Mine is an inquiring mind. The desire to know is often secondary to a desire to inquire.
R_____ and I had not seen each other for a couple of years when he arrived in Gulfport last week. We'd kept in touch by frequent telephone and written correspondence.
We met in the San Francisco area and, while I lived there, were 'friends who had sex". (This is, admittedly, a coarse or clinical way to speak of a friendship--and I apologize to R_____ if it hurts to read this. I don't mean to imply a judgment. I mean to identify an interpersonal frame for our interactions.) When I left CA and hit the road in 2004, I was unhappy with R_____ and our relationship. My complaint was a lack of intimacy between us. I felt that after all we'd shared and explored physically and after all the time spent together, there should be more intimacy between us.
We were nice to each other, we had fun, we enjoyed each other. But it was not enough for me. I wanted to be seen and known by him. Recognized in some primal, elemental way.
My complaint was valid. And impossible.
My departure interrupted the possibility of exploring the validity together. Instead, we reached an unspoken agreement on the impossibility of my complaint and began a cordial, often deeply satisfying long-distance interaction in which we did not discuss "it". The mutual silence on my "issue" was comfortable and, ironically, we did grow closer...in some way. I felt closer. We eventually even allowed ourselves to say "love."
It was not long after R___________ arrived in Gulfport thatI noticed a recurring conversational format between us. He asked questions rather than make statements. I love questions. Good questions. Questions that open up the space between and around and within people. R____'s questions didn't feel spacious to me; they felt protective or deflective. I kept feeling his questions were posed to spare him the risky work of showing himself to me. The questions kept me in the self-disclosing spotlight and him in the cloaked comfort of the voyeur.
Ignoring my awareness that the new annoyance was actually a renewed expression of my old, impossible complaint, I talked "at" and "to" R_____ about it. Not a particularly productive approach.
For the first 12 hours after he left, I missed him. The apartment felt strange, like a wall was missing. I was anxious and unfocused. I asked myself why...
By the next day, I began to accept the paradoxical nature of our relationship: that I cherish him and that he confounds me; that I enjoy his company and am frustrated by his company; that he lives in my heart and is a stranger to me. That we are intimates and we are not of the same tribe.
On this third day, as the holiday weekend begins and people far and near gather in families of birth and choice, I consider again the meaning of "tribe" in my personal lexicon. A reader here recently invited me to expand my discussion of "tribe" and I have been thinking about it on and off in the intervening weeks.
I'm looking for a good image to open my discussion. Coming soon....