Three Men & Their Friends

Coffee Shop illustration

I spend entirely too much money on coffee. A year ago, I spent an average of $20/month on coffee. These days, it’s four times that amount. I know this because, in addition to being a voracious coffee drinker, I am also a nerd who maintains a monthly personal expense report.

I am not so basic as to spend all my coffee budget on Starbucks every month. It’s true that many a business meeting takes place over a cup of Starbucks coffee, but as much as I can, I like to get my lattes from Black Gold Coffee, a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop with a hipster vibe.

Black Gold is nestled between a couple of boutiques on a tree-lined historic avenue in a run-down part of town in the process of being gentrified. The artwork on the walls of the coffee shop is always changing as local artists take their turns displaying their latest masterpieces for sale.

About a month ago, after placing my order with a Black Gold barista, I perched on a bar stool while waiting for my iced latte. An attractive brunette gentleman sat a couple of seats down, clicking away on his laptop where I could see that he was editing photos. “Are you a Canon or Nikon man?” I asked him, striking up a conversation. Daniel, as he introduced himself, is a Canon photographer as well as an aspiring writer.

Daniel and I spoke for a few minutes while I waited for my coffee. When it arrived in all its caffeinated goodness, I started to bid Daniel adieu, but he stopped me and asked if he could take me on a date sometime. Surprised that this soft-spoken poetic man would also be so courageous, I smiled and thanked him but explained that I am fasting from dating for a while. I left and thought nothing more of the conversation.

A few days later found me back at Black Gold, this time sipping a hot milk-and-honey latte while reading a book. When the sound of laughter permeated my internal movie scene as I lived my book along with its characters, I glanced up from the worn pages to see a Boromir look-alike standing a few tables away. I went back to my book, but as I got up to leave a while later, I stopped by Boromir’s table and asked, “Has anyone ever told you that you look just like -”

“Sean Bean,” he finished the sentence for me, naming the actor who played the red-headed friend of Frodo in The Lord of the Rings movies.

“Oh. I guess so,” I laughed, embarrassed. But the doppelganger struck up a friendly conversation with me, and I found out that he was yet another photographer. Boromir (real name Simon) was working on his macro photography, and he invited me to join him shooting butterflies at a local arboretum later that week. I’d been wanting to work on my own macro game, so I enthusiastically agreed.

Simon and I had a great time shooting butterflies that weekend, but it was soon evident that he was romantically interested in me, so when we went out for dinner after the photo shoot, I figured it was time for me to set him straight on my intentions. I let Simon pick the restaurant, and to my relief, he picked a casual burger joint.

Simon and I were laughing when we walked into the mom-and-pop restaurant, but I stopped mid-giggle when I looked up to see Daniel standing behind the cash register. How must this look to Daniel? Just a week ago, I turned down his offer of a date, telling him that I’m not dating right now. And here I am, walking into a restaurant – a restaurant he apparently works at! – laughing with another man. This totally looks like a date. He’s going to think I lied. He’s going to think I made up some excuse. I need to find a way to explain myself!

Simon saw my reaction and asked, “Oh, you know Daniel?”

My eyes widened. “YOU know Daniel?!”

Simon nodded, misreading my expression. “Yeah, we’re really good friends. That’s why I picked this place. I eat here all the time. Daniel and I go shooting together sometimes; then sit and edit our photos together at Black Gold.”

Of course they do. This is my life after all. Two photographers who I met at the same coffee shop? Of course they’re friends. And of course they both asked me out. And of course I managed to get myself into a sticky situation. Why would I expect any different from my life? I am Madame Rom-Com!

Fortunately, I have lots of experience explaining myself and disentangling myself from the ridiculous messes I seem to unintentionally create. So I told Simon I wasn’t interested, that I was fasting from dating, that Daniel had asked me out, and that Daniel was probably misinterpreting our hamburger hangout. Simon was understanding, agreed to set Daniel straight on what was happening, and we’ve all actually managed to stay friends and gone shooting again since then. Victory.

