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Joshua Tree & Intimacy

Updated: Mar 12, 2021

There's a quote I see floating around social media from time to time that always makes me pause and feel. It's this one:

By Lora Mathis

It makes me feel because it is startling, and perceptive. Reading this quote, I understand it as the radical beauty of love in full force. And I want it. I crave the connection offered in Lora's words, with all that rawness of heart and depth of feeling.

There are moments in life that you know, even as they're happening, will be a flashbulb-bright memory forever. Last weekend in Joshua Tree with my dear friends Lya, Al, and Maggie was one such moment, because I experienced the promise of Lora's quote with them. They invited me into the opportunity to gently let down the walls I didn't know I had around my own heart when it comes to intimacy with other women.

The whole weekend felt like a buzzy movie scene: The music of our shared playlist. The vibey Airbnb. The hike in Joshua Tree park where we walked between towering rock piles that transported me out of California into the Arabian Desert of centuries long past (thanks to our friend J for lending us their park pass <3). The home cooked meals, thrift shopping, a late night walk with Mags under the watchful eye of the full moon, Lya and I melting into our ridiculously comfy bed, mornings spent bird watching and journaling with a cup of maple ginger tea, Al leaning against the chimney looking so nonchalantly cool.

We shared personal stories, eye gazed, and answered vulnerable prompts in what we dubbed our community journal. The whole weekend was an exercise in intimacy, but there is one moment in particular that I already know it will be the memory that outlasts the rest:

We had been in the hot tub a couple hours. It was almost sunset, the sky a soft pink and yellow the way it is only in the desert. Our music wafted over the steaming waters. All of us were pleasantly relaxed, admiring the sweeping landscape dotted with its eponymous Joshua trees. Lya and Al lounged against the back side of the hot tub, and Mags had her head on my shoulder. After a while, the four of us floated into the hot tub corner. We disintegrated into a giant cuddle puddle, legs overlapping and arms around each other and squished together and intertwined for so long that I wasn't sure which arm was mine, and whose legs were whose. If someone saw us, they would've smiled: four twenty something girls happily snuggled under the crooning voices of our desert playlist and the quickly rising full moon.

But quickly into the great cuddle sesh, I felt super uncomfortable. I realized that it's not a second thought for me to snuggle up with Jacob, or my guy friends, but with women, there is a lot of lingering discomfort around physical (and other forms of) intimacy. I'm leaning into exploring the roots of that. At the same time, I believe it's not always necessary to understand exactly what caused your walls to rise in order to break them down. Sometimes, it's enough to step vulnerably into the moment and offer yourself to Love. Deep breath. Okay. I'm here. I'm open.

I breathed through my discomfort and felt into the other emotion that accompanied it: gratitude. I was living a moment that I'd wanted for so long; a moment of what seemed to me a very radical intimacy, a moment of real presence. In my life, I've noticed the things I desire often require stepping through fear to get to them; that was the case here. In accepting my discomfort, I found that my acceptance dissolved most of it. I focused on the three bodies around me, feeling their warmth, sharing their love.

New Light by John Mayer came on. We all started singing along, cued by an invisible director. With birds flitting around us, we floated, suspended in time and song, until finally my back protested too loudly to ignore. We gave each other back our individual limbs and the magic passed.

But a warm after glow remained, and I can't stop thinking about it.

Embrace platonic intimacy. Embrace vulnerability. Use emotionality as a radical tactic against a society which teaches you that emotions are a sign of weakness. Tell more people you care about them. Hold their hands.

Because of COVID, we are physically separated in new ways. Many of us are exploring growth individually or within the limited context of our romantic relationships/immediate families. But *I* cannot exist unless there is a *you*, and *you* is so, so much bigger than just my lover and my family. It is difficult and worthwhile to expand mySelf and my Love beyond those immediately available.

On this International Women's Day, I am mindful of the fact that many women suffer from distrust of other women, a nasty side effect of the patriarchy. It is so important for us to heal the female friendship wound. And it happens in moments like the one I've described above, with a formula of intention + accepting discomfort + presence + gratitude.

It is in the intersecting energies of the self and other that vulnerability can truly seed, and with commitment, sprout. It blooms as magic and miracle.

So. In the moments you can get your coronavirus tests and getaway with the ones you love, hold their hands. Tell them you are proud of them. Embrace platonic intimacy, because now, more than before, I am reminded that life is short, and the opening of your heart and the spreading of your love is worth the risk, every time. Every time.

In Joshua Tree, the four of us existed in an easy companionship, making space for each other's proclivities in small and meaningful ways. (Thank you, friends, for agreeing to change the movie when it scared me :). It was homey and harmonious: Lya making fish tacos on Thursday night, me making the salad, Al chopping up vegetables and Maggie helping with dishes. The roles switched around without much discussion each day, and it felt so good to live in a space where everyone was committed to communal care and acting from a space of intentional love. The weekend gave me hope about so much more than just my future with my female friendships. It gave me hope for the world; it gave weight to the truth that if we come together in open-hearted vulnerability, bringing our art and our stories and our compassion, things shift. Realities change. In community, there is space for radical healing and transformation. In Love blooms possibility.

Thank you to the desert for being big enough for four hearts to dream wide open. And thank you to Lya, Al, and Maggie for showing up, in ways that went far beyond what I could've expected. Thank you for loving me. I love you. <3

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