Author: Khrysso Heart LeFey

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Is About So Much More than Facial Characteristics

I married into a family that includes two young women born to (the same, as it happens) birth mother who drank. They were both diagnosed early on with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). I had heard of of FAS, and I had heard of the “Not […]


When we left Our Hero, he was reflecting on how Beesing et al had said, matter-of-factly, “[Enneagramic Eights] do not like to face the fact that in spite of their outward behavior of strength they are marshmallows inside.” I think often of the advice, “Love […]


Nearly half my life ago, circa 1990, I was first exposed to the Enneagram as a personality-typing tool that might give me insight into how I operate vis-à-vis members of my family of origin. The first book I read on the topic reflected Jesuit explorations of the tool for spiritual growth.

I have studied, though not become an expert on, the Enneagram over the years, enough that I have been able to learn a lot about myself from it and enough to see it grow in popularity among psychologists and business coaches. It’s an incisive though not scientific way of looking at behavior—or, some would point out, misbehavior—and so, because it is not scientific, it gets likened to tools such as astrology and numerology… or at least the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

The Enneagram (“ennea-“ comes from the root meaning “nine”) is a figure consisting of a circle with what looks rather like a nine-pointed star inscribed in it but is actually two shapes. The points interlock by way of the lines in the “star.” I continue to be fascinated with how the characteristics represented at each point relate to one another. Those relationships are complex and thought-provoking should you care to let your thoughts be provoked by them.

The nine points are not hierarchical; that is, Nine is no better than One. They are just places on the figure.

Especially in the earlier years in Western writing on the subject, when I was first exposed to it, the way of discovering one’s Enneagram type was through examining one’s preferred compulsion—one’s basic driving force. You looked at the one thing that you wanted to avoid at all costs, the thing to which you most wanted to devote your power.

My preferred point on the Enneagram it was clear, was Eight, the type that, depending on the theorist, may be nicknamed, among other things, the Protector, the Challenger, the Asserter, the Warrior, the Leader, the Chief, the Top Dog, or, most flatteringly, the Bully. (If you’re interested, I’m an ESTJ, a.k.a. the Executive/Supervisor/Organizer/Administrator.)

Eights typically will do anything we can to avoid being, or even perceived as being, weak. We tend to think, the book asserted, that to be good is to be strong. We are inclined to take an offensive stance in life, to push against our world and to suppose that we are big enough with inner resources enough to do so successfully. We act from our guts first and our heads second; we frequently need to be called back to our hearts. Some people call our basic sin lust (for power, I suppose), but the first book I read identified it as arrogance.

Many theorists suggest that we were dominated or somehow taken advantage of in our early lives and that we spend the rest of our lives as crusaders to compensate for how power was misused against us. We are typically looking for a cause to champion, and we are willing to take hits in the ones we choose.

Eights are not always bullies, and at our best we are inclined to be, if dictators, at least benevolent ones. We’re courageous, that’s for sure. A lot of people think that we are always complaining, but the book says, and I assert, that we are simply calling attention to things that we think deserve further attention. A lot of prophets have been Eights.

What brought me up short on my first reading of the book all those years ago, and what sticks with me all these years later, is the matter-of-fact statement, “They do not like to face the fact that in spite of their outward behavior of strength they are marshmallows inside.” Well, it doesn’t just stick with me; it has smashed through my defenses.


Beesing, Maria, OP; Robert J. Nogosek, CSC; and Patrick S. O’Leary, SJ. The Enneagram: A Journey of Self-Discovery. Denville, NJ: Dimension Books, 1984.



Why Are Words of Intelligence, or Lack of Same, So Potent?

I have a pretty high IQ, am highly educated, and am extremely articulate. None of these facts presupposes any of the others, but they all happen to converge in me. I learned in grad school more than in college to think critically, but now I […]

On the Process of Changing My Name

We have mashed up two old essays about the name that I changed to and have posted them here, but now I want to talk about the nuts and bolts and about the social implications of changing one’s name as I have viewed the process […]

Privacy, Secrecy, Discretion, and Whose Story Is Whose

A conversation today highlighted something I have often thought about.

I have always been someone who errs on the side of giving unnecessary information. It has always been easy for me to spill my guts, to tell the story in great detail, to spin out the yarn. My friend Eileen says that I am one of these people who, when you ask them what time it is, they tell you how to build a watch. I can’t deny it. (I do think that some people err on the side of giving inadequate information. I’m sure that the number of people who are truly balanced on the matter of precisely how much to say is limited.)

I’ve been a writer since I was a teenager, and I’ve been aware not only from my own experience but also from the testimony of other writers that the people who are close to writers inevitably wind up in whatever their beloved writers are putting out. Their spouses and children just get used to it eventually, I suppose. And I suppose that it is worse for the loved ones of non-fiction writers such as I since we don’t change the names of our characters to protect the innocent the way novelists do.

