Another note to my younger self

I want to write this morning to you.  Steven Barnes.  You’re thirty five, have published a few novels, and practiced martial arts for over a decade, and love your sweetheart.   But I’m going to transplant that person to the current world, because I know that that guy, so filled with both doubt and hope, would be gobsmacked by the events swirling around you.  And that means that that guy, who is still inside me, is still experiencing a nightmare cocktail of  emotions if he is not very very careful.  And of course, the thirty year old is in there, barely published. And the twenty-five year old, just hoping. And the twenty year old: no publication, barely any martial training, and no real love in your life, wondering what he might learn in college that will help him navigate the world.  

And the fifteen year old is there, confused and having no idea if men will ever respect him or women ever be attracted to him. And the ten year old, who wondered why his father was not there to guide him. And the five year old, who just wanted to love and dance and sing and be held by his mother, and his sister, and his beloved dad…who would soon disappear from his life.

Thirty-five year old Steve?  What would I say to him that would help, given that foundation?   Given the instability of the world?  

  1. First, I would tell you to love yourself. Take care of yourself.  To stop lying and using euphemisms like anxious, nervous, concerned.  Or masks like anger, fury, indignation, disappointment: you are afraid.  Counter that fear with daily action toward your goals regardless of what the voices in your head scream at you.  IF all is lost, why not enjoy the time you have?  And if there is hope, only those who keep moving will find the way out of the maze before the Minotaur eats them.  There is no percentage in giving up.  None at all. Tell those voices that you love them, know that they are only trying to protect you from pain, but you will die before you stop fighting to protect those younger version of “you” especially that five year old.   And that lonely ten year old, so pitiful that he used to make pets of the flies that landed on his hands at his lonely lunch table.  You will stand for him, and do all you can to help him connect his dreams to the world.  No one else can.
  2. You will learn to love more deeply.  Fully.  Connect soul to soul. It will take time. You will make mistakes. But the fight to make that connection will teach you so much about yourself, and love, and life, and other human beings. There is nothing more worthwhile.
  3. You will understand the world.   You were given a badly flawed map of reality, especially when it comes to your racial identity. The Encyclopedia Brittanica said your group was inferior. Your favorite authors agreed.   Your mother was ashamed and afraid of her black blood.   Your teachers assumed you inferior and sorted you into the “slow” group until you proved otherwise, while the white students were sorted into the “fast” group unless THEY proved otherwise.   You can waste your energy screaming and blaming and hating…or you can dig in and understand how and  why human beings do this.  Right now, at thirty-five, you are operating on faith that these stories are lies.  Pure faith. And it takes energy to sustain that faith. But…keep digging. There is foundation under your feet.  Go deeper than race, or gender, or culture, or even species.  You will learn and grow, and find that bedrock of understanding. And from there you will build back up, constructing maps of reality that are stronger and more accurate than the social constructs, and you will understand.  And that truth will set you free. It will be harder than you can imagine, but for those moments when you can keep awake, keep your eyes open, you will see beyond the dualities, and be not merely at peace, but gain the energy the unconscious uses to maintain the illusions.   That is POWER Steve.   And those trapped in the duality will never understand you.  But you will become strong enough to stand alone if necessary.  But thank God you will have someone to love you.  Cherish her.   
  4. You will find your tribe. The people who either see that non-duality, or can lead you with information and experiences, cheer you on, or become students.   You need only point out the path–their burden is not yours to bear, but they will walk ahead of you, or at your side, or follow your footsteps.  And those behind you on this particular journey will want to know how to deal with fear, how to pierce the lies, how to answer the questions “who am I?” and “what is true?”  You cannot dig their gold for them, but you can say “X marks the spot” and hand them a shovel. And know that if they dig long enough, and hard enough, they will find.  You will also understand that those locked into the lies, those asleep, those adhering to a map that never really described the territory will oppose you, will try to pull things in another direction, will deny that unity of humanity.  And you will let them sleep, or follow their own path, or politely tell them that they may not disturb your journey…and be prepared to back it up.  And teach others to be strong enough to do the same.
  5. You will succeed.  You will. You will be respected by the men you respect. Desired by the women you desire.  Continue to refine and expand your tribe, such that your voice, in your writing, is unique.  Not “better” than others…just singular.   That Buddha baby “Earth below, Heaven Above, no one in the world like me!” will be revealed within you.   You will find a way to connect your dreams and values, speak your truth, and stand strong so that others can see it is possible.

And the current stresses?   You will ride them out.  And show light to others who have also followed warped maps, and wish to try a different path. And if they simply choose to be happy, you will help them do that thing.  And if they wish to change and heal the world, you will teach them to put their feet so solidly on a true path that they can guide others.  If they are fighters, teach them to fight fairly, and with all their hearts.  If they are healers, to heal without taking the emotional and spiritual diseases into their own bodies.  If they are artists, to speak their truth so clearly it fractures the lies.

This is your destiny, Steve.   You are no better than an ant, and no less than the stars.  NEVER forget this.  Never stop sharing it.  And when people ask you how you can be happy in chaos, how can you love in a storm of hate, how you can have faith in the face of fear, how you can succeed when all seems lost, you will smile and draw them close, and hold them, and whisper in their ears: “First…love yourself.”



(You can still join us for the fourth live REVOLUTIONARY WRITING class Saturday the 12th, Steve, at the above URL.   And you can also join us for the free LIFEWRITING show tomorrow morning at 11am pst.   Because we’re going to explore tools to help you deal with stress and fear…and to love yourself.    Phone Number: (724) 444-7444.  Call ID: 137903.


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