I’ve been quiet here for a few months now, thinking about forms of detachment, reasons for detachment, fear of intimacy, hoarding emotions, and other non-actions.
About two months ago, a couple of long-time friends found out about my blog. At first I was relieved. One of my worst fears had been realized, and it hadn’t been so bad, really. It was liberating – for three or four days. The next time I sat down to write, I froze, was speechless, at a loss for words. I had “stage fright,” maybe something worse.
Over these wordless months, I’ve recognized something I denied all of my adult life: I have a fear of intimacy. All of my adult life, I’ve believed that others had it, and I may have been projecting.
I’m an introvert, a solitary person, independent and self-sufficient. All those things are true. But it’s also true that I withhold things – not facts, but feelings.
All my adult life (“adult life” because it was very different as a child), I’ve felt comfortable telling the most “intimate” details of my life to virtual strangers. But I’ve really just been telling stories. They are true stories, but they are declawed because they happened in the past, or they weren’t anything to be ashamed of after all, or they were illustrative of some larger theme, or, or, or…The stories have been a way of glancing over the truth without penetrating it.
I don’t talk about my feelings; at this point, I’m not even sure if I feel them. I’ve said before that I don’t cry for myself, only for cruelty to animals or children. But it’s deeper and broader than that. Maybe my love of animals (which is real, and never will change) is where I store my feelings.
I was an only child with a dramatic, verging-on-mentally-ill mother who confided too much, too often, and always demanded that I take sides. Because of her other qualities, I wouldn’t have traded her for any of the other mothers I’ve known, but I knew instinctively that her turbulence was a threat to my wellbeing.
My principal work from about age 13 was to pry myself away from her. We never were estranged, but I grew freer year by year. I know it hurt my mother, but if only one of us was going to survive, it had to be me. During a conversation in my early thirties, my mother said, “I know that the only way to keep you is to let you go.” I’d accomplished the work of my young adulthood, but there were consequences.
I avoided sick people, and my relationships with men were “conflicted.” I was drawn to relationships that couldn’t work in the long run, or withdrew when they got too close, or when they said they loved me (love was, after all, a threat), or wanted me to meet their families, or wove me too deeply into their lives. I once broke up with a guy because being thought of as “John’s girlfriend” was unbearable.
But there are other ways of looking at this distance I’ve kept. Maybe it’s a need to keep things strange or unfamiliar, or to keep some things for myself only. That would be second nature for an only child. If “things” (people, ideas, movements) get too close, if I let them be part of me, I won’t be able to see them, and seeing is the most important thing for me.
And there’s the concept of gifts, life as a series of presents. If you open them, you ruin the anticipation. They may not be what you wanted, but you don’t have to know that if you don’t open them. They may have been exactly what you wanted, but you don’t have to know that either. You spare yourself disappointment, but you deprive yourself of a particular kind of joy.
This seems to be the opposite of “seeing” things, but both seeing and not looking are consistent with the concept of keeping separate.
So I live with it. I’m going to find the guts to write again, because writing is only virtual exposure.