Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Near-ness

"you were ready to go the distance
but you could not go -
you could not go the near-ness"

When I was in high school, and especially in my freshman year at college, I was a huge fan of the crush-from-a-distance. See, I have an incredibly creative and unstoppably overactive imagination. I invent stories, about the people I meet or even just pass by. Elaborate stories. Detailed stories. Fictional stories so real that it's hard for me not to start believing in them. So I can watch someone from afar for a while and start to feel like I know them. Intimately. Better than they may even know themselves. It happens automatically without my attempting or intending it. It's just part of me, the way I am. Some may see it as a huge flaw in my overall make-up. I happen to love it, as it ensures that my inner musings are almost always generally fantastical and wildly entertaining.

But I must admit there is one draw-back. The persona I end up creating for someone is usually more exciting, more brilliant, more intriguing (and, well, more like me) than the actual person happens to be. And exposing the pretty pictures in my head to a little dose of reality usually equals (for me) crushing disappointment. I have issues - I know - at least I'm aware of it. This disappointment, or the avoidance of it rather, is where the crush-from-a-distance comes in.

I learned pretty quickly that college boys are almost always a disappointment up close. And I decided I would rather preserve the illusions in my head than come face-to-face with a reality that would shatter them. So I would crush on a boy - hard - but never attempt to actually meet him, much less talk to or get to know him. I would watch him with his friends, notice the foods he selected from the cafeteria line, the queer way he held his fork in his hands, that t-shirt that consistently made a bi-weekly appearance - and each of these clues told me something more about him in the fantasy world of my imaginings. I could tell we were perfect for each other. Too bad he would never know it.

I've learned in the last six months that being married is sort of . . . not at all like the crush-from-a-distance. Marriages is all about the near-ness. Living your life smushed up next to someone there's no room for pretending the object of your affection is anything more or less than exactly what he/she is - not if you want real intimacy and authenticity with someone. And I do. Some of the greatest growth in my life over the last five or so years has been learning to be real, and to value an other's realness. And it's hard - to love someone so much, to be so close to them, to have lives so fundamentally, inescapably entwined - and yet also give that someone room to be a real, full self - a wholly other person.

So, I've eye-rolled lately that farts and burps are the new soundtrack of my life and I tease my husband about his stinky butt. I sometimes find him completely exasperating, though he is amazing, kind, brilliant, etc....because my husband is also infinitely more real (and really flawed) than any fairy-tale Prince Charming. But I love the near-ness. I love how unvarnished we are - even when it frustrates or hurts. I think loving and being loved is a lot like being ripped apart and put back together again. All the ugly, all the beauty - nothing hidden and nothing faked - coming to the surface, coming together to make something strong and wise and beautiful and good.

There have been several really great, I-could-almost-marry-this-guy relationships in my adult life. Times where I moved beyond the crush-at-a-distance factor and gave reality a shot. They all ended, though, because "he just couldn't/didn't see me." Though I couldn't put it in words at the time, what I was lamenting was the lack of near-ness. I knew those guys, wonderful as they were, would never come all the way in. And I knew I would never have the courage to stand naked and open and vulnerable and unadorned before them. As much as it has terrified me - still does most days - I need that way more than I need a romanticized version of my childhood Prince Charming. I need the near-ness. And in the messy, busy, real day-to-day romance of our life together - I find it.

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