The System (for Introverts)

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I used to hate getting shots. Every six weeks or so, I have to go into my allergist’s office to get my maintenance dosage of allergy shots. It takes 20 minutes to drive there, and I have to sit and wait for 20 minutes after getting the shots so they can make sure I’m not having an anaphylactic reaction; then it takes another 20 minutes to drive back home or to work. So every six weeks, I used to feel like I was wasting an hour of my day… until I figured out The System.

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 11.32.12 AMNow when it’s time for my allergy shots, I go get myself a latte. I throw my Kindle into my purse. I silence my phone and stick in my earbuds and listen to white noise to drown out the sounds of older patrons talking loudly or children whining or babies crying.

Now every six weeks – instead of feeling like I am wasting my time sitting in the doctor’s office – I get an extended period of time to sit in a comfy chair disconnected from the world and read a good book while drinking a freshly brewed latte. And it is heaven.

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 11.34.48 AM.pngThis morning when I went in for my six-week maintenance dose, I scanned the waiting room as I nestled down, and I spotted a sixteen-year-old girl who has already discovered The System. She had kicked off her shoes and pulled her feet up into her chair and was curled up with a thick paperback, oblivious to anyone but the characters in her story. I smiled to myself and thought, “She’s my people.”

OlderWomanI got my shots, enjoyed 20 minutes of uninterrupted reading, and walked outside to my car. On the way, I saw an attractive, well-dressed woman in her fifties perched on the hood of her lime green car. Her knees were drawn up to her chest as she basked in the sun and talked on her phone with a relaxed, lazy drawl. And I smiled to myself for the second time in half an hour, again thinking, “She’s my people.”

The sixteen-year-old with her paperback was me nearly two decades ago, and I imagine the woman on hood of her car is a portrait of Authentically Aurora in another two decades. These are my girls. These are my people.

Authentically Introverted Aurora

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Grating Expectations

Distance in Relationships

My daddy has gently told me, over and over again for years, that it’s a whole lot easier not to be disappointed in people when you stop having expectations for how they should behave.

But for the life of me, I just can’t seem to stop hoping for better for people. It’s a blessing and a curse. I always want to see the possibilities for redemption and the potential for greatness, which is a beautiful part of the way God made my heart, but it also leads to a seemingly perpetual string of woundings and disappointments. It’s part of the paradox of the INTJ personality – we can be both the most hopeful of idealists and the bitterest of cynics. It’s a delicate balance to walk and an often frustrating way to live.

Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while knows that I love personality types. I’m an Enneagram Type One, and I subscribe to weekly emails that give me encouragement for personal growth specific to the way I’m wired. Earlier this week, I got this email: “Today, notice if you are playing the role of the ‘Educator’ or the ‘Teacher,’ the superior person whose place it is to instill wisdom in the ignorant, uplift the fallen, and show others how to do something useful and productive with their lives.”

It’s true. I do try to be the mentor type, speaking wisdom into the lives of people I sense need direction, often because they overtly ask for it, but sometimes simply because my intuition (in truth, the Holy Spirit) prompts me to speak. It’s usually well received (largely because I know all too well how annoying it can be to receive unsolicited advice, so I am careful with how I phrase my encouragements). Just this morning, I got a text from a younger colleague who sought out my advice the day prior:

“hey, just want you to know that your comment about focusing on what my current role gives me the ability to do really helped a lot… greatly appreciate you aurora!”

He’d been frustrated with his job and needed some perspective, which I was all too happy to provide. But it doesn’t always work out so well. In fact, one of the last times I ever saw Cory, he, Noelle and I went out to coffee together. He was preparing to drive to go see his ex-fiance Mary over Christmas break, and we were sending him off as he embarked on his quest to win her back.

Near the end of our time together, I offered him some insight based on my own experiences with a broken engagement. “Cory, she is the one who broke off the engagement, so I can tell you from experience what she is going to do. She doesn’t want to let you go, but she also doesn’t want to commit to you, so she is going to try to convince you to start dating again but not get re-engaged or set a wedding date. This is the best possible scenario for her and the worst possible scenario for you because it keeps you from moving on but also doesn’t lock her in to commitment.”

