I left the building and spent most of the long lunch break in my office. I decided to come back a little early in order to sit on the patio before heading in. I sat next to a woman from the group and introduced myself–more to be polite than to start any sort of conversation. She was kind of a smart-ass, pronouncing her own name in a Spanish accent even though it wasn’t a Spanish name. I could tell it wasn’t mean, that it was a kind of weird attempt to connect and I didn’t let it bother me.

She asked me a few questions and I willingly entered into the conversation. I noticed that this person had an abundance of life in her eyes–they were so very expressive. The more I paid attention the more I saw all of the activity and movement inside of her: so much, soulfulness, anger, hurt, sadness. A bit too sensitive for this world. I found myself drawn to her. I wasn’t a lustful draw, it was….I don’t know….maybe a bit narcissistic. Not in any horrible way, just in that very human way where we respond strongly to seeing our own reflection in something when we weren’t expecting to. I could see how strongly she felt things and how much psychic energy was spent on constraint, even while talking about pretty innocuous topics. And yet I could sense that for both of us there were no innocuous topics because we are wired to look for danger even while longing for closeness. I imagined that in some other universe we were sibling wolves in the same pack. We could shed all of the constraints of human civilization: the anger and love and wildness would be freely expressed as we bared our teeth, nuzzled, played, growled, stalked prey and hunted. All that life force expressed in a short, dangerous–but very present-oriented–life.

Needless to say, I didn’t share that fantasy with her. Instead we talked about clothing and fabric and how someone my size might go about creating his own wardrobe. The content was nice but I often find what is said via words is a bit less interesting than what is left unspoken and what is said with the body. She would occasionally drop a comment that in certain contexts would be perceived as provocative. I could see that my responses to these “throw ins” were important to her. My honest responses (somehow I was able to be honest if for no other reason than that I felt like a tourist with a one-time invitation to another country) seemed to allow her to relax her shoulders a bit. As an example, we were talking about making your own clothes and I told her that my grandmother made her own muumuus (long loose fitting dresses that I believe originated in Hawaii). She quickly interrupted to say:, “you’d look amazing in a muumuu”. To which I responded, “Yes, I think so too.” She guessed my favorite colors (though I wasn’t wearing them) and I found it sort of cozy to talk about this sort of stuff on a day that was so full of….deep and intense vulnerability.

A few times people approached us to join the conversation but, despite our politeness, they all seemed to give up and leave pretty quickly. It was as though they could sense that we were not to be bothered. I could see that she carried tears just beneath the surface; that what the world-at-large deemed “nothing” could bring them out. It was like her inner-child was less than a stone’s throw away and the slightest thing could bring it out of hiding. I won’t get hung up on whether I was reading her correctly or whether I was projecting (or some combination of the two). I feel comfortable that I was somewhere around the truth. I liked her. But I liked her cautiously. It was difficult to see myself reflected in her. It was difficult to imagine what it would be like if we both lost constraint at the same time: I imagined tears and shouts and hugs and lots of intensity. Lots of life. Sometimes enlivening and very frequently draining. I think that’s why I had the wolf fantasy–I invented a world where that honesty wouldn’t be scary.

Lunch ended and we went back to group. I was invited to join the group for one day to play a very specific role for someone in a group activity. It was a bit frightening to be thrown in when I knew I was a one-time guest. It was a very powerful and emotional group activity surrounding death and loss. After the group activity there was a short break. I was standing outside, focusing on my breath when suddenly I felt someone wrap their arms around me. It was the woman from lunch. I was surprised and taken aback. In fact, it was the sort of hug that I have coined a “torpedo hug”–a sort of surprise attack that does away with consent (for better and worse). I accepted the hug by hugging her back. As soon as we let go she ran off to talk to other people. The hug felt like a very pure thing and a very complicated thing at the same time. On the one hand there was a very child-like flavor to it: like the person had a strong honest impulse and went for it. The way they sort of ran away felt like…it’s hard to describe…I suppose it felt like they were trying to be careful not to feel too much–not to give too much away or take too much in. Like their sensitivity couldn’t bear it. It made me feel compassion. Even things that feel good to me have to be given up quickly because almost anything can make me feel too intensely–even a simple goodbye on the phone.

Soon after returning to group she accepted the invitation to leave early. She looked tired and overwhelmed. I could see how she was like an exposed nerve doing all of this really intense stuff all day–throwing herself bravely into all of the intensity while navigating her own inner intensity. It seemed to all get to be too much and she took care of herself. But it was not her leaving that left a huge impression (one other person left as well). It was the way she almost ran away. The intensity I could feel beneath the surface was right there on the surface. I thought of how many times in life I have run away even in contexts where running away is considered rude. Those times when it felt like everything was bearing down on me and running was about survival.

I’m glad I met her. It’s interesting to note that there is neither a desire to encounter her again nor a desire to avoid her. I feel a quiet respect and appreciation. A calm and contained love. Maybe even, I fear my reader will view me as narcissistic, self-love.

There are times when I want to run away from this blog. I’m torn between how uncomfortably naked I feel and how badly I need to have these conversations with myself. It’s kind of confusing because I see them primarily as conversations with myself but to be witnessed makes me feel less…bonkers.

Sometimes I judge myself–I wonder if it’s healthy to share so much or if I’m being self-indulgent. Then I tell myself to remember the context of my life: for much of it I have hidden. My screams have been silent as well as much of my love. So I’m telling myself that there is a wisdom in all of this. A need to keep “coming out”. And maybe someday that need will change and I will want to go back in a bit. Maybe on that day I will delete it all. And that’s okay too I suppose.

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