The strongest of us are willing to not only fight battles others won’t, but often on the behalf of those who can’t fight for themselves.
As Timothy explains, “We shine the light on a lot of people who play and are the hero. And how they need people to care about them as well. But I think people who are willing to play the villain need someone to care about them as well.” And he couldn’t be more right.
But not just any ole care, the kind that stands in witness, healing through listening, connecting through being present. The kind of intimacy that whispers, “I’m here for you. I’m in it for the long haul. And I accept you as you are.”
Intimacy is first and foremost being present in the moment through all its meanings: physically, mentally, body language. It’s being in the same room with the person you’re sitting with, even if it’s a video account. Even when you’re being sexually active, you can not be present very easily. You can close your eyes and be as unpresent as you like. But intimacy is about being a witness, it’s about being a participant.
Nurturing is a huge aspect, too. If I tell you I’m going through something and something terrible has happened. Sometimes you don’t want advice, you want someone to just listen. Not trying to fix it. That’s intimacy. Intimacy can only happen when you feel comfortable.
My family was not affectionate growing up. We were that rough, working class family. “Aye stupid, I need to get in the bathroom,” kind of family. We didn’t hug a lot growing up. We were always around for each other but weren’t too good at being there for each other. We were always in the room or the waiting room in the hospital. We saw all of my siblings off when they went into the military.
There was beauty in the fact that we were always showing up. And we wanted to know how to be intimate and care with each other, but we certainly didn’t know how. We never fit into a social group. But luckily, my mom never drummed “be a man” or a “be a woman”, and our weird difference never got in the way of loving each other.
Two of my siblings joined the military and were deployed to Iraq. It was these first kind of crises that made me think about what happened to one another. I think I really played a huge role in shaking up our family dynamic. I was considered the wild, crazy hippie of the family. I would always talk about alternative ways to be a family, and I’d be argumentative about it. But I would bring it up. I was always super inquisitive.
Sometimes you don’t want advice, you want someone to just listen. Not trying to fix it. That’s intimacy. Intimacy can only happen when you feel comfortable.
I think families do a good job of glossing over the uncomfortable topics. This maintains a peace that is peaceful but not just. I always brought up the difficult subjects so we could talk about them. When I was younger, my constant interjections were a part of me just wanting to be flagrant and stop everyone in their tracks.
But I realize now I really wanted to bring resolutions to our problems because you can’t get resolution if you don’t talk about it. That’s what I did: push everyone out of their comfort zones, which is what pushed everyone to be more introspective. I don’t think we’ll ever be huggy or warm, but we’re more present now in a way that we weren’t before.
When it comes to being physically loving and warm, outside of sex, I was never really into that until recently. I think that’s because it’s hard for relationships to not be a point system about what’s been done and hasn’t been done. What it really means and how they really feel. So even though I’m not super physically affectionate, if I know that’s how someone has expressed caring before, I find myself wanting it from them because that’s how they are present, even if it’s in a language on their own terms.
I’m trying to want it healthily and not want it because they were like that with someone else. For example, if someone has expressed the desire to spend the night and cuddle and watch a movie, I like to oblige and be present. But at the same time, if I don’t get that invite in the future, I’ll be like, “Hey…what’s going on?” That’s what I mean. My friends sometimes think I’m not into hugs. But it’s not that. Hugging isn’t in the top three of the things I’d pick, but I’d never turn down a hug. I will oblige. And I see the value in it. It’s just not my first language.
For me, intimacy is rooted in just being present. I love to listen. And I’ll listen even when I hate to listen because I know it’s important to people. I’m big on asking, “What can I do? How can I help out? Do you need me to get you something?” That’s me. I’ve come to realize that there are people who just want to hear kind things and you to rub their shoulders.
That’s just not my first language. I worry sometimes that people don’t see my way, my language, as intimate. But it is. A joke among my friends is that my warm remarks to people sound a little clunky when I say them. Some people even say I can say the sweetest thing and it still sounds like a threat. But I try, even if it isn’t perfect.
Throughout relationships with friends and lovers, I’m learning that there isn’t only one way to do something. If people don’t see my way and actions as intimate, that’s okay. I’m not above explaining my actions. I think with the people you care about, you should be willing to explain your actions. Just because I know it’s intimate to me, I shouldn’t hold that over their head and expect them to know the same thing automatically. It’s about communicating with each other. Before accusing someone of looking through you, you have to make an effort to explain yourself.
I’ll listen even when I hate to listen because I know it’s important to people. I’m big on asking, “What can I do? How can I help out? Do you need me to get you something?” That’s me.
It may not seem like it to others, but I really value intimacy. I need it. I want someone to tell me, “I’m in it for the long run. Let’s make mistakes in front of each other and see how it goes.” I mean that mostly in terms of romantic relationships. Someone open to a trial-and-error process instead of a deal breaker contest, where they are willing to dig deep. I mean that mostly in a romantic sense, but I’d love to hear that from potential friends, too. Something deeper. That they are really trying to explore things about you but other things with you.
It means that they see potential in me and they are validating the potential I see in myself. And it gives me a chance to share intimacy in my way through actions and support. It’s knowing they will give me a chance to do it. It’s nice to be seen. When someone is present, they see something in you. They see you. That’s why they have faith in what you can do.
My activism wasn’t all learned and created over the course of a few days. So, it would be great to have someone to say, “Hey, I’d love to see what you have in these next few years.” It’s nice to have a support system for the fights I have to go through: the shouting matches with police officers, being the elephant in the room, the showdowns with the attorney general.
A lot of people assume I just got it like that, that angry speeches are my thing. But that’s not true. They’re something I’ve worked hard at. But it would be nice to come back to someone who says, “That was great,” or “Hey, I made you some chicken noodle soup, I know your throat his hoarse from a day of screaming.”
It would be nice to pour an amount of my energy into something that was more fun and flirtatious. I pour a lot of my energy into activism. But more recently, I’ve poured a lot of my energy into blogging and fiction writing. It’s still work–hard work. Even when it comes to that, it would be nice to hear someone say, “I’m here for you. I’m not just a march. I want to pour an equal amount of energy into something that’s going to care about you as well.”
I think we shine the light on a lot of people who play and are the hero. And how they need people to care about them as well. But I think people who are willing to play the villain need someone to care about them as well. I’ll play the villain with people I find to be oppressive and I’ll be the bad guy when thinking about risks to take in activism and my writing.
I don’t enjoy doing it. I do it with a smug and confident face, and I know it has value and is worth my energy. But it is often a really painful labor of love. People who are willing to be rough, hard, and intimidating out there, need care. Yes, they should be held accountable. But that hardness, roughness, and sharpness means they still need that caring and nurturing to push forward to it.
I want someone to tell me, “I’m in it for the long run. Let’s make mistakes in front of each other and see how it goes”… Someone open to a trial-and-error process instead of a deal breaker contest, where they are willing to dig deep.