What to do if your INFJ is returned to you (heart)broken

Introverted. Intuitive. Feeling. Judging.

If you subscribe to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator outlook on life, you’ll know that there are 16 possible personality types and that the INFJs are the most rare and sensitive of the batch. I am such a person (though I am personally against attempting to fit entirely into one man-made box, I do recognise the benefit to understanding oneself in many different ways).

Recently I was feeling very sad. I’m not a naturally cheerful or optimistic person. I’ve come to terms with that. In my high school days–dressed in all black and sporting lots of smudged black eyeliner–I was written off as an emo. Ten years later (still swathed comfortably in black, less eyeliner) I was introduced to the term INFJ and HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). I recognised myself almost immediately. Feeling everything intensely, even sometimes to the point of overwhelming logical reasoning. Judging everything, especially myself, for credibility and merit. At times feeling excluded from the rest of the world because of an inability to chatter idly or perform otherwise shallow tasks.

There are great things about INFJs, too. We are deeply loyal. If we trust you, we trust you and will do almost anything for you. In fact, just about everything we do is capital D Deep. We love deeply, we think deeply, and we care deeply. The biggest downside to this existence is that our wounds cut especially deep. Broken trust shatters. Heart break feels literal. We’re not the type to just “get over” something. What may look like an emotional paper-cut feels more like a bullet hole.

So I thought I would put together a simple three-step programme to curing your wounded INFJ (if they’re anything like me, that is):

1. Let them feel:

Sure, we said last week that we were over it. In that exact 12 seconds after saying it, it was probably true. But now we’re feeling it again and in the history of sadness has telling someone they should “just move on” ever actually worked for anyone? Oh, that helped you once…. Damn… Well we don’t process that way, okay?! It’s a cyclical thing, not quite linear, alright. We’ll be back to subjectively normal in a bit.

2. Help them rationalise without making them feel stupid:

Feelings– I’m sorry, Rationale can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, because she’s dead!

We’re not crazy, we’re not stupid, we’re not overreacting (*we might be overreacting but what we’re feeling is real so shut up). What we are is feeling everything! Think of us like a computer with too many tabs open and an outdated virus scanner. We’re crashing okay? Flames will start erupting out of us soon. We might need your help to clear out the clutter a bit because we’re just having trouble handling it ourselves.

3. Encourage them to meditate:

Look, it’s 2018. We can all seek mental renewal without feeling like we’ll be judged as some hippy dippy loser, right? Remember, your INFJ is a deep thinker anyway. Once you’ve helped them rationalise a bit it should be easy to help them help themselves by suggesting meditation. We all know meditation has many forms. I personally prefer guided meditation. I recently downloaded the app Aware. This isn’t a plug, I literally recently downloaded it to my phone and have really been enjoying the simple format. I also love to draw, do breathing exercises, write, and sometimes just lying on my bed not thinking about or doing anything except allowing myself to breathe. Sometimes that’s the hardest part as an INFJ (remember that J stands for judging and a lot of times we’re judging ourselves the most). Sometimes just feeling like we’re allowed to be still and feel is the greatest gift we can be given.

Please do remember that I’m not a psychologist, I’m a writer. I wrote about this topic because I know myself enough to know what helps me. Other things that help me are cuddles, Netflix binges, apple pie, punching unsuspecting fuckboys in the face, and knitting. I chose to make my three-point list a little more practical and hopefully useful to the most amount of people. If you’re not INFJ but know one, I’d be interested to hear from you. Likewise if you are INFJ I’d love to hear from you. I was mostly talking about myself, but if you feel this works for you, too, I would genuinely love to know. It’s a weird world to live in when you’re sensitive. It’s like walking around made of bubble-wrap and everyone else is armed with scissors. But we’re strong, too, don’t underestimate us. We take everything to heart, especially life lessons.

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Alone on Christmas

This year was my first year being alone on Christmas.

Desperate to miss the Christmas rush, my Dad helped me book tickets from Limerick to America for the first week in December. I spent four days in North Carolina and three days in Maryland before departing from Boston back to Shannon Airport.

The trip was perfect.

I saw my family. There were no mad lines at the airport. None of my flights were even that heavily populated. The four hour drive from NC to MD was blissfully traffic-free. The best part was that everything actually did feel like Christmas. All the best parts of Christmas. My siblings loved their gifts. The food was incredible. My Mum even waited to decorate the tree til I got home.

