Several years ago if you'd asked me what intimacy was, I would have told that you I didn't have a good answer.
Today I have a better one.
During my improv troupe's show this past Saturday night, I ended up starting a scene as an in vitro baby. That move was inspired by some previous scenes that had us giggling, which in turn were inspired by a funny birthing story we'd heard earlier in the show.
When I chose to sit upside down on the chair - my feet hooked over the top, my butt on the seat back, and my back on the seat - I didn't really now what would happen next.
[Hello, improv adrenaline rush! Woo!!!]
Here's the thing. I didn't need to know what might happen. Because I have such a deep and broad sense of trust with my teammates.
We have intimacy.
I know every single one of my teammates in so many intimate ways.
Let me pause here. Because I know it has to be said, given the narrow definition we usually put onto the word, that I'm not talking about romantic and sexual intimacy. They are not among the forms of intimacy me and my teammates enjoy together.
Instead, we have intellectual intimacy.
And spiritual intimacy.
Oh and LOTS of experiential intimacy.
We even have physical intimacy. (I mean, that photo...)
So when I make a scene offer of "in vitro baby", I know my teammates will find ways to play with it safely, both for the audience and for me.
I know this, because we have spent hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours together. We've definitely taken thousands (maybe millions) of risks with each other.
The risks we take don't always work, though our hit rate has gone up over the years - as we've developed greater intimacy.
We've come to understand not only how to generate a metric f*ck-ton of laughs. We also know how to catch each other when we make a risk that doesn't pan out. And how to enhance the rewards when it does!
Last Saturday, my friend Julie made my "in vitro baby" choice way more fun by becoming the pregnant mother. Honestly, I was laughing so hard at what she said, that I can't even remember her line. I also had a hard time hearing over the roars from behind me, where the audience was having a riotous time with us!
That moment was pure flow state.
Support arriving just when it's needed.
The "leader" of the scene (if you will), stepping back to let someone else take over.
The incredibly satisfying results.
We got vulnerable with each other, realized we didn't need to be the one who knew the most, actively looked for ways to support one another, and trusted each other to co-create a great outcome.
Today when someone asks me what I think intimacy is, I have a better answer.
Oh yeah, there's one more part to it: Expansive Intimacy is the opposite of burnout. Especially for men in the corporate world. It's a freakin' game-changer.
Wanna know more? Look for my book in September.
Jim Young is a professional writer, coach, and improviser. (To be clear, he's gone pro in all three of those things.) He's helping men and organizations resolve what's going on with their long-running bouts of burnout, so they can get back to living the way they've been meaning to for so ... very ... long.
Jim's book Expansive Intimacy: How Tough Guys Defeat Burnout hits the virtual shelves in September 2022. (Hopefully a couple of physical shelves, too.) It excavates the root causes behind men's burnout and provides a simple-but-not-easy and profound way to move past it, for good.
When Jim's not writing, coaching, or doing improv, he's probably taking a nap. Often with one of his partner's cats cozying up just a bit more than Jim would ever admit to liking.
If you're looking to talk to Jim about that improv scene, burnout, leadership, or other cool stuff, drop him a line. He's reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.