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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Cali – Part III

beach-wedding

Here at home, Seth and I have a routine of waking up early on Sunday mornings to volunteer with the children’s ministry at our local church. But during our California trip in mid-October, Seth and I found ourselves without a church home for Sunday morning.

Seth’s friends had planned their wedding for 4PM on Sunday afternoon, so Seth and I agreed we would spend Sunday morning reading the bible together in a coffee shop in lieu of going to some random church out in Cali. We had just nailed down a time of 8AM for driving to the coffee shop when Seth got a text from the groom.

The groom evidently wanted to go to breakfast with a bunch of people at 9AM the morning of his wedding day. No problem. Seth and I bumped our coffee date to 7AM. Then Seth’s friend Steve invited us to go biking along the beach at 11AM. We agreed to join him as well. So, as of Saturday night, our plans for Sunday were:

  • 7AM – Read the bible at a coffee shop
  • 9AM – Breakfast with the groom and friends
  • 11AM – Bike ride along the beach with Steve
  • 1PM – Head back to the hotel to shower and get ready for the wedding
  • 4PM – Wedding ceremony

And Sunday morning started perfectly. When the day dawned, Seth and I were already enjoying a quiet morning together reading one of the gospels. We asked questions of one another and dug into some bible commentaries to gain a deeper understanding of our selected reading passage. And Seth, who is not a coffee drinker, loved his coffee shop blueberry smoothie because – unlike the smoothie from Cali Day 1 – this one was chock full of sugar additives. We were both content and satisfied. For me, it was one of the best parts of the whole trip.

But then the rest of the world woke up for the day. Around 8:45AM when we prepared to leave the coffee shop, Seth got a text from the bridal party saying breakfast was pushed back to 10AM because the brothers of the bride were running late. So at 10AM, Seth and I rolled into IHOP only to discover that no one in the wedding party of fourteen people had bothered to make reservations for a Sunday morning breakfast at IHOP.

IHOP had an hour-long wait, so we all drove 15 minutes to another restaurant with only a 20 minute wait and finally got our “breakfast” around 11AM. I ended up being the only woman in the group (all the wives had been invited to a spa day), so I got stuck on the end next to the two brothers of the bride.

After two hours of entertaining the aspiring screenwriters, I escaped the man brunch, and Seth suggested a quick walk along the beach rather than trying to squeeze in a bike ride with Steve before the wedding. Then an hour before the ceremony, I found out the wedding was going to be on the beach itself and that footwear was discouraged. So I slipped out of my black heels and went barefoot in my cocktail dress. Oh yeah. I’m rocking this whole spontaneity thing. 

The wedding ceremony was fine – I knew no one; had never met the bride or groom prior to this day – and the reception started out pretty standard: drinks and appetizers while we waited for the bridal party to finish photos. Seth and I stood around making small talk for about an hour before the bridal party showed up and we were all seated for dinner.

Over dinner was more small talk (with strangers for me; college friends for Seth). Then the cake cutting and more small talk. Then the first dance; everyone dancing; more small talk.

Around 10PM I started to fade. My body was saying it was 12 midnight from my home time zone, I’d hiked for 6 hours the day prior, and I’d woken up at 6AM that morning to do a morning devotional with my beau. Besides that, my introverted self was emotionally exhausted from the six straight hours of making small talk with strangers. People I didn’t know. People I’d never see again. People with whom I did not share any common interests or even the same life stage.

I was so miserable by 10:30PM that I excused myself to go to the bathroom and just sat down in a stall in the women’s bathroom even though I didn’t need to go. I just needed some alone time – some time away from the loud music and crowded reception hall and clusters of strangers asking me the same surface-level questions over and over again.

When I re-emerged at 10:45PM, one of Seth’s more distasteful acquaintances (who’d shown me a photo of an erection an hour earlier) came up to me and said loudly, “Why are you so quiet?!” My automatic response was to crinkle my nose in distaste and ask sourly, “Why are you so loud?”

Seth immediately pulled me aside and asked what was wrong. “I’m fine,” I told him. And I would be fine. I could buck up and stick it out. We’d flown all the way to California for this wedding, and I didn’t want to be the reason we left the reception early.

“We can go if you want,” Seth told me, trying to be considerate. But I knew he didn’t want to leave, so I told him we could stay as long as he wanted.

“Are you tired?” he asked me, trying to understand. He’s a man and, sweet man that he is, he sensed a problem and just couldn’t stop himself from trying to fix it.

“I’m not physically tired,” I explained, “But I’m emotionally exhausted. It’s been seven straight hours of making small talk with strangers, and that is draining for me.”

Just then, someone came up to talk to Seth, so I snuck away to a corner to read articles on my phone. I was past the point of caring if I seemed anti-social.

