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Posts Tagged ‘friendship’

connections and space Peace PagodaI was talking with a friend the other day (okay, we were emailing and the last installment was yesterday) and we were discussing the need for space.  Physical space, to be alone, all alone, especially when you’re in a deeply intimate relationship.  And not just any space – space that feels like it’s yours.  She had asked me a while back which be more difficult – admitting I missed my girl, or realizing that I really don’t.  I totally misunderstood the question and thought it was about the demise of a relationship, but it was really about space.

It’s funny that we are taught that humans are such social creatures, because most of the people I hang with have real boundaries about how much time they want to spend in the company of others.  Including me.  And I sometimes feel guilty about my need to be all by myself.  Being in a long distance relationship means that I do miss her all the time, like the sound of a brook through the bedroom window.  Sometimes it’s fully present and all I can focus on, and sometimes it’s not even noticed.  I find that I don’t notice the missing when I’m engaged in something I want to do.  Being alone is often what I want to do.

In past relationships, my partners haven’t understood the need to have space for a day or a week, or even an hour.  And not just, “I want to be in another room from you,”  but, “I want you to go shopping without me and do lunch and let me have this space empty except for me for at least 2 hours, please.”  Somehow that seemed personal to them.  So I have spent many years fighting for the right to have space.  And accommodating my partner’s needs to have my presence.

That’s something that is different now.  In this relationship, maybe because we took it so slow, maybe because the distance is so great, maybe because we are so very intentional with each other, and check in at every point, I have freedom.  I know and have experienced the, “I need space alone and it’s not about you.”  From both sides.  And it works really well.

To be honest, the first time I was on the receiving end (she needed space), I said all the right things and did all the right things, but it was such a different experience that I had to sit and really process that it wasn’t about me, and I didn’t have to get insecure or needy.  And I didn’t need to share that processing with her.  Huh.  Okay, maybe I went through that a couple of times.  But one thing I know is true – we are our actions.  And  my actions were loving and respectful and what I wanted to receive when I needed space.  And so, I grew up and was open to being able to trust her a little bit more.  (Which is scary and leads to the need for more space!)

One of the things I wonder about needing space is why.  I’ve come up with a couple of things and I think in different moments they are all valid.  Gonna’ bullet these, because I probably want to come back and explore them more deeply later.

  • I find I have a greater need for space the more intimate I become with someone.  It’s new territory and hits all my trust buttons, and I get worn out, unsure, and afraid. 
  • Sometimes I need to be able to be me without feeling like there might be even the slightest chance of judgement.  Indulging in popcorn for dinner, or the cheesy movie I would never admit that I had seen.
  • I like me and need a date with me every once in a while.
  • Sometimes (and this is going to sound weird) I sit and savor the lonely.  Makes me more grateful.

My biggest gratitude today is that I have this freedom with my love and she has it with me.  It makes us strong and allows us trust.  I most deeply appreciate that my friends are on this same path of healthy investigation and growth.  We can talk objectively and emotionally about this stuff and in that process, I get the gift of being more available to trust and intimacy with them, too.  Maybe I will be a social creature one day! Ha!

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More than a few of my friends are sideways people, and within that group, many of them also have depression.  One of my most intimate friends and I were having a conversation about her depression and it struck me how very responsible she feels about it. Not about having it, but about her perception that she burdens others with it.

Now, I’m not talking about getting the blues, or even seasonal affective disorder.  I’m talking about the kind of depression that is there, more often than not.  The kind that, even when you’re not feeling it, you know it just took a day trip and will be back soon.  The kind that you live with like a parasitic twin. The kind that feeds off of you, some days more, some days less, and you can’t control it.  You never know how each day is going to make you feel, and an attitude adjustment simply won’t fix it.  Exercise, meditation, diet, sleep – none of it really ever fixes the problem.  Sometimes it helps, sometimes not.  Even medication can be a long shot.

The process of building relationships with my friends who are sideways and have this disease ensures that we will always be moving slowly around getting to know each other.  Trust is not easily given and experience has proven to my friends that intimacy breeds the “I want to fix you” syndrome.  There’s also the fear of being percieved as being needy – especially on bad days.  And so there comes that wall.  The wall that keeps my  friends from opening up, from sharing too deeply, and from being able to trust completely.  The internal view that they are flawed, somehow, and as I said, a burden.  Everyone always eventually leaves or is pushed away – in either case, gone.

Everything about us can teach us a life lesson.  It’s not the situation you find yourself in, but how you deal it.  Depression is an aspect of my friend that I accept just as much as her eyes, or the way she makes me laugh.  Some days I hurt to see her in pain, and it’s taken quite a while for her to trust me with it’s existence.  Other days, we can joke about it and it’s not so scary. 

