Hold My Heart – Part IV

5ffg9-snuggles

In the weeks that followed, I struggled to figure out how to be Cory’s friend – just his friend. It was easy being more than friends or not interacting with him at all, but to have a healthy friendship seemed nearly impossible to me.

Cory, seemingly unfazed by any change in our status, continued to send me text messages. Late at night, he’d send simple ones, like, “Ask me a question.” So I’d ask about his family’s Christmas traditions and his favorite color and his middle name.

One night, Cory – obviously feeling lonely – sent me a text, “Has anyone ever made you feel like you are the only thing in the world that matters?”

Thinking of my ex-fiance, I wrote back, “Yes… and that’s a simultaneously wonderful and dangerous place to be.”

Cory texted back immediately. “What’s it like? I’ve never experienced that before.”

My mind went to Cory’s ex-fiance, Mary. Cory dated her for four years, lived with her for one of those years, proposed to her and was engaged to her for several months, and she never made him feel like the center of her world? I couldn’t explain over text what it was like – both my celebration of and reservations about such feelings – so I called him.

“Wanna talk?” I asked when he answered.

“Yeah.” His voice sounded muffled, like he was lying in bed. A likely scenario, given that it was rather late.

So I told Cory a bedtime story – a partial story of my courtship and engagement to R, and how he’d put me on a pedestal and frequently looked at me in absolute wonder, whispering softly, “I love you, Aurora. You’re more than I ever dreamed was out there.”

It was thrilling to be so loved. R broke down in tears, overcome with his love for me when he asked my parents for their blessing over our marriage. He cherished me; adored me; worshipped me. At least, until the day he woke up; the day he realized I was human and therefore fallible and wouldn’t always have perfect hair, a winning smile and the patience of Job.

In the case of R’s love for me, our relationship really was too good to be true. His love was an immature, lusty kind of love that quickly fades when the bloom is off the rose. And that’s why I told Cory it’s a dangerous place when someone makes you feel like you are the only thing in the world that matters. It breeds pride in the object of affection and idolatry in the adorer.

One Saturday night as I climbed into bed, Cory sent another text. “What time are you going to church tomorrow?”

I’d never invited Cory to church before. I didn’t want to push it on him, but he knew that I attended services every Sunday, so I figured if he wanted to come, he’d say something. I guess this is him saying something, I thought to myself.

“I’m volunteering during the 9:15 service and then attending the 11:00. Interested in joining?”

“Maybe,” he texted back. “Where is your church?”

I sent him the address, and he responded with, “Do you want me to come to your church tomorrow?”

What kind of a question was that? Of course I did, and he knew it. Red flags went up in my mind. He was fishing somehow. I tentatively typed back, “I would love for you to be there. I want you to come if you want to come. I’ll be in jeans because I’m volunteering with the kids, so if you do come, feel free to do the same.”

“Hmmm. Can I make a deal with you?”

I read his text and sighed. I’d known he was up to something. “Depends on the deal,” I wrote back.

“Can I trade cuddles for church? Lol. I.e. cuddle now, church tomorrow. And I respect your desire to not kiss anymore. I’m just feeling snuggly.”

When I didn’t reply immediately, he added, “I also respect a no answer. It’s probably a dumb idea. Lol”

I knew Cory was showing me a rare moment of vulnerability, so I wanted to tread lightly, but I also knew my answer had to be no, so I made a teasing joke about how I thought his puppy Stout would probably need to suffice for a snuggle buddy that night.

“I guess he’ll have to,” Cory conceded. “His kisses are much more messy, haha.”

After a pause, I sent a follow-up text.

Question

Answer

Do you still want to come to church, or was that just part of an exchange?

Haha. I actually want to check out your church; it’s just really far from where I live.

The cuddles were more of a motivator to overcome the drive than to get me to want to go to church with you.

Makes sense.

If you would like me to come to church tomorrow, I can make that happen

Are you willing to make the drive? I know it’s far

Probably not regularly, but I could make at least one trip

Okay 🙂

So is that a yes you want me to come out tomorrow?

Yes

Alright. Get some sleep. See you mañana 🙂

And so, in the morning, Cory met me at my church. The sermon was absolutely perfect for his visit. Our pastor spoke on James 1:27 – “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Since Cory is so anti-organized religion and is so passionate about loving and helping the less fortunate (i.e. “being a good person”), I loved that he got to hear my pastor’s perspective on what it looks like for a Christian to live out James 1:27.

After the service, we went out to a casual lunch with a group of my church friends, and as I looked around the table where we ate our burritos, I tried to see our group through Cory’s eyes. We are collectively a very authentic, loving group of people. Everyone is very open about their current struggles, and we all try to speak light and life into one another.

When I privately asked Cory what he thought about the church service, he told me, “I could really feel the warmth. I see why you go to church there. But I like a more traditional service, singing out of hymnals and such. It’s what I grew up with.” I was disappointed that he didn’t have more to say; that the sermon didn’t resonate with him and that his only real comment was that my church wasn’t his “style”.

After lunch, Cory wanted to spend some more quality time together, so we went to a Starbucks for coffee. Actually, we went into the Starbucks, ordered our coffees, and went back outside to my BMW where Cory plugged in his iPhone so that we could sing duets together. He chose a song first, which we belted out together; then it was my turn. I picked a duet from one of my favorite musicals, and our voices blended beautifully during the harmonies of the chorus.

