How well do you know me?  How well do I know myself?  How well can any two people know each other, accept each other, celebrate each other, or be open and honest with each other?  Do you really want to be that intimate with someone?  It sounds like a lot of work.  And there are some things that might not be pleasant to know.  Even about myself.  Maybe especially about myself.  I want to present the pleasing face.  I’ve worked on being able to do that.  Is that not me?  Are you sure you prefer the genuine me over that pleasing mask?  Why?  

My partner Steve and I go around and round about this.  He maintains that he is honestly working toward a genuine intimacy that is non-judgmental and completely open.  Whether that’s attainable is another question, rather like a Zen koan.  I find that my brain is hard-wired to make a million comparisons, a million analytical assessments, a million judgments all in a short time…about everything.  I turn that brain on myself all the time, without being terribly conscious about it.   I want to practice being aware of those thoughts and communicate them honestly to Steve.  He promises to practice accepting, appreciating, and honoring them, holding a safe space open for me to continue my practice.  What might that look like?

We go on a walk together.  His long legs want to stretch; I can’t keep up.  I assess myself and feel slow and out of shape.  I begin to feel like I am a hindrance.  I blame myself.  I blame Steve.  I decide to communicate.  “I want to walk more slowly and take pictures.”  “I want to keep up a good pace and get more exercise.”   “Let’s just do what we want and meet up later.”  Sounds reasonable.

There he goes.  The Walking Man walks.  James Taylor sings in my head.  I wander toward the river, away from the parkway, the bicyclists, the dog-walkers, the joggers, the strollers and baby strollers.   On a sunny Sunday, the village moves outside.  I find a spot by the river’s edge, alone with my camera.  I watch the water glide over rocks, reflecting light.  What do I reflect?  Is that me?  Is it genuine?  Is it a costume, an act?  Maybe I am everything — change and movement.  Maybe communicating is so important because this change and movement is constant.  You will never know me if you’re thinking about what I said a minute ago.  You can never step in the same river twice.

If I take the energy I might have spent on “formatting” myself for presentation and apply it to communicating myself “as is”, will I get closer to knowing my true self?

I am still learning how to be what I am.  Just that has taken half a century almost.  This conscious brain is cumbersome, manipulated early by social constructs and patterns, weighty now with baggage.  The simple forming and blossoming of a bud reminds me that life can be much freer than I make it. 

I dreamed last night that I could fly.  It was like swimming in air, gliding where I wanted to go, my feet never touching the ground.  I have had this dream my whole life.  I’ve always known how to do that, effortlessly.  But only in my sleep.


17 thoughts on “Intimacy

  1. The First Mate and I are Communicating this week too– I got one of those books of 1001-or-some-large-number questions that partners should discuss. We’ve made it through 9 of them, and it is beneficial but exhausting. (I anticipate the heat death of the universe before we finish the book.) I agree with Helen about the pitfalls of overanalysis– sometimes action can tell you the most. Right now I’m finding the balance of dashing ahead, but with my eyes open as I go.

    On another note, if you’re still feeling slow, just remember all of the family trying to keep up with you on walks and never quite managing :D.

    • Remember your father and I going off every 6 months to lead that Couples’ Workshop? Balance over time is good. You don’t have to do it all at once.

      I wonder if there’s an algorithm for leg length and walking speed? How many steps would you have to take (at just under 5 feet tall) to every one of Steve’s (at 6 feet 2 inches)? I wonder if your First Mate has worked that out yet. 🙂

  2. In my humble theory of life, intimacy = attention. It doesn’t really matter whether you communicate all your thoughts honestly or if either of you can accept and celebrate them. What matters is that you attend to each other. It is the listening that makes all the difference. Just make sure that it isn’t only words you are hearing.

  3. Presence is an alert state of being that allows for greater attention. Attention is the active mental focus on specifics. Presence is the readiness to notice stimuli and attention is the noticing itself. There is a resonance that occurs between the limbic systems of mammals by way of many tiny physiological signals of attention — constriction or dilation of pupils, changes in galvanize skin response, micro movement in the facial muscles, postural cues etc. This resonance activates emotions/physiological states. As humans, we can then bring on our cognition to modify (amplify, inhibit, or reflect upon) these emotions/physiological states and thus send out a new set of signals. That requires attention to self alongside attention to the other. This kind of attunement by attention is what I think of as intimacy. The greater the attention, the stronger the resonance, the more meaningful the interaction will be.

    btw — there is tremendous intimacy between enemies. Attention is not always an easy thing to bear.

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