Make Like an Electron & Be Repulsed

elevator-meme

If you’re like me, you may have watched some cheesy hallmark movies over the holidays, and if you did, you probably discovered that magical things are supposed to happen in elevators, like Christmas kisses under mistletoe, resulting in the blossoming of true love and lifelong companionship.

Of course, we know that in real life, only terrible things happen in elevators – like strangers attempting to make small talk. Or acquaintances trying to reconnect. Or close proximity with people who forgot deodorant. Or over-applied Axe body spray (and let’s be honest; any application of Axe body spray is an over-application).

I work on the twenty-first floor of a fifty story building, so I tend to be trapped in an elevator with other humans at least twice most days of the week. I know it’s going to be a good day if I get to ride alone in the elevator on my way up to my cubicle, but this is rarely the case.

What I have discovered during my frequent studies of human behavior in elevators is that socially adept individuals act like electrons in an elevator; they spread out evenly so as to give everyone the optimal amount of personal space. But unfortunately, most people do not seem to be familiar with VSEPR Theory and the fact that humans should follow this principle when in a crowded elevator (a crowded elevator, of course, meaning that there is someone in there other than me).

Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion (VSEPR) Theory is used in chemistry to determine the geometry of individual molecules based on their electrons pairs. Put very basically, valence electron pairs tend to repel each other, and the closer they are, the more they repel, so molecules take on a shape that minimizes the electrons’ repulsion.

Or, in the case of the elevator, people (electrons) tend to repel me the closer they are to me, so when we are stuck together in an elevator (molecule), we all need to spread out so that we are the furthest distance away from one another, thereby minimizing our repulsion of one another.

For instance, if there are two people in an elevator, we need to take on a Linear shape:

2-linear

For a grouping of three people in an elevator, a V-Shape is needed:

3-vshape

When five people are gathered in an elevator, they should assume the Seesaw shape:

5-seesaw

You get the idea.

Bottom line: Elevators would be much more pleasant if people understood VSEPR Theory and how much they repulse me.

Authentically Aurora

 

Eating Kumquats

Lumberjack“I think Joe is going to visit our bible study on Wednesday,” Cindy told me, her facial expression carefully neutral. She didn’t want to influence me one way or another.

“Oh really? That’s great!” I told her, unsure of my own feelings on the matter. I’d met Joe a few weeks earlier at a worship night Cindy had hosted at her house. The two of them had been friends for years, and Cindy had not-so-subtly pointed him out to me as a potential prospect once I finished my break from dating.

Joe had made quite an impression on me at the time. Cindy knew my type well. Over six feet tall with broad shoulders and a full beard, all Joe needed was a flannel shirt to make him look like a genuine lumberjack. Cindy had shared with me that Joe went to college at one of the US military academies, which made him all the more attractive to me.

As we sang worship songs together that evening in early March, I’d discovered that Joe not only played guitar expertly, but he also had a lovely baritone voice. He and I harmonized well, and I’d had to close my eyes to focus on the lyrics of the praise songs and keep my heart in check.

Later that evening, Joe had walked in on Cindy and me in full-on “girl talk” mode. We’d been chattering away about him, so we fell instantly silent and then erupted into giggles when he unexpectedly entered the room. He’d just smiled and turned back around, but later he’d asked Cindy for my phone number. After getting permission from me, Cindy sent him my contact information, and Joe had started calling me every other day.

During our phone conversations, I found Joe to be intelligent and academic. He was a deep thinker, and I enjoyed our mental sparring about theology, politics, sociology and all manner of other topics. But I also discovered that Joe had never finished at the Air Force Academy; he’d dropped out after two years. He didn’t have a college degree and had taken a job at the family A/C business. Upon examining my feelings about his lack of degree, I realized it wasn’t his lack of college education that bothered me; it was his lack of ambition. He’d dropped out of school and didn’t seem to have the drive to make his own way in the world.

Joe also shared with me that he’d grown up in a broken family. His mom left his dad for another woman when he was only five years old. He’d grown up with the lesbian couple and was home schooled most of his life. That explained to me something I’d been wondering about – Joe was built like an ox but, candidly, displayed some effeminate tendencies and also seemed a bit socially awkward in groups. I soon learned that Joe had never had a girlfriend, never been kissed and never even been on a date. He is 29 years old.

I wanted to like Joe. I really did. He is a smart, attractive, godly man. He genuinely loves the Lord and is very intelligent and articulate; insightful in an academic sense if not perceptive in a social one. But the chemistry wasn’t there for me. That intangible, indescribable personality spark that came so easily with Seth just didn’t manifest with Joe, and that wasn’t something I could help.

