Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Let's Talk Intimacy

Growing in the raised beds outside our apartment
It's been some time since I've talked about Love--that singular factor which caused me to move to this Asian nation on the other side of the world. Even Atlas Obscura put our story in the "Remote Locations" category--read a synopsis of our story which they published online. It's the third entry under Remote Locations.

As a year of life in Mongolia fades into the rearview mirror, I--no, WE--are yet amazed by it. Living one's own fairy tale is a surreal experience. Everyday life's annoyances and challenges can't seem to squelch the bliss. It doesn't matter that I can't buy spaghetti squash, that there is not a good sub shop in town (or that I can't buy familiar looking or tasting lunchmeat anywhere), that my hot water goes out for days or weeks at a time, or that every appliance and fixture in my kitchen is miniature-sized.  I wouldn't trade the Love I've found/made for ALL the things I miss about life in the U.S. 

Love has many shades and hues. I *thought* I knew what Love was before I met and knew Zorig. As time passes, I realize that while I may have had one understanding of Love, I did not know ALL that it could be. The best analogy I can give is that my previous relationships were perhaps a 200 level undergraduate course in Love; this relationship immediately took me to a 500+ graduate intensive course. From the beginning it has forced me to push past fears and insecurities--to be IN relationship in a whole new and ever-expanding way.

To that end, today I want to talk about intimacy. If you ask our modern technological oracle Google, "what is intimacy?" Google will reply with: Intimacy is the experience of emotional closeness. It occurs when two people are able to be emotionally open with one another, and reveal their true feelings, thoughts, fears and desires. This can only occur when both people are able to genuinely trust one another, and feel able to take the risk of being vulnerable. 

The definition is easy to read and comprehend, but NOT so easy to live or realize. Not in my experience anyway. To allow another person to see ALL aspects of one's self is no small or easy task. And this comes from a woman who is known by family, friends, and colleagues as someone who easily, and perhaps far too often, speaks her mind. 

From an early age we, as human beings, experience rejection. We are disappointed and hurt by family members and by friends. We then put up walls to protect ourselves from being hurt. While it's possible we may avoid some hurt, these walls also prohibit us from ultimate connection with another human being. The strategies we employ as defense mechanisms, to protect our hearts and souls, end up being the very things that repel what we most want in this world--to know and be known by another

This article from Psychology Today explains that finding or creating intimacy all boils down to vulnerability. Or rather, our fear of being vulnerable keeps intimacy out of our reach. Here is a link to my favorite TED Talk (to date) which is Brene Brown talking about the Power of Vulnerability. If you haven't yet watched it, please make the time to do so. 

I was 40 years old before I knew intimacy. And that's because Zorig, with patience and care, led me into its rich forest. He was honest and forthright in all things--right from the start.  As the aforementioned article says, we are attracted to individuals that are themselves, "Because we feel an intrinsic comfort in the presence of authenticity. Moreover, someone who is real and vulnerable gives us the space and permission to be the same.

Zorig was fully and ONLY himself, and that way-of-being inspired me to follow suit. He never faltered. I had hiccups and speed-bumps along the path. I was afraid and worried. I had doubts and concerns. But then I would remember the quote which I'd adopted as a personal mantra--"Behind every fear is a person you want to be." And I would do what was necessary to push past the fear, the uncertainty. I was determined to see whom I could become on the other side. Zorig has always been there waiting--ready to receive and accept me. You see, in those infamous words of Mark Darcy from Bridget Jones' Diary, Zorig was ultimately saying "I like you very much. Just as you are" in each and every moment. 

Our courtship, which ironically occurred in the virtual world where it can be easy to camouflage oneself, was about truth. No masks. No pretending or game playing. I'll never be able to fully understand or explain how two people made the same choice to bare their hearts and souls completely. We shared the light and the dark. The dreams, hurts, and disappointments. Stories from our pasts, wishes for our futures. We shared so much, so that when we met again in the flesh (four and a half months after our initial six day fishing trip), it was not strange or weird or awkward. While I was nervous to see him after that time apart, and the growth of our friendship into a full blown love relationship, my nerves dissolved the moment we hugged. He was home. He saw me just as I was and loved and accepted me. I reciprocated in kind.

He is my closest friend and confidante. We tell each other everything and we never tire of talking about our love and connection. I'm amazed at how quickly hours, filled with conversation, can pass us by. Before Zorig, I thought women who called their partners their best friend were lying. I had never felt that close or connected to a male counterpart. I think part of that comes from the reality that men and women communicate differently. And we are wired differently too. Recently my sister shared with me this video about how male and female brains are different. I first saw it a few years ago when studying how boys and girls learn differently. Mostly I think it's spot on. However, I have found a man that doesn't seem to have a Nothing Box. Zorig is always thinking about something. I'm not sure if his brain shuts down when he sleeps. :) 

From my favorite little book about Love....I read and reread it.
Something he's taught me that is of great importance is to NOT focus on the small things. Two people in a relationship should always keep their eye on the prize--on the Love and Respect they have for one another. If you keep that as your home-burning fire (in Mongolian the word is голомт and means hearth), so to speak, you can hardly go wrong. In my previous relationships the focus seemed to be on "being right" or winning. As you can imagine, when trying to be right or win (which is self-focused), it can be difficult to deepen a connection with or understanding of another. 

This article from Scientific American about long-term love says, "When we get to know someone well, we naturally learn about both their strengths and their weaknesses but it is really up to us whether we choose to focus one side or the other. By focusing on what we appreciate and admire in our partner and being grateful for the value and gifts that our partner brings into our lives, we cannot but think positively and may feel more intense love as a consequence.

No human being is perfect, but we can perfectly fit with another. We are each unique puzzle pieces looking for that special someone that we can click and fit together with. Zorig knows AND appreciates the fact that men and women are different creatures. He doesn't try to make me behave like a man, nor do I try to make him act like a woman. We are open and fully vulnerable with one another and this allows our connection to deepen and our love to grow and expand. As is Mongolian belief, a husband and wife melt together. I'm happy to say that I feel that to be true. Though to clarify, we are each unique individuals that together create a one-of-a-kind couple. 

I dedicate this post to Zorig--for unknowingly coaching and leading me into this love of a lifetime. You are everything I didn't know I needed and wanted, and I'm thankful each and every day to be your friend, your lover, your wife. Let's keep going deeper...... Love you.

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