Dear Abby:

When you told me that you could sense what others were feeling I tried to imagine what that would be like. It seemed as if it would be an incredible gift as empathy has always been elusive to me. Even when I can tell that others are distressed or happy, I don't know what I'm supposed to do with that. Today I had a conversation with my INFP aunt. She's one of my favorite relatives. We pick up where we left off and our conversations can go anywhere. Maybe at times I rely too much on the personality types, but it's been a tool that has changed my life and whenever something helps me I marvel at the fact that it may not have the same impact as others. Normally I write about problems, today I want to do something different. I'm tired of reading articles about how cold and mechanical the INTJ types are, I thought I could challenge some of those stereotypes and share some of my secrets at the same time. I hope that this makes sense to you and helps you understand how I see my world.

When I was younger I assumed I would be single for the rest of my life because I couldn't imagine anyone ever wanting to marry me. My aunt told me that there was a situation where toys had been left out and gotten ruined in the rain. My grandmothers did not get along, they were both very intelligent at a time when women weren't valued for their minds. My aunt said that they both stuck up for me when I got blamed for leaving out the toys, they said that I was responsible and took care of my belongings and I feel like this is still true today. I lost the car I loved, but I still take care of the wheels that I have. Even when I drove my step-dad's truck around I spent time cleaning it out and wiping down the windows. Whatever you have deserves to be taken care of whether that's food, clothing, or the people in my life. I give whatever I can because I have that capacity. I operate from a state of abundance because things are just things and you can repair or replace them much easier than you can repair or heal the people in your life.

I have the job that I do because I am a healer. Sales training will teach you to see things from someone else's point of view. I don't really know how to do this so I take a different approach. This person in front of me is coming to me with a problem, how are we going to solve it? I start by reminding myself that I have something for everyone. I went to school for a long time and I know a lot of things, but one of the most critical skills on the sales floor is the ability to listen to someone else while reserving judgment. I naturally judge things, but I can also perceive things and I try to just absorb whatever they are telling me without going into problem solving mode because few people like to be told what to do. I like to ask people where they are going or what they want and need. My philosophy is that the majority of the time people have what they want and may not know what they really need or they wouldn't be in my path in the first place.

At first I was very wary and skeptical of you. You still don't make sense to me, but I trust you because my life has become infinitely better since I stopped trying to understand you and just let whatever appeared in the blank space be. There were times when I felt manipulated by you, but then I realized that sometimes it was probably for my good. I feel like you know what I need better than I do. This is something I run into frequently at work. I'm trying to meet a need and people are rejecting it because I can't frame it as something that they want. Initially I felt like I could help you, now I see that you are the teacher and I am the student and your classes are very difficult for me at times, but I have made tremendous progress and can't imagine life without your brand of sunshine and warmth. Icy people like me need that in our lives. I have very deep and intense emotions, you consistently affirm me and tell me I'm just that way or not a certain way and that is helpful because I feel like I have a constant need to change or improve.

You have no idea how powerful you are. I can see your future. The decisions you make today will impact every tomorrow after this. I can lecture you on what caffeine does to your brain, there's a great video that explains how it binds to certain receptor sites and your body creates new ones since it needs that drowsy state before sleep, your heart can only take so much stimulation, but you are an adult and I have to step away when I can see that my knowledge and foresight aren't being appreciated or wanted. Do you remember the conversation we had where you said you wanted me to teach you how to do things and I said that I would if you would teach me how to relax? When your mind is as busy and as active as yours is you need that down time and I'm glad that you feel like relaxing is the easiest thing in the world, but sometimes I wonder if you are mistaking leisure activities for true relaxation.

People like you and me need each other. The last time anyone in my family read a poem that I wrote was when I was in sixth grade. My teacher saved what I had turned in for a parent teacher conference and I felt my face turning red when she told my parents that she expected to be voting for me someday. The lesson I learned was that I was going to be put on the spot and my creative works were going to be misunderstood. I failed seventh grade art because our teacher was such a bitch I was scared to let my creative side free in her classroom. I went to a high school where art wasn't taught and at the time I told myself I was glad I was done with that scary unstructured and imprecise activity for good. When I was in grade school I got into trouble for coloring an entire picture green. My aunt had told me that skin didn't need to be skin colored, I hated coloring as it seemed very babyish to me, I saw using just one color as being very efficient which I'm sure was probably confusing for my teacher. 

