Lo, as everyone knows by now, has her drug of choice: sex. I have mine. Now you may be thinking that my drug of choice is Lo, and you wouldn’t be wrong about that. But my addiction to Lo needs to be placed in a bigger context, a larger frame, a wider understanding of love and addiction.
I am one who is addicted to life. Now that may sound tautological since just about everyone who is alive wants more of life — I mean, it’s the one thing we just can’t live without, right? But not everyone living is really alive. Are you alive? Are you really alive? Are you living life to the fullest? And by that I don’t mean climbing Mount Everest, skydiving, or falsely claiming to adhere to the trite banality of “living every day like it’s my last.”
I mean living intensely. Feeling acutely. Spanning the extremes of emotion, exploring the treacherous terrain of thought, loving with passion and depth. Do you do that? Or do you go about your humdrum day as if dreaming of a life without ever living it? Is the closest you get to real life the vicarious thrill of observing it in others — whether on TV, the movies, or in books?
Well, this isn’t about you. This is about me and my addiction to joie de vivre. My love of Lo and all of her endearing idiosyncrasies is an extension of my own personality which oscillates between the extremes: manic-depressive, bi-polar, emotional rollercoaster ride, whatever you wish to call it. This amusement park of life’s possibilities can be euphoric and energizing or catastrophic and terrifying. Often both. Loving Lo is one part of it. But it also encompasses my relationship to work, money, and most pervasively, art. My writing is an obsession, an addiction, a compulsion, a release, a mania, and also my great downfall. I do everything for it and it does everything for me — everything, that is, except provide me with any semblance of stability. The only constant in my life is my perpetual state of peril. Perhaps that precarious existence leads to the anxiety and the anxiety to stress and stress to the manic-depressive episodes. Maybe it’s all a vicious circle. I don’t know.
But one day Lo might wake up and come to the insight that I’m no good for her.
We recently watched the movie Battle of the Sexes together and it cut to the quick for me. It is ostensibly the story of Billie Jean King’s fight for women’s rights and the focus of the movie is on her much hyped 1973 tennis match with Bobby Riggs, dubbed “The Battle of the Sexes.” However, despite a powerful performance by Emma Stone as Billie Jean, Steve Carell steals the show with his portrayal of the manically compulsive gambler and former tennis star, Riggs.
In the movie there is a scene where, at the insistence of his wife Priscilla, he goes to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting. I’ve taken a little liberty with the dialogue from that scene:
BOBBY: My name is Bobby and I am an addict.GROUP: Hi, Bobby.BOBBY: At least that’s what Priscilla says. She’s gonna leave me unless I quit gambling. Puzzles me, though, that word: “Gambling.” Whenever Priscilla gets a car out of the garage, she’s gambling big time. Never checks the mirror. Sticks it in reverse. Puts her foot down, right out onto the highway. Jeez Louise, that’s gambling! But here I am, Gamblers Anonymous.FACILITATOR: And your point is what, Bobby?BOBBY: My point is this: Life’s a gamble, right? That’s the thrill of it! You know, you folks aren’t here because you’re gamblers. You are here because you are terrible gamblers. Well, let’s face it, that’s the problem. You lose, and that’s why you’re here.FACILITATOR: Okay, Bobby...BOBBY: I’ve been looking at you guys yammering on about all of your stuff and...“Oh, woe is me” and “This is terrible.” But you know what the problem is? The problem is you don’t have a “thing.”FACILITATOR: Can we just...BOBBY: They don’t have a thing. They need an edge. You need an angle, an inside track, something. . . that’s gonna turn you from being a gambler to a hustler.FACILITATOR: All right, Bobby, thank you.BOBBY: From a loser to a winner. Why should we give up the one thing in life that we really love? Why should we give up what makes us come alive? We just want to feel alive, the thrill of the chance, the risk of losing it all or cleaning up. When Priscilla pulls her car out of the driveway, we don’t call that gambling because she isn’t aware of the risk, or she doesn’t feel it. But we, we know the risk, we take the risk, we feel the risk, and we love the risk. Life’s a gamble. We just bring the gamble front and center, we make it more intense and that makes life more intense. There’s the difference. These folks don’t need to stop what they’re doing, they just need to get better at it.Later in the film, as you might have surmised, Bobby not only didn’t stop gambling, he took it to new heights by bringing his gambit public on live national television and, with the greater stakes, Bobby’s mania grew as well. Priscilla finally had to get out of the maddening relationship. In that scene the following exchange takes place:
PRISCILLA: Bobby, I love you.BOBBY: Well, I love you, too.PRISCILLA: I love how you make me laugh. I love your crazy ideas and all your schemes. And the way you walk into a room and you fill it up. I love the way you make me feel. I miss that a lot. But. . . I need a husband. I need someone who is steady. Someone that I can rely on. And that is not you. And that’s okay. It is more than okay. It is wonderful, because that. . . is who you are. I just can’t be with that person anymore. I just can’t. I’m so sorry.BOBBY: No. I’m sorry.That was the scene that really brought it home for me because I could see Lo saying those very words to me. They all seemed to fit.But one of the fascinating things about the movie is its hidden symmetry. Just as Bobby has his gambling addiction, so too does his nemesis, Billy Jean, have her own obsession. As her husband, Larry King, tells her lover, Marilyn Barnett, late in the film, “Tennis is her true love. If you get between her and the game, you’ll be gone.”It’s fucked up, but Lo loves me, at least in part, because of my writing. But it is my love of writing that may lead to losing Lo.