The Fiery/Fragile Child – Part II

Not everyone saw the same side of me on Thanksgiving Day this year, because not everyone is perceptive enough to grasp the complexities of being a Fiery/Fragile child. I have one face I show the world (“the best defense is a good offense”), and there is another layer to my personality that I reveal only to my closest confidantes, or those discerning enough to see beyond the veil. Here are two different perspectives of my Thanksgiving this year, one as seen by the masses and the other I generally keep to myself.

Ferocious Tiger1. THE FIERY WARRIOR

Family holidays are an introvert’s worst nightmare. Particularly if you come from a large, loud family. I swear I must be the milkman’s kid.

I had only been at my grandmother’s house for ten minutes when I had to escape to a back room to be still. And quiet. And regain my sanity before re-emerging into the chaos of simultaneous conversations at yelling volume:

“Is the turkey ready?”

“DO THE SWEET POTATOES NEED TO GO IN?”

“Has anyone seen Kevin?”

“Are you going to drink red or white?”

“Here, take this out to the car.”

“HAS ANYONE SEEN KEVIN?!”

To make matters worse, I somehow didn’t prepare myself for the fact that Thanksgiving this year fell one week before my brother’s wedding. And his fiancé is here in town, meeting some of the extended family for the first time. Not good news for someone trying to forget about a certain wedding of her own that got called off earlier this year. Almost every conversation (once we got all the food on the table and everyone settled) was about the wedding. Awesome.

“Are you guys getting excited?” What a dumb question. Why even bother asking this question? Even of the answer was no (which is unlikely), it’s not like either of them would announce that at Thanksgiving dinner.

“Tell me about your bridesmaids! Who did you pick?” Another dumb question. You’ve never met any of the fiancé’s friends, so hearing their names will mean absolutely nothing to you.

“Where are you guys going to be living? Do you have all of your stuff moved in yet? Are you going to get a pet?” Just stop already.

Grumpy Cat ThanksgivingWorse yet, my aunt hung a banner over our Thanksgiving table that said in sparkly lettering, “She Said Yes!” You’re about eight months late to the game. And isn’t today Thanksgiving? I thought I had another week of preparation before I had to start dealing with all of this wedding brouhaha.

What was that post I wrote on Thanksgiving Day? Oh yeah. Being thankful. Bah humbug.

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Fragile Tiger2. THE FRAGILE WOUNDED

I had a slow, quiet morning alone in my apartment this Thanksgiving. I prepared my assigned dish, sweet potato casserole, and put it in the oven to bake before hopping in the shower.

Once in the shower, I allowed myself to cry, happy for my brother and sad for myself at the same time. I prayed in my closest as I picked my outfit for the day. I prayed that I would have the strength I needed to get through the inevitable wedding-centric conversations that would surround me all day long.

I carefully applied my makeup and chose my jewelry, wanting to look nice in front of my fashionable future sister-in-law. Then I drove alone to my grandmother’s house where we’ve had Thanksgiving at 12:00 noon every year for as long as I can remember.

I knocked on the front door, set down my casserole, and had been standing in the kitchen for no more than 30 seconds before the wedding discussions began all around me. It was suffocating, like their words were causing my chest to constrict.

I went in a back room to lie down and give myself a pep talk. “You can do this.”

I made it through the meal, although I didn’t lead the family in prayer as I usually do, and one of my aunts commented multiple times that I was being too quiet.

FemaleWarrior2After Thanksgiving dinner, I went to a back room again to try to gather my strength and center myself. I grew up in a military family where we weren’t allowed to say “I can’t”, and our family motto was “No wimps.” But after nearly an hour of sitting alone in the back room pretending to nap, I admitted defeat. I walked slowly to my grandmother’s kitchen, gathered my dishes, hugged my grandmother goodbye with a soft “thank you” and made my way to the front door.

Only my daddy noticed my quiet movements, and he came over and offered to walk me out. I started crying as soon as we made it outside, and for the first time in twenty years, I said quietly, “I’m sorry, Daddy. I tried. I just can’t today.”

And he hugged me.

Authentically Aurora

Why I Don’t Date Musicians

Josh GrobanI don’t date musicians. Musicians make me crazy. Sure, they drive me crazy in the good sense, but they also make me a psychotic, emotional roller coaster. The highs are high, the lows are low, and I am generally a basket case.