I continued, my voice adamant. “If I were a betting woman, I’d put a thousand bucks on the fact that she’s going to want to start dating again long distance but not put that ring back on her finger.”

Noelle agreed with me, and Cory made us both pinky promise we wouldn’t let him do such a thing to himself. “I deserve better than that,” he acknowledged. “I need to stand strong and either win her back as my fiance or start moving on with my life. She’s already put me on hold for six months.”

That conversation was in early December. I knew I needed to take a step back from our interactions for all the reasons I’d written about before, so I didn’t make an effort to reach out to Cory at all over Christmas. Conversely, he had no reason not to reach out to me, so I suppose he was too busy winning back Mary to bother even sending a Merry Christmas text. Either that, or he sensed my desire for space. But if the latter were the case, he probably wouldn’t have sent me this Facebook message one Thursday in mid-January, about a month since our last interaction.

“Staying dry in this crazy weather?” he wrote.

Seriously? A month with no communication whatsoever – while he’s off trying to win back his fiance – and his first comment back to me is about the weather?

I simply replied, “Yep, sure am!”

He tried again the next day. “How was your winter holiday?” A much more acceptable opener.

“It was great! I spent a lot of quality time with family,which was nice. How was yours?”

As expected, he rattled off all the things he’d done: time with family, reading, studying, and… oh yeah… “Mary and I started dating again.”

Of course that was the whole reason he reached out to me. Could we do away with the facade and the games? He just wanted me to know he was back with Mary.

Cory continued, “We’re just dating for now – no engagement yet; we’re taking it slow.”

I was incensed. Wasn’t that exactly what I’d warned him against? I’d had feelings for him but shared my wisdom with him anyway, because I cared about him and wanted what was best for him. “Congrats on winning her back,” I wrote, typing furiously into the Facebook message box. “I know that must make you feel great, even though she’s not ready to commit to being engaged again.”

I paused; then continued, “You may recall this outcome is exactly what I predicted at Starbucks.”

He was ready for my comment. “And you recall I promised you that I wouldn’t settle for less than what I deserve,” he shot back, already defensive.

“Yep. So this is what you believe you deserve.”

He replied with a novel. “We are taking things slowly. We have both grown and changed for the better these last 6 months, but we still have some work to do individually and as a couple before we are entirely ready for marriage. While I am ready to commit and then do the work as young married people, Mary is more cautious and wants to get everything squared away first and make sure our foundation is strong. She says she is still in love with me and can see herself spending the rest of her life with me, but that she’s not ready for that concept YET, especially with 4-5 years of long distance staring us down. I am ready for commitment, but given my medical schooling, I am also not in a rush to run down the aisle.”

I was furious. Furious that he used me the way that he did – no one ever made me feel like a piece of meat the way Cory did; I was just the in-between girl; meaningless makeout partner while he got himself in shape and played hard-to-get games with his ex-fiance to try to get her back.

I was furious that he ignored my advice. Even if he didn’t respect my body or emotions, couldn’t he at least respect my mind? My wisdom and insight, shared lovingly for his good? He and Mary are both first-year med students. They are at separate universities on opposite sides of the country, and neither one will transfer schools. They have – as Cory himself admitted – 4 to 5 years of long distance ahead of them, not to mention a broken engagement behind them. There is no scenario under which this is going to end well.

And  to top it all off, Cory had the audacity to reach out to me with no purpose other than to let me know he was back with his ex! After a month of no communication whatsoever, while he bedded (but not wedded) his ex-fiance-turned-girlfriend, he wrote to let me know he’d gone against my advice –  advice based on painful personal experience with dating an ex-fiance in the wake of a broken engagement. What was I supposed to say? What response was appropriate? Couldn’t you just let me be? Haven’t you done enough damage in my life?