I knew I needed to let Joe down, but I wanted to do it in person, so if he came on Wednesday night as Cindy suspected, I figured we could have the conversation then. What I hadn’t accounted for was that Seth would also visit our group that week. So on that Wednesday night at the end of March – still in the midst of my fast from dating – I found myself at bible study with both Seth and Joe.

At the end of our lively group discussion about the deity of Jesus, everyone stood and organically clustered into groups, catching up and socializing before saying goodbye for the night. I found Seth by my side at the end of bible study, and he told me with a smile, “I have something for you.”

“Oh yeah? What is it?”

“I’m leaving for the ranch tomorrow. I’ll be gone for two weeks working the land, but I brought you kumquats to enjoy in the meantime. I picked them from a tree in my backyard.”

“Kumquats? What are those?” I was sad Seth would be gone for so long, but I was glad he’d brought something for me to remember him by while he was away.

“They’re a fruit. Sort of like little peaches.”

“Oh,” I replied with a grin, tilting my head to the side, “So they’re like me!”

Seth smiled at me affectionately and gave a low chuckle. “Yep, you’re my little peach.”

Just then, a group of girls joined us, so Seth excused himself, calling to me as he retreated that I should stop by his truck before I left so he could give me the kumquats he’d brought.

I chatted for a few minutes with Rachel and some other girls before looking around for Seth. He was already standing at his truck, driver door propped open, watching me from afar. “Oh! I’d better go!” I told the girls.

But Joe was waiting for me. I hadn’t seen him standing off to the side until he marched to my side with gusto, obviously intent on walking me to my car. Heart sinking, I realized that I’d parked just beyond Seth’s truck, so Joe – hand on my elbow – was escorting me on a path to walk right past Seth on the way to my car.

Starting to panic – wondering how to navigate the situation – I tried to tell Joe I needed a minute, but he was prattling on about his intentions to pursue a godly relationship with me, oblivious to my attempts to interject, both to tell him I didn’t feel we had chemistry and to explain that I needed to stop and say goodnight to Seth.

The old truck loomed nearer, and soon we were beside it, Seth watching me from his back-lit stance beside his driver seat and Joe still confessing how he felt about me. Frustrated and desperate, I put my hand on Joe’s arm to stop him, finally talking over him by way of interruption, “Hold that thought.”

I turned to Seth with a forced smile and said, “You have something for me?”

Knowing that Seth was leaving for the ranch in the morning – knowing that I wouldn’t see him for two weeks – I really wanted some alone time with him to talk and have a quiet moment to say goodbye. But I could sense Joe’s presence lurking behind me as I studied the tanned face. I couldn’t read Seth’s expression, partly because he was back-lit and partly because he schooled his features. I could only guess what he must be thinking.

Seth extended a plastic grocery bag to me, reaching in as he did so to pull out a small, oblong, orange fruit. “This is a kumquat,” he told me, turning it over in his hand.

Joe stepped closer to examine the fruit, and Seth pulled out a kumquat for Joe as well. The men shook hands and introduced one another. Seth was gracious, commenting kindly, “Ah, I see you’ve got dirt under your fingernails. My dad always told me never to trust a man with clean cuticles.” They laughed together, and I stood in bewilderment at their camaraderie.

Seth had planned to show me how to eat a kumquat, biting off the end and sucking out the meat, mindful of the seeds. He showed Joe as well, and the three of us – not exactly what he’d had in mind, I’d wager – stood outside of Seth’s truck, talking quietly into the darkness and eating kumquats under the partially-visible stars.

After several minutes, Seth seemed to concede that Joe wasn’t going to take the hint to leave. Joe’s delighted, bearded face showed no sign of awareness that he was trespassing on what was intended to be an intimate farewell, so Seth excused himself, giving each of us a cluster of kumquats before climbing into his truck and driving away.

I watched his taillights fade into the distance, my ears only partly registering Joe’s commentary on what a great guy Seth seems to be, the lumberjack’s voice garbled by the fruit in his mouth. Stuffing down my irritation, I allowed Joe to walk me the rest of the way to my car, where we stood and talked for only another couple of minutes before he bid me goodnight.

Feigning calm until he was out of sight, I jumped in my car, started the engine and dialed Seth. When he answered, the low rumbling of his chuckle made my stomach somersault. “Well you’re a hot commodity, aren’t you?”

Authentically Aurora

Hold My Heart – Part III

texting iphoneAfter weeks of investing in him, discovering that Cory was still pursuing his ex-fiance was painful, to say the least. I found myself developing approach-avoidance conflict where Cory was concerned, battling internally about whether to withdraw or rush further in to our relationship.

Being a passionate, competitive, wounded woman, a part of me wanted to try to change Cory’s mind; to convince him that Mary wasn’t right for him; to convince him to pursue me instead. I felt shamed, foolish, rejected and disrespected. All of those emotions compelled me to try to win Cory’s heart, but fortunately, there was another part of me that gave heed to the voice of reason.