I swore off dating musicians about three years ago after I realized how much they transformed this normally sane, rational, logical, methodical engineer into a completely unstable crazy lady!!! And tonight, I was reminded of just how potent the combination of me + a musician can be.

Background: My baby brother is getting married in three weeks. Yep, the one who proposed to his girlfriend on the same day that my fiancé broke off our engagement. Since his fiancé lives on the other side of the country and they are getting married in our hometown… and since I just planned a wedding in this city (albeit one that got cancelled last minute on account of the groom’s lack of commitment), my help in planning was requested. I have obliged as gracefully as I can without suffering internal combustion. So far I have selected the photographer (as a photographer myself), done taste testing at their venue (my dream location), given entrée recommendations (with the help of the ever-loyal Ashley) and hand designed their stationary (using my pending second degree in Graphic Design). I am also singing in the wedding, so tonight I drove 45 minutes across town to meet my duet partner, an up-and-coming star who studies at our city’s nationally acclaimed college of music.

Here’s where I get to the part about how musicians drive me crazy. First, Jack – this young star – irritated me. He had already cancelled on me twice, like a typical musician, and then tonight, we were supposed to meet at 7:30 pm, but he sent me a text at 6:30 telling me that 7:00 would actually work better. Since I live 45 minutes away from the university, I wouldn’t have made it by 7:00 even if I had left immediately, so I just ignored his text and decided to arrive at the agreed-upon time of 7:30. I felt guilty for not meeting when he wanted to, but there’s no way I could have made it by 7.

Next, I got angry. The college campus is huge, so I couldn’t find the building, and parking is a nightmare. I’d just spent 45 minutes in rush hour traffic; and then Jack responded to my request for better directions with, “The [music building] is on the back side of campus.” What the heck, Jack. What constitutes the “back side of campus”?! I prompted him further, and he told me, “There is a lot right in front of the building that might cost you 5 dollars but is probably the best option.” Jack. I don’t freaking know where the building is! Try using cardinal directions, son! Fortunately, I’m not above asking for directions, so I eventually found my own way. And paid I don’t even know how much for parking.

Jack called my phone right at 7:30 as I was pulling into a parking spot. I turned off the ignition and looked toward the building, where I saw the silhouette of a man leaning against a door frame as he held the door open with his body. The silhouette put a phone up to his ear just as I answered, so I knew it was him.

“Hey, Jack,” I said, watching his figure as he stood backlit by the building lights.

“Hey, Aurora. Did you get parked?” There was a quiet confidence to his stance, and it came through in his voice. Stop it, Jack. I’m trying to be mad at you. But I couldn’t. He looked so sexy standing there (sorry, Mom), and he was entirely too charming, in a completely unintentionally disarming kind of way.

I almost hugged him when I walked up – I don’t know why – but we shook hands instead. He had a warm grip and friendly smile. I am attracted to this 23-year-old punk. What is wrong with me?

He led me to a rehearsal room in the middle of the building, where a pretty red-haired girl waited at a piano. This Masters student had agreed to accompany us for our run-through. I’d wanted to talk a bit before we jumped right in (I think chemistry is important to singing duets), but she started playing, so we started singing.

Any time people hear me sing – at church, in the car, around the campfire – I inevitably get compliments. I’m not a bad singer. In fact, I’m a very gifted singer. I was a three-time All State Choir member in high school (ranked 2nd in the state my junior year), auditioned with Houston Grand Opera at the age of 18 and could have gone pro if I had chosen that path. But I was practical and decided to be an engineer. So now I work full time at a job I hate, going to school part time for Graphic Design (trying to pursue something that gives me more joy), and my vocal talent is largely being wasted. Tonight when we started singing, my vocal cords weren’t warm, and they’re muscles I don’t exercise much. I hadn’t realized how much of a difference regular rehearsal makes until Jack opened his mouth to join me in our duet.

His voice was rich and deep and warm and… beautiful. Heavenly. He is a young Josh Groban. And I was simultaneously overcome by joy, pleasurelonging and insecurity. No one has made me feel insecure about my voice in years. I have more vocal talent than 99% of the world’s population – purely by God’s grace and generosity. But next to Jack, who is training vocally full time and is in his prime, I felt like a shadow of who I could have been. And I felt regret for not having pursued music. I miss it. Intensely.

