Cruise of the Bruised – Part IV

Nassau

Over a sub-par breakfast of fatty bacon and runny eggs (fancy as it can be, cruise ship food is definitely made for the masses), the girls and I discussed our plans for the day. Our ship would dock at Nassau within the hour, and the sun had finally broken out from behind the clouds, promising a beautiful day to spend on the beaches of the Bahamas.

Since I’d been with the muscled massage therapist during most of our time in Freeport, I was looking forward to celebrating Marina’s upcoming birthday with her during our sunny afternoon in Nassau. Verna and Marina chattered on about drinking piña coladas on the white sand, and Marina agreed to take acroyoga photos with me in front of the breathtaking turquoise water —

Jordan appeared mid-conversation, walking by our table on the upper dock in his workout clothes, body glistening with perspiration. I watched him do a double-take as he noticed me sitting there, and – as I’d expected – he walked over to say hi. He wanted to spend the day with me, but I told him I was on the cruise with the girls and was there to celebrate Marina’s birthday.

“Well… could I meet you later this evening? Maybe at that hot tub,” he gestured with his towel-free hand, “Around 5 o’clock tonight?”

I smiled. “I think I can make that happen,” I said coyly.

“Great!” His grin lit up his face. “I’ll see you then.”

I turned back around to find the girls snickering, amusement lighting up their eyes. “Oh, hush,” I told them with mock disapproval. They just laughed harder.

An hour later, the three of us were decked out in our colorful bikinis and sunglasses, disembarking for our second day ashore in the Bahamas. We passed by hordes of taxis and horse-drawn carriages, opting instead to take in some Vitamin D during the 20 minute walk to the beach.

Verna and Marina decided to pay $10 for beach chairs, but I laid out my towel in the sand, readjusted my sunglasses on my nose, and sighed happily as I (finally!) opened my book to start reading. This was exactly what I’d envisioned when I agreed to go on this cruise with the girls.

Verna and Marina chattered away in Spanish, and after a while, Marina and I roped Verna into playing photographer while we posed in various acroyoga positions on the beach. We laughed uproariously every time we fell over, and I chuckled to myself when I noticed other patrons discreetly snapping photos of us on their phones. Both our posing and our falling was entertaining for all.

After the photos, we splashed around in the water, watched a limbo competition, and bought matching necklaces with flowers made out of conch shells. Then we all ordered drinks – piña coladas in coconuts – to celebrate a wonderful vacation and the perfect day.

Hours later, as we were packing up to walk back to the ship, I suddenly spotted Jordan across the beach, making his way toward a volleyball court where I saw the younger boys playing. I started to call out to say hi, but as I kept watching his veering path along the beach, I realized that he was incapable of walking in a straight line. He was drunk.

Verna and Marina had gone to the bathroom, so from where I stood guarding their stuff, I watched Jordan approach the group of bachelorettes who’d won the limbo competition. He laughed with the bride-to-be, taking her in his arms and twirling her around, dancing in the sand. “Don’t torture yourself,” came a quiet voice from behind me. I turned around to see that Verna had joined me, a knowing look on her face.

Then Marina appeared, we gathered our stuff and walked back to the ship. When we got back to the cabin, the girls decided they wanted to nap after the long day in the sun. So while they slept, I looked through the photos we’d taken and tried to decide what to do about my 5pm meeting with Jordan. Ultimately, I decided to be a woman of my word, so at 4:55, I left the girls sleeping in the cabin and made my way to the hot tub on the top deck.

When I arrived, I saw lots of people milling about, but no Jordan. I wasn’t surprised. Between the alcohol and the bachelorettes, I figured he’d completely forgotten about me. I’d brought a book with me for just such an instance, so I sat and read, letting the sounds of people talking and laughing fade into the background.

At 5:15, I felt a presence hovering over me, so I looked up to see Jonah and two of the other high school boys gathered around me. I didn’t remember their names, but I recognized them both – one tall and gangly; the other tall and beefy.

“Hey, Aurora!” Jonah greeted me, a genuinely happy smile on his face. I was glad he was glad to see me. “Can we join you?” he asked.

“Please do!” I told them cheerfully. So the three high school boys sat around me on the long bench beside the pool, the chunky one on my right; Jonah and the beanpole to my left. “How was your day?” I asked them.

They told me all about drinking at Señor Frog’s, playing volleyball on the beach and trying to pick up girls. I internally rolled my eyes. They were definitely high school boys.

“Speaking of picking up girls,” Jonah said, putting his arm around me with a dramatic pause, “How you doin’?” The other boys laughed while I shrugged his arm off me and asked with a smirk, “Jonah, how old do you think I am?”

