In today’s world of celebrity gossip, tell-all blogs and tweeting about every moment of one’s day we are constantly redefining the word intimacy. Knowing the ins and outs of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s lives is in no way knowing their intimate world. We are fed details that help to create a certain image. But these days with texting, facebook and email the intimacy in our personal lives is often even stranger.
As an introverted yoga teacher I’m not very good at introducing myself and asking for students’ names. That doesn’t mean I don’t remember what their down dog looked like last week, when they are scheduled to have surgery on their shoulder or when their due date is. I know that stuff. I know when they are grieving or just ended a relationship or are a new grandmother, but I almost never know their names. This is a type of skewed intimacy. In so many ways I know the important emotional and physical aspects of their lives but I don’t know what they do for a living or how many kids they have. Our intimacy is kind of flipped inside out.
As an acupuncturist I end up being very intimate with people’s bodies. I palpate their abdomen, needle trigger points on their glutes and sit for long moments listening and studying to their pulse. I smell them (even if they don’t know it) examine their coloring and look for scars and moles. I know the color of their menstrual blood and how many bowel movements they have a day.
In all honesty, for me the more intimate the interaction the more manageable. I would rather needle someone’s piriformis or do moxa on someone’s feet, than attend a professional networking session.
Intimacy is complicated. One of my favorite public intimate moments is taking belts and shoes off in an airport security area. I love standing there barefooted while people take jackets off and redo their trousers. It feels so deliciously indecent, but not a single thing has happened.
What I’m trying to get at here is that we are at various levels of intimacy in all the many relationships in our lives. And we are okay doing certain things in certain scenarios and not in others. I had a doctor hand me a hospital gown the other day and ask me to undress from the waist down, but then not leave the room. I became an awkward embarrassed teenager and ended up tripping and hopping around in a very silly fashion.
There are all these rules we don’t even think about until someone breaks them. Like the other night when two unrelated people, one after the other, came into the ATM room with me. Isn’t there some rule that you wait outside? Doesn’t everyone know this!
Sometimes the breaking of rules is just a landmark. We remember moments when work relationships suddenly become personal relationships, when friendships blossom into romance. There is always a moment when some level of intimacy is reached that surpasses anything in your history.
It is foolish to think we only have one intimate relationship. You can’t even draw the distinction around nudity taking into account how many people see us naked on a regular basis: massage therapists, doctors, aestheticians, fellow gym members. Or around soul-sharing taking into account how many people we pay to hear our secrets: bartenders, hair stylists and therapists.
Have you ever counted the number of people you interact with in one day? How many emails? How many read facebook statuses? How many appointments or meeting attendees? How many cashiers, salesclerks, waitresses assist you? We are inundated with various levels of intimacy. Which ones stand out? Why?
There is a lot to be learned from witnessing your intimacy with others. How much do you reveal to friends? How much do you reveal to your partner? How much do you reveal to your journal? How much do you reveal to your doctor? Your therapist? Your acupuncturist? Could any relationships in your life benefit from more personal disclosure?
Do you have qualifications for intimacy? Like ability to share emotions? Ability to confide pain? Ability to complain about spouse/kids? What are they? It might be interesting to make a list and see which needs are not being met. Maybe someone in your life is able to meet that need and isn’t being given the opportunity.
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