[This is the introduction chapter to my upcoming book, Broke, Single, Crazy and Old: the Redemption of a Sex and Love Addict. I am looking for a publisher — if you have any ideas please write to me — and I am also crowd-sourcing the copy-editing and reader feedback. If you want a review copy, please sign-up here and wait to hear from me. I will send you a link to the Google doc, you can give your feedback there. Thanks!]
A Man/Woman Parable
God said to Adam and Eve, “I have two gifts, one for each.”
Spying the rubbery thing in God’s right hand, Adam asked, “Lord what is that?”
And God replied, “It is a penis. With it you would be able to have sex and piss standing up.”
And Adam said, “Oh, that is for me,” as he ran outside to pee his name in the sand and otherwise play with his new toy.
God turned to Eve and held up the grey lump in his left hand, saying, “My Word, I do not understand human free will. I was certain he would want this brain. Ah well, I will give it to you.”
Table of Contents
“We do not receive wisdom. We must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness, which no one else can make for us, and which no one can spare us; for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come, at last, to regard the world” – Marcel Proust
How this book came about
This memoir was written, expanded, edited and then re-edited, over about 20 years.
The second half of the book emerged first, in 2003, and tells the story of two women I was in love with between 1993 and 1999, Ellen and Sasha, and the ensuing love triangle, which almost destroyed me. The first draft of that story occupied me day and night for a month. The document poured out like hot lava, an emotional and intellectual explosion, in a process I did not even attempt to control (the attempt would have been futile, anyway). As part of the process, I had to re-read, highlight, and then excerpt three boxes of journals and correspondence which covered those years, which was naturally a very emotional experience. Some of that correspondence is included here, so you will be able to hear Ellen and Sasha’s story in their own voices. A bit over half of this document you are reading was sourced from what I wrote in 2003.
Except for some negative effects from lack of sleep and coffee addiction, the first writing was an ecstatic experience for me. I felt at the time, and still feel, that it was the most important thing I had ever done in my life. When it was all over, and I sat there empty, exhausted, dull-headed and yet euphoric, barely present to my surroundings except for the 60,000-word document I was holding in my hands, Ellen had been exorcised from my psyche. I was healed. It was a miracle.
The first half of the book came much later, in June of 2016. It was written in various mountain lodges during a month-long trek in Nepal, along a high-altitude trail called the Annapurna circuit, and finished when I returned to the States. That part includes the story of my father and grandfather, our life in Italy, my first great love at the age of 25 who gave me a rude awakening (she is called Alexa here), and the subsequent 10-years of major depression. That writing was also a sublime experience. Having fled the United States a few years earlier, not too long after my separation from my wife Rebekah (my first and only wife, we had been together for 9 years), I was wrapping up an extended international travel adventure, mostly in Thailand and India. The adventure had been instructive but had ended in failure; and so the writing was a welcome distraction and a perfect complement to the exhilarating scenery and weather.
Back in the States, living at my mother’s as I could not afford to live anywhere else (it was a sweet situation for both of us while it lasted), I re-edited the 2003 manuscript, added and expanded the sections written later, and self-published it briefly with the title Autobiography of a Bipolar Asperger: A Psychological Study of Love and Sex. But it didn’t get any attention at all, my mother and siblings were horrified (they refused to read it, even the parts pertaining to them), and I decided to retire it as I did not want to be identified with psychiatric diagnostic labels, given that I was just starting my career as a writer. I had, the year before (2015), finished my first book, a love and sex manual for men, entitled As Lovers Do: Sexual and Romantic Partnership as a Path of Transformation, which had also done nothing commercially despite excellent reviews. “As Lovers Do” is a very practical book, especially for men, containing little-known, but powerful man/woman teachings by a mentor of mine called Victor Baranco, whose story is also told in this memoir. It is, essentially, the book I would have liked to have read at the age of 25, prior to meeting Alexa. I was probably too clueless and emotionally shut down at the time of Alexa to have understood and applied it, but it might have opened my eyes. In any case, I did not want to jeopardize my writing career by publishing a memoir that had no commercial value and which put me into a clinical category. So I unpublished it.