“Dunno… 23?” The other two nodded in agreement.

“I’m almost 30,” I told him, raising my left eyebrow for emphasis.

“Sh** — no way!” Then they were asking about Marina (32) and even Verna, who is in her 40s. I told them they were ridiculous, and they started asking for tips on picking up girls.

The chunky one was quiet and sweet. After telling me about how he works with his dad in the construction business, he asked me in a soft voice the best way to get a girl’s attention. The other guys called outbursts about telling her she’s sexy or a hot momma, but I ignored them and told him that I like it when a guy wants to get to know me. “Ask her where she’s from; where she goes to school. Ask about her hobbies. Genuinely try to get to know her. That will go a lot farther than objectifying her,” I told him with a wink. He smiled shyly. What was this sweetheart doing with these other boys?

I turned to Beanpole and asked him, “So what about you? What do you like to do for fun?”

He looked dumbfounded. “Uh… I dunno.”

“Are you in any clubs at school? Do you play any sports? What are your hobbies?”

The 17-year-old gave me a devilish look and answered, “Recreational substance abuse.”

I knew he was trying to get a rise out of me, so I just shrugged and said, “I appreciate the honesty. What do you want to do for a living? Any idea what you want to major in?”

He looked dumbfounded again, so I started asking him questions that would help me determine his MBTI – how he likes to recharge when he’s stressed, if he tends to go with his gut on making decisions. He seemed curious enough to stick with me through the impromptu session, and the other two boys were enraptured as well. I got the sense that no one ever bothered to talk to them like adults with hopes and dreams and passions.

Ultimately, I identified Beanpole as an ISTP – “Friendly but very private, calm but suddenly spontaneous, extremely curious but unable to stay focused on formal studies, ISTP personalities can be a challenge to predict, even by their friends and loved ones. ISTPs can seem very loyal and steady for a while, but they tend to build up a store of impulsive energy that explodes without warning, taking their interests in bold new directions.”

I could tell that Beanpole still had some alcohol (or something stronger) in his system, so I told him to take a note in his phone to look into his ISTP personality. After watching him type the note into his phone, Jonah asked, “So what are you doing up here anyway?”

“I was supposed to meet Jordan here at 5:00.”

There was an instant of silence; then all three boys started guffawing, slapping their legs and rocking back and forth. “Nah, there’s no way Jordan’s coming. He’s passed out in the room!”

“I suspected as much,” I said, lips drawn into a tight line as their laughter continued.

“Oooh!” Jonah’s eyes were wide with excitement. “Let’s go wake him up!” The other boys agreed, jumped up, and pulled me along behind them. I begrudgingly followed them down to room 242, where they unlocked the door, surprising D.J. as they stormed in and started jumping on Jordan’s bed.

In all the commotion, D.J. assured me that Jordan is normally responsible; this is the first time he’s seen Jordan like that, and it was because Jordan forgot to eat lunch, so he had a few drinks on an empty stomach. Jordan peered at me, bleary eyed and apologized profusely. “I’m so sorry I missed our date.”

I waved him off. “That’s okay. It wasn’t a date. I’m not dating this year, remember? Let’s get you some food.” I hauled him up, and we walked – just the two of us – up to the cafeteria for some dinner. After some mashed potatoes and fried chicken, Jordan assured me that he felt better; then he checked his phone for the time and asked if I’d mind if he called his daughter Grace. “This is the fifteen minute time slot her mother and I agreed I could talk to her every day.”

I nodded and excused myself to go to the bathroom. When I came back, Jordan was just finishing up his call with Grace. He seemed tired. Sad. I put my hand on his arm and asked how he was doing. He started telling me all about the lawyers’ fees and the custody battle and how concerned he is for his daughter, growing up in that household with her emotionally unstable mother and sexual predator of an uncle.

Jordan was really shaken up and clearly had no one to confide in about these things, so I asked him about his church. He knows deep down that he needs the fellowship and community that the church can provide, but he’s been wounded by the church. So many “Christians” have judged him for his divorce, refused to stand up with him in court and generally deepened his hurts that he wants nothing to do with them.

So I asked if I could pray for him. Jordan agreed. So we held hands, bowed our heads, and boldly approached the Throne of Grace. I prayed for Jordan, for peace and for healing. I prayed for his ex-wife, created in the image of God and desperately in need of healing herself. I prayed for protection for sweet little Grace. I prayed about the custody battle and the lawyers and the church and Jordan’s job and all manner of things he’d shared with me over the past few days. And by the end, I had silent tears streaming down my face. God, why have you given me such a soft heart for the hurting and brokenhearted?