You knew he was broken. You knew he’d recently gotten out of an engagement. You knew he was the “bad boy” type, and all along, you knew he wasn’t God’s best for you. As much chemistry as you have, his continued desire for his ex-fiance is a blessing in disguise. When you are tempted, God will provide a way out so you can stand up under it. This is your way out! Take it!

We continued texting a bit, initially about practical things like the logistics of Cory auditioning for my a cappella group (which is how we met in the first place). But even those practical texts he managed to turn flirtatious.

Although he wasn’t officially in the group yet, Cory asked me for our Christmas sheet music so he could be ready for our caroling season. I told him about a performance on December 12th and asked if he’d be in town. He texted back:

No, I’ll be with my family out of state. But I’ll be back in town on the 19th before I drive to see Mary. That is flexible if there is any reason you’d like me to be in town? 🙂

Ha, I’m going to see The Nutcracker with my mom on the 19th.

Darn. Here I was hoping you had church caroling or a play or some other artful thing for us to do together. Haha… Let me know if I need to change my travel plans 😉

It was hurtful to live out his ongoing flirtation knowing there was no intention of commitment behind it. When I eventually confronted him about it, Cory seemed befuddled. “I thought I was clear up front that I still had feelings for Mary. You knew none of this meant anything.” He unintentionally pointed the finger at me, insinuating that it was my own fault that I got hurt.

I tried to act strong over the phone, attempting to veil the depths of my wounds as I asked him, “How could you spend so much time with me, not only flirting with me but also kissing me and telling me all of the longings of your heart – how can you do all of that and not be invested?”

“With everything I’ve been through,” he told me, “I’ve learned how to completely separate myself emotionally. It’s a coping mechanism. I’ve kissed a lot of my female friends. Alexa and I have made out multiple times, and she knows it doesn’t mean anything. We’re still able to be just friends. It’s just for fun.”

I’ve met Alexa. She’s one of Cory’s two best friends here in the city, and its obvious to everyone that she’s infatuated with him. Surely he’s too perceptive to be blind to her interest. Is he really that unfeeling? Is he really that cruel?

Knowing that none of our interactions meant anything to Cory – hearing the cold, callous nature of his heart – both deepened my wounds and snapped me out of my lovesick stupor (at least temporarily). I told him that we couldn’t kiss anymore. “I won’t be one of your playthings. I have too much self-respect for that and, unlike you, I can’t separate myself emotionally from soul-deep interactions like I thought we’d had.”

When we saw each other in person, Cory was as good as his word not to kiss me, although he did burn through me with his eyes and occasionally kissed me on the cheek as a concession to his desires. One evening, we texted back and forth, with Cory initiating:

What are you up to?

I’m eating an apple.

With peanut butter?

That’s the way to eat an apple.

I want to so badly, but I shouldn’t eat that much food right before bed. Lol. I even have peanut butter too…

You have such self-control…

In so many areas…

I can exert my will when I have the right motivation. Haha. That’s all self-control is really… Mind over matter. You just have to identify something you want more.

And what do you want more?

That would depend on what aspect of self-control you were referencing.

I left it intentionally vague.

And I’m intentionally making you commit to what you want to know about me. I am an open book to those willing to read, but that doesn’t mean I have to volunteer the lines of my story 😉

I’m smiling at you, FYI. I already know the answer to either option.

For the peanut butter, you have been committing to get in good shape, and that means exercising discipline over what you eat, and when. So you are choosing your physique over momentary taste bud dancing.

Regarding your self-control with me, it was a combination of choosing to respect me and my wishes over carnal instincts and also choosing dedicating yourself to the possibility of Mary rather than caving to a short-term fling. Accurate?

Almost spot on. You just missed one key component. I also chose self-control with you because:

With any woman I am interested in, no matter how amazing the chemistry is, I am a gentleman first and foremost, and I respect the wishes of my lady, especially if we’re not even dating (if we were dating, I would have pulled out all the stops and blown your mind 😉 ).

Bottom line, I’m not a playboy, just an intensely passionate person; I think all men and women deserve respect.

…So you’re saying we had amazing chemistry? 🙂

I feel like that was pretty obvious.

I smiled to myself. Even if he wasn’t interested in pursuing me, at least I could comfort myself that he acknowledged our chemistry. And so our interactions continued. But they changed. We spent a lot more time talking about religion. And I struggled not to make Cory my project.

In addition to not thinking Jesus is the only way to salvation, Cory also does not believe that hell exists. He asserts that the “luck” of one’s birth shouldn’t dictate whether or not they go to heaven, and he personalized his claim by stating that, had he been born in India, he probably never would have heard the Gospel message about Jesus and – “according to your beliefs,” he told me – “I’d go to hell. I just can’t imagine that a loving God would send anyone to hell, especially since he’s the one who determined which family and country someone was born into.”

