Being Seen

So there's this NYT article about the 36 questions used by scientists to promote the possibility that two strangers could fall in love.

When I read it, I was fascinated - is it really that simple? I've spent my whole life twisting myself into knots to be loved...is it possible that all I had to do was be myself and let somebody look at me with loving eyes?

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So the other night, while he was being my designated driver, I asked my friend Frank to do this experiment with me. Truth be told, I wasn't expecting him to agree to it. He's spent so much time communicating to me that he's got limited availability due to an overly complicated life that I pretty much expected him to say ah HELL naw.

I could have chickened out, but I decided to just go for it, balls out. I told him, "There are maybe 4 people that I would want to do this with, and 3 of them live in other cities. I remember you talking about how you missed intimacy, and I thought you might like to try this out with me. Obviously neither of us is in a place to fall in love or anything, but it might be nice, and really, we have nothing to lose."

He didn't say no, though in Portlandian terms, he said something as close to "no" as you can get: "Let me think about it."

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That's that, then, I thought, He's not up for it. Oh well. Points to me for trying.

This morning, I got a text from him: 11am? Qs?

Surprise!

I immediately got the sweats. Oh god, I'm gonna have to be really vulnerable around this guy who already knows that I like him. Shit is about to get real.

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But here we go, I thought. Because 2015 is the year of living life with an open heart, damn the risks.

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Frank came over at 11 and we wasted some time making coffee and figuring out the music situation. But then we got to it.

He was superficial at first, testing the waters. Giving glib answers about partying and drinking and generally being lighthearted and not appearing to think too hard about his answers, and arguing with me about my answers.

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But he eventually settled in. Right around Question 8 or 9 is when I remember him actually taking a breath and answering in a slow and considered manner.

I learned so much about him! And yet, I never felt shocked by what he said about himself. Have you ever had that feeling where someone is just so familiar to you that everything you learn reinforces what your intuition has already told you?

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What did surprise me were some of the things he saw in me. For example, he said one of the things he liked most about me was my patience, particularly my patience with him. Let's be clear on this: I have never seen myself as a patient person.

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But with him, it's become...easy, I guess, to be patient. Maybe because he's never blown me off, or really failed to communicate with me once it was clear what my intentions were. And I'm pretty clear about exactly how small a role I play in his life, in consideration of his kid and his baby mama, etc.

...And maybe it's partly because I'm working to live consciously and do some exposure therapy for my triggers and just...evolve, you know?

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Anyway.

These questions aren't always comfortable to answer, but I don't regret it one bit. I found myself giving answers that I hadn't expected to give. Things like "most treasured memory" took my brain to places I hadn't been to in over 30 years, and being able to relive those moments and share them with somebody else was the emotional equivalent of sharing a blanket.

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So, this is what it feels like to choose vulnerability with eyes wide open, and to be comforted by the results: feels good, man. Feels real good.

...And in case you're wondering, it also feels real good to let another person unfurl before your eyes, to just see in them what there is to be seen, without expectations of who they should be. The people who don't understand what I see in this guy? I feel bad for them that they can't look at people with a more curious heart, because they're really missing out. He is wonderful.

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