About a week after the photography almost-fiasco, I caught Ashley up on my non-love life. She goes to Black Gold even more often than I do, so she knows all the baristas and frequent patrons. When she heard about Simon, she asked, “Is he the one who sits in the back corner most mornings?”

“No… he’s usually there in the evening.” I showed her a photo of Simon, and she laughed.

“He looks just like the early morning barista!” Ashley and I can be creepy together, embracing the Facebook-stalking culture of our generation, so she pulled up a picture of another man who looked remarkably like Simon, which is weird since Simon is a long-haired red-headed man in a fairly conservative city.

“It’s Boromir #2!!!” we cried together, erupting into laughter.

Ironically (or predictably, since it is my life, after all), Simon sent me a text the very next day asking what I thought of Donny. “Donny? Who is Donny?” I texted back.

Simon sent me a photo of Boromir #2 sitting with his hands wrapped around a latte. Of course. Of course Boromir #1 (Simon) knows Boromir #2 (Donny).

“I don’t know,” I typed back. “I’ve never had a real conversation with him.”

“He says he tried to ask you out one time,” Simon wrote back.

“What?!”

“Yeah, he saw me with you the other day at Black Gold and asked if we were dating. He said one time when you were ordering a drink, he tried to ask you out.”

“Well he must have been very subtle, because I have no recollection of any attempt on his part to ask me out.”

Sweet, poetic Daniel must have gotten all the boldness in this group of friends. He stated his intentions of asking me on a date within five minutes of meeting me. Simon tried a sneak-a-date, and Donny was so shy and subtle that I completely missed his come-on.

I know it’s bad form to date best friends, but what about unintentionally non-dating three guys who you didn’t know were friends?!

Welcome to my life.

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

Going Grey

Grey hairI went on a date last night with some rando from college.

He and I had a class together Freshman year and somehow ended up Facebook friends. Apparently he’s been following my Facebook posts for the last decade and finally reached out to me a few weeks ago, wanting to catch up.

I thought it was kind of weird, but he seems to think I’m awesome, and I could use more people like that in my life right now. You know, people who think I’m awesome.

So he drove in from Podunksville, and we met at a swanky farm-to-table joint I suggested. He was nice enough – a bit awkward, but nice – and talked a lot about work. I made a few jokes, trying to liven up the conversation, and he eventually loosened up and made a few jokes back. At one point, he actually made me laugh out loud, and I rocked forward, head bent in laughter.

When I looked up again, he said with a deadpan expression, “You have a grey hair.”

I froze for a moment, surprised; then I laughed again. “I don’t have just one.”

Rogue“I only saw one,” he commented in a monotone voice, oblivious to the fact that never should such comments be made to a woman, especially on a first date.

I decided to speak his language. “Honey, if I were in X-Men, I’d be Rogue.”

“I don’t watch Marvel. I’m more into Star Wars,” he told me.

I sighed inwardly.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that the class we had together in college was Engineering Physics.

Authentically Aurora

Bachelor Bash – Week 4

Group Date Week 4I feel like this week on “The Bachelor”, the girls were clearly divided into two camps: Those Who Are Crass v. Those Who Have Class.

At the beginning of this week’s episode, several bikini-clad girls rode in convertibles to a lake with Bachelor Chris. Their group date involved camping and playing Red Rover in skimpy two-pieces. Yes, it was Bachelor Chris’s own private “Baywatch” viewing.

At one point, the self-proclaimed virginal Ashley I. took off her bikini top before jumping into the lake from the pier. Soon after, “you can plow the **** out of my field any day” Kaitlyn shimmied off her bikini bottoms and mooned the entire group (fellow contestants included, not to mention the nation-wide viewers). You can guess which camp I put these girls in.

Meanwhile, over in camp Those Who Have Class, Kelsey spoke to the camera, “This is a date for bimbos. If you have dignity and self respect, this is the part where you check out. I’m done.” Preach it, sister! Finally a woman on this show with some semblance of moral fiber! 

