This is part four of a four-part series
Recently, my husband, John, and I went looking for a small tree to put on our back deck on the bay, near the Wetlands Institute, to give thanks and embrace the holiday season, but 2020 is not like other years.
In this year of social isolation, global terror and mass confusion, the emotional dangers of loneliness can go unnoticed. Those we know and love are feeling out of sorts with their lives at this holiday season. In my family, a potluck Thanksgiving is both welcomed and expected, except for this year, when it is probably too cold to celebrate Christmas dinner outside on a back deck overlooking the bay.
What do you think of when you think of the state of intimacy?
As a clinical psychologist who has worked with troubled intimate marital and family relationships for nearly half a century, I am happy to report that I still think of swimming in the cold ocean, holding my daddy’s hand at age 7. We rose early in the morning for our swim before breakfast before we went out for pancakes, and if I was brave, I was rewarded with a teaspoon of daddy’s coffee.
Was it the intimacy with my daddy or the coffee and pancakes that made it all so special?
I now know that it was holding my daddy’s hand as we braved the cold waves at the beach I have come to love. Do I love that beach today because it had cold waves, or because it offered a reason for me to clutch my daddy’s hand and push myself into the waves to have fun with the man who meant more to me than any other?
Let me invite you to reminisce with me as we learn more about how we can deepen the intimacy we enjoy with ourselves and those we love during the holidays.
Intimacy - the word rolls off my tongue, but in the final analysis, I have learned that intimacy is not for wimps, as my last columns have described.
Through weathering the death of my first husband, at age 49, and the near-death of my second husband, who was rescued by the Stone Harbor Fire Department and flown to the hospital where they saved his life, I have come to appreciate that the Beatles were correct in the song that capped the early years of their career - “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. “
After over half-century of marriage, I am certain that love between two intimates doesn’t end. The stories of our lives are true for you, me and those we love.
In the many hours spent swimming in the ocean with my daddy and, when I was 14, standing next to him as he taught me to balance a cash register, one lesson stands out above others. Daddy was right when he told me to “be careful whom you fall in love with.” The joy I enjoyed with the late Dr. Erich Coche and the joy I enjoy with John Anderson lights my life like the stars on a dark-summer night.
What has been gifted to me in my lifetime I bequeath to my granddaughters, that they, too, may enjoy a lifetime of intimate delights. There simply is no greater gift.
In 2021, I invite you to take the challenge of looking inside of yourself, for intimacy is the art of inviting another to investigate your spirit and cradle it with love. "Into me see" is the foundation of the skills we need to be intimate with ourselves and others, be they human, birds or four-legged pets. I think of its meaning because I allow someone access to my heart, mind and body when I trust them enough to let them know me well enough to love me and be loved by me.
We can neither buy nor sell intimacy. It comes from within each person who needs to connect deeply for survival and selects others who feel like a match. What could be better than that?
I wish you and yours the most joyful upcoming holiday.
To Consider: How many people do you allow into this inner space inside and between you? Can you share this intimacy with others if you do not know yourself?
To Watch: Visit the website for Friends Life Care (www.friendslifecare.org), and find the webinar done on the Seven Skills of Intimacy. It was viewed Nov. 17, and I spoke then in greater depth than space allows in this column.
ED. NOTE: Dr. Coche practices clinical psychology in Stone Harbor and Philadelphia. She invites responses through her website, www.cochecenter.com.