I can appreciate Cory’s discomfort with the idea of hell, and I acknowledge and even respect his passion for God’s love and redeeming grace. But I pointed out to Cory that God is both perfectly loving AND perfectly just. In His divine holiness, God cannot tolerate sin; there must be a punishment for sin. But because God loves us so much, Jesus willingly died in the place of all mankind, so that anyone who accepts his atoning sacrifice is forgiven of their transgressions and brought into a right relationship with God. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Unfortunately for Cory’s argument, the bible is clear that accepting Jesus’ sacrifice to atone for our sins is necessary for salvation. None of us deserve grace; we don’t live up to our own standards, much less God’s! If anything, we all deserve hell. If it is God’s pleasure to save some and not others,  that is His prerogative.

Romans 9 says, “Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For He says… I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion…. Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?”

Paul goes on to write in Romans 10 that it is his heart’s desire that those who don’t believe in Jesus would be saved. But “they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

Cory’s response to my standpoint was: “I guess I choose to believe in a God who loves his children equally and gives grace freely without conditions, the way a parent unconditionally loves and forgives a child, because I see us all as deserving of grace.” Clearly he either didn’t really read or understand what I shared with him. I am frustrated to be seeing John 12:40 played out in Cory. Why, God?

We also talked more about Jesus being the only Way to salvation, as opposed to Cory’s perspective that Jesus’ way of living (loving people) is the way to salvation. I cited lots of verses (Romans 3, Romans 5, 1 Cor. 15, Acts 4), but Cory’s single rebuttal was to question the authority of the Bible.

“But this is one book,” Cory wrote to me over Facebook messenger. “What about the Torah? And the Quran? What about Hinduism and Buddhism that predate Christianity by thousands of years? How can we so easily write off all other sacred writings on either side of the cross and history? God exists across all of space and time, why would his message solely be encapsulated in the minds of a few men from the early centuries AD?”

I thought we had established up front that the bible is the inerrant Word of God; I told Cory that my faith and perspective is rooted in the Bible and that, if he didn’t view that as a viable source document, there was really no point in continuing the conversation. “Did you even read and digest ANY of that? You asked for my opinion. I stated at the beginning that I believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. The Bible is where I get all of my data and justification. That’s why I said, at the beginning, that there was no point to having this conversation if you would not take Scripture as evidentiary.”

But if you say scripture is evidentiary because scripture says so, you have a logical fallacy of tautology,” Cory argued.

I’ve heard this argument hundreds of times (seriously, hundreds of times over the past decade), and this is where the debate always breaks down, so I wrote back, “I will not continue to have this conversation with you, because it will lead nowhere if we do not agree on the same ground rules.”

But Cory wouldn’t give it up. “You do recognize the circular logic right?”

When I didn’t respond immediately, Cory added, “I agree we have different premises and therefore cannot reach the same conclusion… But what I’m angling at is your premise is ‘The Bible is inerrant and accurate because the bible says so’ and your conclusions derive from its words.”

And with more silence from me (as I cooled my temper), he barreled forward, “As mere humans we are only able to extrapolate conclusions from faith, as we have no empirical means of deducing spiritual truth. All of our faith is conjecture and personal interpretation based on assumptions. I choose to believe more in my faith experience, my prayers, and my childlike faith in God than the flawed words of men transcribed and translated across millennia into a highly edited and even more highly misinterpreted work of literature. God is just, and I have come to him(her) in earnest. I trust the revelations God gives me directly more than I trust the infallibility of human languages and the written word.”

And then – ironically – Cory quoted the very Scriptures he claims are “flawed words” and “highly misinterpreted”! These bible verses were his justification for trusting the revelations God gives him (and his own ability to interpret them) more than the Word of God.

“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to everyone generously without a rebuke, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:7-12

“I can say no more beyond this without redundancy,” Cory concluded, seeming satisfied with his argument. Having checked out of the conversation for fear of saying something I’d regret later, I continued my silence, which Cory assumed meant I hadn’t read his latest rant. He sent me a text message an hour later:

“I FB messaged my final thoughts to you. I will now cease to press this issue, as you have been kind enough to allow me to voice all my points. I am willing to continue to hear your views and points and I will continue to answer any questions, but I feel like I have pushed too hard already and out of respect for you am going to back off and let it lie and leave the ball in your court. Thank you for being open and honest and for sharing your faith with me. I am honored and blessed to know you 🙂 ”

When I didn’t reply to the text, he sent me a FB message later that night: “I pray that if you are upset with me that you will forgive me.”

He seemed so concerned about the wellbeing of our relationship that I replied briefly, “I forgive you”. Cory sent a text almost immediately:

Everything okay?

