Emotionally Unavailable Until Famous

Boingboing guest blogger Paul Spinrad is enjoying listening to the rain. 

Timothy Leary said "The universe is an intelligence test." This line captures the attitude I had well into my 30's (I'm 43), and I'm happy that it doesn't anymore. Around that age, I started thinking more about mortality and failure and accepting their inevitability– which in turn made me appreciate the preciousness of life. What did I want to do with my time here on Earth? Did I want to occupy myself playing a big version of Solitaire to prove I could win, or did I want to open up and love? Another famous quote began to make sense to me: E.M. Forster's "Only connect."

If it sounds like I'm leaving out a primary actor in this transformation, you're right. During our courtship, my wife Wendy challenged me again and again, with firmness and understanding, to engage with her honestly and completely, no matter what it meant. She led me to the promised land where we could be ourselves fully while delighting in and being committed to each other– all those things that people wisely recite as their wedding vows. If you want more detail, buy me a beer.

An essential part of this happy destiny is that Wendy is not what I had hoped for, i.e. not simply a hot girl version of the man I wanted to be. I've read memoirs by successful men where the chapter on love runs: "I met the girl who was obviously perfect for me, and then I applied all my power and craft to win her over. It was tough going, and she tested me, but I succeeded." That's it. You learn nothing about her, and the guy seems to learn nothing about himself. Yawn! For some men, maybe the pride of that conquest is enough to keep a fire burning, but given what Wendy and I have now, it sounds like dullsville. When I contrast it to the dynamic collaboration that I have with Wendy, who shares my values but is otherwise so fascinatingly different, I just smile at how much we have to look forward to.

I did want to be famous once– what if I had succeeded and then used that power to win someone to whom this mattered? I would deny that she was just a trophy based on how smart and accomplished people considered her to be, conveniently avoiding the underlying question of her real role in my inner life: a prop for my self-image. I like to think that I'm deep enough that we may have eventually found true intimacy anyway, but I can't be sure. Considering the effort it took Wendy to bring me out, I wonder whether I would have just lived my entire life in fabulous black-and-white, believing that emotional availability meant simply choosing someone rather than taking the ongoing risk of sharing emotional truth. But mastering the art of surfing the truth together is exhilarating, a connection out to the universe that makes me feel alive. Thank you, Wendy, my love, for saving me from a caricature of life!