When I flew back I felt satisfied and full of Christmas excitement. I came home to an empty house, my roommate having left a few days prior to travel other countries in Europe. I’ve never lived alone. The silence was haunting at first but soon it became a welcome thing. I cleaned the whole house that first day. I just wanted everything new and spotless.

By the second week I was a little lonely, but for specific people. I missed my best friends, all of them back in America. My friends in Limerick were busy completing assignments and preparing for their holidays. Since I had finished all that up before going to America, I felt out of the social loop.

I had offers to stay over with some classmates in various places in Ireland, but I enjoyed the comforts of being home too much to venture out. After a while I decided that I would actively put this grass-is-greener loneliness aside and fully embrace the freedom of being on my own and financially independent for the first time in my life.

The first thing I wanted to work on was my body confidence. Perhaps that seems strange. I suppose in truth the past year in general has been a focus on this area. In many ways it has been a guilty journey. The things I used to hate about myself both physically and mentally had become so synonymous with me as a person that relinquishing their control on me felt undeserved and unjustified. In other words, who am I if I’m not the girl who hates herself? I chose to rediscover who I was by walking around my house in lingerie or nothing at all. I wanted to see my body in all its glory and stop being afraid it wouldn’t be enough for the mass-produced and often unrealistic standard of beauty in the world today.

After that I examined my sexuality. I suppose being naked most of the day helped with this one. I wanted to understand why I mentally both craved and feared sex. I wrote a sex scene. Not smut or pure erotica. Just sort of an experiment with the things I like being played out on a page. I don’t have a consenting male friend to practice with, so I gave myself permission to fantasise. I don’t really have all the answers yet. All I know is that my violent history with my mother’s abusers has made me wary of any aggression in men, but I also am completely turned off by passivity. My adoration of “gentlemen” is not a romanticised obsession, instead I believe it is a product of the terrifying reality of rape culture. The fact that having consensual and pleasurable sex has become a luxury in our society terrifies me. Above all, I am attracted to a man who respects me. I am drawn to intelligence and sensitivity as well as the many physical aspects I find appealing in different people. However, what I discovered was that the upmost attractive quality to me will always be respectfulness.

Lastly, I meditated more. A friend of mine suggested more mediation and mindfulness in my life. Typically I’m uncomfortable with meditating. My mind wanders and often turns dark very quickly. The first time we meditated together, in fact, I cried uncontrollably. I like guided meditation because I can focus on one thing at a time. But I don’t enjoy all guides. Some voices distract me too easily. A lot of the background music is actually grating to my sensitive hearing. So I took my friend’s suggestion and tried it on my own, only with my own music. A lot of times, I cried. I suppose I needed to, so I’m no longer ashamed of that outcome. Recently, though, I’ve been able to just relax and stop worrying about what is the “right” thing to be doing at that time. It’s been a freeing experience.

On Christmas Day I woke up beneath warm covers. I slipped on a blue lace-and-velvet lingerie set with a house coat and wool socks. I did my makeup and my hair and began cooking Christmas breakfast for myself and prepping for the Christmas dinner I would cook later. I read over my short story, editing a bit here and there. When my brother woke up and video messaged me, I covered up and wished him a Happy Christmas as he excitedly showed me all his new presents. He had more than our sister this year, so he was quite chuffed. I watched Christmas movies the rest of the day, talking to loved ones sporadically. My dinner was fantastic. The wine even more so. I messaged friends. I ate mint chocolate ice cream.

Just before midnight, I lay on my bed and meditated. I don’t remember what I thought of, if anything at all. I do know that I was happy. Not at all how I pictured spending Christmas alone.

Wisdom from my Mother

Twenty-six.

I never imagined myself at twenty-six. Twenty-five was as far as my ambitions really soared. I thought I would be married, have a thriving career, be finished with school. I never took time to imagine the next year, even in my fantasies. I thought the most important things would happen, and then the rest of life would drift as happily as floating in a pool.

At twenty-six my mother was married. Not to my father and not at all happily. At twenty-six my Mum was thriving in her career, but not the career she had imagined for herself. At twenty-six my Mum was working and going to school and minding her six-year-old-daughter who idolised her and mistook her beautiful smile as attainable perfection. It would be many years before I understood that that smile was only for me, a smile she had to put on to cover her tears.

Recently I spoke to her about my turning twenty-seven in just a few short months. I was worrying, as I do, about the relationships I want to have and the career opportunities I have little control over and the directionless path my life seems to be careening down. I spiralled further and further down this specific rabbit hole that I visit too often alone. I wasn’t looking for her advice, but as she is a mother, she gave it anyway.

