All The (suppressed) Feels

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People always seem to discount how I feel. It’s a good thing I’m generally a rational, logical thinker rather than a mushy, effervescent feeler because on the rare occasions where I feel consumed by emotions, most of the key people in my life completely discount how I feel.

Some people scornfully tell me to fix my attitude. Others are sickeningly optimistic, trying to point out the positive things in my life. Overall, everyone seems to just want me to get back to being my rational, logical, dependable, even-keel self. Evidently I am not allowed to take days off being an engineer-minded female.

That’s why lately when I’m sad or upset, I’m learning to just shut people out.

Don’t ask me about how work is going. My boss vents about me on the phone in her cubicle right next to mine, and being physically present in the palpable tension gives me heartburn at the office. No schools seem to be hiring at mid-year, so my teaching career is on hold until August. With no end in sight, I feel hopeless all day long sitting in my white cubicle surrounded by white walls and white noise.

Don’t ask me how my relationship with Seth is going. His E&P company just bought a new field to drill, so during the work week, he’s focused on that. Over the weekend, he was focused on making updates at his family’s ranch. Then he hurt his back and has been seeing a chiropractor during what free time we would normally have together. Lately he’s seemed distracted and disconnected from our relationship, noncommittal as ever. I’m lonely.

Don’t ask me about my family. I just found out that my brother is moving across the country despite my advice against it. Not only is he moving a thousand miles away, but he’s excited about it. He doesn’t feel the loss of our closeness, and that makes me feel rejected by him. Still more painful: This was supposed to be a short-term move, but he bought a house over the weekend. Not only did I find out about this huge life change after the deal was done, but the likelihood of his moving back closer to home is looking less and less likely. I’ve always felt like I love him more than he loves me, and although I know intellectually that this move has absolutely nothing to do with me, it hurts that he chose this, especially against my advice.

No one seems to know how to just tell me “that stinks”, give me a hug, and tell me they’re there for me. I know I’m blessed. I know these are minor issues compared to the rest of the world. I know this too shall pass.

But right now – just for today – I need you to let me be sad.

Authentically Aurora

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Loving Humbling

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I’ve been working at the same company for the past 7.5625 years. To a Baby Boomer, that may only seem like a fleeting moment, but to most Millennials, that seems like a lifetime to spend at one company. I always thought I’d be like a Baby Boomer in that I planned to stay at the same company for 50 years and make my job a true career; to invest in one company and show fidelity and faithfulness and I worked my way up and invested my blood, sweat and tears to make my company a better employer and more profitable company.

But the company where I work has never wanted my blood, sweat and tears in the traditional sense. Only two of the eleven bosses I’ve had over 7.5625 years has wanted to truly see me invest in the company for both my betterment and the betterment of the company as a whole. For the most part, the people I work with – management in particular – want to see us bleed, but only because they draw blood. They want to see us sweat, but only out of fear and intimidation. And they want to see tears because that means their carefully crafted demotivational comments have hit their mark.

Because I work for one of the most widely recognized major oil companies in the world, they are able to hire the best and the brightest. This corporation hires class presidents, valedictorians, visionary students who have founded their own organizations, and PhD students making breakthroughs in the future of biofuels. But rather than channeling that raw intellect and stunning creativity, all of these initially highly motivated self-starters are shoved into The Machine where they are expected to be simply one cog in one wheel, with no insight into or influence over even the most minuscule of process improvements. Don’t think independently. Don’t disrupt The System.

Any genius is called ignorance if it doesn’t fit the mold of the Kool-aid pushing management. Any creativity is stifled when the innovative try to use the very skills for which they were hired. The majority of the most fun, hard-working, creative and brilliant of my colleagues have long since left the company, opting instead to tap into their entrepreneurial spirits or become consultants to companies who will pay them triple to actually listen to the input that was so scorned at my current place of employment.

