Thursday, May 26, 2011

How to Tell I Need a Life #5

I get irrationally angry when people use bad grammar, spelling, or punctuation. You've heard of the Grammar Police? I am the Grammar Gestapo. Especially on the internet. I don't understand why online communications are so very, very bad. Some browsers even have spell-checking and other proofreading tools built in. And if you're ever unsure of something, open a new tab and look it up. IT'S NOT THAT FUCKING HARD!

. . . see what i mean?

never settle

My new tattoo is about a week old on my skin, and about four years old in my head.

Some time during my freshman year of college, i think around spring break, my mom and i had a conversation about boys. I don't remember anything about this conversation except that it concluded with her saying, "Don't ever settle."

At that time, i was thinking about getting a tattoo, but couldn't decide what i wanted. I would draw doodles (usually birds) or write slogans on my skin with Sharpies (usually on my arms, because they were easiest), trying out colors and sizes and designs, but nothing seemed quite right. I tried a few variations of "never settle", but somehow it didn't quite fit. I eventually settled on the swallow tattoo that was the subject of my last post, and moved on.

I wasn't planning to get another tattoo. I still had some ideas that i liked, but nothing that seemed quite as right as the swallow.

I kept on thinking about the idea of settling, though. I thought about what it meant to settle, and what kinds of situations i had settled in before. I thought about settling romantically, academically, professionally, and spiritually.

I thought about boys i had dated and why, and determined that i would not settle for anything other than what i wanted or deserved ever again. And then i settled. Twice in a row.

I thought about classes and assignments where i should have done better but instead chose to slack off, and determined that i would never again settle for less than what i was capable of. And then i slacked off. In too many classes to mention.

I thought about the job i really wanted and what i would have to do to get it, and determined that i would let nothing get in my way. And then -- well, you can probably guess where this is going.

I spent the first three years of college settling in pretty much every area of my life. I looked for "good enough", instead of holding out for "best". Understand, i'm not trying to disparage the people in my life or the experiences i had or the places i worked. I'm just saying that anything that isn't what you really want is settling, even if it is objectively "better" than your heart's desire. A job that pays a million dollars an hour is settling, if what you really want to do is teach public school. Marrying the world's most perfect man is settling, if you're not really in love with him. Maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA through college is settling, if you're not passionate about your studies and don't feel that you're getting a full and well-rounded experience.

All of this reflection and determination and settling culminated in the relationship with Casey, where i hung on for over a year because i thought that this was the best thing i could expect. My friend "Ben" argued with me, saying, "Right now, you think you're eating steak. But actually, it's cat food. And you think it's delicious, because you've never had steak before. But one day, you'll have real steak, and you'll be like, 'Why was I eating this shit for so long?'" Eventually, finally, i ended things with Casey, and promptly made the catastrophically bad decision to give my virginity to Theo. More settling. Like i mentioned in the earlier post, i had not had the sex that God wanted for me. I had settled for something less.

My best friend "Sue" and i actually made similar bad decisions on the same night, and talked about it quite a lot over the next few weeks. Although the decisions themselves were similar, the histories leading up to those decisions were very different. However, we were both settling. Sue, knowing nothing of the phrase from my mom that was still bouncing around in the back of my head, said to me, "Let's make a pact. You and i have spent the last three years settling for less than what we want and deserve. Let's make this year different. I think our slogan for 2010-2011 should be 'never settle'."

Of course, i agreed.

A few weeks later, i was reading some cheap celebrity magazine. I don't remember which one, but probably US Weekly. Don't judge. They had a section on tattoo placement, and explained that a rib cage tattoo is extremely painful and extremely significant. Part of the significance comes from the pain; if it is really worth getting, it's worth suffering for. Additionally, because the ribs protect your heart and lungs, a tattoo there is basically sheilding the center of your life force. Every heartbeat and every breath will reinforce the message inked forever on your skin. Plus, it's kind of an intimate area, so if someone is going to be seeing or touching it, it's going to be someone who is very important and special to you. I remember curling my arm instinctively around myself, just below my breasts, and inadvertently flashing back to the last person who had touched me intimately (Theo). I resolved again that the next person to touch me there would not be someone i was settling for.

