intimacy, a freakshow of beautiful wonky people

I have been burnt many times by diving too quickly and too deep into the fire of intimacy with new friends. I am more guarded these days, more wary selective of who i am intimate with. This doesn’t mean i am less intimate. In fact it means the intimacy i do find is more deep and rich, because it is reached through sensing another’s capacity for receiving and honouring it. When i was openly intimate with anyone i met, going around justifying my bleeding-heartedness by calling myself “an open book”, i was actually diluting intimacy by sharing it so freely. And often i would get burned because the other would not be capable of holding the space with such an earnest, blubbering young man who looked so tough on the outside. They would be shocked, and i would be left holding the fire alone, which is when it burns.

I must have a strong constitution, or my desire for connection was stronger than even my fear of rejection, because i kept going back for more. Rarely with the same person — they were long gone. But with anyone else who came along next, i would open up again and again. And yes i got burned, but even now i wonder if that was such a bad thing: maybe what got burned was, indeed, the ‘i’, because maybe what scared them away was anything forceful they sensed in my sharing — maybe they saw my ego wanting to be seen, because i was just being wantonly open with anyone, regardless of whether they had wanted this or not. This kind of offloading is not intimacy, because intimacy can never be forced — it can either occur naturally, or it must be cultivated.

Now, and especially as i travel more and more as a way of life and as i meet more and more people, i often find myself in situations where i am holding back parts of myself where i otherwise would have blurted forth into the conversation (verbal or otherwise). I am not holding back because i have grown afraid from all those times i got burned. I am holding back because i see now that intimacy is precious, not to be squandered on the many who are not ready, willing or able to receive it in a space that creates intimate feedback.

Intimacy is a characteristic that develops in a relationship between two or more people who love each other, and even with the most compassionate people it takes time to develop. You can’t just barrel in there with your hard-luck story or your tale of triumph and not expect people to freak. You’ve got to ease them and yourself gently into a space where you can finally sit and rest and look around you and see that you are both or all part of the freakshow — the freakshow of beautiful wonky people who just want someone to let go of their hand and hold their heart for a while.

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dawn-time dawnings: i’m writing a memoir!

I think I really am actually writing a coming-of-age memoir. I’m coming of age, I know that much. And I’m writing about it. Bloody oath I’m writing about – I can’t friggen stop writing about it. Some friends are telling me I need to get out of my mind, away from the computer – and what?, into their car!? No way Jose. I’m on my own trip, and today I’m fucking thrilled about it. Yesterday and the days before that? Not so much. Tomorrow? Who knows. But today I’m really actually writing a memoir. I wrote down a summary as a potential pitch recently, when i got excited about an unsolicited email from an agent. But now i can’t find it, which is good – it’s the sort of thing that should be written and re-written from scratch, even as an exercise for writing the actual damn thing. It was something like:

High-school suburban stoner makes it good in publishing before growing disillusioned with the industry and the whole entire industrialised West, heads to Thailand in pursuit of peace, returns an alcoholic, has a nervous breakdown, finds God, travels to Turkey thinking he’s got this peace thing under control, does a lot of hardcore meditation but returns to alcoholism nonetheless, returns to Australia, has another breakdown, catches up with God again and decides to share his story.

Something like that. If i rewrite it every day as i approach the idea of thinking about maybe extracting these Adventures in Sobriety posts and developing them into a manuscript, maybe in ten years i’ll have the concept distilled enough to fit it on a blurb that people might actually care to understand.

The summary i wrote for the agent was a lot more succinct and far less sarcastic and it sounded like a cliché, but whatever.

I have long maintained that clichés are clichés for a bloody good reason – when enough people can relate to an idea easily expressed by some phrase, story or experience, it can become cliché. Cliché gets a bad wrap among the over-educated arts elite, because there is this obessesion with originality – as though using cliché is somehow shamefully derivative. Not necessarily – it’s not the nature of the boat, it’s how you use it. I’m not sure if that really works, but you get the idea.

My superego gets in the way sometimes, suggesting I can’t tell stories for shit and who would care about my story anyway. But then my ego chips and says, Abhijan, you’re fucking awesome! Write this memoir and share it with whoever will listen. Your story is great – you’re a fucking trooper.

I don’t really care what either of them have to say. I’m going with my gut. I’m going with feeling on this one. And right now, the hours I spend sitting down at my journal getting longhanded with my story – they are the most peaceful hours I get, at a time when my life is in a seemingly constant state of upheavel and change.

So that’s what Adventures in Sobriety is about for now. All of the above.

I worry sometimes about whether putting this all up online is a kind of narcissistic exercise – a cry for help, a plea for attention. But right now I don’t care about that either – in one sense because i actually don’t care, but in another: i bloody do need help. Help!, i’m a drunk and a stoner.

But also it’s a cathartic process for me, and I’m arriving at insights I might never have arrived at if I hadn’t been scribbling away at this. So telling the story is as much for me as it might be for you. Of course I’m keen to hear if it resonates with you – that would be grand. We can learn from each other in sharing our stories. So bring it. Yes, I’m looking at you!