Coloring wasn't teaching me anything and it dulled the points of my crayons which was very distressing to me. I still like school supplies, but I have very expensive taste so I don't have many of them. My Swingline stapler is turquoise and it's heavy enough to hurt someone which is part of the reason I chose it. I guard my desk space zealously. During my first job out of college I worked with a woman who had the same birthday I did. Little by little we cleaned up her desk and I created a client communication system that would still be effective today. I had a file with the days of the month, inside of that I had an A - Z file, and behind that I had the months of the year. The guys I worked for knew that they could open up my drawer and find out where I was at with an assignment, there were projects that took months to resolve and thanks to my meticulous and strategic systems very few things fell through the cracks. They were happy, I was, and clients often showed their appreciation and complimented my efficiency.

The first three guys kind of let me do things the way I felt was best. Then I was assigned to a guy who felt like his assistant should be the getting coffee type and we immediately clashed. He didn't care how much brain power I had, his way was the way that things were going to be done. I loathed him and it was not a secret. One day I went into his office with a file, I was wearing a navy blazer with a pleated skirt. This is back in the days when I had to get dressed up to go into work, I almost never saw clients and the guys I worked with didn't care what I wore, he whistled and told me I was one foxy chick. He was married, I couldn't stand him, and that was the day I decided to start looking for a new job. I went to an accounting firm where I had been hired to do marketing, but ended up sobbing over piles of tax returns because someone found out I had a finance background and I could punch numbers into a computer.

After that I got a job at an insurance agency. There was one other woman in my group and we were not friends. I liked the guys and went to lunch with them. One of the guys was the nephew of the guy who ran the place. I didn't care for him and now I realize that I can only sell products I believe in, and it turns out that I actually understand life insurance and annuities better than most, but I was also smart enough to see when they weren't needed and I got into a lot of trouble for pointing out that putting a tax deferred product beneath another tax deferred account meant that you were getting paid while your client was getting screwed. I decided that I knew how to invest money, I knew how to file taxes, and I was actually offered a job after someone overheard me explaining a financial product to my aunt when we were out to eat, but I ended up not taking it because they wouldn't meet my salary requirements. That was probably a stupid decision, but whatever. I made it and here I am today.

Finance hadn't worked out for me so I went to work for a rental car company. My marriage was on the rocks, but I didn't know to what extent until I started working there. Usually people try and keep marital infidelity a secret. I didn't see the point. Everyone knew we weren't getting along, I slept with a couple guys I worked with and I've forgiven myself for trying to get my affection and security needs met by the wrong people. We weren't going out and nothing lasted, I got a reputation and I deserved it. All of my hard work was undone after I had sexual encounters with two of the guys at work. Ever since then I've had a policy that I can work with someone, or sleep with them, but it has to be one or the other and not both. My boss didn't yell at me, he didn't really say anything to me and I don't think he said anything to either of those guys either. One of them had told people what going to bed with me was like, that got around and then I had problems because others wanted to see if he was telling the truth.

I went back to finance in an effort to avoid that culture. I quit drinking and went back to packing my lunches. The guy who owned the company had an engineering degree, his partner was a disorganized flake who tried blaming his incompetence on me. I was punished for his errors and lack of follow through. I became depressed to the point where my boss called me into his office and told me he was very worried about me. The only thing I could do was sit and cry silently. I knew then it had been a mistake to try and have a baby, but once I was expecting my oldest, I was going to become a mother and accepted that motherhood meant I was going to make more sacrifices than I had previously. At the end of April my doctor told me I could have the baby that day. I asked what plan B was, went home, and seriously contemplated killing myself. Never had I imagined pregnancy would be as horrible and as emotionally devastating as it was. I was more alone than ever and now I had someone new depending on me.