Fifteen minutes later, the wedding planner announced that the bride and groom weren’t planning to do a formal exit, so we were free to leave at any time. Seth and I were out the door in minutes – I think mostly because he was conscious of my mental and emotional state. We didn’t speak before bed other than to agree to set our alarms for 4AM in order to catch our 7AM LA flight an hour’s drive away.

At the airport in the morning, Seth and I hashed out the tension from the prior evening. After getting through security and sitting at our gate, Seth commented, “You seemed really irritable last night, and I don’t understand why you behaved that way. Honestly, I’m pretty concerned by your behavior. You seemed miserable. I mean, are we even compatible?”

“Are you breaking up with me?” I asked candidly.

“No,” he said slowly; cautiously. “I just – well,  I want to be with someone who enjoys parties like I do; who values people like I do.”

“Seth. I was pleasant and sociable for the first five hours. I do enjoy parties, and I do value people. But I think it’s understandable that seven hours of making small talk with strangers is emotionally draining.”

“No. No, it’s not understandable. I had a great time last night until you started getting so grumpy.”

“I wasn’t grumpy. I was reserved,” I told him. He didn’t seem to understand, so I tried to give an example he – in all his extroversion – could relate to. “Remember yesterday morning when we were at the coffee shop reading together?”

“Yeah…”

“I could have done that all day,” I told him. “I LOVE that kind of thing. But how would you have felt around hour 7 of sitting at a quiet coffee shop?”

Seth’s eyes grew wide in horror. “I would have wanted to die.”

I nodded emphatically. “Yes! And that’s how the wedding reception felt for me after seven hours of small talk.”

Seth looked thoughtful. “So… Do we exhaust each other?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, the things I enjoy seem to drain you. And vice versa. Are we just not good for each other?” He looked sad.

I chose my words carefully. “I think introverts and extroverts make great couples. They are able to complement one another in ways that like pairs cannot. I like that you get me out of my shell, and hopefully you appreciate that I help you settle down and be still from time to time.”

“I don’t want us to break up,” he said quietly.

“I don’t want us to break up, either,” I echoed softly.

“I want to try to make it work,” he told me.

“I do, too,” I responded. “And I think we can,” I added encouragingly. “I mean, think about how much friction we used to have about planning versus flexibility. And I think we’ve done great with that this trip! We just had to find a way to compromise; a way of working that fit our relationship. And I think we can do that for our introversion/extroversion conflict, too.” I paused. “I’m willing to try if you are.”

“Yeah,” Seth finally smiled. “I want to make it work.”

He took my hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. Our flight had started boarding. It was time to go home.

Seth pulled me up, and we walked to our gate hand-in-hand. We had some work ahead of us – some compromise and conflict resolution – but we both recognized that the best things in life are worth fighting for.

Authentically Aurora

Sunshine Blogger Award

sunshine-blogger-award

Some of my favorite days are the cool, blustery days where the golden rays of sun shine down and warm your chilled hands and face even as you snuggle under a cozy, oversized sweatshirt. Serendipitously, I recently learned that there is a word for this phenomenon: apricity – the warmth of the sun on a cold day.

I like that word. Apricity. And it’s what I want to be to the world: the warmth of the sun on a cold day. The warmth of the Son on a proverbially cold day. That’s what Jesus came to be – light in the darkness; warmth to the cold. Neither dark nor cold actually exist; they are the absence of light and heat respectively, and Jesus came to freely give all He had to those who had none. Apricity – the warmth of the sun on a cold day. 

Little Sunshine over at Sunshine Ave recently nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award (an aptly-named award for a blog so named)!  Evidently…

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to “bloggers who are positive and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”.

…something I aim to do both on this blog and in everyday life! I am honored to have been nominated for this award and gladly accept! Thank you, Little Sunshine, for the nomination!

Here are the rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you
  2. Answer the questions from the person who has nominated you
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers for this award
  4. Write the same amount of questions for the bloggers you have nominated
  5. Notify the bloggers you nominated

Rule #1? Check!

Rule #2? Here we go…

Little Sunshine posed the following 10 questions for me to answer:

  1. What is your biggest dream?
    • This question makes me think of Rapunzel in “Tangled”. rapunzel-dream
    • I’ve had a lot of dreams over the years, and I’ve been blessed to see most of them come true. I used to dream of somewhat superficial things – visiting all 7 continents, releasing an original album on iTunes – but now I consider those more of life goals. A dream is something precious and intimate, interwoven into your heart. And these days, my dream is more like a vision – to be a wife and mother, full of life and joy, radiating light into the world and growing more and more into the godly woman I’ve been uniquely created to be.
  2. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
    • As mentioned in #1, I’ve had a goal for a while of visiting all 7 continents. I’ve been to about 30 countries and 5 continents, all of them wonderful experiences, and a year ago, I would have definitely said that I most want to visit Australia and New Zealand. But Seth is an American through and through; a homebody of a patriot, and we are taking a trip to California later this month, which is about as foreign a trip as this cowboy wants to take. And after imagining exploring California with Seth, there’s no place I’d rather be.
  3. Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?introverting-coffee-book
    • Introvert. Definitely. This surprises most people when they first hear it – mostly because I’m a pretty social, outgoing introvert – but my perfect day involves curling up in a quiet little nook with a latte and good book… or finding a secluded park where I can walk and think and listen to music on my earbuds… or staying home to clean and organize my apartment… or sitting alone in the silence to work on my latest art project. Mmm. Perfection.
  4. Is what you’re doing now what you always wanted to do growing up?
    • Yep. When I was in 2nd grade, I decided that I wanted to go to West Point and be an engineer. But what we want as sweet, innocent, idealistic 8-year-olds is not always aligned with reality, so although I am living the dream of having an engineering degree and working at a major oil company in Corporate America, I have discovered that the composite of the bureaucracy, politicking, process nazis and inauthenticity of my current workplace comprise something akin to my personal hell. Which is why I am changing careers to teaching… where I can spread my cynicism wisdom to the next generation.
  5. Do you usually follow your heart or your head?
    • My head. Sometimes going with your gut is a great option for quick decisions, but for any decision that allows for more than a few seconds to go with your first instinct, I have found that emotions are subject to the whim and fancy of the day and may not hold up longer-term. I prefer thinking through the logic of various options, examining my intentions, considering the ripple effect of whichever choice I make, and of course consulting God in prayer.
  6. What are you most thankful for? by-grace-through-faith
    • That while I was still a sinner, Christ did for me. Even though I am undeserving of being rescued from my sinfulness and total depravity, Jesus willingly took on the punishment I deserve (through his death and resurrection) so that I could be brought into a right relationship with God. Nothing compares with that – no family relationships, no dating relationships, no job or financial success… Without God’s love and mercy and grace, I would be like the walking dead.
  7. What’s on your bucket list this year?
    • Finishing my teaching certification. And maybe getting my CHL.
  8. What’s your favorite food ever?chocolate-is-a-girls-best-friend
    • Peanut butter. Or chocolate. Let’s go with chocolate covered almonds as a fair compromise. 😀
  9. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
    • “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” -Matthew 22:36-40
  10. Which of the places you’ve traveled to inspired you the most, and why?
    • My favorite trip I’ve ever taken was to Germany at Christmastime with my family, but the place I’ve visited that most inspired me would have to be South Sudan, mostly because that trip helped to right my perspective on so many things in life. We are profoundly blessed.

Alright! Hopefully you all now feel like you know a bit more about me! Here are my nominees (I liked Little Sunshine’s questions, so answer these same questions if you choose to accept)!

  1. MyLittlePieceofQuiet
  2. Salvageable
  3. InsanityBytes
  4. MrsSpike
  5. BlissfulBritt
  6. SingleStrides
  7. INFJRamblings
  8. MySweetJesusBlog
  9. BeautyBeyondBones
  10. TheRoseQuartz
  11. Captainsspeech

Authentically “Sunshiny” Aurora

A Dying Whale

People are the worst.

Okay, I don’t really mean that. I love people. I really do. But some days (like today), it just really feels like people are the worst, everything hurts, and I’m dying.

everything hurts

I was just walking down the hallway at work (apparently looking dejected), and some young man (stranger danger!) called out to me in an overly perky voice: “Cheer up! Life ain’t so bad!”

April Ludgate bonding

Do I know you? No.

Was I talking to you? No.

Do you know anything that’s going on in my life? No.

Do you actually know that anything is wrong? Do you know that this isn’t just how my face looks?!?! The answer is still NO!

Grumpy Cat No

I just moaned at him. Like a dying person. Or a whale. Or a dying whale.

It was a beautiful sound. And although I didn’t win any Academy Awards for it, at least I didn’t make any new friendships.

April-ludgate

Authentically Aurora

Zingers

Work break room

I just had this conversation in the break room at work. Commence scene. 

[Aurora walks into the kitchen and throws away a bag of trash.]

Male Coworker 1 [dryly]: Thank you for contributing to our landfill.

Aurora [cheerfully]: You’re welcome. That’s what I do best! [points both pointer fingers at Male Coworker 1 with a snarky grin] After all, you know what I’m full of!

[Brief pause, while Aurora starts walking away and Male Coworker 1/Female Coworker 1 process]

Female Coworker 1 [laughing]: Wow! That was amazing!

[Aurora turns, pausing her exit]

Female Coworker 1 [surprised and pleased]: What a great delivery. That was hilarious! You timed it perfectly.