And another week after that, i was sitting in chapel. I don't remember what the message was, only that it was really speaking to me in a lot of ways. I think it was something about being all that you can be. At one point, what the speaker said was so poignant and appropriate to the moment that Sue texted me (yes, we text in chapel) and said, "Never settle!"

At that moment, i felt God sit next to me and whisper, "That's going to be your next tattoo."

I whispered back, "God, i'm not getting another tattoo. Remember? I only ever wanted this one."

And He looked at me and whispered, "Really? You're going to argue with ME? This is going to be your next tattoo."

And i whispered, "Yeah, but . . . Oh. Yeah. Okay."

It took a few months until i had the ready cash for it, but now i have this tattoo forever. The text was not a font that the guy had. It is my own handwriting. I liked the idea of inscribing those words on my flesh with my own hand (even though technically someone else did the actual inscribing).

This image, these words, this idea, i've been carrying with me for a long time. And now i will carry them with me forever.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

little bird

About a year and a half ago, i got my first tattoo: a swallow on my right forearm. I did a lot of research prior to getting the tattoo, partly because i wanted something that would be very meaningful for a long time, and partly because i like to research.

Birds in general are usually symbols of freedom, independence, and adventure, all very important things to me. I began looking into specific birds, such as owls and ravens, to find out exactly what each of them meant. I stumbled across the swallow tattoo and became intrigued by what i learned.

Sailors used to get swallows tattooed on their chests to mark the number of miles they had traveled. Since i was approaching my twentieth birthday, i thought it would be appropriate to commemorate that occasion. Sea travel is dangerous, and being able to say that you have traveled thousands of miles by sea is a mark of honor. I've been through a lot in twenty years, and i am proud of having made it this far.

Swallows are homing birds. They are therefore a promise to the loved ones at home that the sailor will always return, come what may. And because the swallows were usually on the chest, it was an expression of the hope that, should the sailor drown, his soul would be carried to Heaven.

For me, this meant that i recognized my heritage and the power of family and home. I don't know for sure if i will ever live at "home" again. I like living in Quincy, and don't have a powerful desire to return to farm country and my family again. But who knows what the future holds? And even if i never return to Maryland, i have a strong sense of having grown up there. It's the place i was born, the place where my siblings were born, the place of my first words, first steps, first kiss, first heartbreak. It's the place where i grew up, the place where i moved out, the place where my parents were married and divorced. It's the first and last place that my whole family lived together. It's still the place where most of my family lives.

Everything i am comes from who i was. Everything i do comes from where i've been.

The tattoo is on my right arm because i am right handed. When i meet someone for the first time, i shake their hand. I am presenting my history, my background, my identity. Realistically, of course, the tattoo is small and easy to miss if you're not looking for it, but that doesn't matter to me. What matters is the symbolism.

As a writer, every word i pen comes from that same deep understanding of who i've been and where i'm from. Every word comes from that heritage.

And of course, i am doing my best to follow God's leading in my life. Wherever my wings take me, i know that my ultimate destination is to obey God's direction.

My Mom's Wedding

When i told people i was going to Maryland this weekend for my mom's wedding, most people responded with enthusiasm. "Oh, you must be so excited! Your mom is getting married! Are you in the wedding? How long will you be there? That's so wonderful!"

Very few people realized instantly that there might be some awkwardness associated with that. If my mom is getting married, that means that she's not married to my dad. So either he's dead or they're divorced. It is possible that she's marrying my dad, but outside of the Disney Channel, the chances of that are not exactly promising.

And maybe the divorce/death happened years ago and i never even knew my dad, or maybe he was a monster and we're all better off without him. But there is no reason to assume, right off the bat, that my mother's wedding will necessarily be an occasion of unmixed joy.

And it wasn't.

My parents decided to separate the day that i moved into my freshman dorm. By fall semester finals, they had decided to divorce. My dad moved out on New Year's Eve. My mom soon had a new boyfriend. I've never been able to pin down to my satisfaction the exact start date of their relationship. And i'd really rather not.

I haven't spent much time in my mom's house since freshman year. Massachusetts is my home now. Therefore, i really don't know her new husband all that well. And i've been dealing with it okay, but there have been some issues between my mom and i that will probably never be entirely resolved.