There is a real conscious awareness on my part that while I wish my friend didn’t have this, she does and I can do nothing about it.  I can sit with her, hold space, and be loving enough to have frank conversations and acknowledge it.  Never, never is it my place to offer suggestions, or try to do the pep talks.  It’s minimizing and disrespectful.  It is always my place to love her unconditionally, be there whenever, and allow her the knowledge that I’m not going anywhere and that she is never a burden.  I choose this relationship, and all that it entails.  It’s no more work than any other friendship, which is to say that it is no work at all.  It’s simply love in action, which is what I hope to always bring to all of my relationships.  Intentional, unconditional, fully present, respectful love in action.

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It’s that time again.  I’m getting ready to go Home.  Every year around this time, thousands of womyn across the world start getting this restless feeling.  Moving toward Home.  I’ve noticed my inbox is fuller, womyn reaching out, checking in, reconnecting.  I’ve noticed my FB is much, much more active.  Even womyn who won’t physically be able to come Home this year are feeling the pull, thinking out last minute options, selling beloved things so they can get to where they need to be.  Home.  There are many tears shed, there are even more smiles and hugs and moments of Festival Majik.  Strangers send out money and love and ideas to help the sisters that sometimes they have never met get Home.  I love this.

This year, for the first time, my mom is coming Home with me.  It’s going to be amazing!  I hope her Fest is everything she needs it to be.  More amazing though, is that, at 64, she is still so interested in what makes my life rich that she wants to experience this.  I want to be her when I am older.  Okay, the her that doesn’t have the irritating faults that I’ve worked not to own.  But the open curiosity, the complete love, and the willingness to do something not so comfortable because she wants to be closer to her daughter.  Wow!  Next year, I’ll take her on a more spa-like vacation.  But who knows, maybe she’ll want to go to Fest again.  I talked to my step-father last night.  He’s worried she’ll fall in love with a womon at Fest and leave him.  I doubt that, but she might have a Festie Fling.  It’s just that kind of place.

So I am packing to be with my tribe.  I, too, am taking care of last minute details, sending tickets to womyn I’ve never met, because I love my Home and I want it to prosper.  I am lucky enough to work there, and be a part of providing a welcome and a hug to every sister I see.  It only seems right that I give back for that.

But time is moving too fast.  I haven’t planned well enough and I have major shopping to do.  There are closets to buy, shoes to try on, costumes to make, gifts to purchase and craft, cleaning to be done, oh, and bills to pre-pay.  So off I go, and if I don’t post again until September, you’ll know  why.  I’ll be Home, where there is no Internet, no cell, no electricity, no outside world.  Yay!

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There are a couple of people in my life, okay, more than a couple, who are sideways.  We connect at really intimate places and enjoy some of the most stimulating conversation I’ve ever experienced, but this is not the habit of these womyn.  Generally speaking, they aren’t comfortable with emotion or intimacy.  So, much of our conversation is done without eye contact, often while walking, or sitting somewhere with a view.  These friends find it disconcerting that I look them in the eye while they speak, but looking me in the eye while I speak is okay.  They are kinesthetic, but not always tactile.  And they are my favorite womyn.  In the whole world.

One of my friends recently asked me why so many of my friends were like this and if it made it harder for me to be around folks who are so challenged.  I look at that last question and it makes me smile.  Challenged?  We all live with fear.  I do.  I just show it differently.  And the connections I make are the ones that make my life rich.  I get to offer genuine friendship and receive quality time, walk through the surface stories and build real community.  When I spend time with my favorite people, (and you know who you are,) communication comes with touch, and wordlessness, and shorthand sentences, and connections are drawn between the unlikeliest of things and boundaries are pushed in loving respectful ways, trust is intentionally built, and I come away from these encounters with more ideas and thoughts and that floaty feeling you get after a really good massage – yeah.  I’m soul-satisfied.   And my world couldn’t get any better.

Remind me again why you all live so far away from me?

I know I have more to say about this, and I’m not quite cohesive yet around my point, but I have to sleep and I didn’t want to forget to write about this.  I’ll be editing this post soon.

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Changes

Today is clean out the basement day.  I don’t want to, I don’t like it, it’s never fun and I have to do it at least once a year.  And so, of course, I find myself procrastinating.  I went on to Ravelry (FB for knitters) to look up some patterns and see if I was interested in starting anything new – for later, as a reward for getting the basement done.  I started looking at my finished projects, and my queue and I saw a picture in my ‘friends’ group.  It made me so sad.

Last year, when I got home from Fest, I was just so adamant that my friends all come back with me this year.  One womon totally got hooked.  She jumped on board with everything she had from day one.  It’s funny, because at fest last year, I spent much of that time knitting her a snood in the most beautiful silk/wool combo.  It was gorgeous!  A couple of months ago, we found out that she had cancer.  She died last month.  And yet, there was her smiling face in my friends page.  On her page, she had written about what she planned to make next, how she had too much time on her hands at hospice, how she was searching for simpler patterns that didn’t take too much brain power.  None of that matters now.  I sat and remembered C, and then I clicked that majik button and unfriended her.  I’ll take memories of her to fest, and sit again with her in the root cemetary and wish that she had lived long enough to come home just once, and then realize that her spirit had found it’s way all by itself.