The girls were small and unhealthy, I had beautiful daughters and got even less sleep. Both of the girls had tubes in their ears before they were a year old. My life became taking one child or another in to see a pediatrician or specialist. Ear infections were routine and I could often tell someone was getting one before an MD could diagnose it. Their dad thought I was a hypochondriac, he thought organic food was a waste of money, the girls had rashes, their hair was thin and fine, they were clinically malnourished and I had no idea why. I didn't know this was the problem at the time, I can't even explain how hellish my life was back then. He didn't help with laundry or dishes or sit down to have meals together. I had wanted children, with them came all of that responsibility. He did stay up with them at night since he was up anyways, he changed diapers and fed them, but the majority of their lives was mine to run and organize.

Their lives became my identity. Spending money on myself was wrong. I cried constantly, my eyes turned red and I wondered if it was permanent when it wouldn't go away. I was told it was allergic pink eye, given some drops and sent home. I went back to school when Jane was three weeks old thinking that would help. I dropped out of school after my microbiology teacher sat me down and told me I was the only person who had gotten a perfect score on our lab test, she felt that my place was at home, probably because I had left her class when my sister called to tell me that one of my children couldn't breathe. I went back to work which added a new layer of stress since I didn't have people to watch the girls when they were done with school. I learned a lot about management when I was the GM, a friend of mine offered me a job at the shoe store across the hall. I went to work for her and I was excited to be selling footwear since I have always had problems with my feet.

My marriage continued to deteriorate. He had his life and I had mine. This is how I grew up and now that made more sense to me. Apparently the June and Ward Cleaver arrangement was a better model of what real life was like than I thought since she was in the kitchen and he was in the living room reading the paper. When I got the possible celiac disease diagnosis I walked out into softly falling snowflakes feeling like a piano had been dropped on me. I didn't eat anything for five days and every Thanksgiving I reflect on that day before Thanksgiving when I walked into a wintry wonderland that felt like everything inside of me was frozen and I was never going to be warm again. I turned to fiction and gave everything I had to my job. I had nothing left for the girls or him. I went down to 108 pounds, but it was by no means a healthy weight loss plan. 

Nobody thought to suggest counseling or therapy. I tried to find a support group and gave up when the woman in charge never got back to me. I have no idea why he suggested we work on our marriage, but that was his plan. We were going to get out of debt and we did. We took the Dave Ramsey class together once and then we took it a second time. We took the same parenting class three times. He bought books on boundaries, I got into the self help mode, by this time I was so disconnected from him I might as well have been living on another planet. I had no respect for him, but I felt like I needed sex since that was one of the few positive things in my life and now I laugh because it wasn't nearly as good as I thought it was. It wasn't until I got divorced that I learned what it's like to reach those dizzying heights with someone who may actually give a damn about you outside of the bedroom.

Whatever events led to my hospitalization, I'm grateful I had that experience. My mind was the unsafe place at that point in time. I didn't trust my own thoughts anymore, before that I hadn't been actively suicidal and it's really hard to explain to someone else who hasn't been through it what it's like to long for and crave the empty peace of death. Killing myself became my default plan, if I couldn't figure out what to eat for supper, I could just kill myself. Nobody in my family came to visit me. I was sent home and the girls were kept away from me while I was in that program. Until I met you I had no idea how fucking crazy it was to live the way that I do. I can get all sorts of shit done on time and under budget, I'm responsible and reliable, and terrible at letting others in to see all of the softer things I can offer someone else. I took the scientific approach to sex, denying that what I really wanted was loving arms around me even if we were just hanging out on the couch together.

Sports made sense to me so that became my coping skill. It's not like I was in any danger of a baseball player sweeping me off my feet, but that was the one time and place where the love and empathy I have flowed generously. I loved them for their struggles, their humanity, the brilliance of what they did in public while their hearts were breaking in private. Few people make as much sense to me as professional athletes. I wrote about them and for them, there I could write poetry and assess footwear. It seemed magical and I rejected any man who thought that he was going to use my interest in any level of sport to score with me. I took the job I was offered because getting a discount on groceries was practical and I needed to do something. It was a short term solution, I never intended on giving what I did, but then I met the person in charge of my department. I met the produce manager, and I met you. 