But she's still my mom, and when she asked me to be in her wedding, i couldn't say no.

It was a lot harder than i thought it would be. I was okay up until the toasts, and then her maid of honor said that she had never seen my mom so happy before. The maid of honor saw my face and quickly covered by saying that she hadn't known my mom when her kids (my siblings and i) were little, and that she missed out on a lot of that early happiness. But her words unintentionally tapped into a lot of my deepest pain surrounding the divorce.

My parents were not a good match. Individually, they are decent people, but they were not a good couple. They should never have gotten married. It was not a good idea, and it was not God's will.

It's really hard to know that and to not begin to believe that i am not supposed to be here. It takes a lot of faith to know that God can bring good out of even the worst  situations. But it takes even more faith to know that and to not feel like i am an afterthought, like God looked at my parents' marriage and said, "Well, shit. What am I going to do with that?"

I spend a lot of time feeling like i don't fit in, feeling like i'm being excluded, feeling like i'm forgettable. It's hard to feel like i might be an afterthought to God, too. I know that i'm not. I know that. But there is a difference between the things that we know and the things that we feel, and sometimes i feel like God's afterthought.

Friday, May 20, 2011

purity vs. abstinence, part 3 (pure sex)

Now i have come full circle. Two nights ago, John and i had sex.

We talked and prayed about it beforehand. We are in a committed, monogamous relationship. We both talked about our needs and fears, and we both talked about past relationships. It was only my second time ever having sex (and the first time almost didn't even count), and it was his very first time. We used protection, but we also talked about what we would do if we did get pregnant. We made sure that we were both ready, and then we decided to let it happen naturally. We fell asleep after midnight, and somehow, we both woke up around 4am and were ready to go.

It was still brief and a little awkward, as is to be expected. But i was not horrified when i got up in the morning. I am not now afraid or ashamed. I do not have vague feelings of guilt like i did with Theo. I am not worried about the consequences.

I am in a fair way to fall for this guy big time, and i don't think that sex with him was a mistake or a sin. I think that it was a good thing. Maybe i'm wrong. It certainly wouldn't be the first time i've been wrong about something.

But he took me to get Plan B (there was a mishap with the condom and we are all about better safe than sorry), and he paid for it (that shit is expensive). And he checked up on me later that evening to make sure i wasn't suffering any unpleasant side effects. He's a good guy, and we care about one another. And he takes care of me. And i let him, which is not something i do often. I am fiercely independent, to the point that i often get myself in trouble. But i let him take care of me.

I wear my purity ring with pride. It's not an obvious purity ring, like the ones that say "True Love Waits" or have hearts and crosses on them. It's a rose.

When i had sex with Theo, when i bought my new ring and started to seriously reconstruct my concept of purity, i remembered something my mom told me on that Purity Weekend Adventure so many years ago. She said that i was like a flower, with lots and lots of petals. And she said that every time i do something with a guy, it removes some petals. If i hold hands with a guy, that's a petal. If i make out with him, that's several petals. And while it is normal for teenagers to date and kiss and so forth, she wanted me to keep in mind that the petals don't grow back, and that one day, i would get married. "You want to give your husband the whole flower," she said, totally unconscious of the "deflowering" metaphor hovering at her fingertips. "It's only natural that you'll lose a few of your petals along the way, but you want to keep as many as possible."

I internalized this message far more than i had realized, and found myself depressed after Theo. I began to wonder what, if anything, i had left to offer. I had given away the flower, and i wasn't even dating the guy who had it. I would never get it back.

Then i realized that my mom was wrong. Yes, i had given some things away. But as God had reassured me, i still had plenty of sex to offer, for the rest of my life. I also had humor, warmth, intelligence, and talents. I was still a valuable person with a lot to offer, sexuality aside. And i still had plenty of sexuality. I may have bloomed a little early, but i am not worthless. I have a lot to offer to John, and if it turns out that John is not T.O.M., i'll still have plenty to offer T.O.M., whoever he turns out to be.

