In Search of Intimacy
There's a phrase I've heard often growing up, usually directed towards girls and women who end up getting a raw deal from a boy or man who did them dirty.
"She's looking for love in all the wrong places."
There was even a play that my church did back in the day called "Looking for Love", which was based on this same idea that a girl's or woman's shortcomings in relationships was somehow a one-sided failure on her part to "look for love" correctly, whatever that means. The idea that looking to the Holy Trinity as a cure to satisfy our spiritual selves while there is a deeply emotional and physical need to also be cared about and protected has always fallen flat in my soul. I've been a Christian my whole life and neither the presence of God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit has been able to spare me from the thorn in my side that is loneliness; the absence of intimacy.
I believe this loneliness causes me to search for relief, and how I have found relief is by alleviating the loneliness of others; hoping that one day someone would choose to do the same for me. For those who have witnessed my ability to bring people together and form community, it may be a surprise to see that my inspiration and motivation comes from not wanting to see people lack the same way I do. But to this day, I still feel like the only people capable of showing up for me without making me feel like a burden is my immediate family, and as someone who has lived her entire adult life away from them, the daily cloud of loneliness has been closer to me than my own brothers.
But should I expect this? I am not entitled to earthly long-term closeness, no matter how many churches insinuate that it is a must-have. At the core of my inner being, I am only fully known and loved by my Creator. However, that truth does not always feel like it's enough to ward off the unique pain that only loneliness brings.
In college, I started saying to myself "people always leave" because it happened so often. Not out of self-pity, but just in a way to protect myself from falling apart from the hole they would create in their surprise getaway.
Here in Ecuador, it's been more of the same, to be honest. It's been another revolving door of characters, and the unknown of the future of who will actually stick around when my time is over. I have created space in my heart for only a few: my bailoterapia club, some co-workers, my close church girlfriends, and a few other Peace Corps Volunteers... but often I am saddened when I get lost in my thoughts, wondering if any of these connections will stay when I head back to the US next August. For this reason, goodbyes are always hard.
We all lack things we desperately desire, and most -- if not all -- of us are constantly searching for ways to fill it. I am not saying God couldn't help me find the "Jonathan" to my "David", but maybe intimacy is just something that is not yet in store for me. I have to learn to find the joy in looking, and the sweetness that comes from the often fruitless search for friends who stay. I must not beat myself up for being human enough to sometimes "look for love in the wrong places," and to not self-blame or take on the shame of other people who are shitty to me because they don't know how to love me in return.
I have heard many sermons, and read many scripture verses, and prayed many prayers. But like Paul, I feel often that this is just one of the burdens I have had to learn to carry as part of my exciting, well-lived, adventurous journey. Many people wonder how I'm able to take risks, or live far from home, or still be single (LOL especially that). But every dream comes with a price; mine is intimacy. And perhaps that's what we're all looking for... not simply love but to know and be known by choice, not simply blood.
I took a solo trip to the beach on Thanksgiving, and still ended up meeting new friends who let me tag along to do some touristy stuff for the day. Loneliness does not equate to aloneness, nor is it the opposite of joy.
I wish I could wrap this up with a feel-good, but that wouldn't be honest. What I can say is that the saddest, loneliest parts of my life are more brief now that I started living as my truest self. I tell men that I'm dating what I'm actually looking for instead of keeping silent and hoping they'll come around eventually (they never do, lol). I no longer surround myself with people just to say I have "friends, when in reality they were just habits" (twitter quote, paraphrased).
I have embraced solitude, but have not isolated; I have learned how to connect with people in a meaningful way, at a meaningful time, for a meaningful purpose. I have let people get close to my heart, even if I knew it would someday end, because I still have a deep hope that eventually one day it won't. I no longer give seeking a return on my emotional investment; I give my time, love and energy to others freely, knowing that God will refuel me to give again. I do not search for approval. I am no longer shrouded in bitterness, and I live just about every day to its fullest.
No, I do not want pity, and even worse, I do not want you to read this and think you have to change something about our relationship to fix me. Keep being you. Matter of fact, I hope that you read this and are inspired to be an even more true version of who you already are. That's what I plan on doing. We are all challenged in some ways that last longer than others; ways that often don't make sense, but allow us to be our best selves for our own good. I'll keep looking for intimacy, but I won't try so hard anymore; I'll let God reveal whatever he has in store for me in His own perfect time.