I have been burnt many times by diving too quickly and too deep into the fire of intimacy with new friends. I am more guarded these days, more
wary selective of who i am intimate with. This doesn’t mean i am less intimate. In fact it means the intimacy i do find is more deep and rich, because it is reached through sensing another’s capacity for receiving and honouring it. When i was openly intimate with anyone i met, going around justifying my bleeding-heartedness by calling myself “an open book”, i was actually diluting intimacy by sharing it so freely. And often i would get burned because the other would not be capable of holding the space with such an earnest, blubbering young man who looked so tough on the outside. They would be shocked, and i would be left holding the fire alone, which is when it burns.
I must have a strong constitution, or my desire for connection was stronger than even my fear of rejection, because i kept going back for more. Rarely with the same person — they were long gone. But with anyone else who came along next, i would open up again and again. And yes i got burned, but even now i wonder if that was such a bad thing: maybe what got burned was, indeed, the ‘i’, because maybe what scared them away was anything forceful they sensed in my sharing — maybe they saw my ego wanting to be seen, because i was just being wantonly open with anyone, regardless of whether they had wanted this or not. This kind of offloading is not intimacy, because intimacy can never be forced — it can either occur naturally, or it must be cultivated.
Now, and especially as i travel more and more as a way of life and as i meet more and more people, i often find myself in situations where i am holding back parts of myself where i otherwise would have blurted forth into the conversation (verbal or otherwise). I am not holding back because i have grown afraid from all those times i got burned. I am holding back because i see now that intimacy is precious, not to be squandered on the many who are not ready, willing or able to receive it in a space that creates intimate feedback.
Intimacy is a characteristic that develops in a relationship between two or more people who love each other, and even with the most compassionate people it takes time to develop. You can’t just barrel in there with your hard-luck story or your tale of triumph and not expect people to freak. You’ve got to ease them and yourself gently into a space where you can finally sit and rest and look around you and see that you are both or all part of the freakshow — the freakshow of beautiful wonky people who just want someone to let go of their hand and hold their heart for a while.