I am not worthless. I am a valuable, desirable, lovable person, and John knows that and appreciates it. And sex with him only reaffirms my sense of self-worth.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

purity vs. abstinence, part 2 (the mistake)

I broke up with Casey in the end of June 2010. We talked about a possible reconciliation, but i just couldn't bring myself to want it. I wanted to want it, because i wanted to be right about him. I wanted to believe that i had been right to trust him and to keep holding on to the relationship for so long, despite everything that should have made me run. But i was done.

Then i went to the wedding of the couple i mentioned in the last post. At the wedding, i talked to "Theo". Theo and i had a lot of mutual friends, and we had had a few classes together. He was bright and attractive and musically talented, and had a great sense of humor. I didn't have a crush on him or anything, and i had never even been attracted to him. I just acknowledged the fact that he was good looking. But i had always felt that if we ever spent any time together, we would be good friends. We had a lot in common, but we had never really hung out.

At the wedding, we hung out and really hit it off. At the reception, we hung out some more, and it was awesome. We were the only two people not dancing, and we sat together at my table and chatted about dancing, and school, and past relationships. At one point, i said, "It's funny. Being single at a wedding is supposed to make you feel melancholy, but i really don't. I mean, it would be nice to have someone, but i'm SO relieved to be out of my last relationship that i'm actually really happy to be single."

Theo laughed and gave me a significant look and said, "Oh, believe me, I know EXACTLY what you mean." I knew enough about Theo's last relationship to interpret this remark. He and "Ruth" had been off-and-on for two years. They would date for a few months, break up for a few days or weeks, and get back together. Everyone knew that their relationship was toxic and that they made each other miserable, but somehow they couldn't seem to figure out how to stay broken up. However, this last breakup had lasted for a month or so, and it really looked like they were done. And now, Theo was saying (or at least strongly implying) that he was glad and relieved to be done.

That night, i went to Theo's apartment with a bunch of our friends. We watched movies until the wee hours, and slowly, everyone else went to bed until it was just me and Theo. And then we had sex.

It really was a very sudden and unexpected thing. We were watching movies, and then we were secretly holding hands, and then we were groping each other under the covers, and then he popped my cherry. It was brief and awkward and uncomfortable and not the least bit romantic or hot or enjoyable. At least not for me. He did at least finish (unlike me), and then he cleaned me up and went to sleep on the floor, allowing me to keep the bed.

I didn't sleep at all that night. I lay awake, staring at the ceiling, trying to figure out what had happened and how. I was even more confused about sexual morality than i had been before, and had no idea what this would mean for my future.

I spent the next several months dealing with the consequences of my actions. This included taking Plan B. I had to buy it myself, because Theo never asked if i was on birth control, or checked up on me in any way, except for one conversation after Ruth found out, where we talked in very broad terms about how we felt emotionally. The consequences also included confessing my sin to a few different people, because while i was certain that i had sinned, i didn't know which part of what had happened was the sinful part. Was it because i wasn't in love with him? Was it because we weren't dating? Was it because it was impulsive and we didn't use protection or pray about it beforehand?

One of the hardest consequences to face was the fact that Theo decided to get back together with Ruth. And he didn't tell her about the multiple girls (that's right, it wasn't just me) that he had slept with while they were broken up. And before you start quoting Ross Geller and debating about the wisdom and morality of Theo's decision, you have to at least agree that he should tell her that he slept around while they were broken up/on a break/whatever, rather than giving her the impression that he had been totally faithful and Christlike (which is what he did). So i had to be the one to break the news to Ruth. I have never seen that look in someone's eyes before, and i never want to again. (For those wondering, Theo and Ruth are engaged to be married this summer.)

This ruined my budding friendship with Ruth and complicated some of my other friendships. Even now, nine months after the fact, i keep finding people who know about what happened and have changed their opinion of me because of it. And i know that there are still some people who don't know. My parents don't know. One of my sisters doesn't know. John knows, but if he's not T.O.M., that means that there is still at least one boyfriend to tell. And even when i find those wonderful people (happily, this is most of my friends) who do not judge me, but rather accept my mistake with love and understanding, it still signals a change in their view of me. I am not the person they thought i was.

But during all of this confusion, pain, and doubt, God was there. He protected me, and kept His hands upon me, allowing me to deal with the many consequences and layers of what had happened one at a time. I had to deal with changed friendships, i had to deal with buying Plan B, i had to deal with ostracism and awkwardness, but i was able to take it one step at a time.