We finished our first run through, and it went so well that both Jack and the pianist were ready to call it a night. I was floored. I’d driven nearly an hour in maddening traffic to rehearse, and they were ready to be finished after five minutes? As Jack and the young pianist talked, I saw a rapport and camaraderie – perhaps even attraction? – that suddenly filled me with jealousy. I honestly don’t know if I was jealous for Jack’s attention or for the musical future those two are aspiring to. Either one is ridiculous. Jack is almost five years younger than me, still in school, and – most importantly – I’d met him five minutes earlier. My mom told me once, “You have to be careful with guys like that. You’ll fall in love with his voice and think you’re falling in love with him.”

I convinced them (without much effort) to run through the piece one more time, and it went even better than the first time. Our voices blended well, especially when the song swelled to a crescendo. Jack complimented me on my Italian pronunciation, and I glowed. I realized, then, that I – the ever-confident dragon lady – felt shy around Jack. What is happening?! I am a MESS!

We all looked at each other, agreed that the piece seemed performance-ready and packed up. Jack grabbed his backpack and walked me out to my car. In the chilly darkness, I felt safe next to him. We made small talk – I don’t remember what about – and he made me smile. When we reached my car, he reached out for a hug, even though we’d just met.

He’s a good hugger. It’s probably just a musician thing – kids were always pretty huggy in choir – but I felt peaceful when he hugged me. I told him to call if he thought of any questions about the wedding, and he echoed the same back to me. “Sure, just give me a call.”

Driving home, I felt hopeful.

And confused.

Especially when I realized that over the last hour, I have felt irritated, guilty, angry, disarmed, attracted, joyful, pleased, filled with longing, insecure, regretful, floored, jealous, shy, safe, peaceful and hopeful.

THAT is why I don’t date musicians.

Authentically Aurora

David’s Mighty Men – Part II

Some of you who follow my blog regularly might be asking, “Why the flying flip did she write about David’s Mighty Men as a follow-up to her bleeding heart emo post?” Well, most of you probably don’t use the endearing colloquialism “flying flip”, but you know what I mean.

Here’s why: Because in the midst of my emotional breakdown last week, I felt a whole lot like David in those stories – minding my own business, excelling at what is expected of me right where I am, unintentionally stumbling upon an opportunity for visibility, totally dominating that opportunity simply by being myself, encountering jealousy from insecure people, being attacked by said insecure people, attracting the depressed and disillusioned, and ultimately triumphing over all the $@%#! thrown at me because I kept the faith and focused on the One who I knew was in control of it all.

Okay, so I’m still working on that last part, but I’m a self-identified work in progress. As for the other parallels to David’s experiences:

Minding my own business & excelling at what is expected of me right where I am

I am well liked and respected at the large corporation where I work. I have been identified as a future leader and have been recognized for good work through both bonuses and promotions. I can’t stand office braggarts. I am a “head down” kind of worker that lets my work speak for itself. And it does.

Unintentionally stumbling upon an opportunity for visibility & totally dominating that opportunity simply by being myself

Although I am a quiet worker (truly the only part of my life where I act with any semblance of humility), my boss frequently has me present my ideas and project deliverables to senior leadership. Because I don’t care about rising through the ranks (I want to be a stay at home mom, assuming of course I ever find a man crazy enough to commit to me), I always do well at my presentations. Because I’m not nervous. Because I don’t care about impressing anyone.

Encountering jealousy from insecure people & being attacked by said insecure people

My department at work is currently playing a proverbial game of musical chairs where the music starts, we shuffle teams and positions, some chairs get taken away, and then everyone (who can) sits down. Over the past few weeks, two different senior executives have approached me about jobs they’d like me to apply for during our restructuring. Both jobs would be promotions.

DramaSome peers of mine, as well as one manager who isn’t my biggest fan (some drivel about “not playing nicely in the sandbox with the other children” because I have a brain and an opinion) have stirred up gossip that I have a sense of entitlement and am greedy for a promotion. I have since been “coached” that I should refrain from applying for any roles that would be a promotion in an effort to salvage my reputation.

My character has been maliciously slandered by insecure, jealous coworkers. I wasn’t looking for a promotion. I was the one approached by the hiring managers. I was minding my own business, excelling at the station in life in which I currently find myself. But when people feel threatened, like King Saul did by David, they act in absolutely heinous ways.

