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Free Flowing and Forgiving


“The fact is always obvious much too late, but the most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid and joy a liquid” J.D. Salinger, the author of Catcher in the Rye, once wrote.



Why do you prefer watercolor painting to other mediums” a friend asked?

Because I’m an Enneagram type 7”, I replied.

No, that’s not what I actually said but when I replayed our conversation in my mind, after our call had ended, I wondered why my immediate response came so naturally. It was an instinctive reaction. I had never considered why I love watercolor art, I just do. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? But, did my instinctual nature reveal itself in my love of watercolor?

“Because it’s free flowing and very forgiving” was my actual response.

The words tumbled out as a feeling more than a thought. It was a visceral reply and I realized I was almost giddy as I spoke through a childlike smile. But the more I thought about it the more I felt there was something I needed to parse out in what I had said.

The work of the Enneagram is to offer us tools to become the observer of our thoughts and reactions, to reveal the motivations and fears behind our personalities and behaviors. As those of us who have done more than skim the pages of the many books we have collected and endless social media accounts of Enneagram content, we know the depths of a true self-discovery journey and the often painful revelations we encounter along the way. Choosing to take the tools and venture into the unknown is life changing…as it’s meant to be.

Knowing what I know, both factually and intimately, about the type 7, it speaks volumes as to why I would have chosen the words “free flowing.” They imply openness and being unrestricted, limitless opportunity, not being confined. A type 7’s core fear is of being deprived which, in the most simple definition, means having something taken away. Freedom is of utmost importance to the type 7 and being deprived of it in any sense is at the core of what motives and directs our choices. Free flowing says I have an idea but let’s just see what unfolds along the way.

Now hear me on this…I’m in no way demeaning or denying the need for structure and order both of which are vital for any person or society to survive. All we have to do is look at times of chaos in our world’s history, and even our personal histories, to understand the need for structure and healthy boundaries. Whether or not we like the rules and laws that are put in place, we will suffer and, ultimately, ensure our demise if we fail to understand the necessity of these principals. Even type 7s. Period.

Back to my thoughts.

The core motivation for type 7 is to feel stimulated, engaged, and satisfied, to seek excitement and joy from new experiences. I have only recently taken up watercolor painting again. It’s been over 20 years since I’ve picked up a brush but I needed to bring something to my life that was purely for the joy of it. No agenda. No thought of creating a side hustle (an automatic response to most new ideas.) Painting is a gift I give myself because it bring me Joy.

Watercolor. Liquid joy.


I’m in a season of wondering and wandering. I’ve been uncertain about direction, about the need to produce more, have hard and fast (ie., monetary) evidence of my work. I wonder about how much more precious time I want to surrender trying to stay relevant in a very fast-paced, crowded industry. I wonder who I’m supposed to be in this phase of my life. In this season of wandering, I’ve begun to wander away from worrying about what others might think if I let go of the obsessive wondering and wandered down a quieter path. Isn’t that what type 7s do anyway…wander away from things that deprive us of feeling free…or feeling Joy?

What about ‘forgiving’?

Why did I choose that word, if I did, indeed, choose it? Perhaps it chose to be set free…to be free flowing toward forgiveness of myself. Things don’t look like I thought they would or, perhaps more specifically, how I thought they should look at this age. I’m choosing to forgive myself for setting boundaries where they never needed to be, for choosing limiting beliefs that were constricting, depriving me of the very thing I desire. Joy.

Today, I will hold my brushes, swish them in the fresh water, swirl them in the paint, place the first drops on the paper letting the water and the paint begin to blend and remind myself that what I am creating is Joy…

…free flowing and forgiving.

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