Whether or not you care to celebrate it, the hearts, flowers, chocolates and other symbols of Valentine’s Day were all around us last weekend. Bruce and I celebrated in our own low key way – to start the day we exchanged a lovely card and heart-shaped pancakes (and regular ones too!), and as a bookend after a quiet dinner at home, heart-shaped brownie sundaes for dessert.
In between these yummy and fun bits, we also sat together and watched the video of our wedding – yumminess of a different sort. Remembering this wonderful day – now almost 4 years ago – was a powerfully intimate experience for us, and it got me thinking.
With Bruce – fully present to the moment, hearts open and undefended
Like its counterparts beauty, adventure and pain (all juicy topics we can explore another time!) I believe intimacy is SUCH a powerful draw for us because in any moment where we’re experiencing true intimacy we are fully present to the moment, AND, we are there with our hearts open and undefended.
As these photos from our wedding day show, we call these moments breathtaking for good reason! When we remember and reflect on our richest experiences of intimacy – whether a moment of eye gazing, a sensual connection, passionate love making, or any other flavour of intimacy we can imagine – it feels like who we are being, who we are with, and what we’re experiencing in this moment is all that there is.
In a way time ceases to exist … we experience bliss, connectedness, peace, expansiveness, and possibility in their purest sense.
No wonder our hearts long for this! And here’s where the ice cream sandwich metaphor comes in.
Those moments of intimacy are like the ice cream in the center of the sandwich – the really yummy part. But if were to try to just hold the ice cream part in our hands and eat it, it would (like intimacy sometimes is) be uncomfortable and messy. So that’s where the outside parts of the sandwich come in – yummy in their own right, and yet quite different from the ice cream – making consuming the ice cream part both easier to do, and adding more flavours and textures.
While we can have powerful fleeting moments of intimacy with complete strangers (another whole category of yummy!), nurturing deeply intimate relationships over the long haul calls for more than intimacy alone.
In looking at the ice cream sandwich through the RICH Relationships framework, I see the ‘I’ being the ice cream of intimacy, sandwiched between the ‘R’ of respect, and the ‘C’ of courage, and all of this held firmly but gently in ‘H’ of honouring our humanity.
One of the things Bruce and I pledged to each other during our Civil Ceremony was a ‘yes’ in response to this question “Knowing what you know of each other, and trusting in your capacity to navigate together what you do not yet know, will you accept one another as husband and wife, and will you now pledge to share with and support one another in all that comes into your lives?”
To truly get to know another and navigate the ups and downs, of relationship definitely requires us to expand our capacity to be present to not only the yummy parts, but the messy, challenging bits that we hadn’t envisioned. These times call for us to respect ourselves and each other. And, truly being present to some of those messy, challenging bits – and even sometimes the REALLY yummy bits we’ve not yet learned to be comfortable with – requires boatloads of courage.
Sharing a moment with my heart-sister Birgit, with whom I’ve navigated many ‘ups and downs of relationship’ over the years …
If we’re honest with ourselves, even in the most wonderful moments, we know deep in our hearts there WILL BE times when things won’t feel so wonderful. The question becomes, how do we hold and eat the sandwich then?! We may be tempted to just throw it away – but then we lose the yumminess too. Or we may eat it really quickly to try and get rid of the messiness – and perhaps experience the additional pain of brain freeze. And if we take our time and savour it, it’ll get drippy and messy.
Some of the most powerfully intimate moments – spaces where we really experience the RICH-ness of intimacy – occur when we practice honouring the humanity in ourselves and others as we navigate those painful and messy situations.
After the celebrations, a quiet intimate moment with my ‘baby’ Rachael who had read this poem during the ceremony
Another part of our wedding service was an excerpt from Anne Morrow Lindberg’s
Gift from the Sea:
When you love someone,
You do not love them all the time,
In exactly the same way,
From moment to moment.
It is an impossibility,
It is even a lie to pretend to.
And yet this is exactly what most of us demand.
We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life,
Of love, or relationships.
We leap at the flow of the tide
And resist in terror at its ebb.
We are afraid it will never return.
We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity;
When the only continuity possible in life,
As in love, is in growth, in fluidity, in freedom,
In the sense that the dancers are free,
Barely touching as they pass,
But partners in the same pattern.
Learning about pacing, how to be present with our hearts open when we’re in one of those ebb moments (or after noticing them shut down, having the courage and wisdom to know when to it’s time to open our hearts again), learning to handle and clean up messes – all these are the less yummy and comfortable parts of intimacy, and of Realizing RICH Relationships.
These are the kinds of situations we face head on in our community. If the idea of having a partner and guide who’s willing to be present with you in the midst of those less comfortable moments, and to support you in expanding your capacity to be powerfully and authentically present in the whole range of those RICH moments of intimacy feels appealing, I’d love to hear from you!