We sat out there for a full hour, taking sips of our lattes between songs. What other man would sit in the parking lot of a coffee shop and belt out duets with me in the car? This is why I have such a hard time letting him go. He is so fun… and spontaneous… and free-spirited… and passionate. 

Cory had brought study materials with him, so we went back to my apartment, where I got out a book to read while he studied. But he didn’t get much studying done. He kept looking up from his textbooks to ask me questions about myself or share a story he’d been meaning to tell me.

We were sitting together on the couch, and I got caught up in the moment and let Cory kiss me again. I knew it was a bad idea, but it was just as wonderful as I’d remembered. Feeling conflicted, I asked him between kisses, “Is there any part of you that is confused? Is any part of you feeling torn? I know you said none of this means anything, but I have trouble believing that.”

Cory rested his hands on either side of my face and looked deeply into my eyes. “In my head, everything is clear. But if I’m honest with myself, my heart and emotions are confused.” He kissed my forehead; then nudged my nose with his own.

“If you could describe how you feel about me in one word, what would it be?” I asked him.

He thought a moment before answering, “Wistful.”

“Why?”

He smiled sadly at me. “Because I see the potential we have. We could be so great. But we could never be together without one of us trying to change the other. You know that. Our world views are just too different. Besides,” he continued with compassion in his eyes, “You’re too wonderful a woman to ever be someone’s second choice.”

Authentically Aurora

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The Fiery/Fragile Child – Part I

tigress_Wallpaper_gnmwvA lot of people think that I am pretty emotionless. My boss at work calls me a robot and has jokingly sent me emails in binary code. My most recent ex said that I was overly rational and told me he wanted to marry a woman who was more emotional (be careful what you wish for, sweetheart).

It’s true that I can be a fairly stoic woman. I’ve been told that adds to my intimidation factor. But stoicism has to do with external appearances: “a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining.” People who know me well have learned that, although I can appear calm and even-keel, I have a deep well of emotions that run the full spectrum and are more intense than most people will ever experience in their lifetime. “Still waters run deep” and all that.

Trekkies can appreciate my Vulcan-like nature, as expressed in the Vulcan Sourcebook:

“One of the central and most overemphasized assumptions about Vulcan culture is that we have no emotions. Not only do Vulcans have emotions, our emotions are so strong… that in order to ensure the survival of our race, we were forced to find ways to… control them.”

I have learned to rein in my intense emotions for the benefit of those around me. The result? A seemingly paradoxical existence of a passionate engineer, rational musician, outgoing introvert and virginal minx. I am the rare and elusive female INTJ. No wonder everyone wants to take me on a date. They want to try to solve the puzzle that is Aurora.

Authentically Aurora

Look On Up

Relient KIt’s a good thing I have become resolute in my decision not to date musicians, because last week I was surrounded by them. My friend Jo Ann is the cousin of one of the band members of Relient K, and he hooked us up with backstage passes to watch the show from the wings and hang out with the band before they performed.

I’ve had backstage passes before. This summer, I went behind the scenes at an Eric Paslay concert, got to meet him, and even got my photo with the 6’4″ country artist. I was on the front row that night, singing harmony at the top of my lungs to “Friday Night” and “Less Than Whole“.

But this time with Jo Ann was different. The fact that she knew one of the band members personally – he was literally family – added a whole new layer to the experience. Instead of waiting in line for a five second photo op, we all went out to dinner together a few hours before showtime and shared a bottle of wine. We talked music for sure – his songwriting style and what a day in the life of a touring musician looks like – but we also talked about his love of golf, what his kids wore for Halloween this year and his hopes, dreams and aspirations for the future.

Then we got a tour of the bus. Jo Ann’s cousin is a good guy, so when he used the classic rockstar pick up line, “Want to see the inside of the tour bus?”, he did so with a twinkle in his eye. It was neat to see their living space – bunk beds, TVs and a PS2. It was somehow more chill and down-to-earth than I expected.

All of the band members were really mellow and friendly. The bass guitarist offered me a beer, and the lead singer gathered everyone for a group photo. Even five minutes before they went on stage, all the guys were really relaxed and personable. Kind. Humble. Sweet. They were just regular thirty-something guys hanging out and living life. I felt blessed to get a glimpse into their world.

Before he went on, Jo Ann’s cousin rolled some trunks together on Stage Right for me to sit on with Jo Ann and Melanie, another friend who came along that night. This was our view of the stage:

Relient K 02From our vantage point, I got to see a lot that I never would have from the audience: Matt Thiessen’s wink to his guitar tech as they traded out guitars, an “oops” face when he missed some lyrics, and his drawing of an upward arch over his mouth with his index finger, reminding the guys to smile. I also got to see two different stage dives from the perspective of the stage, and all I can say is: Wow, those guys are fearless!

Jo Ann sang along to nearly every song, and Melanie and I were constantly grinning from ear to ear. Our cheeks hurt from smiling by the end of the evening. It was a blast. The Relient K guys are talented performers and absolutely great guys, just as fun and charming off stage as they are on stage.

They sang two of my favorites from my high school days: “Be My Escape” and “Sadie Hawkins Dance“. But their second-to-last song was my favorite. It’s a new one that they haven’t even recorded yet, but it was simply stunning both musically and lyrically. Here are the first lines:

“I remember when a photograph was worth a thousand words.

Now a thousand pictures come my way every day.

And I like them all the same but they can’t take my breath away… Look on up.”

Relient K 05Authentically Aurora

Why I Don’t Date Musicians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Driving home, I felt hopeful.

And confused.

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

THAT is why I don’t date musicians.

Authentically Aurora