Office PoliticsAttracting the depressed and disillusioned

One of the few benefits of this truly painful, frustrating, humiliating, enraging, angst-ridden, debilitating season of life is that our trials become our ministry. Everyone at work knew my wedding date. Everyone at the office – a very professional, buttoned-up environment – watched the train wreck that was my broken engagement. Everyone has watched (from afar, mostly) the slow, gut-wrenching healing process of the past several months. And now this. Most people knew I was considering applying for those jobs; that I had been tapped on the shoulder by senior executives requesting me on their teams. So now when I don’t apply, there will be more gossip; more losing of face.

I wear my heart on my sleeve. I have no poker face. So everyone at work always knows exactly what is going on with me. Humiliating as this can be, the good part is that I have suddenly had new relational doors opened to me. Since my coworkers have seen me in a vulnerable state, they are far more comfortable pulling me into a conference room to confide in me; share their hurts with me; seek my opinion; ask for prayer or even just a hug.

Since the people are what keep me going to work, I am thrilled to have deeper, more meaningful relationships with the people I spend essentially a third of my life with at the office anyway. As I walk through this time of transition, my prayer is that I can at least be a light of hope to others down there with me in the valley.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort, too.” 2 Cor. 1:3-5

Authentically Aurora

Organized Religion

Church MosqueMany of us have been wounded by organized religion. Many of us have been hurt, insulted and offended by the Christian church. And as a result, many of us carry bitterness toward pastors, elders, bible study leaders and other fellow Christians. I count myself among those who have spent the past several months angry with God, largely because I am angry with His people.

In the midst of my depression, my most recent bible study leader told me that she wasn’t sure I was really a Christian. “You have a lot of head knowledge about God, but you don’t seem to have ‘heart’ knowledge. If you really believed that God is good and sovereign like you claim to believe, you wouldn’t still be depressed.”  Psalm 42, lady. Our emotions don’t always follow the rationale of our minds.

And then there are those Christians who try to guilt you into changing your attitude (you think I want to feel this way?) by asking you in a sickeningly sweet and often condescending voice, “Aurora, what would Jesus do?” Clearly they have forgotten that flipping over tables and chasing people with a whip is within the realm of possibilities.

WWJDPast church leadership wouldn’t allow me to sing in the choir because I hadn’t been baptized by immersion as an adult. After confirming that they don’t believe baptism is necessary for salvation, I retorted, “So I can be a member of the Kingdom of Heaven but not a member of your church choir?” They had no response, but I still wasn’t permitted to participate.

Since my broken engagement, I have visited three different churches. One was comprised almost exclusively of married couples. One had the compassionless bible study leader mentioned above. And at the third, I was invisible; no one noticed if I came or not on a given Sunday. So I have largely stopped going to church. I know deep down that it’s not a long term solution, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to suffer the throes of organized religion again just yet.

As hurtful as the church can be, I know that staying away because I’ve been hurt is a false excuse because people are messy, and pain is inevitable. Churches are filled with sinful, fallen, broken people because we are all sinful, fallen, broken people. The very message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that you don’t have to clean yourself up before you come to Him; He meets us right where we are, in the midst of all our mess.

I believe that we were created for fellowship. I believe that Satan wants to isolate us. I believe that lies become louder and bitterness becomes more deeply entrenched the longer we withdraw from community. So I have known all along that I would return to church services someday. I have just been taking my time, nursing my wounds. And today, God sent someone to tap me on the shoulder, saying it’s time to get involved again. I know it was God tapping me on the shoulder, because it was a Muslim inviting me to a Christian church.

Wait, what?

Alim was born in Iran (no surprise, given that I am a Middle Eastern magnet) and moved to Canada as a boy. He recently came to the United States for a job at the same company where I work, and he and I have run into each other at a couple of networking events in the past, although I never seem to remember his name. He saw me in the cafeteria this afternoon and came over to talk. He remembered that I am a Christian, so he asked me where I’m going to church. When I explained that I’m not actively involved in church right now, he said, “You should come to church with me. Want to come this Sunday?”

Alim was raised Muslim but, upon moving to the Bible Belt of America, couldn’t help but be curious about Christianity, so he started visiting churches as a part of his self-described “exploratory phase.” And so God used this Muslim-turned-Christian-church-attender to invite His wayward Daughter to attend church services again.

God certainly works in mysterious ways.

Authentically Aurora