Friday, September 27, 2013

Oxygen

"Vulnerability is the oxygen to the lungs of intimacy".

One of the most poignant quotes I have heard in a long time. For years I tried to eloquently explain the concept of "true intimacy" to myself and others and although the substance of what I was saying may have been understood and absorbed by some, those nine simple words say it perfectly.

We all have our own definitions of "Intimacy". Many of us, likely men, believe it's something in the sexual realm that likely involves nudity and possibly penetration. Others feel it's simply comfort and closeness with another person, friend, family member or lover. Of course it's all of those things, but at it's heart it's something far more profound and powerful: it's the essence of love itself. I am almost forty-four years old, and in those years I would guess that I have loved a couple dozen or so people, including family, lovers, friends, etc. Of that group of people, as far as I can recall, every one of them have told me they love me as well. However, when I dissect the relationships, especially those that have failed in the romantic realm, I start to discover that what I have come to define as love as may not be what was being shared between us at all.

In college I wrote a paper that passionately told the story of how much I loved riding motorcycles, primarily because I was an adrenaline junkie with a mild death wish, but that's irrelevant in this discussion. The last line of my paper stated that "the true meaning of life lies on the thread which binds it to death," and in some ways I still believe that even though I no longer own a motorcycle and these days getting out of bed to take a leak at 3am presents it's own set of aches and pains and near death experiences as I almost trip over things I left strewn on the floor (see: death wish). The point is, that line has essentially the same meaning as what intimacy is to love, in that in order for you to truly experience the meaning or true power of love you need to be at the absolute limits of vulnerability. In my experiences with my family it's always been pretty easy to make ourselves vulnerable and exposed as none of us have ever had much difficulty expressing how we feel, what pisses us off about the others, what our fears and insecurities are or how we feel we may need to improve ourselves. My father was one of the most self-deprecating people on Earth, at times telling me things like "I think I have failed at almost everything in my life, except that beautiful moment where I helped make you." OK, yes it sounds like a bit of a Hallmark moment, and it was, but often he would go on to say that it was "quite possibly in the back seat of a Chevelle in the middle of some fucking cornfield when your mother was stoned" so, no need to get the Kleenex just yet :)

My father and the rest of us Abares were always good about loving through and with vulnerability, but in many of my romantic relationships sadly that wasn't the case. While I have always been the poster boy for the "heart on his sleeve" type and was comfortable keeping myself well exposed in order to create the best possible environment for love to take root and grow (and not just literally exposed, though 79% of most of my relationships I was), many of my partners weren't willing to be. The question of how I found myself drawn to those types of women of the years is a question for the ages and may never have an answer, but as my dad used to say "Son, I think your picker is broken". In some cases yes, I made some horrible choices and should have known better and taken responsibility for that, but even in those instances there were elements of the relationship that were healthy and promising, though looking back now it certainly does come down to an unwillingness to be be vulnerable. A steadfast fight to not expose themselves, be caught with the cliched "walls" down, open up and volunteer their fears, insecurities and failures...because of course when the floodgates open and those emotions and admissions become part of the fabric of the relationship, then lies the potential for heartbreak, as one can't fully be harmed if they never invested fully in the first place.

We can't give anyone our love, our true and total self, if we're not willing to let them see ALL of us.

Over the years I have heard within a couple relationships that I share too much, that I hold nothing back and that I am "too honest" sometimes. That's like telling me I am "too sexy" or a fish that he's awesome at swimming, it makes not an ounce of sense. OK, yes, I understand it's possible to overshare sometimes in a public setting or with a mixed crowd, but in the confines of a relationship I honestly believe there should exist no such constraints. Allowing oneself to be vulnerable and freely expressing opinions, doubts, fears and failures is the only way to build a real foundation in love, and certainly the only recipe for love that is lasting. I think so many of us get blinded by the beacon of comfort, or hypnotized by the lure of financial freedom or worse, intoxicated by the fruits of sexual chemistry. Relationships of any kind thrive best when both individuals are giving themselves to the other free of accessories, conditions, or limitations, as some clenched and protective fist, but rather as an imperfect yet beautifully exposed set of fingers of an open hand ready to be drawn into another.

For the first time in my life, in a romantic relationship, I feel like not only am I vulnerable and open and willing to experience true intimacy, but the woman I am with is as well. There are no boundaries, no secrets and no limitations on what's shared, discussed or experienced and the very idea that there could be seems ludicrous to each of us. I am a flawed man, that much has never been in question, but for the first time in my life I feel like someone not only accepts that but that they appreciate my honestly about it. I don't exist in some delusional reality where I pretend to be without scars on my soul and blemishes in my character, and I know that my journey to self improvement will never be complete. Life is an endless lesson and our experiences influence how and what we learn, but it's our choices that end up defining us. The choice I made a long time ago to be open and honest about even the ugliest parts of me and deepest of fears was a good one, a very good one, and the choice to be in the relationship I am now was a great one.With a continued pledge to be forthright, honest, vulnerable and therefore totally intimate with her, with a little luck I will have a relationship for the ages to talk about someday with some young couple on a park bench somewhere. Hopefully they will share even half of what I have with my girl.

It's scary as hell to risk being vulnerable with anyone, let alone a lover that might end up trashing you to the masses on Facebook or YouTube or to co-workers, etc., but it's the only way to feel love and intimacy in it's most pure form and to it's most extreme level. Vulnerability is the oxygen to the lungs of intimacy. Taking that deep breath that's so terrifying as you feel yourself start to fall. The true meaning of life lies on the thread which binds it to death. Nothing makes us feel more alive than the sheer panic that comes from being in love. In the end though, if you do it right and hold nothing back, the joy and the rewards are intangibly satisfying and pay dividends to all those around us. So take a deep breath, my friends.

DAA


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