Yeah, how are you?

So hungry! But I can’t eat because I volunteered to model for the abdominal ultrasound session today

Poor Cory… Thoughtful of you to abstain to ensure they get good images

Are you sure everything is okay?

Yeah

Cory sent a long text message in reply, bringing our discussion back up again: “I don’t know that this is necessary, but I want you to know that I LOVE discussing religion and philosophy and that no matter how frustrated I ever sound, I completely respect the intimately personal and individual nature of faith. I just want to clear the air a bit on that topic and state that while I think we have different views on the afterlife and some macroscopic ideas that we could continue to discuss in a respectful and academic way, I nonetheless think we can agree about the message and mission of love, kindness and service Christ call us to.”

I kept my response kind but brief: “Thanks for bringing it up. Yes, I think we align on the external application of serving in loving-kindness but disagree on the power source and reason for/objective of such action.”

Cory wrote back: “I think we actually agree that the source of love is God, and I might venture to say we agree that the objective is to be ambassadors of God’s love to others. I think our disagreements lie in semantics/word choice only regarding this life and the force of God’s boundless love. But anyway, I’m sure (or at least I hope!) we will have many more opportunities to discuss this not via text, haha.”

 I let the conversation drop, but I seriously doubted Cory’s wish for future faith conversations would come true. As much as I didn’t want to abandon Cory, our interactions had long gone past the point of being healthy for me or my heart. I may have gotten to be the planter, but it was time for someone else to be the waterer and the harvester. 

Authentically Aurora

Problematic Dreams – Part IV

Car Kiss

Cory couldn’t dance because of the fresh tattoo on his foot, and Noelle wasn’t dancing much either, probably due to a combination of not knowing any of the other dancers and because she would rather stay at the table and socialize with Cory anyway.

So I went out on the dance floor alone, dancing a few songs in a row with various partners before making my way back to our table to ask Cory and Noelle if they’d like to go do something else. Both of them suggested going for drinks somewhere, so we looked up wine bars nearby. The most promising one, a quaint wine dive with mid-range pricing, was about three-quarters of a block away.

I started to ask if we wanted to walk or drive, but then I looked down at Cory’s foot where his Sperrys were already starting to chafe the tender skin around his new tattoo. “Do you guys want to walk or — oh, I forgot, we have a gimp with us,” I said in a teasing voice, nudging Cory with my shoulder playfully.

“Hey, now!” he exclaimed in an equally playful voice. “Just because you said that, we’re walking,” he stated emphatically with a nod and a mock serious face. We all laughed, and I – looking out for him – said, “No, really. We can drive. I was just giving you a hard time.”

Cory raised his eyebrows at me. “I know a challenge when I hear one. We are walking!” I hadn’t realized how stubborn this man was but, given all I’d already discovered about his passion, intensity, pride and drive to become a surgeon, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

It actually was a nice night out – a bit humid, but not too hot and not too cold. Since we’re all music lovers, we started talking about our favorite composers. Cory definitely favors German composers, and I listed a few French composers I love (e.g. Debussy), but Chopin was the unanimous favorite for piano compositions.

Cory was a Music major in college before going to do his prereqs for med school, so his knowledge of music history vastly outweighed that of Noelle and me. When Cory mentioned a composer we didn’t know, he would inevitably start belting out some of their music, showing off both his knowledge and his phenomenal voice.

As we neared the wine dive, we all started singing Broadway numbers, harmonizing as we went, walking in a single line when the sidewalk narrowed and fanning out as it widened. Once inside, we settled at a tiny round table near a window, lit by a single candle and surrounded by beautifully carved wooden paneling. The place was beautiful – cozy and romantic but also earthy and rustic, with an air of class and elegance.

Cory asked me what I like to drink, and I told him that my favorite is Riesling. I hadn’t realized he was going to go order for me until he nodded, stood, and looked to Noelle, who shrugged and admitted, “I’m not a wine connoisseur; I’ll have whatever she’s having.”

A few moments later, Cory returned from the beautifully polished mahogany bar with two glasses of Riesling and one Malbec. I typically don’t like reds, but Cory let me try a sip of his, and it was surprisingly good. But that may have just been the influence of his company.

All throughout conversation, although the three of us were talking, Cory continued to look deeply into my eyes as though he was trying to read my unspoken – and often, unbidden – thoughts. I suspect he saw more than I meant for him to, especially as I drained my wine glass. He’s a handsome, intelligent, talented, passionate and thoughtful doctor-to-be who spent hours opening up, being emotionally vulnerable and connecting with me. With us, I reminded myself.

At one point during the evening, Noelle got up to go to the bathroom. The moment she left the table, Cory turned the full force of his gaze on me, seeming to drink in the sight of me, unhindered in his admiration now that we were without an audience. I hadn’t realized he had been dampening his intensity until Noelle was gone and I felt the shift in him.