The last thing i dealt with was the question of morality. One day, i was walking to work, and i was praying. And all of a sudden, i was overwhelmed with a sense of sadness and shame. God was walking beside me, and He nodded sadly and said, "Yes. You have sinned."

I apologized, and asked Him to forgive me. I didn't want Him to be angry with me. And this is where God displayed His true awesomeness and the depth of His love and forgiveness: He put His arms around me and said, "I'm not mad. I'm just sad. I wanted you to have something better."

He then explained it to me in terms that i could understand. Imagine that i wanted to give you a present. I wanted to give you a chair. I had your friends help me take secret measurements. I took copious notes on the way that you sit, on what you look for in a chair, on your weight and height and design preferences. I chopped down a tree and started cutting and carving, custom-making the perfect chair for you. I wanted you to have something that would last you a lifetime, something that would be both beautiful and useful, something that would fit your body and desires perfectly. (Now the sexual metaphor is starting to make sense, right?) At last, it was done. I gave it a final polish and brought it to your house. And you said, "Oh, this is perfect! We are having a bonfire tonight and I was afraid we would run out of wood." And then you threw it on the fire.

Now, i'm not God. So chances are i'd be pretty pissed initially. But ultimately, i would be disappointed, because what i wanted was for you to have this perfect chair. I wanted you to have something that would last you a lifetime, that would be useful, that would give you pleasure, and that would fulfill your needs.

It's not like you just threw it away or stuck it in the attic, right? You got use out of my gift. It gave you pleasure. It fulfilled your needs. But you did not get as much use out of it as you would have if you had used it the way i intended you to use it. You did not get as much pleasure out of it as i had intended. And it did not fulfill as many of your needs as deeply as it would have. And i am sad, because i wanted you to have something more. I gave you something beautiful, but you didn't see it for what it was. You took my incredible gift and you ignored it, and because of that, you missed out on the wonderful thing i intended for you to have.

Moving away from the chair metaphor, God is amazing. So after we cried and hugged it out, He gave me a second gift: the rest of my life. He reminded me that i still get to have amazing sex in the future. I'll never get my first time back again, but i can still have the sex that God wanted me to have. My sin was in ignoring the gift i should have had, but i was able to redeem myself by recommitting to that gift.

I bought myself a new purity ring. Not an abstinence ring, but a purity ring. I committed myself to purity, to sex as God intended it, to love and fidelity and lifelong pleasure and joy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

purity vs. abstinence, part 1 (the upbringing)

I was raised to believe in abstinence until marriage. And if you think that sounds weird, allow me to assure you that you don't know the half of it. I was one of those kids that wore a purity ring. I also carried an ATM card (Abstinence Till Marriage. Super cool, right?) in my wallet for several years. I read books, i wore t-shirts, i went away with my mom for a weekend where we talked about sex and i signed a covenant of purity.

And then i got to college.

I have already alluded in previous posts to "Casey", my asshole ex whose treatment of me at times bordered on emotional abuse. While he never explicitly pressured me to have sex with him, there was always an implied desire, and once or twice there were even implied threats of infidelity if i wouldn't put out. Since our relationship was mostly long-distance (i lived in Massachusetts, he lived in Texas), there was no way for me to know if he was being faithful or not. And even if i had decided to have sex with him, i couldn't, because of the distance. He had no job and no money, so he couldn't visit, and i had a job and money but not much, and was trying to save so that i could stay in Massachusetts after i graduated instead of living in Delaware with my dad. So we were pretty much stuck.

The one time he did visit, we almost had sex, but he stopped it just in time. However, we kept talking about when he returned to Massachusetts (he never did), and we eventually decided that sex was going to happen. We were in love, we wanted to get married, so why not?

The almost-sex, plus the decision to go through with it one day, sent me into a tailspin of questions about sexual morality. I carried a load of guilt about what had almost happened, and spent a lot of time reading the Bible, praying, and talking to friends about it. I wanted to know if premarital sex was really sinful, and if so why, and if not, when was it okay? And all this time, Casey was still far away, and going through a months-long depression that left him too listless and down to talk to me. At all. There were definitely times when i felt that it was a moot point, and that i would never talk to him again, but i loved him, and i kept on hoping.