I gave some trite “I’m excited for you” answer, logged off and closed my laptop. Two weeks later, when I couldn’t handle the combination of mushy I-love-Mary Facebook posts and nauseating videos praising Bernie Sanders, I removed Cory as a friend on Facebook. This week, I got the following text:

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I really wanted to type back, “Perpendicular lines 4ever!” …but I refrained. Some jokes are better left unsaid. Especially when the joke is you.

Authentically Aurora

Always.

Alan RickmanMy heart is so sad today. Alan Rickman was one of my favorite actors of all time, and I love him even more after reading all the tributes that shed light on who he was off screen.

Alan was one of the rare actors who understood the complexity of the INTJ persona; he magnificently portrayed multifaceted antagonists and, as Stephen Fry wrote, was “a man of such talent, wicked charm and stunning screen and stage presence. He’ll be sorely missed.”

JK Rowling described Alan as “a magnificent actor and a wonderful man.” Others called him “deeply principled”. Daniel Radcliffe described him as loyal, supportive and encouraging. “Contrary to some of the sterner (or downright scary) characters he played, Alan was extremely kind, generous, self-deprecating and funny.”

Emma Thompson’s tribute is my favorite, articulated with a bittersweet mingling of admiration and sorrow: “What I remember most in this moment of painful leave-taking is his humour, intelligence, wisdom and kindness. His capacity to fell you with a look or lift you with a word. The intransigence which made him the great artist he was – his ineffable and cynical wit, the clarity with which he saw most things, including me, and the fact that he never spared me the view. I learned a lot from him. He was the finest of actors and directors. I couldn’t wait to see what he was going to do with his face next. I consider myself hugely privileged to have worked with him so many times and to have been directed by him. He was the ultimate ally. In life, art and politics. I trusted him absolutely. He was, above all things, a rare and unique human being and we shall not see his like again.”

Take note, young stars. This is the kind of legacy you want to leave behind.

Wand Tribute

Authentically Aurora

Starlight Blogger Award

Starlight Blogger Award 05/30/2015

Bitter Ben just nominated me for the Starlight Blogger Award, which is ironic, considering this award was created specifically to “celebrate the creative bloggers who have truly inspired… others through their beautiful and original content, imagery, art, abilities, and wonderful personalities.”

Wonderful personalities? Ha! Oh, Bitter Ben, you are funny…

This award is to “honor those individuals who are considered ‘the light emanating from the stars’“, and recipients are those who bring “light into your soul with their creativity“.

Don’t get me wrong. Bitter Ben inspires me all the time with his creativity. I just don’t know that his beautiful and original content would necessarily be described as bringing light into my soul. I get more of a mental image of Emperor Palpatine from Bitter Ben’s creations. And I say that in the most affectionate way possible, especially considering that Palpatine is a fellow INTJ. ❤

EMPEROR PALPATINE

Anyway, thanks, Bitter Ben. It is my honor and privilege to warm your bitter heart and occasionally give you a case of THE FEELS. After all, I’m a girl who likes a challenge. 😉

Now. Here are the rules (which, like Bitter Ben, I will not follow because I am a rebel, and the bitterness flows through me).

  1. Thank the person who nominated you. I mean, I know I already thanked you up there, but not thank you, Bitter Ben. How am I supposed to let the bitterness flow through me when you’re calling me all inspirational and light-giving and stuff?
  2. Answer three questions (more to come on this).
  3. Nominate 6 other people. I, being a rule breaker, will nominate 3: J at Salvageable, Paul over at his blog Captain’s Speech, and Ally of My Little Piece of Quiet.

Here are my answers to Bitter Ben’s questions:

1. If you had only 24 hours to live, what would you do on your last day?

I was going to be humorous in my answer to this, but then I realized that I’ve already thought about this question, and my answer is pretty heavy. So brace yourselves.

If I knew I was going to die in 24 hours, I would go into action, telling all the people in my life more freely and openly about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and why I believe faith and trust in Him is the only way into a right relationship with God and eternal salvation.

If I truly believe what I profess to believe – that the reason I am here on earth; my purpose; my very identity is all wrapped up in who God is and who I am in relation to Him – there is no other way I could spent my last 24 hours on this earth.