In late 2016, I spent some time at the now-defunct Integral Center in Boulder, Colorado, discovered a powerful and rapidly growing social movement called Authentic Relating, and fell in love with it, especially a practice called “Circling”. After Circling online every day throughout 2017, I published my third book, the Circling and Authentic Relating Practice Guide. That book was not a commercial success either, although it did help some people understand the Circling practice better, and it made a name for me in the Authentic Relating movement. A movement I care very much for.
But the incomplete, unpublished memoir was nagging at me. In early 2020, just as COVID-19 hit and the whole world lost its mind, I dreamt of updating my memoir from the events since 2003, which include my marriage and the commune Rebekah and I founded in 2007 and ran quite successfully for 3 years. I wanted to publish it under the title Broke, Single, Crazy and Old: The Redemption of a Sex and Love Addict. That title is an accurate description of my condition at the time, and remains true to this day, although it doesn’t follow that I am currently unhappy. Those words describe my external conditions, not my internal emotional and intellectual state; and as everybody knows, happiness is an inside job.
Fortunately or unfortunately, however, the expansion of the 2003 memoir did not happen. The first problem was that nothing which had happened since 2003 could match the excitement, growth and drama of the events and relationships that are told here. Including the story of my growing up in Italy, part of a large family with a bipolar father, and the stories of Alexa, Ellen and Sasha. Perhaps the more recent events were too young for me to have gained a mature perspective on them, or maybe I lacked the support materials to make the story interesting (i.e. the letters).
And the second problem was that I had no real evidence of a “redemption” (of the sex and love addict). It seemed, instead, my life had gone into an amplifying downward spiral which I was trying to talk myself out of. When the whole world went crazy in 2020, I did too. It seemed to me that nothing I had tried for the previous 7 years in friendship, in romance, in business, and in community-building had succeeded. I had few remaining friends, partly because I don’t follow-up and partly because I am such a bitch, especially when I am unhappy — meaning I am not easily pleased, and when I am not pleased, I let people know. I had no money since my web development and hosting business blew up in early 2019. I realized I was much more bipolar than I thought, or maybe I was getting worse. My family thought I was crazy, and they weren’t entirely wrong. And besides, I was getting older and weaker and uglier every year. At times I even wondered whether my life was over. For years I had carried the belief that the relational disasters of the first half of my life had, at least, brought me some wisdom, and hence some hope of doing better going forward; but I was no longer sure of this. I looked back on what I called the “40-year war against myself and against the world, trying to make a buck and get a little love, and mostly unsuccessfully” — also known as “the unbearable lonely horniness” — and I was no longer certain of the redemptive value of all this. For sure, I had always, as per my bipolar nature, had occasional moments of ecstasy, a kind of up-leveling of ordinary consciousness into a zone of deeper and accelerated perception, intuition and feeling; but those moments were getting fewer and farther apart. Those moments happened especially when I was in love or writing a book. But no woman would have me — let alone falling in love — and no book was coming.
To make a long story short, I made a radical lifestyle shift in 2021. I finally accepted the inevitable and gave up on my web business (frankly, I am not cut out for business), purchased a truck with the intention of living in it (this lasted 3 weeks), and ended up moving to an egalitarian political commune in Wyoming, where I bought and renovated an RV and settled in for a long winter of study, writing, and reclaiming of my life. I have since regained a base level of sanity. I joined a local writer’s group which wants a weekly contribution from me, and I had the idea to resurrect the old (2016) memoir with the new title, new introduction, and significant editing. And I am very, very glad for the writer’s group and the obligatory contributions, because I am not truly happy unless I am writing a book or I am in love. The writer’s group has also helped me let go of my attachment to commercial success. They told me there are always people interested in reading good autobiographies, even of ordinary or not-famous people. Heck, I am a curious and avid reader myself! I will read any autobiography of a creative life that I can lay my hands on. Particularly true love stories, in a reality-show format, which may include kinky sex. To note here, this will be the fourth major edit of 20 years of writing and 40 years of experience. May it all be worth it!
