With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, this post is all about intimacy. Oooh la la.
(Not that kind of intimacy.)
I’m talking about the kind of intimacy you might only share with close friends or family – a “behind closed doors” intimacy that reveals your idiosyncratic, kind of embarrassing, imperfectly perfect life.
I recently traveled to MN to visit my best college friend. I was to be accompanying her to a family memorial service, so I traveled alone without my own family. My friend and I share an intimacy with one another that transcends a “regular” friendship and although I don’t have a sister, I imagine this is a best-case scenario of what a sister might be.
While staying at my friend’s home without my own family to distract me, I was given a rare peek into a parallel world that, although eerily similar to mine, had many differences, too. I had a front row ticket into their “behind closed doors” world. And because my love for these people is unconditional, their guard was 100% down.
Being invited into someone’s “intimate daily life” is like having a mirror held to your face, where you can clearly see the beauty and the blemishes of your own little world. By observing their lives, I was better able to reflect on my own life. Seeing how other people “do this” bolstered me in an unexpected way, and made me feel less alone in my parental and marital life. And I also came to trust more than ever that nobody has it all figured out.
I left feeling PART of something bigger than the isolated walls of parenthood within which we so often find ourselves living.
And I left her home asking myself, for the thousandth time, why do we live behind such fiercely closed doors? Why are we so afraid of allowing intimacy among our friends, family and even our community?
From the day I became a mother 9 years ago, I was shocked by the isolation of parenthood.
It’s the one aspect I did NOT see coming (that and how hard it would be to breastfeed, but that’s a different story for another day!).
I often imagine what life must have been like at the dawn of civilization: Generations of women and men around a fire, rearing their children together, passing on the wisdom and skills necessary – not only for survival – but for the enjoyment of life.
I think there is still something primal, deep within us that REQUIRES a communal intimacy to feel OK.
But here we are, a fiercely private society. Worse yet, so much about our lives is publicized on social media – but edited to only show what we WANT to reveal. It almost makes the instinct to hide parts of ourselves and our lives that much stronger, because now we have an outward image to maintain.
I feel so strongly that we weren’t meant to do this – to be families - in isolation. The “behind closed doors” policy to which we cling feels sterile and unnatural – and for what? For fear of being judged? For fear of someone finding out we don’t have all the answers? Ummm…I think we all know, deep down, NO ONE has all the answers.
But I gotta say…on my flight back home after my visit, as I was planning my song line-up for the rest of the Winter Session, I was reminded that there IS hope, and I bear witness to it week after week.
One of the greatest satisfactions of my adult life (besides my family) is the raw, radiant openness that takes place in the music classes I’m privileged to teach. For 45 minutes each week, parents open themselves up to the vulnerability of knowing that their children MAY rear their less-than-cute side in public…or the fact that they haven’t showered yet today (or this week)…or the fact that they need 45 minutes to just focus on their child and be silly…and they do that in front of us all so beautifully. The moments when a baby or toddler needs to nurse and mom just takes care of him, mid-song while shaking a tambourine; The moments when dad does a perfect “shuffle step” to his daughter’s delight; The moments when grandma has to reel in her grandson and does so with firmness and love.
And we do all of this with a room full of people that would normally not be privy to our our intimate family moments. We hustle into the room, drop our diaper bags at the door, plop onto the floor and collectively exhale our inhibitions away. And we openly sing next to each other, and we enthusiastically wear our sticks like a hat, and we humor the teacher with her crazy dance moves, and…
It’s a RARE occasion in our daily lives to encounter an opportunity to be real and raw and totally open in public, without the veil of privacy we so cling to in our culture. I hope you recognize the gift of those 45 minutes, during which you can just BE…in public…without fear of judgement. And I hope you go home each week, not only humming a new song, but buzzing inside with the freedom that comes from opening the door to intimacy.