Carl was describing his two-sided anxiety about a recent work project. “All week long, I was terrified that the people who’d agreed to help wouldn’t show up. That was pretty normal, I guess. But what’s twisted was, as the weekend got closer, I also got more and more nervous about what they’d think of the project and what they’d think of me if they did show. Finally, when I woke up Saturday morning, part of me was actually hoping they wouldn’t show up and the whole project would just fall through.”
Intimacy is scary for the same reasons we long for it: it takes us to a place where we learn to accept, care for and rely on each other just as we are. Contrary to popular belief, sharing deep, dark secrets isn’t where the rubber meets the road to intimacy. Intimacy grows out of sharing the mundane, shoulder-to shoulder living of everyday life. In some cases, of course, this is part of the blossoming of romance and sexual connection. But the slow-burn of mutual knowledge, acceptance and commitment also develops with family members, friends, work colleagues, neighbors and others.
Carl continued, "My colleagues and I had been working for a while on a project that we knew would need some strong, web-based video presence to move it where we wanted to go. But we didn’t have a good way to make that happen. Well, by lucky chance, we met this amazing filmmaker from Europe who’d recently come to New York to test the waters. He turned out to be genuinely interested in our project, and we turned out to be able to afford to hire him.
“At first, we talked about sketching some kind of screenplay and hiring actors to talk on camera about the work we do. But the nature of the project is so intensely personal that we finally didn’t think that could be made to work, at least, not on our budget. So instead, we talked with people from our own circle—close friends, actually—who knew about our work and who had read our book about it. We asked them if they’d be willing to talk about it on camera. They weren’t sure at first, kinda nervous about the idea; but (I think, out of friendship, mostly), they agreed to do it.”
When we allow others to become a meaningful part of our lives, our idea of intimacy can grow well beyond popular conceptions of sexual love or the limited-duration closeness that results from sharing crises or tragedies. The real deal, however, is that intimacy is about building relationship by accepting what others offer us as much as through our willingness to give to and to “do for” others.
"I got into a really confused head. I was on the verge of e-mailing everybody and telling them that if they were having second thoughts about it, it was okay: they didn’t have to do it if they didn’t want to. I tried to disguise my fear by making it ‘about them.’ Luckily, I sent the ‘letting ‘em off the hook’ email to one of my colleagues before sending it to anybody else. Fortunately, he called me almost immediately with a ‘Carl, what the hell are you doing?’ and pointed out that, not only was what I being unprofessional, but I was flying in the face of one of the main themes of our work: overcoming the fear of letting others ‘come through’ for us and become important in our lives!
“Yikes, that was close! It was damned lucky my colleague was ready-on-the-spot to show me that I was about to sacrifice relationship sanity (and possibly thousands of dollars) to my fear of letting others contribute something valuable to my life.
"The funny thing about it,” Carl summed up, “was that every single one of the people who helped with the video told us afterwards that they were blown away by how meaningful it was for them—not just being in the videos, but actually getting closer to all of us as a result. Go figure.”
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