You’ve heard someone explain a person they’re close with in terms of, ‘I can be myself around them.’ Like there’s an invisible structure of acceptability in place.

Other people explain closeness as, ‘I feel more like myself around them.’ More of an unconscious amplification than a permissive understanding.

Some people bring the most intense parts of you to the surface, like a sifter being shaken so the shiny bits jitter to the top.

The older I get and the smaller my world becomes, I find myself pushing against the walls of a shrinking room and looking for more of the right kind of company. People who may have been at a different section of the river during the social Gold Rush of your 20s and early-30s, but are on the same sandbar today.

Sometimes I think of my friend, Bob, who I met when he was 77 years old. For the eight years I knew him, he never stopped making new connections. If you were in the same physical space, Bob would get to know you. He had a natural comfort around everyone. Maybe when you live that long, fearlessness is one of your rewards. But that wasn’t it with him. He genuinely loved all company, and all people.

I wish I loved people as much as Bob did. Most of them kind of annoy me. Bob was a better and more open person than I am. But one thing I can learn from him is the importance of extending yourself to people who might be interesting, even if it’s frightening or against your nature. Or when the vulnerability that comes with it sometimes rattles you.

A book I’m reading mentions a greeting in one culture, where they say the spirit in one person recognizes the spirit in the other. This came at a time when I’ve been working on picturing people as fully-autonomous, independent beings, outside of constructs. Imagining a willful light inside of everyone. (Even the annoying ones.) It’s helping me understand the power we have as individuals a little better.

Most recently, I’ve been thinking about the way those lights interact. Observing people like fireflies, generating their own light, and glowing brighter for a period of time when the right ones drift closer together. Being themselves or feeling more like themselves. Shaking the sifter. Amplifying or permitting.