful, but humans are resilient, and we have a lot to learn from older people, who have survived all kinds of things. Aging isn't necessarily pretty, but it doesn't have to be terrible. She was dealing with five infants or toddlers all at the same time! Well, yes, okay, there was that. But there was more. (And many of my generation in particular will identify with this. ) My father--a star in just about every way in college, where Mom had met him, and a lovely, handsome, and courageous guy--returned home from World War II (where he served in one of the most vicious of the campaigns of the war, the Italian campaign) a different person.

He was suffering from the hidden, crazy-making illness for which we then had no name whatsoever: post-traumatic stress disorder. He struggled against this with heroic persistence. He self-medicated with alcohol (of course, because that's what people--particularly men--did then). And finally, perhaps like Eleanor's unfortunate father, he fell into the grip of alcoholism at depth for a number of years. So, there was that as well. But did I get unequivocally stronger? Yes, I did. Does my chest look better in a T-shirt? It does. How about my arms? Oh yeah. My legs still are big, and I've still got a chubby midsection, but it's definitely thicker, if that makes sense. Thicker in a good way. But more than anything, I feel amazing because of what I was able to do. Every time I was able to put more than my body weight on my back and squat it, I felt like a god. She found that this created a collaborative climate and led to her ideas (sometimes with modification) being taken on. Think of a recent conflict you have experienced. How did you react? Did you avoid, accommodate, compete, compromise or collaborate? Was this effective?

What might have been a more effective strategy for managing the conflict? Many situations in life are stressful for most of us, irrespective of our style. However, there are specific stressors that apply particularly to each style that can occur when we are not able to fulfil our core drives during interactions. Being aware of these stressors means we are more able to manage them. For Energisers, typical stressors are feeling not liked, unappreciated, not involved, and people not appearing to be engaged or interested. Money helps. Having family helps. But I've met people who have neither, and are doing fine in old age. Severe memory loss is a horrible thing, and we rightly fear it, but selective forgetting can be the better part of wisdom. When you're forty-five, it pays to remember all the mistakes you made in your marriage or career, so you can learn from them; at ninety it's better--wiser--to forget, because the memories will only hurt. In midlife you need to know who screwed you on a business deal; in old age you lose nothing by forgetting the grudge. Selective memory also has a reinforcing effect, in which the rich get richer: kids will visit the grandma who tells happy stories from her youth more than the one who stews over past grievances. One day in Ping Wong's apartment, I asked her what regrets she carried from her ninety years. Mom, like Anna Roosevelt, was overwhelmed. But for Mom, there was something else, something perhaps more deeply buried in the story--something that it has taken my sibs and me decades to sniff out. In certain ways, strangely, I have to say that being a mother to babies and infants was not my mother's strongest suit. She was, I believe, in a bind that is much more common than we like to think: she liked the idea of the baby; but she liked the idea of the baby more than she liked the baby itself.

Just read her poetry and you will see it instantly: In her poetry, a baby is a romantic thing. But in fact, of course, a baby is a messy, demanding thing. Likewise, Mom was besotted with the idea of the family. She wrote poetry about that, as well. But again, she was more interested in the idea of the family than in the actual family--the family in all its chaos and rambunctiousness. It also gave me a regular goal with each gym session--try to be stronger than I used to be. Like a video game for my muscles. I plan on making strength a big part of any future exercise endeavors. While I may not be competing in any strength competitions in the future, I definitely will be trying my best to be as strong as I can be. Meanwhile, you're probably wondering how I did on that half marathon I wrote about training for, aren't you? The Chicago Half Marathon starts in Hyde Park, goes up Lake Shore Drive, and then heads back down, ending close to the starting line. The Hyde Park neighborhood is known for a few things: the University of Chicago and Michelle and Barack Obama first kissing outside a Baskin-Robbins. And I had come down here, along with about twelve thousand other people, ready to attempt the longest run of my life. The race was on a Sunday, and the night before, my then-girlfriend and I went to a neighborhood Italian place. I was attempting to eat lots of carbs before the run, so I would have the necessary energy stores and not hit the dreaded wall I had read so much about. When stressed, they may feel panicky, or become louder and more expressive, or even withdraw completely. To help, they can remind themselves they don't have to be involved, and focus their energy where they can help to move things forward. Jasmine loved working with others and feeling a sense of everyone moving forward together. Sometimes her desire to be involved in everything meant she put herself under too much pressure or ended up letting other people down. In order to keep her work to manageable levels, she had to learn how to say no and to be content with not always being involved.