At the end, we hugged silently; then we agreed to walk around the ship for a while, lightening the mood. We had only walked the length of one level of the cruise ship when we ran into the sweet, chunky kid from the hot tub. Jordan wrapped him in a bear hug, and wiggled my fingers at him in a wave from over Jordan’s shoulder.

“Whatcha doin’?” Jordan asked the Teddy Bear. We followed his eyes to where a pretty blonde teenager sat alone at a table, scrolling on her phone. Ah.

“I’m really nervous, but I want to talk to her,” the Teddy Bear admitted, looking at me. “What should I say?”

I was surprised and honored that he wanted my advice, especially since Jordan is the one who has known him since he was in diapers. “Ask her if she watched the SuperBowl this weekend. If she did, ask who she rooted for. If not, ask what she did instead. Just keep the questions rolling, but keep it casual and laid-back. Express an interest in getting to know her.”

“Okay,” Teddy repeated back to me, practicing. “Hey, did you watch the SuperBowl this weekend?” He paused; then tried again. “Hey! How about that SuperBowl, huh?”

I smiled, gave him a hug, and nudged him forward. “You’ve got this.”

“Will you stay here for me?” he asked, nervousness written all over his face. His vulnerability and honesty were charming. “Of course,” I told him reassuringly. He was adorable.

Jordan and I stood arm-in-arm watching Teddy approach the girl. He sat down at the table next to hers, just as I’d coached him. “You want to seem friendly but not come on too strong.” We watched the conversation begin, the girl looking wary at first; then merely uncomfortable before Teddy said something to make her laugh, and, “He’s in,” I said to Jordan with a smile. We waltzed away, Jordan’s arm around me, as Teddy continued getting to know the solitary blonde, confidence building.

I’ve spoken to Jordan a few times since the cruise, and he tells me that the guys talk about me all the time. “Apparently your conversations with them had quite an impact.” He says they seem inspired and driven, like they have hope again. Yes, Lord. Thank you for there being purpose in my being on that cruise – the Cruise of the Bruised… a phrase that could describe all of our journeys at one time or another.

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice… I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” -Isaiah 42

Authentically Aurora

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Problematic Dreams – Part II

Reading in bed

Our “Pitch Perfect-esque” a cappella group has all of our members’ names listed on our website, so I assume that’s how Corythe musically proficient doctor-to-be – found me on Facebook.

The day after the talent show, I had a friend request waiting from him, and that was soon followed up by a private message asking me about my photography website. “Are the photos on your site all taken by you? Because they are freakin’ amazing.”

I replied back, and we moved on from talking about photography to music to language and literature. Cory told me more about his Triathlon training; then about his family. We moved back to music, agreeing on the most desirable opera to see in town during this year’s season. For a moment, I thought he might ask me to go with him, but he suddenly broke the flow of our conversation with: “Hard to go wrong with Russian composers. Hey, text me. Burning up data. Haha.” And he gave me his phone number.

Pausing briefly (“Oh gosh. Is this a good idea? Do I really want to get into this? Ugh. Stop over-analyzing. It’s just text messaging.”), I sent Cory a quick text so that he’d have my number, too. I suspected that burning up data was not the sole reason for the change of communication method. Sure enough, the tone of the conversation quickly turned more flirtatious.

After a few obligatory questions back and forth about work and school, Cory asked, “So, how do you feel about tattoos?”

My reply: “Hmmm. I’m not sure I have a strong opinion.” I made a quick assumption. “Where and how many? :)”

My assumption proved accurate. Cory just got his fifth tattoo and, as for the locations of the first four: “You could see all of them if I take off my shirt. ;)”

Before long, he actually sent me a shirtless photo of himself laying in bed with a book, along with the caption: “All I’m missing is a cup of coffee and a cuddle buddy.” Oh man. Was that an invitation? 

I redirected us to a safer topic (and one of my personal favorites): personality types. Once we determined one another’s Myers-Briggs types (Cory’s an ENFJ), any time I got too logical in response to his touchy-feeliness, he’d send me a teasing text, “Your T is showing, lol ;)”

Later in the week, I invited the rest of my a cappella group to go swing dancing with me. We’d been talking about doing it for a while, and I was ready to make it happen. After a quick conversation with Noelle, I decided to extend the invite to Cory, too. It would be a great way for him to start getting to know some of our members before his audition.

Cory seemed interested in going, but he had an evening lecture on campus that he needed to attend. He asked in a text, “Are you driving there?”

“Yep. Need a ride home after?” I thought he might be planning to take public transportation to the swing dancing venue.