She simply said, “Whatever you do, don’t force it”.

She began to tell me little cautionary tales from periods in her life where she had tried to control something to the point of forcing an outcome. Each little tale ended with her miserable. Her plan of attack had been flawless. She got exactly what she had wanted every time. Every time she was unhappy.

Her stories started to make me think of other stories. Those ones where someone is granted wishes and each wish leaves them unhappier than the last. I never could help but think that I would be clever enough to outsmart the genie or jinn or trickster spirit. I could figure out how to have everything I ever wanted without any fear of deceptive fine print. Perhaps that’s the arrogance of youth.

Now I’m starting to think all true happiness comes from contentment. The rest will find it’s way to you.

In three short months I’ll be twenty-seven. Another year I never imagined for myself. Nothing good in my life right now was planned even a year ago. I’m not advocating a lifestyle of aimlessness and I don’t think my mother is either. I’m only saying, as she did, to not force it. Enjoy the now. Be content. Joy will find you.

And I will try my best to take that advice, too.

No such thing as forever

I’m going home to Dublin tonight. I haven’t been back since January, but that doesn’t quite count. I was with my Dad and moody and mostly ate chips in bed.

This time, I’m fortunate to stay in The Gresham (which just happened to be cheaper than The Holiday Inn this week despite being the only 4 star hotel I’ve ever booked in my life).

I’ve been avoiding going back to Dublin. Four years ago, nearly five, I lived in the city and met people unlike any other people I had ever known. They didn’t judge me, they didn’t pester me about my anti-social ways, and they loved me more deeply than I had ever believed possible.

Growing up from school to school and county to county, I didn’t have many friends. The few I did make, I struggled to keep when I inevitably moved away again. The perpetual new-girl, eventually I stopped trying to connect with people. I was weird and emotional and didn’t have married parents (which was a bigger deal when I was younger than it is now). I came from a family of abuse that not many could relate to even if I did somehow manage to open the tightly sealed shell I kept around myself.

When I moved to Dublin, things changed. For the first time I felt I had a home. To this day when people ask me where I’m from I’ll begrudgingly tell them where I was born and then somehow slip in that Dublin is my real home. A lot of what made this little city I only spent a year in feel like home were the people–the friendships I made there.

Later, when those friendships dissolved like sugar in rain, the heartbreak I felt was unparalleled. To some extent I can still see how I am left reeling from the effects of losing people I was sure would be in my life forever. I keep people at an arms length now in a way I didn’t before. I expect them to leave me, not the other way around.

I get the odd Facebook salute of “we should catch up!” and “let me know when you’re in town!”, but largely I’ve dropped below the radar. One of my best friends at the time got married and didn’t invite me to the wedding. He’ll be having his first child next month, someone told me. We haven’t spoken in years.

At this point I’m fine with it. I know it doesn’t sound like it, but the fact that I can write this without crying is some progress. I’m a different person than I was when they knew me. They’d recognise my face, but not much else. Dublin is different, too. More violent I hear. More construction everywhere.

I’m not afraid to go home anymore, wondering if I’ll see one of them in the street and they’ll stop me as if I don’t still have splinters in my heart from the ease of their abandonment. I’ve got new friends. Maybe they’ll last, maybe they won’t. People grow up and grow apart. There’s no such thing as forever, and for the first time that doesn’t make me as sad as it once did.

It all starts with Page One

Page1Books (https://page1books.com/products/limited-edition-cozy-bundle-gift-set) is an incredible book subscription service a bit different from your typical vibe. 

You know that incredible feeling you get when you walk into a bookstore that isn’t that basic cookie-cutter chain feel? That smell of wooden stacks, not metal.  A teller behind the counter quietly sipping tea as you browse. That fantastic book they suggest that actually turns out to be the perfect selection. Page1Books strives to condense that indie bookstore feeling into their subscription service, and so far they’re definitely hitting the mark!

I selected the subscription entitled “For The Fiction Fan” because I’m a sucker for a good fiction novel, but there are a lot of different options for all kinds of book lovers. “For the Masterpiece Obsessed” and “For the Foodie” are just two of the other great options. After I made my selection and clicked the 3 month subscription option, Brandy (who I like to think of as the indie bookstore owner) asked me about what kind of books I like. Page1Books are dedicated to a personalised selection process so that you get a new book you already know you’ll love! And they’ve got a great policy if you get a book you already have. You get to keep it and get a different book from them free of charge! 

