Loneliness, the Holidays, and the Inner Family

Long ago, I was having a conversation with one of my first agents.  I was speaking of my Hollywood aspirations, and the fact that I’d seen so many people hurt themselves trying to “make it.”

 

“I don’t know what will happen in my career,” I said.   “But when I leave this town, I’m leaving with my sense of honor intact.”

 

He looked at me with amusement, and replied: “you’ll be the only one.”

 

###

 

 

Heading into the holidays, I was sent articles explaining why the medical community now considers loneliness as much of a health stressor as obesity, smoking, or alcoholism.  And we all know that holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years can be devastating to people who are alone, IF that alone-ness becomes lonli-ness.

 

There is a difference, and the difference is how you feel. You can be perfectly happy when no one is around.  Or feel soul-crushing loneliness in the middle of a crowd.

 

So…let’s back up a step.   If we want a Soulmate bonded relationship with a healthy human being, WE have to be healthy.  We optimally project confidence and self-regard, self-love, as well as genuine interest and affection for others.  To do that, we need to “put our own mask on first” and heal ourselves so that we have something to share with our friends and family.  That internal connection is key to feeling happy and healthy and loved…even if there is no one else around. Which is ENORMOUSLY attractive when combined with a little amplitude, like being good at something your “tribe” appreciates.

 

So the first step is the most critical one,  because it attracts that potential partner “stochastically” (increases the random predictability of an eventual result without changing the ability to predict specifics).  That’s kind of like knowing that the wind will knock apples off a tree without being able to predict WHICH apple will fall, or where it will land.   You still make apple pie!

 

This eliminates the “Friend Zone”. There is no such thing, in a negative way. All there is are friends, people who know other people.  And you are never more than about one friend away from SOMEONE who knows SOMEONE who could love someone just like you.   Everyone you meet is a unique, precious human being, and when you treat them that way, some of them will think “hey!  Great guy/gal!  I know someone who would be PERFECT for them!”

 

But you have to radiate a genuine joy for life. And that genuine joy is giving you the result you want (happiness) whether you meet someone else or not!  Talk about a win-win-win!

 

The first step is finding your way to connect with your heart.  And to do that, you have to believe there is a problem so that you will begin the search for an answer.

 

Once upon a time I didn’t believe I had a problem, and had to get my butt handed to me to open my eyes.  I’m going to tell you that story, with the hope that it will save you some pain.   I’m talking to YOU, “Younger Steve.”  Maybe you’re about twenty.  A hopeful geek.   A little scared of life, but filled with hope.   This one is for you, a message in a bottle sent back through time.

 

For God sake read and believe this, I beg you.

 

###

 

Long ago, at the beginning of my television writing career, I had the chance to follow up on my Twilight Zone success with another show whose name will not be mentioned here.   Its premise involved haunted objects that triggered murderous behavior.  I didn’t like that premise, but managed to come up with a story (called “Purple Heart” which, many years later, will finally be published in a graphic novel) I felt would actually have some depth and meaning as opposed to just connect-the-dots mayhem.

 

Filled with optimism (I KNEW my idea was amazing) I drove onto the movie lot, and sat down in front of the three guys running the show. As all such meetings go, I was first offered a bottle of water, juice or soft drink (take it!) we chit-chatted a bit to build rapport and feel each other out…and then the question hovering in the air, the real reason we were all there:

 

“What do you have for us?”

 

I pitched my amazing idea, which had some beautiful social relevance, and some thematic depth, and a unique take on an old horror genre. I sat back, basking in the admiration I knew was coming.

 

And then…something went wrong. I could see it in their faces. My guts churned, and although it felt like the temperature in the room had dropped twenty degrees, I was sweating.

 

The story editor, a guy who had been listening to my pitch with interest that turned into pity, was the one who spoke.

 

“We can’t do that idea,” he said.  “If we did that idea, people would think this show was about something. And our only excuse for putting on a mass murder every week is that this is pure entertainment.”

 

“what else you got?”

 

There it was, the statement of utter moral corruption, and the poisoned bait.  With a single call, he could contact the business office and have them generate a contract worth TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS, money I badly needed.  I have a newborn baby daughter, and bills, and a dwindling bank account.

 

So…I started pitching, trying desperately to come up with an idea these guys would buy.  Unfortunately (or incredibly fortunately) while I can generate HUNDREDS of ideas if my heart is in it, when I’m emotionally disconnected I’m no good at all. Nothing I came up with worked at all. They invited me to come back any time, shook my hand, and I left.

 

And immediately, and I mean the INSTANT I walked out of that bungalow on the movie lot, it felt as if filters were stripped from my eyes.  As if I had stepped out of an opium den.  I almost staggered.  And a voice, heard more clearly than I’d heard it in years, said:   “Don’t you love me, daddy?  Why did you have me talking to those terrible men?”