We sat in silence just looking into each other’s eyes for a few moments. It was a comfortable silence, sitting there by candlelight, just enjoying the presence of one another.

“I could get lost in your eyes,” Cory murmured quietly to me, still studying my face.

I felt my face get hot, and I smiled shyly.

“I could just sit here, looking into your eyes for hours,” he went on. “You have the most beautiful eyes. Actually,” he smiled, “They were the first thing I noticed about you when you walked up at the talent show. They’re stunning – and so expressive. You gave me a look that night that I couldn’t get out of my head for days. I even went on and on about it to my friend Alexa after the show, trying to decipher what it meant and talking about your eyes and how beautiful they are until she got jealous, and I had to stop. I kept telling her, ‘There was something about her eyes…'”

Just then, Noelle came back from the bathroom, and Cory trailed off mid-sentence. We hadn’t noticed her approach, and I suspect she felt the shift in the mood and intensity. I started trying to encourage flirtation between the two of them again. Help, help, help.

As the evening wore on and Cory finished his third glass of wine, he started to really open up – even more than before. He shared with Noelle some of the things he had already told me, like the meaningful significance of each of his tattoos, but he went into more detail this time, telling stories about his parents’ divorce when he was a young child. And how they’re both on their fourth marriages. And how his mom is an alcoholic with undiagnosed bipolar disorder who was abusive when he was a boy.

He shared some other stories from his childhood too painful, graphic and personal for me to rename here, but suffice it to say that Cory has walked through some of the darkest experiences possible this side of death, but rather than feeling sorry for him, I admired him even as my heart went out to him. He has done so well for himself, considering all he has been through.

Eventually midnight rolled around, and we agreed to call it a night. We walked the mile back toward where our cars were parked, and we dropped Noelle off at her car first, hugging her goodnight before Cory and I made our way back to my BMW.

As before, Cory came over to the driver side of my car to open the driver door for me, but as I started to pull out my keys to unlock it, Cory turned toward me from where he stood between me and the driver door. “Can I do something impulsive?” he asked.

I dropped my keys back into my purse, startled, and the world started going in slow motion. Cory’s stance was both confident and timid. He didn’t know what I would say. I knew what he was asking, and in the back of my mind, I knew it was a terrible idea, but he was a hurting, attractive man who had just spent the past few hours pouring his heart out to me about very emotional, intimate things, and besides, another voice rationalized, it’s just a kiss, and I felt my head nod.

Without further encouragement, Cory slipped one hand behind my head and another around my waist, pulling me to him, where he leaned resting against my BMW.

His lips met mine, gently at first, and then more demanding. We both started smiling as we pulled away, and I heard the surprise in Cory’s voice when he whispered, “You’re a good kisser!”

I laughed, and he picked me up effortlessly, turned us around, and set me up on top of the trunk of my car before burying his hands in my hair again…

I’m currently working on a mashup for our a cappella group, and I suspect it doesn’t take much imagination to determine my inspiration.

Head in the clouds, got no weight on my shoulders
I should be wiser and realize that I’ve got
One less problem without you
I got one less, one less problem

He’s so tall and handsome as hell
He’s so bad but he does it so well
I can see the end as it begins
My one condition is:

Say you’ll remember me
Standing in a nice dress, staring at the sunset babe
Red lips and rosy cheeks
Say you’ll see me again even if it’s just in your wildest dreams
Say you’ll see me again… even if it’s just pretend.

Authentically Aurora

Problematic Dreams – Part I

ArsenalThe most recent time I’ve experienced an otherworldly connection with someone just happened a few weeks ago, and I’m still reeling from the after effects.

My a cappella choir sang in a talent show at the end of October, and since it was Halloween-themed, everyone came in costume. I borrowed a wig from one of our altos and went as a rather convincing Anna from Frozen (the innocent look comes naturally, but that whole chipper, cheerful thing took some work). #introvertproblems

Between performances of bagpipe playing and baton twirling, I marveled at the wide array of talents and also the creativity of some of the costumes. One guy in particular caught my eye, but not because of his costume. He was dressed as an archer of some sort (Arsenal, I found out later), but what really drew me to him was his aura. He radiated confidence and virility, leaning casually against the wall of the auditorium as though oblivious to the attention he garnered.

Michael and his roommate were slotted to close the show with an upbeat duet, but just before they took the stage, the archer uncrossed his arms, pushed off from the auditorium wall and strode forward. As he took a ready stance at the solo mic in the front of the room, I glanced down at my program to discover his name – Cory. As I looked back up to where he stood just twenty feet in front of me, his pianist began playing a moving ballad, and the archer opened his mouth to sing.