I told her all about my love for Neil Gaiman and my loathing of trivial and predictable plots. About a week later (from Illinois to Ireland!) I had a hardback copy of The Power by Naomi Alderman in my hands, plus a bundle of other goodies like hot cocoa and bookmarks! Brandy could not have chosen a better book for me! Girl power, magical realism, and a diverse group of characters in a dynamic plot! Brilliant! Ticks every box! 

Lucky for everyone reading this, Page1Books has a Limited Edition Cozy Reader Bundle Gift Set available right now and I’ve got an exclusive 15% off coupon code! So do yourself a favour: get the gift set or any other incredible offer from Page1Books for yourself or a loved one and use the code BCB15 for 15% off! 

Oh, and by the way, there’s nothing quite like getting personalised bookish presents delivered to your door. From one bookwork to another: treat yourself! ​

Falling in like

Do you know those funny dreams you have where you think you’re falling so your half-conscious body twitches violently in response, hoping to save itself? I think I must be dreaming, because try as I might, logic be damned, I’m falling in like.

I won’t say love. I know love. This isn’t love. The love I once knew ultimately ended in heartbreak. Twice. This isn’t love. Part of me refuses to even get close to such a thing again without some semblance of security. One foot out the door. Walls around my heart taller than those in Jericho. I know I sound jaded. I guess I am. It’s a long story and one many could tell themselves, so I won’t go into it. All I know is that serial monogamist me is suddenly craving something both casual but also comforting. I fantasise about marriage while at the same time trying not to roll my eyes at the impending divorce I see all around me. I imagine my future and for the first time I question if I’ll really be sharing it with anyone. I never wanted my own kids. Maybe I’ll adopt one day. I don’t need a husband for that. I’m surprising myself. I’m a hopeless romantic, I swear. Lately, though, wading through the seemingly endless dating-app-rape-culture-bullshit, I feel less optimistic.

There is this boy, though. I didn’t pay him much attention at first, I’ll admit. I don’t really remember what changed. One day I could see the colour of his eyes. One day I noticed how much I enjoyed being near him. Simple stuff. Like. Things like how easily he can make me laugh.

I’m not optimistic. He mightn’t even be in like back. Why chance it?

How has 21st century dating turned a hopeless romantic into a pessimistic mess? How is the next generation supposed to survive or emotionally cope? Perhaps none of us will use the word “love” anymore. Maybe it’ll become a slur, a curse, a la Brave New World. Perhaps we’ll have to settle for falling in like.

Time flies 

Being an adult means relating to the White Rabbit way more than ever before. I tend to be one of those people who are early for just about every appointment. I’m that way partially because of my super structured Dad and partially because I always feel two steps behind the rest of the world. I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!

When JORD Wood Watches asked to partner with me, I knew I wanted to blog about time. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m in the Creative Writing MA at University of Limerick. From the second I touched down at Shannon Airport, I’ve felt like I’m lagging a bit. Having lived in Dublin previously, I arrogantly expected any culture shock to be minor. Having graduated from a previous university cum laude, I expected to excel easily in my programme of study. I have been humbled. We’re not even at the halfway point but I daydream frequently about dropping out.

Last night, however, I went out with my classmates, and I was yet again reminded of how like The White Rabbit I am—too obsessed with what’s coming ahead and not enough on what’s happening now. I haven’t had fun like I had last night in actual years. Plural. There’s nothing quite like being open to spontaneity and then being pleasantly rewarded.

A wooden watch is a beautiful thing. It’s unique and stylish. It smells earthen, it has the weight of craftsmanship, and the crisp precision details of time itself. I keep time on my JORD watch, and I get to choose to make each of those seconds count.

JORD Wood Watches Giveaway til October 19: https://www.woodwatches.com/g/blackcoffeebooks35

Good luck and remember time is what you make of it! Xx

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Great Expectations 

Limerick is not Dublin.

Dublin is home. The noise and clamour made barely noticeable by the briny stench of the Liffey. The electric blip of the street signs unleash floods of people in every colour. Birds sit on statues of rebellious heroes. They scream, but they’re drowned out by smoggy busses.

Limerick is not Dublin. Dublin is not Dublin.

Dublin is a memory from a girl who no longer exists in a city that once was all she needed. I changed, but I hoped everything else would stay the same. Frozen in soft-focused nostalgia.