Meanwhile, one of my closest friends was having sex with her fiance. She talked to me about sexual morality, and shared the guidance that had come from their premarital counselor (who was also my pastor). He said that the Bible never explicitly says that you can only have sex with your spouse. The Bible talks a lot about fidelity and purity, but not a lot about abstinence.

Now, you can make a lot of conflicting arguments about this. Ancient Jewish concepts of marriage were very different from ours, and it would have been difficult for the authors of the Bible to make a distinction between sex and marriage. So from this, you can infer that premarital sex is totally okay, or you can infer that God never bothered to make the distinction because He never intended for sex to exist outside of marriage.

But i was thinking hard about sexual purity, and this is what i realized: purity and abstinence are not necessarily the same thing, and you can have one without the other. For example, if a man and woman are married to one another and love each other and are having consensual, vanilla sex with one another and no one else, i don't think there is a single person or organization who would argue that that is impure. Let's also posit that they are religious, and that they believe that sex is a gift from their god to bless and sanctify their marriage. Sex in this case is pure and holy and based on love. They are living sexually pure lives, but they are not abstaining from sex. Or imagine someone who is fighting with their significant other and is witholding sex as a punishment. This is abstinence, but it is not sexually pure.
So which one matters most? If i had to choose, i would say that purity is what matters. If you really love someone, and they really love you, and you want to express that love physically, i think that's okay. Sex must be tempered with love, commitment, and respect, but sex in and of itself is not intrinsically morally reprehensible, even if it happens outside of the bounds of holy matrimony.

After reaching this conclusion, Casey and i broke up. Not because of the sex issue, but because he was a dick and i finally couldn't take it anymore. Have you ever been in a basement or attic or some small, dim, stuffy room? At first, it's kind of uncomfortable, but not totally unbearable. But it continues to get worse and worse, and you start to suffocate more and more, and then all of a sudden you feel like you're going to die and you run outside and breathe in the fresh air and sunshine. Everything is brighter and warmer and cooler and softer and cleaner. Everything is more beautiful and smells better than it ever has before. This is what it was like to go from dating Casey to dating John.

Anyway, i was still confused and vulnerable and hurting. My head was a wreck from Casey, and i was still not really sure about the whole sex thing. It's difficult to change twenty years of habits and beliefs in a few months. And i was also pretty sure that i was changing for the wrong reasons. It is impure to have sex to keep your boyfriend from leaving you or cheating on you or both. It is impure to have sex just because you're horny and don't feel like exercising self-control. It is impure to have sex because you're angry and hurt and confused and vulnerable. Which leads me to part 2.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Those of you unfamiliar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are no doubt mystified by the title of this post. Because you're lazy and didn't either Google it or click on the link above. Seriously. If you're reading this, you're on the freaking Internet. Use it.

Those of you who are familiar with Myers-Briggs Typology are now frantically trying to remember which category is INFJ, and what the initials stand for, and what that says about me. Because you are also lazy and don't know how to use multiple tabs at once.

It's okay. I'm going to do your work for you. I will even bold the most interesting and important parts. Who determines which are the most interesting and important parts? Me. What can you do about this? Read the whole thing. Stop whining.

INFJ stands for Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging. For those who are interested, i scored 91% on the "Introverted" scale. The rest of it fluctuates a little, but 91% is pretty damn introverted. Which should tell you a lot about me. And if it doesn't tell you anything, read on. The information in the following paragraphs is basically copied and pasted from the link in the first sentence. So why read it here instead of following the link? Because we've already established that you are too lazy and/or dumb to leave this page and do your own research.

As an INFJ, my primary mode of living is focused internally. I take things in primarily via intuition. My secondary mode is external, where i deal with things according to how i feel about them, or how they fit with my personal value system.

INFJs are gentle, caring, complex and highly intuitive individuals. Artistic and creative, we live in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities. Only one percent of the population has an INFJ Personality Type, making it the most rare of all the types. (That's right. I'm that awesome.)

