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Posts Tagged ‘privacy’

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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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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I’ve been meaning to write for a while, but I simply have not had time.  But I’ve had this idea in my head, thoughts about the ways friendships develop, the care we have to give them, and the different values we assign to them.  I’ve been making some really awesome friends this year – womyn that I simply now cannot imagine not being a part of my life.

But I also have been discovering that everyone has different levels of personal privacy.  In areas that seem, on the surface, to have no reason for being private.  Innocuous comments illicit silence that cannot be explained.  For example, I was talking with one of my new friends about my book and I was explaing that I needed to beef up one storyline because I wanted to really emphasize the way that strong, capable womyn can sometimes get sucked into abusive relationships before they even really know they’ve gone there and then are too ashamed and consequently afraid to get help.  This is a friend that, while new, I thought I had a fair amount of intimate knowledge about.  We had shared some stuff that made both of us cry.  At the time of our conversation, I couldn’t really understand her non-reaction and our conversation about what I could do for my book kind of fizzled.  I certainly didn’t put it together with my lack of being able to figure out where she lived.  BTW, she’s not in a bad situation, it’s just that these simple things hit too close to home.  Too close to recent(ish) home.

I have another friend who simply tells half truths about herself as a matter of protection.  Everything she says is technically true, but very little she says is the way it really is.  She is afraid of intimacy and afraid that people who are interested in sharing time with her are really doing so, so that they can take what they learn about her and hurt her for their own amusement.  What makes our friendship difficult is that as we grow together, those half-truths must be revealed and it can be awkward.

At my age, and the age of my friends, we all carry baggage.  We’ve all been broken and hurt in some way or another.  When I experience this difference of communication and trust, it always sets me back a little.  To find out that my friends are more human than I realized sometimes makes me want to react before I think.  I try so hard to not live in reaction to fear and to relate with trust and love with my friends that sometimes I get a little hurt.  Then I have to go back and realize that a) it’s not about me and my friends are trying to take care of themselves, not hurt me; and b) when I accept and embrace their humanity, I stand a better chance of them accepting mine.  And while I know in my mind that really I am perfect and do everything in the best possible way, my friends may not agree about that.

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Starting tomorrow, I am having a boatload of people come to visit me.  This is something I do not do.  It is completely out of character for me.  If you know me, this statement will surprise you.  I am friendly, warm, engaging and you would think that I have people over all of the time.  Not so.  My house is my private sanctuary or my private hell, depending on the day.  I had a girlfriend for two and a half years and she only got to come to my house five times during our entire relationship.  And never for more than two nights.

I used to use the excuse that my house was not finished.  It is an old house, constantly under construction, and I have startitis, where I start a project and abandon it to start another before the first is complete.  I now know I did that on purpose.  I didn’t want people in my house.  I’m feeling waffley about it now.  On the one hand, I am so excited by the people I’ve invited and I absolutely know that memories will be created that will sustain me through less eventful times.

BUT, I like being alone.  I like it alot.  It’s taken me many, many years to recognize this and not feel guilty about it.  So I’ve mentioned it to the people that are coming.  And  surprise, surprise, they all get it.  Some of them even empathize because they feel the same way.  I’m not one to share my insecurities, but the discussions came from a place of love and caring and plans are in place.

I’ve been able to let go of my stress and I’m actually really looking forward to every little bit, every interpersonal connection, the physical presence, and yes, even the overwhelmingness of it.

Bring it on, baby!  I choose all of you!

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