2. What is your favorite hiding place? Or what would you like to be your favorite hiding place?

I spent a lot of time hiding in my closet. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. When I need to think or pray or be alone and hide away from the world, I go sit on a little step stool in my closet. Since I live alone, this doesn’t necessarily  make much sense, but it’s comforting to me to sit alone in the dark. Remember, I’m an INTJ like Emperor Palpatine.

3. If you had the brains and ability to create an invention what would the invention be and how would you use it?

A teleportation device, duh. Best invention ever…. especially if your city has the kind of traffic that mine does!

Nominees, your questions to answer are:

  1. What is your favorite holiday tradition and why?
  2. What is the most difficult topic that you write about and why?
  3. What is the reason you write?

Now go forth and be inspirational!

Authentically Aurora

A “Villainous” Personality: The INTJ

INTJ VillainsWhy are INTJs always the “bad guy”? Although they may wear different masks, capes, motivations and agendas, some of the best loved and most feared villains of fiction all share the same dark, twisted core: the INTJ personality type. [Imagine dramatic “dun-dun-dun” sound effect here]

Magneto, Voldemort, Moriarty, Hannibal Lechter, Tywin Lannister, Emperor Palpatine, and Rumplestiltskin are all Myers Briggs INTJs and – let’s be honest – pretty fantastic villains. Because of their intuition and introverted feeling coupled with extraverted thinking, INTJs tend to process their deep, intense emotions privately while only sharing their logical, rational thinking with the rest of the world. The result is that they are frequently misunderstood – a misfortune that is enough to drive anyone to the dark side!

Since they rarely let people in to their inner world of deep feeling, INTJs can come off as “cold, calculating masterminds” and “are defined by their tendency to move through life as though it were a giant chess board… always assessing new tactics, strategies and contingency plans, constantly outmaneuvering their peers in order to maintain control of a situation while maximizing their freedom to move about.” It’s no wonder authors love to use us as their antagonists!

As an INTJ myself, I can confirm that we are intensely logical, rational and cerebral. I am a strategist, and I truly do view the world as a chessboard. But I also feel everything, deeply and personally. In my experience, INTJs manage to simultaneously be the most hopeless of idealists and the bitterest of cynics.

We have the capacity to be some of the most vicious, cut-throat villains because of our brilliant minds, flawless logic and masterful strategizing. But simply having the raw capacity to be bad-ass villains isn’t enough to drive us over the edge to the dark side. Just because we are capable of both envisioning and executing the perfect crime doesn’t mean that we are inherently evil. I hold to the fact that the reason most villains are depicted as the INTJ type – and the reason so many of us “go bad” – is that we are widely misunderstood by society at large.

Both authors and the characters in their story lines are confounded by INTJs. We are the second rarest personality type in general and the rarest among females. We come off as stoic and emotionless since we tend to keep our deep, intense feelings beneath the surface. We do this either because a) selfishly, we realize that showing our emotions can result in vulnerability, or b) selflessly, we know others couldn’t handle the intensity of our emotions.

In X-Men, Magneto originally wanted to use his powers for good. He was a hurt little boy in Holocaust Europe whose parents were murdered by anti-mutant humans. In Harry Potter, Voldemort was an orphaned boy who was frequently picked on by bullies and therefore, eventually become one himself. In Once Upon a Time, Rumplestiltskin was rejected by his own father in favor of power and youth. All three suffered pain, loss and rejection, and that poisonous, damaging concoction resulted in their turning to the dark side.

Note that the few famous “good” INTJ characters were created by authors who were either INTJs themselves or close friends with a known INTJ – for instance, Mr. Darcy by Jane Austen and Gandalf by Tolkein (friend of C.S. Lewis).

Protagonists INTJ

INTJs are inherently influential and tend to rise to positions of power. Think of the influence Mr. Darcy had – quietly; discretely – over the Bennet family’s collective well being. And imagine how differently the Lord of the Rings trilogy would have turned out if Gandalf had “gone bad.”