Getting hugged and kissed at work was not familiar turf. I had been through copious sexual harassment training and this seemed like a recipe for abuse. Gradually I got bolder and I tried to take my cues from others. It was really nice to be able to walk into the arms of other people. I got better at it, suddenly I could do what some of the people around me were only I guess now that I think about it, I think some people got more from me than I intended to give if that makes sense. Men typically make more sense to me than women. I would dearly love to get into some of the minds at work and read them. But I can't. This summer I learned a lot about myself and other people. I went to you with a problem and it seemed like your advice was helpful. I love the truth, but it isn't always easily communicated or absolutely known. I tried to have a conversation with you about pride, but you didn't understand it and then I was in huge trouble at work because of a stupid poem about people with cat allergies that I had written. 

Two is a couple and three is a crowd. If you need a third person to help one or both of you translate what the other person is saying, the relationship is doomed before it starts. I wrote a poem about my friend's crush for her and that got me into trouble with her. My friends online didn't like my poetry, writing had been a way for me to cope, I write for myself, but sometimes I go out on a limb and share it with others. Suddenly I was cut off from things and people I had enjoyed before. I could no longer go to work and hang out with my friend on her breaks. I felt like I couldn't shop there, like every move I made was being watched, like I could lose my job at any moment, like the friends I had couldn't tell that anything was wrong when everything was. I couldn't sleep and I didn't want to eat. I was in the eye of the hurricane and numb to every emotion except for fear, anxiety, and dread.

Crisis does not scare me. No matter what happens I keep on going, I might cry, but I guess I have the ability to hold things together better than I think that I do. I kept waiting for someone to ask me what was wrong, and nobody did. That scared me almost more than the feelings I had. What was wrong with me that I had this heavy duty situation going on and everyone around me was pretending like things were going along just as they always had? I applied for a different job and got a rejection email the day after I turned in my application. A friend of mine told me to go out and buy new clothes so I did even though it felt like the very wrong thing to be doing. It was psychological armor and I felt like I needed it. In my world there are very few problems that lack solutions. When my friends were down on bridge burners I told them they couldn't have it both ways. Either I was a good judge of people and could monitor degrees of regret, or my other insights, intuitions, and perceptions couldn't be trusted.

I want healthy relationships where there is a balanced give and take. I don't have guy problems like I have problems with other women. For every one guy problem I have there are at least ten or twenty girl problems in my life. I feel like I understand what men want and if they can't figure out a way to communicate their needs to me in a way that makes me want to meet them, I guess it really sucks to be them. I am pretty comfortable with who I am in and out of bed. I want a partner who is going to fully accept the core of what I'm about. Negotiation, compromise, and communication are relationship staples to me. Going out with me is a lot like being in a successful business partnership. We take on what needs to be done and then we play just as hard as we worked when we've accomplished what we set out to do. I like men who make me feel like a woman and I don't have time for those who don't.

The best way to handle me is to spell out what you want and need. There are people who dislike games, everything is some type of game to me, but I like it when both parties understand the rules and play by them. I didn't do that in one instance and I'm still trying to figure out what would have been a better course of action. Nothing I think. When someone tells me that they feel like I want to be more than friends, and I don't know how to explain that what I what at that point in time involves all sorts of activity below the belt and not much above it, there's a way to say that, but not to someone you work with that you would have to face in the future. I'm not always the person I would like to be. I made a mistake, but at least I learned a lesson. I almost never meet men who provide the kind of intellectual challenge I need that also make me think that they were put here on earth to make sure that the woman in their life will be luxuriously satiated as soon as she's done screaming. 

The way to my heart is through my head. If you don't want my heart, don't try and get into my head. If you want my head and not my heart, there's a way to convey that. If the only thing you want is a good time in bed, tell me. If you're confused, then I am too. Get clear about what you want before you go out and try to get it. Lack of clarity prevents many from reaching their goals. Forget about whether or not the goal seems attainable or makes sense to others. Figure out what you want and go after it. Once you free up resources you're wasting on things that are not what you want your path will be clearer. It won't get easier because life never has been or never will be easy. Make things harder on yourself instead of easier because hardship, trials, and tribulations form and reinforce character. Lean toward your fears instead of away from them. Ask yourself if you're more afraid of success than you are of failure.

