The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, February 17, 2014

Betrayal and Healing


I've often said that my last remaining goal from my childhood was to sit in an audience and see a motion picture I name come up on the credits.     Well, yesterday I kinda did that, with DANGER WORD, which screened at the Pan-African film festival.  The audience  gasped, screamed and whooped at the right moments, and it felt...wonderful.. I have a serious question to answer for myself. As a kid, I never specified the LENGTH of the movie. Do I declare victory, and possibly lose a tiny bit of motivation? Or do I deny myself the pleasure of completion and keep that spark of hunger until I have a full-length film?

Each has its merits.  And to answer that question, I’m going to have to dive into the Ancient Child meditation.  Make contact with that little boy inside me who began this journey, and see what he really wants.   There may be a compromise involved: party now, AND party later.  Or he may say to celebrate.   Or wait. I honestly don’t know.  But...whatever he says, that’s what I’ll do so long as it is in alignment with my more mature values.

You see, once upon a time I betrayed that kid.  It was back in the 80’s.  I had a chance to pitch to a television show that will not be named here.  It was based on a notorious series of horror films. and had a quasi-anthology feel to it.   I came up with a story I felt had some meat as well as “bite” to it, with a moral center to support the expected carnage.

And went into the show offices and pitched them.  The executives stared at me and said: “we can’t do that story.  If we did that story, 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.”

I sat there with those trolls, and realized that I needed the money.  Badly.  That these men had the ability , with a single phone call, to pay me enough money to pay my mortgage and put food on the table for my family.  So...I just started pitching ideas. Anything I could think of.   But when my heart isn’t into it, I have no leverage to access my creativity, and they politely showed me the door.

The instant I walked out, it felt as if I was walking out of an opium den. into clean air.  It was as if a veil was lifted from my eyes, and I realized I’d been acting in some kind of stress-induced tunnel vision.  I VERY clearly heard the voice of the little boy inside me, the creative kid who has been with me since childhood, saying “Daddy, why did you have me talking to those terrible men?   Don’t you love me enough to protect me?”
And that voice, that had always been clear...his visage, which had always been close...disappeared.  For months, although I continued to work, I simply couldn’t access him in any meaningful way.  My work was competent, but lacked any spark of originality or honesty.  It was just...hack work.   I’d lost something precious.

SoI began to practice a meditation regimen I’d learned from some book or lecturer (I honestly can’t remember where.)   In it, I went to a place I used to love in childhood.  The beach.   And I would visualize myself going there every day, sitting and looking out at the waves. I hoped that that little boy image would appear, so I could talk to him.  Nothing.

So I began to bring toys and food, and leave them.  Would come back the next day...nothing.  I kept this up for weeks.  Months. I felt so much grief at what I had done that I just sat there sobbing, tears gushing down my face as I meditated.
Then, one day, I went to the beach-place, and noticed small footsteps in the sand.  Miracle of miracles, while I’d been “gone” that little boy had come and inspected the toys and food.  Hadn’t moved anything, but he’d been there.

Then in a few days the toys were in a different position. And bites had been taken from the food.  Day by day, I continued to go there. happy day I saw his figure, far on the horizon.   I would sit quietly, watching the waves rolling in, but he didn’t come closer.

I waited.  Day by day, every day he seemed to come just a little closer.  Then finally I stood and faced him.  He looked at me and walked away.
More time passed. Weeks.   Finally he stopped leaving when I stood.  Then...he took a step toward me. Closer.  Closer.  About a week later, he was only a few dozen feet away.He was crying, too, little round swollen face, hollow eyes, wounded trembling mouth.  I realized what I had done to him was equivalent to putting your child out on the corner to turn tricks.  
Dear God.

And then...I took a step toward him.  And he took one toward me.  And then...we ran to each others’ arms, and he jumped into mine, and I held him and swore  over and over  that I was so terribbly sorrry, and would never, ever leave him again.   

And he said that he loved me, and had missed me so much.    And showered me with sweet kisses.

For some of you, this will sound crazy.  That’s fine.  I don’t blame you a bit.    If I hadn’t experienced it from the inside, it would sound crazy to me, too.  But for some of you, you will understand EXACTLY what I had done to myself, and what that year of penance and focus on healing represented.

It is to those people I address my words.    I’ve kept my promise to that little boy, the one who started this journey.  And he has never walked away from me again.  And I ‘ve tried to be as good a father to my external children Nicki and Jason as I’ve been to that boy.

Most of us have found ourselves betraying our values, subjecting ourselves to abuse.  As adults, we have to do things we don’t always want to do, just to make ends meet or survive.  That is not the sin.  But when we do these things, we have to remember to protect what is precious and fragile within us.     If in childhood we were not protected and held precious by our families, our communities, our society, and carry that damage within, it is not too late.  

It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.  

Steve and Li’l Steve
Together, now and forever.

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