Aurora [grinning]: Thanks. I secretly want to be a stand-up comedian, but somehow that skill set just doesn’t come into play here at the office. [Pause, thinking] Actually, working here sometimes IS a bit like being a comedian.

Male Coworker 1 [drumming fingers on tabletop in rhythm of drum set]: Bah-dah, chhh!

Female Coworker 1 [enthusiastically]: And she does it again! Two zingers in the course of [she checks her watch] thirty seconds!

[Sounds of appreciative clapping as Aurora exits the kitchen area]

And my boss doesn’t think I have relationship skills. Psh. I may be introverted, but I’m a social introvert who knows how to skate by on wit, charm and charisma!  

Authentically Aurora

Adultescence 

coloring bookMillennials are notorious for lingering in limbo between adulthood and a prolonged childhood. We catch a lot of flack for it, but I was surprised by what action of mine drew judgement from Baby Boomers this week.

With my younger brother deployed and my mother caring for my critically ill grandfather, I spent a lot of time alone this Christmas. So last night, I went to a local coffee shop to soak in the ambiance and color in an adult coloring book I got for Christmas. Sometimes I like to be alone in a crowd; to have quiet time without feeling isolated.

So I got my coconut latte, put in my ear buds and was coloring away when I suddenly felt a presence hovering over me. No, it wasn’t the Holy Spirit. It was an elderly woman looking with delight at my colorful pens.

“Are those gel pens?!” She clapped her hands together gleefully.

I took out my ear buds, paused my music and looked up at her. “Yes.”

“Oh my! I have two daughters in their twenties and, my goodness, those were all the rage when they were younger! I remember one year, my younger daughter got a big set for her sister and, oh, if it wasn’t the sweetest thing!”

I smiled politely. “Well I’m probably about your daughters’ ages.”

“So you remember that gel pen fad?”

“Yes,” I said simply.

To my horror, another woman walked up with a huge grin. “Are you coloring? How nice. That’s a far better use of time than that Facebook thing all the kids are doing these days.”

Before I could respond (perhaps letting her know that I’d just checked Facebook on my phone), the second woman continued, “And what are you listening to? A lecture or a podcast?”

“It’s music.”

Her face fell visibly. “Oh.”

The first woman spoke up again, patting her friend on the shoulder. “And here I was telling her it was probably a TED Talk or something.”

I smiled politely again, hoping I didn’t look too pained. “Nope. Just music.” I spared them the detail that it was of the melodic bass genre. They wouldn’t have been able to handle the shock and dismay of such a lovely young lady listening to what they’d perceive to be Satan’s music.

“Well, that’s okay.” Patting one another’s shoulders, they meandered away from my table, where I sighed deeply, put my ear buds back in, and resumed my coloring to devil music.

I was astonished that it was not only permissible but delightful to these two elderly women that a 28-year-old would be coloring in a coloring book, but what bothered them was the fact that I was listening to music instead of a TED Talk. What if it had been classical music? Or opera? Would they have deemed that okay?

Or what if I had been listening to a podcast, but it was vulgar or explicit? Are podcasts inherently more valuable and desirable than having “young people” listen to music? Or what if I had been surfing Facebook while listening to an educational lecture? Would that have been better or worse, in the minds of these two women, than coloring while listening to electronica music?

See? This is why I should never leave the safety of my apartment. I know better than to venture out into the public wearing anything other than a Grumpy Cat shirt. Otherwise, people inevitably try to talk to me. I just wanted to be alone without being alone. Is that too much to ask?

Authentically Aurora

Life, Punctuated

Sidewalk exclamation point

In the sidewalk on the way from my office’s parking garage to the building, there are two holes in the concrete, one more elongated than the other, such that they look like an exclamation point. Having worked for the same company for nearly seven years now, I can honestly say that I have walked past this punctuation mark literally hundreds of times, but its meaning to me is ever changing.

Over the years, walking in and out of the office in various moods and seasons of life, this little exclamation point has meant so many different things to me. When I first started working straight out of college, it was a symbol of exuberance and excitement. My first real job!

During later years, it was an exclamation of frustration. Why is everything so difficult?! Other times, it represented outbursts of anger or bitterness – toward people, life situations or even myself. Sometimes, in more recent years, these two little holes in the sidewalk have been a cry out to God from the depths of a broken heart.

With an intensity like mine, regardless of my current emotion, that emotion is always felt – and expressed – with an exclamation point. I don’t do anything halfway. Every thought and feeling is punctuated with a depth and intensity that can only be represented by an exclamation point.

And so, in my mind, I have adopted this little marking in the sidewalk. It has been my constant companion these many years, always appearing the same to passersby but transforming in meaning for those with eyes to see.

Authentically Aurora