These past few weeks have been hard. I yearned for independence and I got it. Like a child wishing for a false something-like-adulthood, I discovered independence was not what I had dreamed it to be.

My roommate is lovely. A Chinese girl who struggles through her conversations with me–translating her words into ones I can understand. I think she’s so brave. My classmates have been amazing, too. I love being surrounded by other writers. But they’re not friends yet. We smile politely, but we go home and we don’t text each other. I think of them at night. I wonder where they go home to. I wonder if they think of me, lonely and dark.

Limerick is not Dublin.

I haven’t felt that feeling of ‘home’ since I left Dublin in 2014. I thought just coming back to Ireland would fix that, but it’s not the same. Nothing is the same. I don’t have friends this time, they’ve long since stopped answering my calls. I’m struggling financially and public transport is a little less than ideal. I don’t know when I can go home—wherever that is.

Dating has been a joke. I had dreamt up my Irish romance. He’d have a sweet smile, dark hair. He’d invite me home for Christmas. Instead I find myself face to face with disgusting men fetishising my body and my skin colour. I know they’re not all Ireland has to offer, but I still seem to attract their sort like rotting meat attracts flies. There have been some nice men, too, tangled up in obligations, ghosts, and mindless small-talk, but they were nice to talk to for a while. None of them have been my dream man.

And that’s the point–it all has felt like a romanticised dream I had had and now that I’m awake there’s no reconciling reality with the happiness I had hoped for. I feel stupid for expecting so much. I had made a utopia in my mind without even realising it. And worse, I expected it to be there when I opened my eyes.

I’m trying to live moment by moment now, but in my heart I know I’m still mourning the dream that was killed by reality. I wanted so badly to believe that I only needed to go back to find happiness again.

Now I know there is no such thing as backwards. There is only forwards. There is a blessing in that vast empty unknown between our next page and the conclusion of our story. The blessing is only hope. It has to be enough. It has to. It is our great expectation, and we move forward and seek it.

Leaving on a jet plane

I’m finally going home–my version of home. 

I grew up not belonging to any one place. I was born in Maryland and I bounced around the state my entire life. Always the new kid. Barely really making friends. 

I also grew up with great European literature. I remember the first time I went to London. I’ll always remember it. Streets Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Dickens had trod on were now under my feet. I felt a peace I had never encountered when traveling in North America. 

Still, it was Ireland that unexpectedly became the first place I ever truly felt at home. Home. It had long been an elusive term. Something other people felt but I had no connection to. I don’t know what makes a place feel like it is an extension of yourself, but for me that place will always be Ireland. 

I’ve lived there twice–living on Northside Dublin both times. Both times I took a tearful plane back to America once my respective visas expired. I wanted to stay but just couldn’t figure out how. I thought making the move permanent was just too amazing to ever come true. 

Yet here I am–boarding pass in hand, everything I own in one checked bag and two carry ons–on my way back home. The airport is cold and filled with strangers. I’ve thrown up twice today from the irrational fear that someone somehow will force me to stay. 

Boarding pass. Not Dublin this time. Limerick. It’s all mine and brand new to my touch. I’m through security. There’s nothing in my head, I’m on autopilot, but I can hear my heart thud: home, home, home

Seven Poems

I. 

Who says a poem is a long thing? / Sometimes it is a deep breath / Sometimes it is an exhale

II. 

I was born to words more than I was born / To muck and blood and pain / My heart is full of ink / My bones were forged from stardust and stories / These lips were made to speak / These hands to collect worlds / My mind / Cherished enemy / Is a buzzing hive / Oozing with sweet honey

III. 

The rain / haults / quiet sea / kissing the air / silent / warm / lightning flashes / chaos resumes / filling me / with echoes

IV. 

Will I recognise you, / Love? / Or will I be / Obstructed by my own dreams?

V. 

I remember the first time I saw you / but I don’t know / which was the first day / I stopped crying when I heard your name

VI. 

If I could choose how I die / There would be water / There would be something to embrace me / Everywhere / Without limitation / Without hesitation / And I would die the way I’ve always wanted to be loved

VII. 

Pressed hand to a window pane / Cold kissing the fingertips / Soft / Soft / Shadowed light / Bright world / Behind glass / Under glass / Trapped / Cold / Cold / Kisses / Blood washed quietly away / Under porcelain and the smell of soap / Wishing it was so easy / To wash / Wash / The world / Of it’s sadness / Of it’s fear / And leave only / Clean / Pure / Happy / Clean / Pure / Happy / Clean / Pure / Happy / World…