If you want easy and comfortable, forget about intimacy. Because in order to be truly known by another person, you have to be willing to be honest. Even if that means shining light on some part of yourself that isn’t fully healed. If you want to be understood and seen, you have to be willing to show yourself. And in order to do that, you really want to feel safe.
Your heart, your time, your energy and your attention are the most precious gifts you have to offer anyone. There are only so many hours in a day, and so many days in a lifetime. You will spend the large majority of your time in the company of your own internal dialogue, processing the data you receive from the outside world, and from the people you encounter; those closest to you, and those you meet in passing. You will do your best to make sense out of what is coming at you. You can only know what you know, and you can only be where you are. Your experiences have shaped you, they’ve become part of the way you understand what’s happening around you. Sometimes the lessons we’ve learned are damaging; we’ve only seen a sliver of reality, but it’s all we know, so we make our assumptions. We fill in the blanks. We project, and we tell ourselves stories. These are ways we might close ourselves off, keep people out, keep ourselves safe. Or make ourselves miserable.
I get so many emails from people who feel alone and alienated and angry. Or at a total loss. Who feel no one sees them or cares one way or the other. But that’s just the people they’ve known. Or maybe it’s just the way they’ve experienced those people. You can’t assume anything. What seems obvious to you or me may be a total mystery to someone else. Because we are alone unless we actively reach out. No two people have had the exact same life, memories, experiences and feelings. How vulnerable are you willing to be, and how truthful? I mean, there are some things better left unsaid even if you want to be known. Some things that only cause pain. But short of that, how much are you willing to open yourself? To speak up when you feel uncomfortable or hurt or angry or confused? To try to articulate, calmly and with compassion, your own experience? And how much are you willing and able to open to the idea that your view is only that? That there’s the distinct possibility you missed something, or crushed something unknowingly beneath your words or with your actions?
Most people do not set out with the intention of hurting anyone. I’d say the majority of people are doing the best they can with what they’ve got and what they know, to piece together some fulfillment, meaning and happiness. To live a life that feels good to them. To figure out what lights them up, and what brings them down, and to do more of the former, and less of the latter. To know themselves. And it’s a process, all of it. Usually we’ve just gotten lost. We’ve followed the shoulds instead of the yeses. We’ve dropped the thread, or we’ve become a player in someone else’s story, or we’ve landed in a ditch full of rage and blame. Most people do not follow a linear path. You have to screw up in order to understand your own humanness, and to have compassion for other people when they blow it. You have to grow enough to realize it is not your job to judge or control or try to manipulate another person’s journey.
Whatever happens, happens. Maybe you’ve had your heart broken badly. Maybe you’re in mourning for something you’ve never had, or for something that was robbed from you. Maybe someone was ripped from you too soon, with no warning on a sunny Tuesday morning, or a rainy Friday afternoon. These things can crush you, crush the breath and the will out of you. It could be that you were abused, neglected, ignored. There are stories in this world that are hard to hold in your head and in your heart. But human beings have an incredible potential to heal. I asked my four year old daughter why she was so sweet the other night while we were cuddled up. It was rhetorical, but she said, “That’s the way nature designed me.” Like it was the most obvious thing in the world. And I really believe that to be the case. I think at the very center of you, there’s love. I think if you peel away the layers of blame and rage and shame and despair and loneliness and confusion and fear, you will hit the jackpot. Love is the most freeing, accepting, powerful force I know. If you want to get things done, let that power you. You just might have to dig for it for awhile.
But love gives you the courage to bare yourself. To embrace all parts of yourself, even the stuff that you wouldn’t post in a status update. To be able to share those parts with the people closest to you is really the only way for you to feel known. Cherished. Close to people. If you just show the shiny perfect parts, if your whole life could be displayed on Instagram, my guess is you’re going to feel pretty alone. And human beings are built for connection. We come in needing each other, we go out needing each other, and in between, you can bet we need each other. When you show yourself, you give other people permission to do the same. When you can communicate how you feel and what’s happening within you, you give the people in your life the gift of being able to love you as you are. Not as you think you should be, or as you want to be someday, but as you are right now. Not everyone will be able to do it. Some people are not ready to be naked like that with you. But you don’t need many. True connection between people is so beautiful. You don’t even have to know someone well to be intimate in the way I’m describing. You just have to be willing to be present and aware and open. That creates the possibility of seeing another person fully, and of being seen. And that feels pretty great. Sending you love, Ally