Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Human Connection and Intimacy

Occasionally I have to go to the Nature Conservancy’s office in Sacramento for a meeting and I happily take Amtrak to get there. Today was one of those days and as I boarded the train in Sacramento to come home I looked for a quiet space to ride the train home. I ended up in a compartment with an older looking white man, wiry, with a little something odd about him, but not threatening. As I sat down a few rows from him a young man came into our small area and saw the older man and asked if he could join him and the older man said sure and even moved into a set of seats facing the kid to talk better. The young kid was Asian with an accent and I could tell from his energy that he wanted to talk with someone.

My first reaction was happiness that the older guy was there so that I didn’t become the reluctant target of the young kid’s talkative energy. And then I was surprised that I felt a little envy at the ease in which these two complete strangers with surface appearances that betrayed no discernable commonalities could so readily begin chatting.

And it turned out that they were perfect conversationalists for each other.

They began talking about history, ranging from Genghis Khan to Marx’s dialectic of history. I didn’t listen too closely because it was a lot of lecturing to each other back and forth but these two men were really enjoying each other’s company, picking up conservation after one went to the snack car or the bathroom. I was quietly amazed.

I think part of my amazement stems from the fact that since packing up my life (and selling or giving away much of it) and moving to Berkeley 5 months ago, I've spent a lot of time thinking about my relationships - to my family, friends, and lack of romantic ones – and my own pursuit of human contact and intimacy. I’m at a point where I question if I’d recognize intimacy if it bit me on the nose. I don’t seem to know how to discern if someone is romantically interested in me, just being polite or simply passing the time. With the new people that I meet at the kitchen I volunteering at, I’m just getting people’s initial surface story of who they are, where they’ve been and what brought them to the kitchen and it will take some effort to go deeper.

As I get older I realize people already have their intimate relationships – romantic and friends – and they’re not looking to expand. I can understand this as much as it frustrates me; people and intimacy take effort and time to build and develop. But as someone who feels like she’s starting over, I still find it really baffling that I’m halfway through life and I don’t know how to do this. I try not to dwell on how this happened and try and move forward with trusting that I do know how to do it, I’m just overanalyzing it. But it is a strange place to be in mentally. I’m hoping in sharing it with the blogosphere that I can let it go.

Love and hugs!

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