I have been trying to leave this company for nearly 7 of the past 7.5625 years. I’ve applied to smaller OG companies. I’ve interviewed with Apple in Cupertino. I’ve gone to seminary to become a biblical counselor and taken graphic design courses with plans to start my own design studio. I’ve written music and even released an album on iTunes. I’ve interviewed with consulting firms and, most recently, earned my teaching certification. I am a self-starter who wants to passionately pour myself into my work if only I can find a career and employer who will respect me enough to give me room to deliver.

I’ve been close to leaving this corporation countless times, but nothing has ever panned out. I’ve had offers on the table that were unexpectedly revoked as the market tanked. I’ve had companies that wanted to hire me but were on a hiring freeze. I’ve been faced with hardened hearts, lack of favor and lots and lots of closed doors over the past 7 years. I’ve fought bitterness, anger, hopelessness, despair and doubt about whether God is really good and loving. And what I have come to conclude is that there is a way that seems right to a person, but it is the Lord’s good, gracious, loving will that prevails.

When I was in 2nd grade, I decided that I was going to go to the United States Military Academy at West Point and become an engineer. Ten years later, I was accepted to USMA but fell into deep depression when my high school sweetheart broke off our relationship just months before high school graduation. Physically weak and emotionally despondent, I gave up my offer of admission to someone on the wait list who would actually be able to make it through boot camp. I ended up at a state school and spent most of my freshman year bitter about how I’d let my wayward emotions rob me of a golden opportunity and lifelong dream. But God had a plan.

Three years ago (almost to the day), I said yes to marrying the man I loved. Mere months later, he had an emotional breakdown and called off the already-planned wedding. I faced not only his rejection but also the public humiliation of informing friends, family and coworkers that I was an undesirable woman no longer loved by the man who’d promised to love and protect me. But God had a plan.

Nearly eight years ago when I graduated from college and started work at my current employer, I was on a fast track for senior management. All of my performance reviews and feedback sessions – for a season – said that I had the makings of a Senior Executive at one of the largest corporations in the world. But a VP who’d championed me retired, and the capricious whimsy of our talent forum found another shining star to adore. I was turned over to a manager who despises and disrespects me constantly. But God has a plan.

If I’d gone to West Point, I would surely be a harder, more cynical woman than I am today. Simply to get through that military academy as a woman would have robbed me of much of my God-given softness and femininity. Going to a state school not only humbled me but also gave me experiences that taught me about how women are gifted to show the world about God’s kindness, gentleness and unconditional love in a way that is uniquely feminine.

If I’d married my ex-fiance, I would have been joined to a man who could not and would not lead me spiritually. I would have been lonely in my marriage, yoked to a man whose affection was flighty and temperamental. Instead, I have been given the blessing of knowing what it is to love a man like Seth, whose pure heart and consistent, dependable servant leadership inspire me to become more the woman I’ve been created to be.

And if I’d stayed on the executive fast-track at this company, it would have been harder to leave. I don’t see myself as the kind of woman who would have become a workaholic, sacrificing friendships and family time for career; choosing advancement over integrity. But all of the women I know in leadership at our company behave like men. They have lost their softness; their gentleness; their kindness. They are tough and gritty and entirely masculine in their communications and interactions. That is not the kind of woman I want to be, nor is it who I’ve been created to be.

Each circumstance has been brought with it a painful sense of rejection. Each circumstance has taught humility through humiliation. But each circumstance has been a profound blessing orchestrated by the loving hand of God, who is more concerned with my eternal holiness than my temporal happiness. God is a loving father who wants to give good gifts to his children. Sometimes those gifts look like punishment in the moment, but in time, we are able to look back and realize that our omniscient, omnipotent, unconditionally loving Father knew what he was doing all along.

Authentically Aurora

Becoming Our Caricatures

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You know that feeling where you really dislike someone, so everything they do – annoying or not – feels annoying to you? Or that person you really think is stupid, so with everything they do, you see it through that lens of anticipated stupidity?

