How Do You Truly Know Another?

This is just a quick entry before I run off into the hills to play kickball.  Mykael is sitting next to me on the black pleather love seat at Hudson Bay, carving his stones, of course.  The music playing in here is 80s pop hits… probably a satellite radio station. (Zzzzzz, boring)  Mykael turned to me and enthusiastically informed me that he used to love the song playing.  He said it turned him on.  I guess the lyrics are about having a centerfold girlfriend… (I’m a little too young for it, I guess.) But he said that used to be his dream.  He said he was all naïve and hormonal and he would beat off to centerfolds.  (I guess a lot of what I say could be construed as TMI.  Sorry if I tell you more than you want to hear, but to me, that’s where life REALLY happens~ in the smelly nooks and crannies, just south of the Isle of Appropriateness.)  Besides, I have a specific purpose in telling you this.

Our friend came for a visit last night.  He said he didn’t feel known as a man, or just as a person, by his partner.  His confession had a pretty massive impact on me.  I wish I had have asked him more in depth questions about this.  But it had me look at myself and my relationships; with Mykael especially, but also with anybody.  What is it to really KNOW another?  That’s the age old, vastly unanswerable question.  It may be unanswerable, but CERTAINLY worth considering at length, if you ask me.  I’m afraid that sometimes my own endless cascade of needs keeps me from really listening to another, feeling another with the fullness of my attention.  So when Mykael just shared a little intimate snipit (say that fast five times!!!  No, really, try it…) of his past, I paused for an extra few heartbeats to really consider this pubescent boy feeling turned on by a cheesy pop song about a dude with a centerfold girlfriend.  I imagined freshly teen-aged Mykael longing for a hot model to call his own.

Does this qualify as getting to know him better?  Just because I slurp up an image from his past and let it filter into the reservoir of “facts” and images that he purports to be the truth about his past?  It’s one piece of a puzzle that will never be finished.  STOP TRYING TO COMPLETE THE DAMN PUZZLE ATHENA.


I could probably say a lot more about the inquiry of knowing another… And eventually I will, but not today.  The last thing I really want to say about it is that I felt sad hearing that our friend didn’t feel known by his partner, and it inspired me to explore and practice really being a space for others to be revealed.  And as well to be someone who courageously reveals myself.  I invite you to consider what it is to know another… Who knows you best?  Who do you know best?  Are they the same person, or different people?  Is there a part of you that you wish someone else knew that still feels hidden?  When do you really feel known?  In your stories?  In the silence?  In sexual intimacy, tears, laughter, fights…

This leads me to the other thing that I wanted to say.  I had a very humbling experience with Mykael yesterday.  I was carrying on some more about him not wanting to have sex with me and something inside of him snapped and he poured out all these emotion soaked words which clarified the truth of his experience.  He said it’s not true that he doesn’t want to have sex with me.  He said that he’s just under a ton of stress right now about not making money, needing to pass his nursing exam, etc, and that he is physically in pain and full of shame that he isn’t showing up as the man he wants to be for himself, for me, for the world.  Now this might just sound like a lot of hollow words on the page to you, but yesterday as we drove home from the gym, cruising down the 80 freeway from Berkeley to Oakland, his words were way more than words.  They were words steeped in deep emotion, which stopped me in my immature, complaining tracks.  I felt him.  In pain.  In shame.  In desperation to be understood, loved, accepted, forgiven.  His desperation, his radical sincerity broke me open.

So I want to set the record straight.  I want to confess that I have been self absorbed and immature.  See what I mean about knowing another person?  I had so much attention on myself, my needs… and it prevented me from being fully available to witness him, fully recognize his experience.  I sat with the sting of his pain for the rest of the afternoon.  My heart felt saturated with sorrow.  Relationship.  I’ve heard more than a few people say that the purpose of relationship is to find someone who triggers your deepest wounding, so that you have a blessed opportunity to heal it.  This is a very viable idea in my experience.  I can NOT deny that my wounds are not constantly being manhandled (I’m exaggerating), salted, lemon juiced… Another day, another opportunity to love that which seems unlovable, to forgive that which seems unforgivable.  And perhaps to know that which is unknowable…

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kendra
    May 26, 2010 @ 21:21:15

    Athena – I read this post last night & it has been reverberating in me since…deeply…I feel grateful…

    Today while Decker & I were hanging out, I noticed that I ususally listen to him through the filter: how will what he is sharing effect *me* – rather than really listening to him to know *him* – and I was able to shift my perspective & actually listen to him – it was profound.

    Thank you.


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