Choosing Life

Once again I am soaring through the sky. Today in the seat in front of me is an attractive woman who is reading what I call “junk” magazines. Oh, you know, the ones that gossip about celebrities as if they actual know squat about them. As the flight attendant walked by she glanced down and saw what the woman was reading and stopped to discuss the lives of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. These two women went on and on about the intimate relationship of Brad and Angelina as if they were family.

At first I was amused, and I admit feeling “better than” because I would never do that. Then, after I pulled myself back from that petty place of superiority, I felt sad for them. These woman where really engaged. They cared that they had all the “facts.” They argued over who had the better “facts.” In short, they were entertaining themselves and totally engaged in someone else’s life. They were more engaged in the lives of people they did not know then in their own lives, or in getting to really know each other.

What is so lacking in their lives that they buy, discuss, argue over and get pleasure from discussing strangers? What lack of intimacy must there be in their lives to be so engaged in strangers’ lives, celebrities or not. They were choosing to pretend intimacy, which means that they were pretending that they were really close, open, tender, vulnerable, knowing and caring of and for Brad and Angelina. Why would anyone pretend intimacy in such a superficial way? There is really only one answer: fear—fear of true intimacy.

As the conversation finally ended I sat back and began to think. Just how scared am I of intimacy with myself or with another? Was there a lesson here for me about getting the love you want? What did I do to delude myself? Where do I engage in fruitless and mindless pleasure that mimics connection, understanding and knowingness?

Just how scary is intimacy: terrifying. Not new news. For me, of all the qualities of intimacy, the one most fraught with terror is the big “V”—vulnerability. I realize that there is no risk in examining, at length, strangers’ lives. This pseudo-familiarity holds no vulnerability, so it is synthetic intimacy. That’s why people do it.

I know that I have avoided, skirted, denied and just plain ran from intimacy in my past. I know that I am demanding of myself that I no longer do that. It is so terrifying that I often get help to sort it out; help that has allowed me to reach beyond my previous limitations. Yes, I still stumble over new resistances from time to time. But I am happy to report that I am doing a good job of hurdling them as well. Because you see, I want a life of my own creation. A life filled with people with whom I am really close and open. People with whom I feel tender and who know me and whom I know. People whom I care about, and yes, with whom I risk vulnerability. I want a life with people who could, if they wished, hurt me. That is the risk of vulnerability. It is also the risk of love and self-love. I choose intimacy, risk and all.