Comforting Words: Move Back and Make Friends

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Move Back and Make Friends

One day I will write a book and name it “Route 43,” after all there are so many television programmes or films about confessions from taxicabs, ranging from the tame to the very raunchy.

My book, however, will highlight the treasures that I have heard while riding to work such as the one I heard this morning. “There are no accidents” and the longer I live I see this as truth.

In the last post, I promised to start a series on Intimate Relationships and as I moved down the aisle of the extremely full 7:16 a.m. bus, the driver gave me an idea how to start this series.

Encouraging the passengers to make room for those wanting to get on the bus, the driver shouted towards the back, “Move back, and make some friends!”
We all laughed as he said that but his words had deeper implications for my over-active mind. “He’s right,” I thought. “You would really be getting close to people but would that qualify as friendship?”

Friendship is a concept that has evolved for me over the years. Growing up with a single-mother who had very little friends and little or no contact with her family, I craved the company of the neighbourhood children. As I have shared before, to get in with the crowd, I used every means necessary including plain old bribery, running up my patron’s credit at Miss Gardner’s grocery store to get sweets for my pals.

My mother, however, would warn me, “Friend and company is no good,” and so for much of my childhood into adulthood that suspicion of people would haunt me. Little did I know that my mother’s warnings came from a place of deep hurt and a sense of abandonment and isolation; and so I bought into the notion that friendship is what you call situations where you are either doing something for another or vice versa for the sake of getting something in return.

Friendship was also what you call relationships that did not include sex. For very long, anyone I introduced as a ‘friend’ meant this was someone that I am not having sex with. This might not have been the case for the duration of the relationship but once the sex stopped it became a friendship. Once there is sex, we were a couple. There was just no in-between.

Two scores and a half later my understanding of friendship would, thankfully, begin to evolve. That was the time when my partner of now almost sixteen years came into my life. No, it was not a miraculous turn around but a slow and arduous process, one that continues to this day.

What have I learnt? Well, the first thing was that the absence of sex does not real friendship make. Secondly, the fact that you are having sex with someone does not automatically make you a couple – maybe an item – but certainly not a couple.

These learning moments for me relate directly to the question whether friendships can be intimate relationships without sex?

Intimacy is a word that I have also written about at Comforting Words and it is one that we tend to confuse. As with any word, the interpretation that you choose to make operative is what will determine your attitudes and responses to the word.

Most definitions that I found for ‘intimacy’, suggests that it is “a feeling of closeness and connection generated between people as a result of a strong mutual intention to share feeling, understanding, and communication; may or may not include sexual closeness.”

The closeness referred to is often misinterpreted to mean only sex or some kind of illicit affair. My preference, however, and what I have come to learn and embrace is what one author calls ‘Sacred Friendships’ which “is a way of being, an intimacy with oneself and the world that invites the presence of another into that space.”

This brand of intimacy is not sexual (although it could include sex) and it starts with the self.

I remember the first time I saw my partner face-to-face my breath stopped and I knew I was in the presence of Something special. Stupidly and instinctually maybe, my thoughts went to sex. As we danced around the courting floor for almost six months, I came to realize that what I was being gifted was greater and beyond sex. It was intimacy with myself and through this relationship - something that I had never before experienced.

Admittedly, like in every relationship, the sex wanes, sometimes threatening to go missing in action (literally). What I have come to learn, however, both through my long-term partnership and my friendships, is that intimacy remains (if it was cultivated), it grows and it sustains the relationship after the sex has gone MIA.

I particularly like how the author mentioned above describes this:
“Within the wide embrace of sacred friendship, acceptance and forgiveness are what make real intimacy possible. Intimacy rests in the simplicity of being fully present, responsive to what is there in the moment, with no agenda or anticipation. By fully being in the moment we are there in just the right way. We rediscover the mystery of who we are through this interchange of opening and surrender. Such friendships create heaven on earth.”

Therefore, let me suggest that there can (and there are) be intimate friendship without sex and guess what? More often than not – the taste is sweet!

Modifying just a bit what the bus driver said, let me also suggest that you “Move into and then outward from your self and make some Friends!”



P.S. Regular readers know that this is one of my favourite proses, The Invitation, as it touches me deeply and calls to mind and heart the true meaning of being there and being intimate with others. I invite you to print it and post in where you will always see it when your relationships get cloudy or shaky.


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