November 21, 2004

A Good Dose

Everyone needs a good dose once in awhile. Or daily. My mother was a believer in the wonders of castor liver oil. I believe that I was in the last generation who received this remedy. I can still see that swooping serving spoon coming at me. I would wrinkle my face and my mother would always say, “It’s good for you.” Then I would be hit with the first belt of bitterness and the oil would ooze from the corners of my mouth. At the final swallow I would blanch with eyes scrunched and face grimaced. There, I was done for the day. I got what I needed.

Sometimes the thought of a dose of intimacy creates a similar feeling for me. I know that I need it because I have been told so. But I do not really believe that it is going to feel good. In my mind it could hurt more than it might help.

Connection comes hard for me. Disconnection is more my natural state, my default mode. I would rather pursue rugged individualism. When a Gathering is coming up I never say or feel, “Won’t it be great to be with a bunch of people Wednesday night?” Because I have been to many Gatherings, I know in my head that it will be great. But I cannot make that connection with my heart. I cannot make the connection to anticipate the joy.

Despite this limitation, I work hard at intimacy. I define intimacy as two or more people sharing their feelings and what is truly going on in their lives. I work hard at it because it has transformed my life.

Twelve years ago I was at the ground zero of my life. Everything had been blasted away and I was dealing with a blank slate. My days were fairly vacant. At first I spent most of the day at home alone with my books. I knew I needed people and eventually I would go out at midday to the mall so that I would be near people. I could eat lunch and read my books in the midst of strangers. It was the best that I could do at intimacy.

But over time I progressed. At some point I needed a calendar to keep track of my events. I started consciously scheduling luncheons with friends so that the white blocks on my calendar would not look so white. I would get on a roll and schedule two or three, and they would happen over the next two or three weeks. And then my calendar would be blank again and I would start another round of calls. But in the meantime there would be a gap. Eventually I learned to make rolling calls to get rid of those gaps.

All of that took hard work and it still does. But my calendar now regularly contains many events of intimacy. I checked on November: a Gathering, the Couples Festival, one artist opening, two dinners, one meeting for coffee, seven lunches and five men’s group meetings. All of these events were wonderful and I had great times.

And all of this is in addition to the intimacy in my nuclear family, who gives me the greatest and most important opportunities for intimacy.

Intimacy does not come naturally for me. And yet I do it anyway. I hope that some day I will be all excited about some upcoming events. But until then, I will keep filling up my dance card and dance with wonderful people. I do this because I have experienced the difference it makes in my life. I get a good dose of what I need.