“I was actually going to ask if you wanted to meet my dog and pick me up from med school and swing by my place? That would expedite things.” He explained that he needed to change after class; then also feed and walk his dog, Stout (named for the dark beer).

“He’s a great snuggler. :)” Cory added when I hesitated in responding to his text.

Pushing down my tendency to over-think things, I sent back a quick reply. “Where and when should I pick you up?” After hearing back from him with details, I sent one more text:

“On my way”, adding a private note to myself: Hopefully I don’t regret this.

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

Lessons from Bryan – Part III

Maze“You like to know where things are going to end up before you even take the first step.”

It was a statement, not a question. Bryan has been encouraging me to live more in the moment, rather than constantly filtering the present through my knowledge of the past and aspirations for the future. But I’m a strong “N” – a Myers Briggs Intuitive type – so I naturally focus on the future and possibilities. I process information more through abstract patterns and impressions than what my senses take in about my current surroundings. Still further, I tend to get bored with the present moment – there is only so much moment to live in! But our life is like a mist that will soon vanish, so I suppose I can admit that I would do well to really be wherever I am.

In the MomentWhenever he asks me a question, Bryan likes for me to answer immediately with my first inclination, rather than thinking through my answer first. He has suggested that I spend too much time in the back of my mind, developing the persona I want to project to whomever I happen to be speaking with at the moment, rather than speaking freely as I process my thoughts and feelings. But I’m a strong “I” – a Myers Briggs Introvert – so I prefer to take time to reflect and solidify my stance before speaking, and I believe there is much benefit to thinking before you speak. And yet, I will openly acknowledge my propensity to over-analyze and get stuck in my own head.

People are Puzzles“You like solving puzzles. People are like puzzles to you,” Bryan observed recently.

“Yes,” I admitted. “Some easier to solve than others,” I added with a slight smile.

“And you tend to use your Intuition to direct the flow of conversation in order to gather clues that will take you closer to solving their puzzles.”

I nodded, no longer surprised at his keen insight into who I am and how I think.

He continued our discussion, “What do you think it would look like if you let conversations flow freely instead of trying to silently direct them? Is it so important for you to solve the puzzle?”

People are puzzles that couldn’t be solved in a lifetime,” I answered instinctively.

His face broke into a smile, pleased at my revelation, and he quoted Psalm 8, “Out of the mouths of babes…”

Bryan understands that I am better shown than told. He doesn’t tell me what to do or who to be; he asks good questions to challenge my thinking. He spurs me on toward righteousness and coming to my own conclusions based on what I know, deep down, to be true.

This man is good for me.

 Authentically Aurora

Self Discovery

INTJ v INFJI’ve been on a journey of self discovery for a couple of decades now. It’s a life-long process and one I’ve found that I enjoy immensely.

I recently met with a Life Coach named Lisa who specializes in leadership development, and she challenged my perception that I am an INTJ. Although a person’s Myers-Briggs personality type supposedly doesn’t change over time, Lisa pointed out that we may or may not develop according to our natural preferences based on how we were raised. We learn adaptive behaviors according to our environment and may forsake our core preferences.

Although plenty of people have claimed I have no heart or feelings, Lisa believes I may actually be an INFJ – someone who makes decisions based on emotions and how people would be affected. “INFJs find it easy to make connections with others, and have a talent for warm, sensitive language, speaking in human terms, rather than with pure logic and fact.” She thinks I could naturally be an INFJ at my core who developed coping mechanisms as an INTJ due to my military upbringing and chosen career path of engineering.

Lisa wrote to me last week:

You are very quick to make distinctions and identify aspects of yourself. I am leaning with the possibility that you are most naturally INTJ, with a keen self-awareness that there’s value for you to develop your ‘F’ side…  If NT is your dominant temperament, you are waaayy ahead of the curve compared to other NTs. Most of my clients are NT, and they don’t appreciate this until they’re well into their late 40s and early 50s… Give yourself some bonus points for your high level of self-awareness and your commitment to be the best you can be.

Lisa also partners with another woman who does Brain Dominance assessments, examining whether we are more Right-brained or Left-brained, as well as differentiating between Frontal and Basal quadrants. Her assessment of me:

Although I believe your natural preference is most likely Frontal Right [which is the pattern of an artist]… you are quite capable in all of the four thinking styles – unusual, especially for someone your age.

Nice to have it confirmed that I don’t fit the mold… and also that my decision to switch careers is well founded, based on my potentially suppressed natural preferences and talents. I have the heart of an artist and the brain of an engineer – a double-edged sword, to be sure.

Authentically Aurora