 

It was the voice of Little Stevie, the avatar of my creativity and aliveness, my “Inner Child”, the source of my creativity and enthusiasm for life.  I had violated an agreement with that “child” that I’d never consciously known I’d had. What I had done in that room was the creative equivalent of pimping out my little boy to pay the rent. And my some miracle, there were no buyers.

 

But the little boy knew.

 

I had betrayed myself.  Become a sell-out and had the blessed humiliation that no one was buying.    I had lost everything, for nothing.   For the next year that creative heart WOULD NOT TALK TO ME.  I didn’t hear the rumble of what Stephen King calls “The Boys In The Basement,” that internal creative family of elves that does the real work as we sleep, working out stories instead of making shoes like the fairy tale.

 

I was in total misery, combined with fear.  Writing, for the first time in my life, became a chore rather than a joy.   Nothing felt right. Everything was terrible.  I was in pain constantly, that sense of betrayal combined with a fear for my future.  I mean, its one thing to sell out and get PAID for it.   What the hell was I?

 

And one day I was listening to my judo teacher Swift Deer, talking about the connection between our adult, child, and “elder” selves, and realized that he had hit it: I had damaged that critical connection. My “child” wouldn’t talk to me.  As a result I couldn’t enjoy my wife’s love: how could she love someone as wretched as I?

 

I couldn’t take the joy I loved in my baby daughter.  I had betrayed a child not much “older” (my “Little Stevie” avatar ranges between the ages of about five and eight), and I feared not being a good father to her.

 

I HAD to solve this, or I was screwed. And…I came up with a plan.  I swore I would spend at least twenty minutes every day working to heal that connection.  EVERY DAY. For as long as it took,even if that was the rest of my life.

 

Now. What specific method would I use? I decided to visualize a place that had been a favorite to me in childhood: Santa Monica beach.  My mom used to take me and my sister Joyce there on summer days, and I loved it.

 

So…I sat quietly with my spine straight and my legs crossed, closed my eyes and visualized the beach.   It was deserted, but I had “brought” a basket of toys and favorite snacks. I sat there for a half hour, and no one showed up. And so I finally just left the basket there and went away, dejected and lonely.

##

 

The next day I did it again, brought another basket. The first had been undisturbed.  So was the next. And the next.  NO, the beach didn’t get cluttered: the old baskets dissolved and melted away like vanquished foes in old video games.

 

But no one showed up.  I sat alone, crying. Lost.  Achingly lonely.

 

 

##

 

Day after day. Week after week. Month after month this went on.  I lost faith. Wanted to quit.  BUT I HAD MADE MYSELF A PROMISE and could feel that on some level this was a test.  I could sense that Little Stevie was watching, wondering how serious I was. And I realized that even if he never spoke to me again, I owed him this.

 

Day after day.  Week after week. Month after month.

 

And then…one day I looked north on the beach,and way way off on the horizon…I saw the tiny figure of a little boy. I held my breath and didn’t dare move.  And when my session was over, I left.

 

When I “came back” the next day, I notices that some of the toys in the basket had been moved.   Some of the snacks eaten.  And there were little footprints on the sand.

 

I sat, quietly, and after a time looked off to the North…and there he was. A little, just a LITTLE closer now.  And every day from then on just a little closer, a little closer.

 

One day he was close enough that I could see his face. He was crying, his face puffy with tears.  I stood up and opened my arms, and he backed away.

 

The next day I just stood and watched him.  He was so small and vulnerable. I had hurt him so badly.  I could feel the pain radiating off him like waves of heat shimmering against the sand. Day by day he got closer, until we were only standing a few dozen feet apart.

 

And then…I took a step. And stopped. And he stepped toward me, and stopped. And I took a step. And he took a step…

 

And then he ran, leaping into my arms, wrapping his arms and leg around me and holding me so desperately tight, and he sobbed “Oh, Daddy…I’ve been so scared, and so lonely.”

 

And our tears mingling, holding him so tightly I thought he’d burst, I said “I swear to God.  I will NEVER leave you alone again.”

 

And…I never have.  No matter what it has cost me career-wise…and it has.   I don’t care.  I have my family.

 

It made me a better husband and father. A better writer. A better martial artist. A better man.

 

And years later, when my first marriage died from errors we had made long before we said “I do,” I was able to heal myself by going back to that beach, playing and connecting with that little boy, healing my heart so that when my Soulmate appeared…I was not desperate and lonely, but connected and whole…and ready.

 

This is what I want for you, Young Steve. Never, ever sacrifice your inner connection, no matter what. And if you are lonely this holiday…connect with your heart.  Find the source of love within you.

 

Do that…and you’ll never be lonely. And frankly, you won’t be alone long, either.

 

 

With all my heart…

Steve

www.theancientchild.com

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