INFJs place great importance on havings things orderly and systematic in our outer worlds. We put a lot of energy into identifying the best system for getting things done, and constantly define and re-define the priorities in our lives. On the other hand, INFJs operate within ourselves on an intuitive basis which is entirely spontaneous. We know things intuitively, without being able to pinpoint why, and without detailed knowledge of the subject at hand. We are usually right, and we usually know it. Consequently, INFJs put a tremendous amount of faith into our instincts and intuitions. This is something of a conflict between the inner and outer worlds, and may result in the INFJ not being as organized as other Judging types tend to be. Or we may see some signs of disarray in an otherwise orderly tendency, such as a consistently messy desk. (Or bedroom? I'm so glad my mom can't comment on this.)

INFJs have uncanny insight into people and situations. We get "feelings" about things and intuitively understand them. As an extreme example, some INFJs report experiences of a psychic nature, such as getting strong feelings about there being a problem with a loved one, and discovering later that they were in a car accident. This is the sort of thing that other types may scorn and scoff at, and we ourselves do not really understand our intuition at a level which can be verbalized. Consequently, most INFJs are protective of our inner selves, sharing only what we choose to share when we choose to share it. We are deep, complex individuals, who are quite private and typically difficult to understand. INFJs hold back part of ourselves, and can be secretive. (Just ask anyone i've ever dated, been friends with, been related to, had counseling with, worked with, or randomly encountered in life.)

But INFJs are as genuinely warm as we are complex. INFJs hold a special place in the heart of people who we are close to, who are able to see our special gifts and depth of caring. INFJs are concerned for people's feelings, and try to be gentle to avoid hurting anyone. We are very sensitive to conflict, and cannot tolerate it very well. Situations which are charged with conflict may drive the normally peaceful INFJ into a state of agitation or charged anger. We may tend to internalize conflict into our bodies, and experience health problems when under a lot of stress.

Because INFJs have such strong intuitive capabilities, we trust our own instincts above all else. This may result in an INFJ stubborness and tendency to ignore other people's opinions. We believe that we're right. On the other hand, INFJs are perfectionists who doubt that we are living up to our full potential. INFJs are rarely at complete peace with ourselves - there's always something else we should be doing to improve ourselves and the world around us. We believe in constant growth, and don't often take time to revel in our accomplishments. We have strong value systems, and need to live our lives in accordance with what we feel is right. In deference to the Feeling aspect of our personalities, INFJs are in some ways gentle and easy going. Conversely, we have very high expectations of ourselves, and frequently of our families. We don't believe in compromising our ideals.

INFJs are natural nurturers; patient, devoted and protective. We make loving parents and usually have strong bonds with our children. We have high expectations of our children, and push them to be the best that they can be. This can sometimes manifest itself in the INFJ being hard-nosed and stubborn. But generally, children of an INFJ get devoted and sincere parental guidance, combined with deep caring.
In the workplace, the INFJ usually shows up in areas where they can be creative and somewhat independent. They have a natural affinity for art, and many excel in the sciences, where they make use of their intuition. INFJs can also be found in service-oriented professions. They are not good at dealing with minutia or very detailed tasks. The INFJ will either avoid such things, or else go to the other extreme and become enveloped in the details to the extent that they can no longer see the big picture. An INFJ who has gone the route of becoming meticulous about details may be highly critical of other individuals who are not.

The INFJ individual is gifted in ways that other types are not. Life is not necessarily easy for the INFJ, but we are capable of great depth of feeling and personal achievement.

Aside from a few INTJ tendencies, this is me in a nutshell. So now you know.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Back to Basics

Due to a string of poor relationship decisions, my romance barometer is shot all to hell. I no longer have good standards for appropriate male behavior. If a guy can muster up the energy and interest to text me to cancel a date to 7-11 instead of just standing me up, i am blown away by his consideration and effort. (Okay, that's an exaggeration. But not by much.)

Consequently, when "John" entered my life, i was not at all certain how to handle him. He actually goes out of his way to see me. And by "out of his way", i mean, "He was two minutes away from my house, he knew i was home, and he didn't have anywhere to be immediately, so he stopped by to say hello." Now, to give him full credit, i didn't know he was in the area, so it was a surprise. But the more i reflected on it later, the more i realized that that's just the foundational, basic standard of behavior. That's what you do. When your lady friend is two minutes away from where you are doing nothing at all, you stop by.

