Do you pick a word for the year and then try to focus on that in all your interactions throughout the year? I’ve heard of others who do that both personally and professionally, but I never have intentionally done that. Unintentionally, my word for 2016 was courage, but I didn’t know that until the end of the year rolled around and looked back at my nearly constant wrestling match with fear. This year, I’m trying it intentionally.
My word for 2017 is intimacy. I think it’s an area where I can do and need to do better.
Intimacy is not just physical. It’s emotional. It’s a lot of things.
I can hold a conversation with just about anyone, anywhere. My personality is bubbly and fun and one of my friends once told me that they thought my superpower was making others feel comfortable. Hearing that was nice because I felt like I rambled through the world without any particular talents or gifts. Some people are super smart and some people are beautiful or great singers or guitar players. Others are athletic or gifted in other ways that seem enviable and obvious to me whereas my own abilities always seemed “meh”. After the last year of looking at fear and working tirelessly on my own self-growth, I learned something though. Something that will be a game changer for me.
I’m the last one in a room who I make sure feels comfortable.
I spend a ton of time helping others feel at ease and suppressing my own feelings of discomfort. I stay on the surface of the great body of water that is emotion trying not to make waves. I play good hostess but don’t often dig deep. To continue with this metaphor, it’s like I ask everyone I meet, “Do you have enough water? Are you hungry?” even questions like “Are you okay? How are you feeling?” I invite people to open to me all the time but I still find that I’m lacking in finding intimacy in a good portion of my relationships. When I was asking myself why this might be, I realized it’s because either 1) I’m surrounded by people who don’t ask these questions in return (maybe because they don’t want to know me deeply or they are just caught up in their own lives) or 2) people are asking and I’m not letting them in. I have a lot of good people in my life who do ask so I think primarily it’s the me that’s hiding behind door number 2 and refusing to open up that is causing this disconnect.
So, why? Why don’t I open up when people are trying to get to know me? I’ll tell you that I think it’s because fear and intimacy are connected, almost opposites. I keep people at arm’s length because I am afraid that if they *really* knew me, they wouldn’t like me. And while I know that not everyone in the world will approve of me, for some reason I still seem to *want* every single human that I like to like me back.
And it’s also because I’ve got some emotions that run deep. Deeply enough that even I don’t look at them sometimes. And sharing those parts of myself with others forces me to look at them as well. I won’t discuss all my pain points here because that’s not intimate anymore than shouting them a rooftop is, but there are some things in my life that are a source of great pain and deep emotion. And I spend a good bit of energy keeping that shit locked down tight because when the hurt bubbles to the surface, I do things like CRY and I don’t like anyone to see me cry. If you’ve ever seen me cry, you are one of maybe like 10 members of a very exclusive club.
This year I’ll focus on letting people in. I’ll focus on being less afraid of my emotions and imperfections and instead connect with others around me. I want my relationships to have value to all the people who are in them. I love this quote,
“If fear is the great enemy of intimacy, then love is its true friend.”
So in 2017, instead of focusing on NOT being afraid, I’m going to focus on loving more, finding intimacy, and being a little bit more real with people. I think it might be a good year. Maybe even fun. Can you hear my smile from way over there?