For the next four minutes, I sat transfixed as Arsenal/Cory belted out a humorous parody of a love song. His voice was flawless. He was clearly classically trained, but he didn’t let his perfect choral techniques get in the way of putting on an accessible and entertaining show. Even the high note at the end was sung beautifully, and I remembered in passing something that my mom whispered to me a decade ago in the back of my high school auditorium: “You have to be careful with boys like that, Aurora. You’ll fall in love with their voice and think you’re falling in love with them.”

Once the talent show had ended, all the performers mingled for a bit. One of my fellow sopranos, Noelle, has similar taste in men to me, so I was not at all surprised when she ran up to me, eyes wide, and gushed, “Did you hear that Cory guy? We have got to talk him into auditioning for our group!”

It’s true that we are in desperate need of more tenors and basses, so with my encouragement, Noelle hurried off to recruit him. She returned just a few moments later looking disappointed. “He says that he’s already really over-committed,” she told me in a dejected tone.

“Hmm, we’ll see about that.” I gestured for Noelle to accompany me as I walked over to introduce myself.

Cory looked up as I approached, and I reached out to shake his hand. “Hi, Cory. I’m Aurora. I sing with Noelle, and we both loved your performance tonight. You are a really gifted vocalist.”

“Thanks,” he replied casually, seeming to know what was coming next.

“We’d love to have you audition for our group. We meet on Tuesday nights,” I began, but Cory was prepared to tell me the same thing he’d already told Noelle.

“You know, I love singing – and I miss it – but I’m already really over-committed. I’m a first year med student, and I’m also currently training for a Triathlon with a running club on Tuesday nights.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Wow, that is a lot. Well, disregard then. Singing is supposed to be a fun, creative outlet, but it sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate, and singing with us would just be an added source of stress for you.”

I started to step away, wishing him the best of luck with everything, but he took a quick step forward. “Wait – I mean, would anyone mind if I came late to rehearsals? Or came sweaty, straight from my running group?”

I turned back toward him and shrugged nonchalantly. “No, I don’t think so. We technically start at 7:30, but we don’t usually actually start singing until around 8:00, so that shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Okay,” Cory paused, gaze locked onto mine. The air between us sizzled momentarily as he peered into the depths of my eyes as though searching for something. Whatever it was, he seemed to give up on it because I blinked, and the intensity of the moment passed. He glanced between Noelle and me. “So who would I talk to if I were interested in joining?”

“Let me introduce you to Michael,” I told him, leading the way toward our director and attempting to hide my smile. Choir would definitely be more interesting with Cory in the group!

Once Cory and Michael had been properly introduced, Cory took his leave, and Noelle and I gave each other a quick high five, grinning ear to ear. Best recruitment team ever! Little did I know what I had just gotten myself into.

That night, I got what I thought I wanted. The attractive and mysterious Cory was considering joining our group, my crush Michael volunteered to walk me back to my car, and all seemed like it was going according to plan. But sometimes what you think you want isn’t what you actually want. In fact, sometimes what you want is exactly the opposite of what you need and what would be for your good.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” -Proverbs 19:21

Authentically Aurora

It’s Been a Long Year

R engagementThe second time I experienced that supposed “once-in-a-lifetime” love was with my ex-fiance.

On the evening we met, R welcomed me with a hug and guided me into the Italian restaurant where we would share our first meal together. Once seated, we dove into conversation, quickly moving from lighthearted get-to-know-you topics to weightier stories and back again to laughter-filled teasing.

At one point, deep in conversation about his wartime experiences in Afghanistan, R’s eyes started twinkling, and he pushed back from the table and exclaimed – pleased, surprised, musing aloud – “This is great; we’re really getting into it!” We both acknowledged the immediate chemistry and personality compatibility that allowed us to navigate all levels of conversation with ease.

Even during that first date, we began picking up on one another’s idiosyncrasies. Normally very articulate, R’s occasional lapses into over-used colloquialisms were his tell of uncharacteristic nervousness. Similarly, there were a few times I’d be talking during our dinner conversation, telling a story, and I’d see the corner of R’s mouth lift just slightly like he was amused. I’d eventually ask him what was so funny, and he’d laugh lightly and say, “Oh, I’m just picking up on mannerisms,” telling me with a grin that my quirks were endearing.

R led us in prayer before the meal, and when he reached for my hand to pray, it felt natural. He had nice rough, calloused hands – a man’s hands. Overall, my first impression was of a strong, dominant leader; a smart, driven businessman; a confident, fun-loving rogue with acerbic humor; a thoughtful, reflective, godly man.

On our next date, R arrived after me, striding confidently toward me in comfortable jeans and a soft blue graphic tee. I stood as he approached, and he enthusiastically picked me up and spun me around as I laughed. Once we were seated next to each other at a square table, he reached under my chair and scooted me a few inches closer to him with a grin. I loved his playfulness.