He does other things too, like buying me tissues and soup when i am sick, making my bed after he leaves in the morning (i leave earlier than he does), and checking in with me periodically throughout the day. Again, nothing special. I'm trying very hard not to rate him higher than he deserves for performing basic social interactions correctly.

But though i may be vastly overrating how awesome he is, i can't help but feel that he performs these functions in special, above-par ways. For example, not only did he make my bed, he left notes in it. This note, left on top of the pillows, refers to an inside joke. Trust me, it's cute.

The next note, i found under the covers on his side of the bed when i went to bed.

See? It's things like this that make me think he's extra special. Sure, he's mostly just doing the foundational stuff, but he does it because he knows that it's the basic, foundational stuff, and he doesn't expect any extra recognition for it. He does the basic stuff in special ways, he does the special stuff in extraordinary ways, and he does it all in a very matter-of-fact way. Because that's what you do.

Plus he's super hot.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Other Man

When i write romantic poetry, it is often inspired by whatever guy i have been foolish enough to let into my life recently. (I promise this is not a bitter, bitchy, Vagina Monologues-style rant. In fact, i can almost guarantee that you will say "Awwww!" at least once by the end. Just keep reading.) However, my poems are never directly about that guy.

For example, in this poem, i am talking about my ex (we'll call him Casey). Most of our relationship was long distance, so we texted a lot. So that was true. And i was living through a hot, humid summer. So that part was true. But all of that beautiful, romantic crap about the text messages tethering me to reality, and feeling at home in him? Yeah. Not true about Casey.

It's never really been true about anyone. I have a highly idealized "muse" who is featured prominently in a lot of my poetry. Some of my male romantic leads are a combination of the guy i'm actually with and this "Other Man". Some of them are just him (we'll call him T.O.M. for short). In fact, i even wrote a poem where i make a sort of oblique reference to T.O.M., saying that i wrote to him because i hadn't met him yet.

Sometimes, i thought that T.O.M. was "the one", some bizzare poetic presentiment of the person i was supposed to be waiting for. Sometimes, i thought i was setting my standards too high, mooning over someone who did not and never would exist. Sometimes, i just thought i was a good writer, and had created a fully-realized male romantic lead that any girl would fall for.

I would start to write a poem about a real moment that i had actually experienced with a flesh-and-blood man who was present in my life (humid day, feeling like i'm dissolving into the atmosphere, Casey texts me, and we're off!). But then, i would begin to add or change things, thinking that the moment would have been so much better if Casey had said this, or if i had felt that, or if these particular thoughts had been in my head at the moment. I embroider reality liberally. I am a poet, after all.

I'm not saying that he's T.O.M., but my latest crush (we'll call him John) has begun to inspire poetry. And so far, i have not felt the need to embroider a single second of it. Every moment spent with John is complete as is. And while i know that there are things still unsaid and moments yet to experience, i don't feel the need to overlay reality with what could and will be.

I'm not saying that John is T.O.M. It's too early to say anything like that. I am saying that he inspires me, and that poems about and moments with him feel complete. And that's got to mean something.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Graduation Eve

Tomorrow is my college graduation. Actually, the clock just rolled over to midnight, so today is my graduation.

The point is, woah.

I wanted to write something beautiful and profound, but i am tired and stressed and the whole thing hasn't quite sunk in yet. So i'm just going to post my school song.
Alma Mater
In New England stands a college,
Near blue Quincy Bay,
ENC our Alma Mater
Glorious for aye.
Laud her merits, sing her praises,
Let our song ring free.
Hail to thee, our Alma Mater.
Hail, O ENC.

Graceful branches lifted heavenward,
Suncrowned 'fore our view,
Stand the elms upon our campus,
Reaching to the blue.
Shady walks beneath the foliage,
Flow'ring beauty rare;
Blessed by nature, how we love thee,
Alma Mater fair.

Clear her vision, high her purpose,
Lo, she stands serene;
And her faith is sure, undaunted,
Eastern Nazarene.
We will prove our strong devotion,
Loyal we will be;
True to God and Alma Mater,
True to ENC.

-- E. S. Mann and William Summerscales