It’s easy to create caricatures of people and then treat them accordingly. And so often when we do that – if we have enough influence over their lives and enough time passes – people eventually evolve or devolve into the caricatures we’ve created.

Have you ever heard the story of the Eight Cow Wife? It’s a poignant story about a woman who was deemed unattractive and undesirable until a man who loved her paid an extravagant dowry for her: eight cows – an unthinkable amount in their society. Knowing that she was so highly valued, the way she thought about herself began to change. She carried herself differently, behaved differently and eventually became externally as beautiful and lovely as she was perceived by the one who loved her. She was transformed from the inside out by the one who loved her; the way she saw herself changed because of the way he saw her. 

When I was a child, my parents gave me a lot of responsibility, believing that I would rise to the occasion. Being entrusted with responsibility developed me into a responsible young woman. My parents’ actions communicating their belief in my capacity and dependability made me believe I was such a woman, and it inspired me to behave accordingly.

But the opposite also holds true. Regardless of the perception – positive or negative – over time, it tends to become the reality.

I have been at the same job for 18 months. There is not much responsibility in my job. Basically when a software package or other IT service line is going “end of life”, I either issue a termination notice, negotiate an extension/upgrade or negotiate a migration to another solution. Every time this needs to be done, my job is simple: I get approvals from Finance, approvals from our Technical team, get approvals from the Board, and send all of those – plus the renegotiated agreement – to a guy named Kevin who processes the agreement for signatures and execution.

Not only do I have essentially no responsibility, but also my job requires no independent thought or creative thinking. Still further, my boss constantly beats me down and repeatedly communicates her belief in my utter incompetence. Just this morning on a team call, Kevin told our boss that he was still waiting on a Finance approval from me – that I was the bottleneck keeping one of our service updates from getting approved. I immediately jumped in, “No, Kevin, I sent you Finance approval on August 9th and then again on the 15th when you said you couldn’t find the first email. Check your inbox.”

Instead of hearing that Kevin was in the wrong, our boss automatically assumed I was the one at fault. After all, I am the completely incompetent one who is incapable of adding any value to the team (a paraphrasing of her words at my midyear review). She verbally lunged at me, “Aurora, Kevin is not the one who provides Finance approval. You are supposed to get approval from the Finance team and then send it to Kevin to process.”

“Yes, I know.” That is the job I have been doing – my only real responsibility – for the past 18 months. I was absolutely infuriated by her condescension. How could she think I didn’t know that?

“I got approval from both Sharon and Bob – ” (our finance focal points) ” – and sent those to Kevin twice already.”

“Oh,” was her response. No apology. No condescension or disapproval toward Kevin. All she said was, “Kevin, please process.” And then we moved on to the next topic.

I am trying so hard not to become the caricature my boss has created of me, but it’s hard to stay intrinsically motivated. I find myself coming in late, leaving early, and no longer even bothering to try to excel at my work. The status quo has become enough for me because: why bother? I will never change her view of me.

I’ve never been a status quo girl. I have always been a high achiever – Straight A student, President of my Girl Scout Troop and Captain of my Soccer Team. In college I was repeatedly on the Dean’s List in engineering and, on the side, got my EMT certification just for fun. Post college I took my songwriting to the next level by releasing an original album on iTunes. These days, I keep a full schedule teaching Sunday School, arranging music for my a Capella group, babysitting foster kids and volunteering at a weekend farmers’ market that fights human trafficking.

I want to keep my passion alive. I want to keep striving to be impactful, make a difference, and be a self-motivated achiever. I have packed a lot of living into my twenty-nine years, and I like that I have been historically ambitious. I don’t want that to stop just because I feel trapped in an unfulfilling, demotivating job where my boss does not believe me capable of adding any value. But it gets harder every day not to succumb to becoming the caricature she has created of me. Why bother? Nothing seems to be changing, no matter how much I pray or how hard I try. 

