iv. the beautiful truth about abstinence
After about nine months of working at the t-shirt company, I blew that popsicle stand and embarked on a journey of back-and-forth employment between The City and The East Bay, and began attending a 3ish year old church plant in Downtown San Francisco. By then, I think I had divulged my feelings for Blake to him via text message, compelled by the life-changing effects of being ‘entrained’ at the Network Spinal Analysis private practice position I gained by making it through all the elimination rounds of group interviews and role-playing (true story). I realized that some of the extra weight and negative energy I was moving through the world with seemed tied to shame and keeping secrets, and I decided not to have secrets in life anymore. There are definitely times and places, and layers to sharing what’s true. Some people are to be trusted more than others. But in general, I think secrets (that don’t culminate in happy, healthy surprises) are toxic. They tend to invite lies about ourselves and reality, and serve as gateways for shame and other dysfunctions. I remember telling Blake that I wished he loved Jesus because then I could date him and he was just like, well, I’ve got a lot to think about. Ha. These are the flavors of my insides I refer to when I tell you that I am and have been ridiculous. I figured I had nothing to lose because we didn’t work together anymore, and if he wasn’t scared away by my crazy then at least we’d have a ‘transparent friendship’ and be on the ‘same page’… because life and humanity are simple like that. ha.
Around this time, or close enough, I also met my friend Jung. She’d started going to church with my sister and just happened to be at our apartment one day when I got home from work. First, she asked me how my day was, and then asked me if I liked that question. To which I responded not really and we became friends. Ha. In the following weeks, she also told me that I have a perfectly symmetrical face, and helped me work through my internal drama, emotional oblivion, and naïveté. Which, of course, I didn’t know was there until I started to fall in love with Blake, get hit on by my 40+ year old coworker, and panic whenever this one particular guy at church approached me…
His name was David and he had rich, brown skin, and an accent from somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere. Also he was ripped. And super friendly. In the course of literally running in the opposite direction when I saw him, and not being able to match his energy level in conversation, I decided to think my way out of it and figure out exactly what it was that made me panic. It was some combination of me having always assumed that guys weren’t interested in me just as a general rule, and therefore not having a clue of how to respond if someone attractive seemed like they were, coupled with the fact that David was so friendly and always on ‘level eleven’ as the saying went back then. In hindsight, he’s exactly the kind of person I would love to stumbled upon now. Ha. I sometimes still revert back to panicking and feigning oblivion, but I’m learning to own my social awkwardness and make it a charming thing. At least I think so.
Enyhoo, the sources I sought for self-discovery included eHarmony (for ‘market research’ to determine what kind of men I’d get matched with), the Enneagram test (which I’d heard of from my art sensei), and Meyers-Briggs personality tests. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, or have had a conversation with me in the last 3 years, you’ve probably heard me talk about being an introvert, and specifically an ISTJ. As is disclaimed on all the personality profile websites, any healthy adult can achieve X,Y,Z, enjoy experiences outside of their comfort zones, and get along with any other personality type; but understanding the components of my personality was entirely comforting and insightful. I think that I’m also an Enneagram 5 by whatever the things and wings are I forgot, but I do specifically remember identifying with the sentiment assigned to the group I was classified as a part of in that I had been living with an underlying feeling that I didn’t actually have What It Takes In Life, and that the best way that I could enjoy myself and not be a constant hot mess was to monitor and manage my commitments and the parameters of my world. I have since seen and embraced and celebrated more deeply the truth that I can do all things that are required of me through Christ who gives me strength, and that in Christ I have been given everything I need for living a godly life. Bless.
So here I am regrettably ‘curving’ David as my cousin Jasmine would say, partially because I am in love with Blake and over-thinking the possibilities of getting to know someone else when I wasn’t ’emotionally available’. In time, I came to the conclusion that Blake was an ENFP (my complete opposite-ish), and gobbled up all the information I possibly could about both of our presumed personality types so that I could understand and figure out how to interact with him. Because that’s what ISTJs do. We learn all the things in order to know what to do and expect, how to communicate with you. That’s how you know we give a dump, and that we value the relationship we have with you.