I have had a lot of people be afraid to come into my close circle because they have been afraid that since my life is an open book, I will make theirs an open book, too. There is a fairly common piece of folk wisdom that people such as I can’t be trusted with confidences, and some people have avoided getting close to me because they believe it.

Today my husband (see, I just invoked a loved one in my writing) told me a fact about a friend of ours by saying, “It’s her story to tell, so I won’t tell it, but…” and then he synopsized her story in a short sentence. Her privacy was intact.

Over the years I have come to appreciate the imagery of stories to tell, of books that we open. I have come to appreciate a distinction between privacy and secrecy. I am not a particularly private person, but I do  have my private moments. No, you may not see into my bedroom with my husband, no matter how badly you may want to judge gay people’s sex lives. It’s no secret that I am married to a man–it’s perfectly legal in the US and it’s a matter of public record.

I think that a lot of the people who are scared of how private I am not are themselves secretive, and they confuse secrecy with privacy. A lot of people who have nothing to hide want to hide it anyway. No doubt it has to do with shame. I don’t know; along with being open, I am also, in large part, unashamed of who I am. At least these days I am. My teen years and early adulthood are something else.

I have a degree from a theological school, where I studied with dozens of people who went on to become parish ministers. As part of our training, we had to consider the boundaries of discretion, the implications of the statement that what gets said in this room doesn’t leave this room. We had to form in ourselves standards of confidence, so that those who confided in us could feel safe that they were confiding only in us, that we would take their confidences to our graves—whether we thought such confidences were worth being kept secret or not. It was a matter of privacy, and we didn’t get to judge.

I have read many books in my life, and while the story of my life is pretty much open for scrutiny by my own choice, it is the only one that is my business to tell. The fact that I may know your story in detail does not mean that it is mine to tell. I may tell my own story in detail, and I frequently do. But mine is mine, and yours is yours. It’s not my business to tell others’ stories, and the older I have become, the less I have done so.


A Prosaic Interpretation of Kipling’s “If”

A PROSAIC INTERPRETATION OF KIPLING’S “IF” FOR THE DAWN OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY Originally published in 2003. Here are some reliable indicators of having reached real maturity. If you manifest them, rest assured that you’ll be unhindered in your ability to create and appreciate as […]

Music Matters… A Meditation

Music Matters… A Meditation

Originally published in 2001. Many of you are familiar enough with my penchant for confrontation to understand that I was quite a presence at my ecumenical Protestant theological school, at which I regularly introduced myself in new classes as a post-Christian Pantheist Pagan UU and […]

Khrysso’s Thoughts On Changing the Words to Songs

Khrysso’s Thoughts On Changing the Words to Songs

Originally published in 2003

It is an interesting analogy that [my colleague] provides, comparing the changing of words in a musical composition with changing images on a piece of visual art.

As one who has published music, I am acutely aware of how it feels not to want my compositions to be messed with. In fact, in the piece I had performed last December, I specifically vetoed a move by the assistant director to change just a couple words, and I was adamant about it. I am glad that they honored my instructions, but I am aware that they could have ignored them.

As a folk musician, I am acutely aware of the folk process and of the difference between the map and the territory. The fact is that music is ephemeral in a way that a painting is not: even when we capture sound magnetically or digitally, we have only captured one musical event. Ultimately, the only control we have over the way a piece “should” be played is what we put down when we notate the music, but, like a map, notation is only a graphic representation. No matter how scrupulous we are, we are always “changing” music whenever we perform something that we have only have had in our hands as notation. When the variations are subtle, we call it “interpretation.”

The fact is that academically-trained musicians have agreed to canonize a certain level of change that they covenant to call “interpretations” (fermatas, for instance, are essentially advance permission to vary), and any changes that transcend that level of severity go into a canon of unacceptability, where composers, by custom and covenant, are granted the privilege of crying “foul.” Folk musicians have a much larger canon of variations that are acceptable while still calling song X “Song X.”

The reason why we cooperate with the wishes of composers is because we will to do so. The fact is that we can will not to, and we can even get away with it. Until we get caught–or until we check in with composers to ask their permission to make changes–it’s between us and our conscience. In fact, even after we check in with composers, we can still opt to flout their wishes and take our chances that we won’t get served with cease-and-desist orders or worse.

“The folk process” refers to the fact that music changes in our minds, which is of course where music originates. What is there, objectively, that says that changing pronouns is qualitatively any different than changing dynamics or where breaths are taken or whether the final note is four or three counts long?

Compliance such as [my colleague] describes is a matter of conscience and covenant. It doesn’t have to be; we’ve just made it our practice here because we are sensitive and aware people.

That’s where I’m at this afternoon; who knows what I’ll think tomorrow after this conversation continues? Take what you like and leave the rest…


First posted to the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network e-list 3/6/01
©2003 Khrysso Heart LeFey

“Valuing” and “Trivializing” Music

Originally published in 2003. This essay is in response to this statement by a colleague in the liturgical music community: “Music either has value or it doesn’t. I have spent my life in the belief that music is an art. It has value and should […]