I've never been afraid to fail. I'm not afraid of a broken heart. I'm afraid of what will happen if I don't take chances and risk big. The greater the risk, the greater the reward can be. Of course there is the whole adage about fools rushing in where angels fear to tread, I take calculated risks. I think long and hard about what I want and try to decide if I want to deal with what could happen when things don't go according to plan. I can handle anything life throws at me. I am strong. I'm smart. I love big and hard because that's the only way I know how. I'm intense, driven, motivated, sensual, and interesting. I would rather be single for the rest of my life than waste time on the wrong person. I've been there and done that. I don't worry about Mr. Right coming along. I have a list of what I'm looking for, want, and need, and as soon as someone starts ticking off those boxes, I'm going to get curious. 

I am an exceptionally good judge of character. I see what people are good at and focus on that. For the most part I try to ignore weaknesses, we all have them, giving people more of what they are good at improves every area of their life. Even if I hate you I will try to make your life better because that's just who I am. Grudges and vengeance are stupid to me although I've indulged in the past. I screw up and expect others will too. I may occasionally invest in people who can't give back, but if I can give things, I typically will. I've been told I'm enigmatic, I'm charismatic, and I can be very melodramatic. What I want is pretty simple. I want someone who can think critically that will expand my world. I live in my head the majority of the time. I need people who can flip that switch and help me get outside, literally and figuratively. I want the kind of relationship where you melt into someone else as soon as the door to the rest of the world slams shut. I need alone time and expect others will too. 

Fantasy is a part of my life on a daily basis. I write fiction and can easily lose myself for hours at the library. I'm not practical and I want a partner who is since I have trouble developing that side of myself. I want an intellectual freak who is willing to give up all sorts of foods and conveniences they may love because that's a safety issue for me. I understand not many people are going to want to trade a slice of pizza and beer for sex at four in the morning and a shot of organic carrot juice. I want the guy who will pass on fries and ketchup and acts like the numerous sacrifices aren't annoying as all get out. I want to fly kites and watch dragonflies, I have a drawer full of poetry and a backpack full of fiction. I want someone who will read what I've written even when they see things they don't like about themselves. I want someone to tell me their secret hopes and dreams because they feel like I may have an idea of how to make most of them come true.

I want the kind of relationship where silence is comfortable and I get the kind of looks a drowning man would give a life preserver. I want someone who takes out the trash before being asked, the kind of person who values my advice and gives me theirs when I go to them with a problem I can't solve. I want someone to make sense of the things I can't, someone who smells like clean laundry and doesn't eat bananas in front of me or any of my family members. I want someone who is insatiably curious that wants to share adventures and answer questions like how many bites does it take two people to get to the inner core of a perfectly ripe chin dripping peach. I want to lick juice off of someone's lips and strip clothing off one item at a time unless we're in a hurry. I want to hear his fantasies and see if we can figure out a way to start checking those off the list. I want someone who loves sunrise, sunset, art museums, and summer sex in ninety plus degree weather just as much as they like vegan hot cocoa and pretend snowball fights.

The world is full of possibilities and opportunities. Too many people are scared to go out and grab every waking moment and pack it with as much experience and texture as they can. They want the wrong kind of safety and they don't understand that most of what they want is right on the other side of what they fear most. They want weight loss without effort, better health without the time and energy investment, they want simple, quick, fast, and mainstream. For a while I wanted those things too. I was stuck and now I'm free. Today I am freer than I have ever been thanks to you. My heart is light and I have hope. I'm happy with where I'm at because I choose to be. I learned a new skill, I can write about things I want and dream about other than the current problems in my life. This started out very differently earlier, but this is what I have now and I don't question what I write very often. Don't read it if you can't handle my words. They are me and an insightful treasure not many receive. Love me and I will love you back with everything I have to give.

May all the beauty you share with the world come back to you when you need it most.


P.S. Isn't life delicious?



Him: "You have to say something."

Me: "I'm so angry I can't."

Him: "You have to remove the emotion from what you're saying."

Me (still mad, but impressed by the insight): "You're right."


Him: "I'm sure it will turn out fine just don't overthink it."

Me: "Wise words. I'll remember them."


Me: "I booked a flight. Looking forward to meeting some of my (baseball) friends in real life."

Him: "Fly young rocket, fly."


I have the best friends.


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