What is my point? Be nice to INTJs. Actually, be nice to people in general. Within all of us, we hold the power to use our gifts and talents for good or evil. Help INTJs choose the Light by keeping from giving us a reason to move toward the Darkness.

Basically: Hug an INTJ and save the universe.

Hug an INTJ

Authentically Aurora

The Lies We Believe

Angry Unikitty - part 2The most fearsome sight you will ever behold is a female INTJ while she is PMSing.

Seriously. I intimidate myself sometimes.

And while I am in the dark and twisty place of PMSing INTJ-ness (a truly terrifying place, to be sure), I believe a lot of lies about myself and others. Things I know to be true in the Light, I begin to question in the sudden Darkness.

Or, you know, the throes of hormonal mood swings.

Here are 3 Lies I’ve believed this week:

  1. I Am Fat.
  2. I Am Undesirable.
  3. I Hate Everyone.

I Am Fat.

Height WeightIt’s true that I weighed in at 132 this morning, which is 7 lbs heavier than I would like to be, but I always weigh about 4 lbs more on the days leading up to my period (sorry, guys. Deal with it or stop reading). At 5’4″, even with this extra monthly tonnage, I am still well within the healthy weight range for my age, gender and height.

I just FELT fat because, besides it being “that time of the month” resulting in bloating and clothes not fitting right, my hormones have been all out of whack, which increases my sensitivity and insecurities.

I read a book a few years ago by Beth Moore called “So Long, Insecurity.” I HIGHLY recommend it to all women everywhere. This means you, girlfriend. I consider myself a fairly confident woman, but she helped me identify some blind spots for myself (e.g. perfectionism as a form of insecurity) as well as the root causes of some of those insecurities.

Beth writes of battling our insecurities, “We’re going to have to let truth scream louder to our souls than the lies that have infected us.”

I Am Undesirable.

In addition to feeling fat, I felt generally undesirable this week. Besides perfectionism, I also struggle with the fear of rejection. And Bryan has been distant this week. We had our first major fight on Sunday, and on Monday, he took this other girl Jenn out for a steak dinner for her birthday. Umm… what?!

Not only was I horrified that he was taking another woman out 1:1 for a steak dinner, but ironically, I had been craving a nice, juicy steak all weekend (you know, period-induced anemia that has my body craving iron – i.e. red meat). It’s true that Bryan freely volunteered this information of going out with Jenn, and he reassured me that he was doing it out of obligation because she’d taken him out for a steak dinner for his birthday a few months back, but I was still upset – I think, understandably so. But fortunately, I was able to rein in my inner Grumpy Cat/Angry Unikitty (apparently my spirit animal is a cat of some sort…?). Ever-perceptive Bryan is hopefully none the wiser about the Green-eyed Jaguar poised to pounce out of his jealous maybe-almost-kind-of-girlfriend.

Beth writes about this particular struggle, “We need a place we can go when, as much as we loathe it, we are needy and hysterical… I need someone who will love me when I hate myself… As if the battle isn’t hard enough, we sabotage ourselves, submerging ourselves with self-condemnation… How often do we think to ourselves, I should be handling this better?”

I Hate Everyone.

Yep. I feel this way most of the time, monthly period or not. People suck. They constantly disappoint me. I try to lower my expectations of humanity, but I fail. I want better for people than they want for themselves, and that makes me sad. I don’t want to have to lower my expectations of humanity. I want people to step up to the plate and be the amazing men and women they are capable of being.

The truth is, I don’t hate everyone. Or even most people. In fact, my problem isn’t that I care too little but that I care too much! The opposite of love is not hate; it’s apathy. I’m not a robot or a cold-hearted, calculating villain. I’m a tender-hearted young woman bleeding out for the world to be better than it is.

Beth writes of herself, “I feel everything. My joys are huge, and so are my sorrows. If I’m mad, I’m really mad, and if I’m despondent, I wonder how on earth I’ll go on… God gave me this tender heart, and though I want to give up my chronic insecurity, I really do want to hang on to my heart. I like to feel. When I don’t feel something, it’s like being dead.

