“Lynne, when am I seeing you this week?”
It was Yair, the handyman, on the phone. I smiled at the affectation, at the warmth from an inevitable stranger. Another person to come into my life in some small way and I into his, accompanied by little rays of happiness.
As he measured my kitchen backsplash, where he will later this summer put subway tile, he regaled me with tales of the dissolution of his first marriage, his subsequent disenchantment with the religious Jewish world, and his later discovery of real love and a second marriage. (Did you ever see that Family Feud episode where they asked who was the most common confidante and hairdresser was the top answer?)
It was with the assurance of an older brother that Yair nodded in my direction, a nod of camaraderie, of understanding. He’d been where I stood; he’d come through the tunnel to find sunshine on the other end.
Before he left, he dictated his no-fail chicken and potatoes recipe. When he called yesterday, about the particleboard doors to replace my warped ones, he asked if I’d made it yet.
“Uh, no,” I replied. “Maybe I will for Shabbat.”
“Good! Then I’ll come over Friday afternoon and show you how so you do it right. And do you have two sticks of margarine and some flour?”
“Two sticks of margarine? Yair, you’re trying to kill me,” I said.
“No – I’ll show you how to make Yemenite bread – one taste and you’ll fast the next day but it’s so good.”
Today, after I finished a work project with a colleague, he asked, “How are you doing? Really?”
He didn’t have to inquire. We’re just colleagues. But I smiled at the gesture and nodded. “I’m doing well,” I said, and meant it. I asked about his recent surgery, he told me he’d started running again, we laughed over our obsessive connections to our Blackberries.
At a friend’s house last night, I sipped wine on the patio and ate crusty bread with soft cheese and fig spread. She proudly walked me through her just-planted garden. When her children came home, her daughter brought out lotion and offered to give us massages. I scooped the little girl up in a hug.
One night not long ago, I dabbled in front of the computer, sleepy but not enough to go to bed, nothing on the television, no one I particularly wanted to telephone. I signed on to Facebook; ten of my “friends” were online, too, ten o’clock on a weeknight, most of them married, with children. My laugh echoed against the blue walls of my office. Night air seeped in through the open window.
Everywhere I turn, I see people yearning for connection. But all too often, the only connection many can muster is the distant kind, the kind at enough of a remove that it keeps them safe from getting hurt.
What is so scary about face-to-face, soul-to-soul connection? Sure, there’s always the possibility of being crushed under foot – but every one of us will inevitably scrape ourselves off the floorboards and begin to walk again. In most instances, it wouldn’t even take that long.
A workday ends, dinner is cleared away, the dishes cleaned, counter scrubbed, children tucked between sheet and blanket. And so many of us turn to the computer, to email, to Facebook and MySpace, to quick quips and fast hellos, even faster goodbyes. I’ve had furious text-message conversations where I can’t read tone or intent, but it’s the voice-to-voice I really want and even better, skin alongside skin.
In our evenings, is the dark that frightening? Like children imagining monsters in the closet and ghosts under the bed – do we envision the worst rejection, should we get too close?
When I was a child and afraid of thunderstorms, my father sat beside me, a hand on my shoulder, and said, “Lynnie, remember that Igor is protecting us.” That was all it took and I could sleep.
Igor, my father’s fictitious invisible security guard, stood watch over all my scary childhood nights. When my own children were old enough to run into my room in the middle of storms, I told them the story of Igor, said Papa had given him to us since all of the children were grown and no longer living in Papa’s house.
The fear is an illusion, you know. Those moments of supreme silence? That glass of wine sipped simply for flavor and subsequent warmth? That favorite dog-eared book picked up yet again just to journey down the path of adventure, crisis, and resolution?
That’s where our souls live, in the moments, in the being, in the daring to listen to the silence.
And that is where true love is found.
First, you have to love the silence and be brave enough to sit with it in the night. Then, and only then, can you love another. Look, I’m not talking from experience – I lived for years with a person I thought I loved, and still I heard the echoes of the night all too often.
But, in the aftermath, with my hundreds of Facebook “friends” zipping in and out of messages and wall posts, connection – soul-to-soul, face-to-face, the kind where you catch your breath because you know the other person likes the real you – is, I believe, possible.
Maybe I’m an idealist or maybe I’m just naive, but I believe with every beat of my heart that true connection exists. I’ve never had it with a lover, but I have it with friends. They are a lifeline.
When I decided to end my marriage, I did it with the firm belief that loving myself and living alone would be better than living with someone who did not truly love me and whom I did not truly love.
But I also believed that somewhere out there exists a man who will one day touch my soul as I will hold his in my soft grip, securely, firmly, with enough release not to cage each other but with just the right pull to know that a connection unlike any other has been planted.
In order to find him, I knew I had to eliminate the empty or flimsy or distant connections from my life and accept only veracity. Substance. Depth and heart.
From what I’ve seen with those few exceptional friends of mine, I can only imagine that real connection, the kind every person wants but too many hide behind excuses and distance and computer screens, that connection must be like the surge of energy I got climbing Dog Mountain.
The challenge lies in opening up enough to find it, looking eye to eye and not daring to look away.