Authentically Aurora

Bitterly Brilliant

Painting 2New, breaking research shows that over-thinkers tend to be creative geniuses. Although, in my mind, this study is hardly breaking unless it is breaking the mold that says enthusiastic extroverts are the highest performers. Or breaking the spirit of the insuppressibly happy. Or breaking the glass ceiling that prevents the bitter among us from rising to societal success (while we are still living, of course).

This study by Dr. Adam Perkins of King’s College London has found that anxious personalities plagued by negative thoughts trend toward greater creative problem solving than happy-go-lucky types. Although I appreciate when the scientific method is utilized to back up what we intrinsically know to be true, I think we can all look through history and acknowledge that the Greats of each era suffered for their genius.

Or we can just read through my old blog posts. Or talk to my mother. She has suffered my genius, lo these many years.

selfportraitVincent Van Gogh, iconic Post-Impressionist painter, suffered from severe depression and eventually committed suicide. He wrote to his brother, “I am unable to describe exactly what is the matter with me. Now and then there are horrible fits of anxiety, apparently without cause, or otherwise a feeling of emptiness… at times I have attacks of melancholy and of atrocious remorse.”

Sweden’s Karolinska Institute found that writers are 121% more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder and nearly 50% more likely to commit suicide than the general population. Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy and Ernest Hemingway all appear to have suffered from clinical depression. Charles is my gloomy groupie, Leo is my caustic comrade, and Ernest shares my melancholy mojo. We are indeed Brothers in Bitterness.

Open TabsThe Karolinska Institute also discovered that creative types tend to have higher levels of schizotypy. *Twitch, twitch* They are less able to ignore extraneous details; their brains do not allow them to filter. As a result, they take in more information than most, exhibiting keen skills of observation.

Think of famous fictional detectives: Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Adrian Monk and Miss Fisher. All of these champions in intuition share a remarkable attention to detail, and this characteristic, coupled with their ability to synthesize vast amount of information, is largely what made them brilliant.

SherlockMasterful detectives see patterns and connections that others miss. According to American psychologist Scott Kaufman, “It seems that the key to creative cognition is opening up the flood gates and letting in as much information as possible because you never know: sometimes the most bizarre associations can turn into the most productively creative ideas.” But the very attention to detail that makes these characters so great also lends itself to bouts of overthinking, anxiety and OCD.

Great inventors through the ages also frequently suffered from a neurotic fretfulness. HigherPerspectives writes, “In a sense, worry is the mother of invention. When you think about it, it makes sense. Many of our greatest breakthroughs through the years were a result of worry. Nuclear power? Worry over energy. Advanced weapons? Worry of invasion. Medical breakthroughs? Worry over illness and death.”

broodingDr. Adam Perkins explained his research, saying: “It occurred to me that if you happen to have a preponderance of negatively hued self-generated thoughts, due to high levels of spontaneous activity in the parts of the medial prefrontal cortex… that means you can experience intense negative emotions even when there’s no threat present. This could mean that for specific neural reasons, high scorers on neuroticism have a highly active imagination, which acts as a built-in threat generator. Cheerful, happy-go-lucky people by definition do not brood about problems and so must be at a disadvantage when problem-solving compared to a more neurotic person… It is easy to observe that many geniuses seem to have a brooding, unhappy tendency that hints they are fairly high on the neuroticism spectrum.”

Anxiety is linked to a stronger imagination. OCD is associated with concentrated skills of observation. Depression is correlated with deep thinking and heightened brain function. People with these traits often exhibit what are perceived to be negative personality patterns as a result of incredibly developed, creative brain function. Like so many things in life, this creative genius is a double-edged sword. “But he who dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose.” – Anne Brontë

Authentically Aurora

One Year Blogiversary

One year CupcakeDear Blogging Community,

Today I celebrate my One Year Anniversary of Blogging. It has been a long and arduous journey, but we have survived together – me, filtering every life experience to deem whether or not it is blog-worthy, and you, suffering through my bitter humor and bleeding-heart introspections.