“Each heart knows its own bitterness (Prov 14:10). The more intense the pain, the more it feels like nobody understands… Your personality and history shapes your response, just as my own unique background affects mine… For me, this is one profound reason that God, omniscient and omnipresent, has been the vital element in my healing. During particularly lonely or frustrating times, [we feel] that nobody else gets it. But He gets it better than we do. So many times He has shown me where I was coming from instead of the other way around.”

When I believe the Lies of the Darkness, I want to remember to set my eyes on the Truth of the omniscient, omnipotent Father of Lights who sees me as I am, remembers that I am dust, and Loves me.

Authentically Aurora

Lessons from Bryan – Part II

Wall of Thorns“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” -Proverbs 4:23

Christian colloquialisms come and go all the time. Remember WWJD? And the “Relationship, Not Religion” movement? Anyone who has been in a youth group or gone on a Singles’ Retreat in the past decade has probably heard about the importance of Guarding Your Heart. But what does this even mean?

Don’t get me wrong. As a Vulcan-like INTJ who has been wounded and rejected more than I care to remember, I’m all about guarding my heart. Especially if that means not letting people in, not really caring about people and generally being a hermit with barriers so thick and vicious, they put Maleficent’s wall of thorns to shame. I’m all about emotional walls. And physical walls. And avoiding human interaction as much as possible.

Only, I’m pretty sure that’s not what God had in mind with this whole guard your heart thing. A lot of Christians define guarding your heart as being slow to emotionally invest in relationships (particularly romantic relationships) until you know the person really well, some level of commitment has been established, etc. It can be interpreted as suppressing emotions so that one doesn’t get swept away by feelings, which come and go and change. “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9) – so don’t trust it. Trust your brain; reason; logic.

Again, as an INTJ, I’m all about discarding my feelings and relying on my mind, especially since I’ve been hurt. But Bryan has been challenging me on this. He recently asked me, “Did Jesus guard his heart in the way you describe it?”

No. No, he didn’t. 

Jesus loved unconditionally. Unreservedly. He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes – the perceived scum of society – even though they could offer him nothing in return and rather, this action put him at odds with the influential Pharisees. Jesus healed a group of ten lepers, knowing that only one would even come back to thank him. He invested time and energy and his legacy to a group of disciples who would betray him, abandon him, misunderstand him and deny ever knowing him. Was Jesus foolish and unwise? No, he is omniscient. But he chose to love and serve the unlovely and ungrateful not because of what it would do for him, but because of Who He Is. Because love is the better way.

In the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul prayed for the church at Philippi, “that your love may abound more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may discern the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Phil 1:9-10).

When we talk about the intensity of love, we tend to contrast it with intellect; it’s just crazy, indescribable emotions. But this is a naive perspective. Knowledge fuels the affections. Love seeks increased knowledge of the beloved. And Paul prayed that the Philippians would have an informed love – love that would abound more and more with knowledge.

Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and love people. God wants to simultaneously appeal to our intellect and to engage our emotions. God cares about what we do, based on how we feel. God cares about the motivation behind our actions. Some people would say that love is a verb; love is actions. But these actions are not love; they are simply vehicles through which love is expressed. Love is the motive behind what we do. And the motive matters. Imagine a husband who is faithful out of duty, versus a husband who is faithful out of a passionate love for his wife. This is the difference between suppressing our emotions and engaging them.

So how do we reconcile guarding our hearts and loving unreservedly? In the original Hebrew, the word used for heart (leb – לֵב) actually meant the seat of decision making. This word for heart encompasses all of the inner man: the mind, the will, and the heart. So we are called to love, but to engage in an informed love; to engage our emotions in living out a love that abounds more and more with knowledge.

“I have been challenged and changed, reminded that love is that simple answer to so many of our hardest questions… We often ask God to show up. We pray prayers of rescue. Perhaps God would ask us to be that rescue… 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.” -Jamie Tworkowski

Authentically Aurora