Lest you think that this was all wholly one-sided, the other thing that we ISTJs do is give folks an opportunity to clearly and completely reject us so that we can move on with our lives if you’re not interested in us. Taking the hint is not our forte. So even though I was the one who was always initiating with Blake, I eventually came to chalk it up to his personality, which shares some significant similarities to my little sister in that she also rarely initiates with me and half the time doesn’t text me back (still love her), and the fact that Blake was really responsive and fell into a rhythm of sharing chunks of his weekend time with me. He’d do things like change my guitar strings and help me make slightly better than mediocre recordings of my music. He also came with me to my first ever Open Mic Night which, I now recall, occurred after we reunited from an extended break. I think at some point I was frustrated with him not wanting to be in an actual relationship with me when I had such strong feelings for him, and spent the most miserable spring of my life not contacting him before I concocted a master plan to have him change my guitar strings again in exchange for a pan of brownies. Ha. I had gotten semi-half-fired from my job in Corporate America and couldn’t afford to contribute to rent, let alone splurge on on little indulgences like fresh guitar strings. I happened to know that Blake and his brother Joel, who was in a band, had a stash of guitar strings at their house which – if you recall – was a ten minute traipse away. So. I texted Blake and he eagerly agreed to do it that very night, and insisted that I didn’t have to pay him in brownies. After getting distracted by a box of free video games on his way to our apartment (good ol’ Berkeley gleaning), he showed up probably a half hour later than he originally had planned and hugged me as if the previous three months had been just as miserable for him as they had been for me.
Oh wait. I lied.
This all happened after the Open Mic Night. Ha. The Open Mic Night was the December that I did spend working in Corporate America, and Blake came over to my apartment a week or so before just to hang out. At which point, I played him the song I was planning to share, and felt the energy in the room hold the weight of his mesmerization as he listened.
So I coaxed him into agreeing to go to the Open Mic Night with me, and we spent three hours snuggling in an empty row of seating at The Freight & Salvage in Downtown Berkeley. The order of acts was determined by who showed up first to register on the sign-up sheet. I got there as soon as I possibly could (because I was still working in the city at the time), but was stuck behind a dozen regulars who evidently had nothing better to do than show up as early as was allowed to stand in line for the sign-ups. Blake met me there and sat with me through it till it was finally my turn around 9PM. He had apparently not eaten all day, so I shared my chocolate peppermint stick Luna bar with him. After I took my turn and was lauded by the regulars and visiting songwriters, we dipped out and he ran down Addison to University to hit up Trader Joe’s right before it closed. Later that night he texted me emphasizing what an amazing job I’d done and essentially, how he was proud of me. (Awww.) So I wrote a song about it. Ha. I think I’ll put it on an EP someday.
A few months later, I got semi-half fired from my job in Corporate America, which overlapped with me not initiating with Blake and him not hitting me up either. Fast forward to the start of April 2015 and we reunite for him to change my guitar strings and spend a couple of lamp and twinkle-lit hours suspended four stories above Fulton Street.
By now, I was entertaining ideas of relocating to Southern California, and had taken a sabbatical from ‘Big Church in The City’ which is how I used to refer to the plant in Downtown San Francisco I had been leading worship at. I was also planning a trip to Ohio for my baby brother’s high school graduation. I remember because a week or so before, I was at Blake’s house and accidentally stepped on a piece of glass on his couch. Ha. Being the bachelors they were, he and his brother didn’t have a single bandaid in the house, so he traipsed up to the Dollar Tree on Shattuck to buy me a box of bandaids. Naturally, he decided that he’d be my nurse and apply the bandaid for me. When I got back from Ohio, I was at his house again, and he asked about how my foot was. I’d totally forgotten the whole glass incident even happened, but he took the opportunity to examine my foot and gift me with a glorious foot massage while something or another played on the tv in the back ground. If the Warriors weren’t playing, it must’ve been Netflix. Blake and I were Netflix-chillin before it was thing, except hashtag team abstinence. Hollapraize.
Speaking of which, I’d just like to take moment to celebrate God’s grace and goodness in helping me keep myself to myself as my momma would say. I have such strong feelings about abstinence. I honestly believe that not having slept with Blake (as tempting as it sometimes was) or the other guys I found myself in relationship with helped in me being able to heal as entirely as I did as quickly as I did. It has been invaluable in my process of learning to value and navigate friendships with men where I used to think I didn’t need that because I have brothers. Abstinence has also required me to lean on and experience the power of the Holy Spirit at work in my life to resist temptation and renew my mind; to remind myself that my appetites do not control me; my desires are not my God.
I don’t pretend to have been perfectly pure in my thoughts or language, but like I said I believe that this has been a manifestation of God’s grace in my life; and I am an advocate. I think that our society as become convinced that being sexually active or ‘expressive’ or whatever other language we want to drape it in is a basic human right, but that’s just not true. It’s a privilege and a sacred exchange. This caveat is not to condemn anyone who has not adhered to this as a lifestyle choice, but to herald its value, and encourage open-minded individuals to consider it as a means of promoting their own health and spiritual // energetic well-being. I really dislike the ways that our society pressures and deceives people into undervaluing monogamous, committed relationships, and acts as if abstinence is an archaic, irrelevant non-option. It is beautiful and challenging and I fully intend to walk this narrow path down the aisle to the altar. Or up the steps of a courthouse… Cause let’s be real – ya girl still has dreams of a Thursday afternoon elopement. Ha.
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