Thanks for being a part of this journey with me – for oftentimes helping to carry my burdens with your loving words of encouragement… and also occasionally adding to my burdens with well-intended but unwelcome commentary (I’m looking at you, peanut gallery).

I am so grateful for the community I have found here in the blogosphere. You have collectively endured my emotional roller coaster ride of upbeat inspirations one day and bitter rants the next. You have lived life with me, and I with you. We are family. [cue Sister Sledge]

I’m a different woman now than I was a year ago. On August 21, 2014, I was a broken woman, having been rejected and abandoned just weeks earlier by the man who had promised me forever. In the wake of my broken engagement, I oscillated between despondency and anger; listlessness and panic. And I ultimately found solace in the pouring out of my emotions on the page: the bright, pixelated page of my computer screen.

Since then, I have been on 356284.1 dates – some humorous and some heartbreaking. I have learned a lot about men, and I have learned a lot about myself. And I have also learned a lot about you, dear readers.

I have discovered that your favorite posts to read are ones on controversial current events, be they political in nature or more aligned with pop culture. My most Viewed posts are about gay marriage, The Bachelor and the Christianity/Science debate. You also apparently really like it when the intensity of my emotions come out in my posts, like when I am most deeply wounded, unfathomably giddy, or absolutely infuriated.

You most Like when I share my creativity with you, either through my photography or poetry. You like when I express myself in short, humorous outtakes from life. Especially if those outtakes involve chocolate.  You also like to hear my personal reflections, most notably when I speak about my internal struggles and subsequent revelations as I continue the journey toward healing.

But I hear the most from you when I allow myself to be completely vulnerable and reveal the depths of my occasional depression. You are good encouragers when I feel misunderstood, and I am thankful for that. I also tend to get a lot of Comments from my fellow introverts when I post about introversion (don’t worry, I won’t ask you to raise your hands and draw attention to yourselves. You know who you are). And you like to comment on my bitterest of rants, like when I am confounded by the perkiest of girls and the most oblivious of men.

Altogether, it has been a lovely year of writing and reading, of loving and leaving, of grieving and growing; of receiving restoring. Here’s to another year together.

Authentically Aurora

High Maintenance

Sharpay 1I don’t get how some girls just don’t get worked up about stuff. And I am totally jealous of them. Like, hello! You should be freaking out about this right now. You should be having a melt down. How are you not totally and completely stressed out of your mind?!?!

Last night, I volunteered to teach bible stories to a group of kids at an after school program in a low-income neighborhood. Partway through the night, I was talking with my friend Diana – a gorgeous, newly engaged twenty-something – as she reached into her purse and–

“Ugh!” Her white-and-gold Michael Kors iPhone case was covered in gooey, melted chocolate. She started digging through her purse and gingerly pulled out the culprit: a half-unwrapped Hershey’s bar. Diana started laughing as she shook her head and said, “One of the kids must have stuck that in there!”

She went right on with our conversation as if nothing had happened. She was laughing and smiling, completely unfazed by the fact that the entire inside of her purse was full of smeared brown goo that looked like poo. A gooey, pooey mess, and she’s still smiling.

I was floored. And insanely jealous of her attitude. She’s kind of a high maintenance girl from a materialistic perspective – Prada bags, Kendra Scott jewelry, business clothes from The Limited and Banana Republic. But what I realized last night is that, although she may be materialistic, she is low maintenance from an emotional perspective. In that regard, I’m the one who is high maintenance! Me. High Maintenance. What?

I’ve never seen myself that way before. I’m rocking a $15 purse from Target, and my fashionista self has been sporting the same pair of plain black heels to work for two years. What can I say? I’m practical and down-to-earth when it comes to material goods. If only I could say the same about my emotional state!

