A fleeting, intimate moment
He gazed into my eyes. I held the look. We both knew what was about to happen. This was a moment of complete connection, complete understanding. We were there for the same reason. We knew what the other wanted, needed. In this moment, there was no one else in the world who could break this bond.
Was I ready for this? Was he?
It’s hard to feel any more connected to a person than when you’re staring into his eyes, and you know you’re both thinking the same thing, feeling the same way. It’s a moment of intimacy that recognizes that all your desires and goals are on precisely the same path and you can do this together.
I took a deep breath. I admit it – I threw myself at him. I felt his hands on my body, I heard his voice telling me this was right.
And then… I was on top of a muddy, slick 10 foot wall, looking down at him. Our eyes locked again. His dark hair was matted with sand. His face was smudged and sweaty. His wet shirt, slightly torn at the neck was smeared with mud and grass. I smiled, “Thank you!” then dropped down off the edge of the wall and took off running.
I never saw him again.
Was that a real, intimate moment? As a culture, we are very protective of that word… it suggests a level of trust and commitment that lasts a lifetime. When we talk about having intimate relationships, it’s with long time friends and partners… people who have earned that level of openness and trust usually over months and years. Even in romantic relationships, we might refer to “physical intimacy” but we separate that from “intimacy” itself, which still has to be earned over time. But what if you experience a moment, a truly intimate moment… and then it’s gone. Is it any less valid or intimate? Can you be intimate with someone when you don’t know his first name?
According to good old fashioned Webster’s, there are three flavors of intimacy:
A state marked by emotional closeness
A quality suggesting closeness or warmth
Something that is very personal or private
In that moment, gritty in salt water, dirt and sand, having already scrambled over three other (lower) walls, crawled through a mud pit, hauled a 40lb sandbag through 75 feet of waist deep ocean, and run 3 miles through sand and brush, among other obstacles, I was close to my goal. Only 0.5 miles to the finish – which included a giant gatorade, a funky medal, the coveted race shirt and uninhibited rocking out to “Eye of the Tiger” and “Maniac”. I was running with 300 other slimy, dirty, determined men and women. And when I look into the eyes of a fellow racer, I understand why he’s there. I understand the determination to prove both mental and physical mettle. I understand the fear, the jubilation, the irritation and the eventual acceptance when you reach an obstacle that you know will test you. Or when you reach an obstacle, like this one, which was designed to enforce teamwork.
Are we emotionally close in that moment? If understanding, compassion and acceptance are all part of emotional closeness, of an intimate relationship, then yes. There is total understanding between two obstacle course racers (OCRers) when you’re working together through an obstacle. More importantly, there is trust. There is belief that your partner has nothing but your best interest at heart. There is knowledge that this person, for the duration of your relationship, will not do anything to hurt you. Mentally, emotionally or physically.
Is there a quality suggesting closeness or warmth? Undoubtedly. Both your partner and random racers yell encouragement, push you to your limits and freely offer smiles, advice and boosts over walls to help you achieve your goals. It’s all give without expectation, without demand. Their joy at your success is untethered. The environment that envelops you at an OCR event is one of total acceptance. Size, age, gender, race, religion… name your poison. It has no place here.
Is this something very personal and private? Absolutely. Racers race to win. They have key competitors whom they train against – the guy who beat their time by .06 seconds last race… the woman who completed the monkey bars ahead of me and I fell off the fourth rung… but any racer will tell you, the ultimate person to beat is yourself. What are we trying to prove? To you – nothing. This has nothing to do with you. This is my own personal Sparta. This is where my demons come to play – my fear, my judgement, my anger, my jealousy, my ego – and it’s all aimed at me. And in that moment, when your hands are on my derriere and shoving me up over a 10 foot wall, I have just let you into my inner battle. Welcome, fellow Spartan. Help me slay my demons. And I will help you slay yours.
In that moment, I am never more real, never more raw. I am not spending any energy trying to hide less desirable parts of my personality, like utter impatience and a short temper. I am not worrying about the color of my running pants or if my eyeliner is smeared. Truth be told, I’m not even thinking. I am in survival mode. I am just being. And doing. And so are my fellow racers.
So when you share a moment, even with a total stranger, where you are both completely stripped bare, when you need each other to get through the next step of the journey and you unhesitatingly offer your whole self to that person to make it so, is that not the ultimate intimate relationship?
Natalie Hahn is a principal at Dirty Girls Consulting, offering programs that support women. Women work differently, think differently, and it is up to us to develop this difference into our strength. We explore breaking free of traditional standards, accomplishing professional and personal goals to create an authentic, fully loved life. Read more Dirty Girl Consulting blogs here.