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Last night I had a really interesting conversation with a new potential friend.  She wanted to know – if I am committed to living fearlessly, why aren’t I intimate with everyone I know?  Don’t we refuse intimacy because of fear around what people will do with our deepest secrets?  Isn’t not trusting someone the same as living in fear?  Her question made me stop and think.  What I came up with is that in some relationships, intimacy is not necessary.  The clerk down the street doesn’t need to know that I am a left-leaning, Femme, feminist dyke.  It won’t affect the way money exchanges hands.  On the other hand, I would never dream of changing the way I relate to my lover in that store just because of who the clerk is. 

We also talked about intimacy in relationship to friends vs. lovers.  I find that I build intimacy with friends and lovers at about the same rate, but in vastly different areas.  My lovers might learn first about what my sexual desire is, or have more stories of my childhood.  My friends may learn about my passion around my hobbies, or my philosophical beliefs.  It’s like cutting a diamond.  You can chip away at one side or another, but in the end, you’ll see the prism of light through a completely transparent person.  That’s living fearlessly.

In my relationships, the levels of intimacy grow deeper with time.  Mostly they grow deeper by choice.  Sometimes they grow deeper because of necessity.  When I reach a crossroads with a friend, when I start to feel like we’re dancing around topics or conversations become uncomfortable, then it becomes necessary to look at my fear and walk through it.  What do I lose when I share who I am with my friends?  Nothing.   So what do I fear, the potential judgement of my friend, or the potential loss of that person in my life?   What is holding me back from being honest?  When I realize that I don’t really want to feel pain and it’s pain avoidance, then I can walk through and know the joy of my own truth regardless of the outcome.  That too, is living fearlessly.

I don’t have to be intimate with everyone I meet to live fearlessly.  There are some people I don’t choose to be intimate with, not because I’m afraid of what they will do, but because I am simply not interested in them.  No judgement, I just don’t have  the inclination.  And that’s my truth.

Did I mention that I love a good stimulating conversation?

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I’ve really been examining the quality of my interactions lately.  The surface me often draws lots of people to be a little curious, want to know more, be interested.  I try to be open to these experiences and draw others out, too.  I’ve met some really interesting people this way.  And I’ve had to filter a few out.  I have started to look at the way I look at people.  I want to know them genuinely, more than the surface, hear their stories, know their lives.  But I don’t know how interested I am in them knowing mine.  I’ve got the surface stuff.  The things I don’t mind the world knowing, and I can tell it so that it seems very intimate.  But if you got a group of my acquaintances together, I suspect that in comparing notes, they would find that the things they thought were special one-on-one knowledge, weren’t.  It’s like that movie, John Tucker Must Die.  All of the girls John Tucker dated met up and not only could tell his story, but knew the dialogue.  It’s a trick I use to hear other people’s stories.  I’m not trying to use them, I’m just trying to learn them.  It’s how I see people.

I suspect we all do that to an extent.  Share things that might seem deep or meaningful, but in reality are things that no longer have real impact for us personally.  So, they become just things.  They become the jumping off points for other conversations, or places of commonality.  Combine it with real interest in another’s story and they can be instruments to gain intimacy.  And that’s where I have to consciously make my choice.  Am I stepping forward and sharing – creating a connection that goes beyond acquaintance, or am I keeping it at arm’s length?  And is it possible for one person in a connection to be more distant than the other and still have a rich relationship for both?  Is it a lie not to match intimacy for intimacy?  Is there a line where the less invested tells the other, “I know this friendship means a lot to you, but I think we’re in it for different things?”  How like romances are friendships?  Do they parallel?

The contact of my friendships wax and wane with seasons and other occupiers, but even so, once a certain depth has been reached, it doesn’t take much to get back there.  I like that my friendships are easy and confident in their constancy.  No worries about calling too often, or not often enough, respect comes without resentment or obligation, and when feelings are hurt, it’s never intentional.  Disagreements are not deal breakers and false pride doesn’t have to come out, because we are safe with each other.

Some of my friendships have reached this place over the course of a fifteen hour car ride.  Some have foundered in the “I find you so interesting, let’s talk more” phase and then recovered over time.  The ones I like best tend to marinate in my mind, conversations are revisited in future meetings and that gives the dual compliment of knowing that you have been thought about and that your thoughts are worth consideration.  These friendships tend to be grounded in the reality of a person’s three dimensionality.  We talk about our messiness and what the ideal would be versus what is likely to happen.  Judgement is not a part of this connection.  Neither is a pedestal.

When I meet a person who tells their surface story with the practice that I tell mine, that’s when I am intrigued.  That’s when I’m willing to dig in, take time, open a little more, and expose myself.  I’ll even drive six hours and fourteen minutes to do it. 

Of course, the only things that make it all worthwhile are the full bodied hugs.

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