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On Living Dangerously: Knowing and Being Known

July 16, 2013

In spite of the fact that I’ve begun writing a blog, I actually have not, historically, been good at self-disclosure. It’s something I’m working on. And while this blog is not meant to be a sort of running diary, it does seem that to honestly explore the things I’m trying to explore requires allowing myself to be known more than I have in the past. Being known, for me, involves risk, trust, truth. I love to know others — people honestly interest and fascinate me. But when the shoe is on the other foot and people want to know me, my defenses kick in, and I am very careful about how much I reveal. It’s not even conscious. Deep in the folds and recesses of my brain, somewhere there is imprinted the mantra that to let people in is just too dangerous. (I realize the implications of that — and will leave it to therapy to explore someday.)

Now there are those few people in life with whom I just seem to click, and those relationships, whether they have been around for months or years, are the places where I begin to peel back the layers and allow people in. Some folks actually have come to know me, and when I have a chance to spend time with these few people in the world who really know me well, I’m so amazed at all the things which bubble up when we’re together, things that normally I keep inside.

Growing up, I was a solitary child. I lived in a world of books and music, of imagination and creativity, and sometimes of uncertainty. The world seemed to require more of me than I was quite prepared to give. It wasn’t really until I was in middle school that I began to branch out and broaden my landscape with people. Up to that point, my parents were the primary relationships in my life. Both my mother and father were warm, caring, and supportive. My mother was especially nurturing, and it is her love that, later in life, I have found myself returning to again and again as a picture of how to know and be known.

My first real friend, and still one of my truest, deepest friends, was Micki. We met when I was 2 and she was 3. My earliest memories of her were of a child who had all the toys she could ever dream of, the girl with white hair and all the attention. Instinctively, I was both drawn to her and repelled. Who could stand to be in the shadow of such a beam of sunshine? And that was my impression when I was just 4! It wasn’t until I started junior high that we ‘clicked’ and I began that journey of discovery — of another and of myself. We literally grew up together, sometimes in tension but mostly complimenting each other as we explored the boundaries of our respective worlds. Over the years, Micki and I have taught each other about those truest things in life — true joy for another, regret, sorrow, deep loss, redemption, forgiveness. Even now, all these years along the road, we discover new things together and revisit old times, seeing with new eyes things we failed to see in our youth. Early on, we realized, she and I, that we were ultimately realists, that we knew life was nowhere near perfect, that families were flawed, that lives could be forever damaged by passions and regrets and apathy and trauma. Together, there is a give and take to our friendship, a flow to knowing one another and to revealing ourselves as we move through our days and weeks and months and years.

Micki and I 1 Micki and I 2 Micki and I 3

The wonder of knowing and being known is that we all, even the most introverted and private of us, have an amazing capacity for connection. Like when a second (or third or fourth) child is born — just when I think my heart is too full to possibly love the next child as much as the last — my heart breaks open, is more than I knew it could be, and overflows with love. And love is at the heart of knowing (but that’s my next blog).

Knowing another person demands something of me. Sometimes I think that really knowing someone is mainly about always having deep, meaningful conversations. And those conversations do matter. But knowing someone also is about knowing that they like pink or don’t like orange, that cats drive them crazy or tomatoes delight, that they like to drive fast or hate onions or love red, that they secretly want to sing well but never believe they can, that they’re grouchy in the morning or love tea or like to flirt. (This list a mix of Micki and me — I’ll let the reader wonder which is which.) Knowing another means accepting that person in all their complexity and inconsistency, their tenderness and quirkiness and marvelous humanness. I have to be willing to put up with the uniqueness of another person who is often so different than myself.

Being known, though, calls me to put out. No hiding, no demurring from displaying my own sometimes strange and sometimes glorious way of seeing the world. The risk, of course, is not just rejection. That I can take — just let me know you don’t like me and move on. The real risk for me is closeness, is acceptance, is being loved in spite of and because of who I am: restless and poetic, spontaneous and messy, real and rowdy and smart and sassy and deeply flawed, but always trying to allow God to work it out in me, every morning, resurrected.

As Bilbo said to Frodo, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door….”

From → Relationships

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