One-one-one dates Week 4Next, some of the girls got one-on-one time with Bachelor Chris. Jillian the Jock, who has bigger biceps than Chris, displayed the full extent of her meat head status when, on her romantic one-on-one date, she asked Chris, “Would you rather have sex with a homeless woman… or abstain from sex for five years?”

Not surprisingly (based on his obsession with Kaitlyn, Queen of Crass), this question was not what turned Chris off to Jillian so much as her incessant talking. “When Jillian’s talking, I become very confused because the words are coming out faster than I can process them.” Oh, is it only with Jillian? I thought confusion was your natural state of being, Prince Farming. 

In contrast to Jillian’s horrifying lack of propriety, Jade (who has been my top pick from Week 1) was gracious, sweet and humble while she was waited on hand and foot by personal stylists who prepped her for a Cinderella-like evening with Chris. Fortunately, the typically clueless Chris finally got a clue and picked up on Jade’s quiet confidence and previously unappreciated intangibles. “Not only is Jade beautiful on the outside, but her inner beauty is what really stands out to me.”

Week 4 VirginsLastly, we had the battle of the virgins. Which was really just Ashley I. using every excuse possible to talk about her virginity in an effort to get attention and feel special. She brought up her virginity to Chris twice, and when he didn’t respond as expected (i.e. by ripping off her clothes), she started crying and blew the entire situation out of proportion. “It’s really weird for him not to make a move on me,” she sobbed with black mascara running down her foundation-caked cheeks.

This girl is living in an alternate reality where she is the center of the universe. Maybe she’s neighbors with Ashley S., who is just living in an alternate reality period, or MacKenzie, who asks, “Do you guys believe in aliens?” just about every episode. Bachelor Trekkies unite.

In contrast to drama-filled, Kardashian-wannabe Ashley I., all that Becca said about her virginity this entire season was, “It’s a decision I made.” As Bachelor Host Chris Harrison said in his interview with Robyn Ross, “[Ashley I.] doesn’t know how to handle her sexuality yet, and she’s not comfortable in her own skin… Ashley is being exposed as young and naïve. The juxtaposition… between her breaking down over the whole thing and then having Becca go, ‘Oh by the way, me too,’ shows the difference between a woman and a young girl.” 

Go Becca. Quiet confidence wins every time.

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

Better Than Sci-Fi

Reading by flashlight[Written by John Piper and Originally Posted at Solid Joys]

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31)

I feel so strongly that among those of us who have grown up in church and who can recite the great doctrines of our faith in our sleep and who yawn through the Apostles Creed — that among us something must be done to help us once more feel the awe, the fear, the astonishment, the wonder of the Son of God, begotten by the Father from all eternity, reflecting all the glory of God, being the very image of his person, through whom all things were created, upholding the universe by the word of his power.

You can read every fairy tale that was ever written, every mystery thriller, every ghost story, and you will never find anything so shocking, so strange, so weird and spellbinding as the story of the incarnation of the Son of God.

How dead we are! How callous and unfeeling to your glory and your story! How often have I had to repent and say, “God, I am sorry that the stories men have made up stir my emotions, my awe and wonder and admiration and joy, more than your own true story.”

The space thrillers of our day, like Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, can do this great good for us: they can humble us and bring us to repentance, by showing us that we really are capable of some of the wonder and awe and amazement that we so seldom feel when we contemplate the eternal God and the cosmic Christ and a real living contact between them and us in Jesus of Nazareth.

When Jesus said, “For this I have come into the world,” he said something as crazy and weird and strange and eerie as any statement in science fiction that you have ever read.

O, how I pray for a breaking forth of the Spirit of God upon me and upon you; for the Holy Spirit to break into my experience in a frightening way, to wake me up to the unimaginable reality of God.

One of these days lightning is going to fill the sky from the rising of the sun to its setting, and there is going to appear in the clouds one like a son of man with his mighty angels in flaming fire. And we will see him clearly. And whether from terror or sheer excitement, we will tremble and we will wonder how, how we ever lived so long with such a domesticated, harmless Christ.

These things are written that you might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came into the world. Really believe.

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