The playfulness continued at the arcade where we played games after dinner, followed by a ropes course challenge and, finally, our first kiss in the parking lot, where – laughing – we got busted by a cop. After being told to “move along”, R and I started to say goodnight, and the atmosphere turned serious. As we gazed into one another’s eyes, I pulled our photo booth picture from my purse to give to him, but he pressed it back into my hands, saying softly, “You keep that safe for us.”

He was a a sentimental, hopeless romantic and a roguish military man with handfuls of confidence until his sudden and repeated emotional breakdowns in the months preceding what would have been our wedding day. He oscillated between telling me, with love in his eyes, that I was more than he ever dreamed was out there… and then, the next day, telling me that I was so Type A that I’d drive him to have an affair if we got married.

After months of heartache, I finally had to let him go completely. And the song I taught myself on the piano was one of many outlets that allowed me to begin processing the hurt and emotional turmoil of that season.

It’s been a long day, and all I’ve got to say is make it strong
It’s been a long day, and all I’ve got to say is I’ve been wrong

So take a leave of absence; tell me you’ll be gone
I don’t want to see your face
It’s been a long day, and I just want to hide away

It’s been a long week, and all the lines come down heavy on me
It’s been a long week; I’m finally feeling like it’s okay to break
Into a thousand pieces no one can replace
Only I can find my way
It’s been long day, and I just want to hide away

It’s been a long year, and everyone around me has disappeared
It’s been a long year, and all this mess around me has finally cleared
So can I have a moment just to say hello?
Can you let your anger go?
It’s been a long year, and I’m finally ready to be here

Authentically Aurora

The Soft Goodbye

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 6.22.04 PMYou know how people talk about that “once in a lifetime” kind of love? The kind most of us believe only happens in movies, until it actually happens to us? The kind where the spark is instantaneous, the chemistry is undeniable and, when you’re with that person, everything else fades into the background?

It’s the kind of love that feels like a soul-deep connection; where, after five minutes of meeting, you both feel as though you’ve been life-long friends. It’s indescribable and other-worldly, and although I’ve experienced it three times now, every time truly feels like a once in a lifetime love.

The first time I experienced it was nearly five years ago, in March of 2011. My company sent me to a week-long training program the week of my birthday, and on the very first day, I ended up seated next to a handsome Louisiana boy named James. The class was heavily discussion-based, so within five minutes of sitting down, James and I were asked to partner up to discuss our life milestones, which was a pretty weighty discussion topic for two colleagues who’d just met. But – both authentic, deep thinkers – James and I hit it off instantly.

We discovered that we had the same birthday one year apart, we’d been through similar difficult life experiences and we had a shared faith integral to our identities. James had a zeal for life that I found contagious. As an ENFJ, James had a larger-than-life magnetism about him. He loved to laugh and push boundaries and have adventures. He kept me giggling constantly, and we were inseparable the entire week.

We went out to dinners together after our full day conference sessions, and we played parlor games in the hotel lobby with other colleagues. One evening after a particularly hard-won foosball victory, James picked me up and twirled me around in the air as I threw my head back with laughter. Our coworkers just smiled and shook their heads at us. Our attraction was undeniable.

On Thursday night – the last evening of the conference session – James walked me back to my hotel room. He’d been somewhat reserved during our evening stroll outside, and I soon found out why. Just days before meeting me, James had proposed to his girlfriend, and she’d said yes.

He’d never experienced chemistry like we had; he acknowledged that there was outrageous attraction and compatibility. His soft brown eyes – intelligent and kind -pleaded with me to understand.

Standing outside of my hotel room, James leaned against my doorframe, face inches from mine. “I think we can both acknowledge we’ve had intense chemistry this week,” he said softly.

I nodded.

“And I think we agree that we could be really great together.”

I nodded again, a lump forming in my throat.

“But I think we both also understand the situation.”

Nothing more needed to be said. He was a man of honor, and I was a woman of integrity. Eyes filling with tears, we hugged each other and said goodbye. This week, James and his wife welcomed their second child into the world.

I had a Celtic Woman CD in my car at the time, and as I drove home, I played track number eight on repeat.

When the light begins to fade,
And shadows fall across the sea,
One bright star in the evening sky,
Your love’s light leads me on my way.

There’s a dream that will not sleep,
A burning hope that will not die.
So I must go now with the wind,
And leave you waiting on the tide.

Rain comes over the grey hills,
And on the air, a soft goodbye.
Hear the song that I sing to you,
When the time has come to fly.

When I leave and take the wing,
And find the land that fate will bring,
The brightest star in the evening sky,
Is your love waiting far for me.

Authentically Aurora