Sharpay 2I’m a Christian. Diana’s a Christian. I know that I should not be anxious for anything (Phil. 4:6), that I should cast my cares on God (Ps. 55:22), and that prayer will result in my heart and mind being guarded by the peace of God (Phil. 4:7). But I get worked up about stuff. Easily. I am easily frustrated, quick to anger and live in a perpetual state of stress. Diana, on the other hand, in all her fashionista-ness, has a lightness of heart that stems from her faith in the truths of God’s goodness and sovereignty.

I’m like totally J of Diana’s fabulous outlook on life and, like, I just can’t. I seriously need her mad skills. She’s on fleek. Hashtag killin’ it. Low maintenance girl right here. Am I right, ladies?

Authentically Aurora

TBT: Vulnerable & Strong

HSPI wrote this post last fall and never published it, although my feelings haven’t changed much since then. That said, I am slowly learning to be happy for people who haven’t yet experienced heartache… and thankful for those who have. #HSPproblems


I might be a petite, 5’4″, twenty-something woman, but I have the heart of a leader and the desire to impact change. I frequently find myself in situations where I sense that something needs to be communicated, and I end up “influencing up” – discretely influencing those senior to me (in age or rank) using something of an innocent’s Socratic method.

On a monthly basis, I attend a bible study luncheon in which guest speakers, usually very senior in their respective organizations, come and share their life experiences and what they have learned through those experiences. This week, the topic was “Listening to God: How Obstacles Can be Signs from God.” The guest speaker, a fifty-four year old CEO named Randy, detailed his entire career, which involved six layoffs over the course of thirty years (one of which involved the Enron fiasco). I kept waiting for Randy to get to the part where he talked about what he learned about himself or about God through all of the ups and downs of his tumultuous career, but in the end, all he really said was that he knows now that God was with him all along.

I was a bit disappointed that this elderly CEO spent 25 of his 30 minutes telling his “woe is me” story and, even in the last five minutes, didn’t say much other than, “God is faithful” (without any concrete, specific examples of God’s faithfulness), so I raised my hand to ask a question during the closing Q&A portion of the luncheon.

I already knew the answer I expected (and believed to be true), but for the sake of everyone else, I stood and projected, “Randy, this morning you gave us a lot of insight into God’s faithfulness even through the ups and downs of life. I recently experienced a broken engagement, so I can relate to the turmoil that comes with the unexpected. How would you advise us to navigate seasons of life where we know in our heads that God is good and sovereign, but our feelings don’t align with what our heads know to be true?

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I was giving Randy the opportunity for a teaching moment; to close the gap in his speech; to get to the point of why he spent half an hour telling us all his sob story about six layoffs over thirty years. But instead of answering with any of the various appropriate responses, Randy – like so many before him – zeroed in on the phrase “broken engagement” and started publicly offering me cliches, like, “You’re going to get through this. God has better out there for you,” and “You just have to decide to stop feeling the sadness.”

Randy, I was not looking for condolences. I was trying to lead you to state things like, “Read the Bible. Know the Truths of Scripture. Use what you know to be true to battle the lies of your heart. It’s a tough dichotomy, but in Mark 9:24, we see that it is possible to believe but still in the midst of that, struggle with unbelief.”

Instead, he just trained another generation of bright-eyes kids that the appropriate response to depression, conflict between our heads & hearts, or really to any hardship in life is to tell people to just decide to stop feeling whatever it is that they feel.

Good thing I decided to be vulnerable and sacrifice myself for the sake of a teaching moment – a teaching moment that epically backfired. Next time I’ll go back to listening to my head and ignoring my heart.

“We are only asked to love, to offer hope to the many hopeless. We don’t get to choose all the endings, but we are asked to play the rescuers. We won’t solve all mysteries and our hearts will certainly break in such a vulnerable life, but it is the best way. We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we’re called home.” -TWLOHA

Authentically Aurora