Caveat emptor (“buyer beware”)
There are several reasons why you might NOT want to read this (or if you do, that you may be bored and/or angry at me, and regret it). I think it’s best for us to clear this up right away.
The first reason for skipping this book, is I am carrying a social/political agenda here, which is well articulated by Esther Perel:
“Sex is dirty. Save it for someone you love.”
Meaning that Western culture’s — and especially American — attitudes towards sexuality make very little sense and have disastrous consequences to our happiness and fulfillment. One such attitude is that conversations about sex are somehow shameful and ought to be relegated to the bedroom and the therapy office. According to Martin Seligman, the creator of Positive Psychology, having good sexual relationships is the most important predictor of happiness. Seligman’s research concludes that “marriage” (or sexual relationship) is the #1 source of happiness, followed by “community” (or friendship), and “faith” (or any belief system that makes meaning out of life). Seligman’s conclusions land even stronger if you consider he makes no distinction between good marriage and bad marriage, he simply quantifies the happiness of the average married person and states it is higher than the average unmarried person. From there I would imagine that the average person in an unhappy relationship would be less happy than the average single person, but to balance the statistics the average person in a happy relationship would have be much happier than the rest.
My idea – the idea of my second book, As Lovers Do – is even more heretical, which is that the reconciliation of men and women, which will presumably lead to a lot more good sexual loving, will save the planet (and may indeed be the ONLY way to save the planet, given we have tried everything else, philosophy and science and politics and religion). I expand on this unusual belief in the final chapter of this memoir, in the article I have a dream. I am not alone in this belief, by the way. One of my mentors, Dieter Duhm, a leader of the 1968 German student communist uprising, gave up on political action when he realized “you can’t have peace in the world so long as men and women are at war with each other”. He went on to found (or co-found) a series of polyamorous communal experiments, first the Bauhuette project in Germany, then ZEGG, and then Tamera in Portugal which is still going.
But regardless of what’s important and real in this complicated problem of relations between men and women, it is still controversial to write about sexuality in a personal way. Here is a quote from one of my favorite writers, Max Eastman, from his brilliant autobiography Love and Revolution (two topics which interest me deeply, even to the exclusion of all other topics):
“All autobiographies are falsified by good taste. It is not tolerable, outside the clinic, to dwell upon one’s erotic preoccupations to the extent comparable to the place they occupy in lusty boyish life.”
In my sexual disclosures here, I have tried to stay within the bounds of good taste; but when in doubt, I have chosen to err on the side of honesty. There are, certainly, people for whom this will not be welcome: my family, clearly, and mutual friends of mine and Ellen’s. I trust your judgment, whether this is for you.
But I will tell you the truth: my social-political agenda, my insistence that I can, and WILL, write about sex and especially the very messy situations which have arisen from my own unconsciousness, ignorance about women, selfishness, and arrogance – well the truth is that there is a hint of posturing (or maybe evangelizing) in my radical embracing of emotional and sexual authenticity. I desire a healthy, loving, emotionally and sexually vital relationship more than anything else in the world, especially if it would involve some revolutionary component; but I don’t really know how to do that. The “unbearable lonely horniness” is still very present to me, even at the age of 61, and for this I am grateful (“Not dead yet”). I hope that by telling the story, I can help myself and I can help others. “Those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it” — I think this is true in the micro sphere as well as the macro. All my relationships so far have carried some deal-killing factor, which I endured for the sake of the occasional deep pleasure and the growth value. I would love to have a relationship that would not have a deal-killer component, and yet retain the excitement and vitality and transformational value of the kind of karmic, “trauma-bonded” relationships of which I write about. I am not certain this is possible, but I intend to try. It’s not just about me, by the way, it’s about saving the planet 😊.
“Any fool learns from his mistakes; but a wise man learns from the mistakes of others” – Otto von Bismarck
My hope is that you will learn something from the mistakes I have made in my obsessive pursuit of love and sex, stretching across four decades. Especially if you are young and male; but I dare to hope that feminine people might find some wisdom in here as well – even if it be only the wisdom to avoid characters such as me.