A Love Story

“We are, as  a species, addicted to story.  Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”  —  Jonathan Gottschall   

I once read that Steinbeck wrote that everything a person does, they do for love.  The quote struck me like lightning, made it into my journals, but  I’ve never been able to find its source.  Paraphrasing an unsubstantiated Steinbeck quote seems more literary than quoting Marianne Williamson who writes, “see all human behavior as one of two things: either love, or the call for love.”  Nobel winning male author.  New age female self-help guru.   Take your pick, whatever your proclivities dictate.

Love is a story we tell ourselves, and there are limitless ways to love and be loved.  There are also limitless ways for us to shape our love stories.  We’re not only addicted to stories, we are addicted to love, from the sacred to the profane.  Lacking skill and courage, we usually seek love in faltering ways, simply doing the best we can with who we are and what we have.   But the best love story is usually feebly fashioned during our lives, if at all.

Underneath the imaginative convolutions that I’ve listened to over the years, this simple truth has struck me, the one echoed by Steinbeck and Williamson: everything we do, we do for love.  This is why I went independent years ago — while the mainstream phone service that I found myself working for focused on a character description, what kind of sex the character enjoyed, and learning as much nastiness as quickly as possible to turn a quick buck, I heard other stories coming through the receiver.  When I listened, I heard that even in our so-called darkest yearnings, most of us are calling out for love, whether we recognize it or not.

I’ve heard volumes of loneliness from men surrounded by family, colleagues, and friends.  The stories are usually similar: the feeling of being unlovable projected onto a fantasy object.  The fantasy, i.e., the story, keeps facing self-loathing at bay, and the ego successfully shifts the focus from its feelings of lack, to a projection on what the object is assumed to provide.  I believe this shift, or diversion, drives much of celebrity culture, capitalist consumerism, and modernity’s civilization of spectacle.  This behavior has nothing to do with the realities of one’s outer life.  It’s the universal human condition of finding one’s self unlovable, no matter one’s accomplishments, one’s status, one’s looks, one’s good deeds, or merits.

The Semitic religious traditions refer to this pathology as “the fall,” while Indian mythology and Buddhism call it Maya, the illusion that keeps us trapped in ego’s delusion.  Without inner work, self-loathing seems to me universal and nearly inescapable.  In itself, myth isn’t the answer, but it provides us clues to get us going in the right direction, to get us back to a state of grace, or love.

I’ll wear my armchair psychologist hat for a minute and assert that, biology aside, that when left unmitigated, this pathology leads to a wholly successful narcissism, the ability to compulsively, habitually, and unconsciously exploit others for one’s own benefit, a behavior reflecting a deep disassociation from one’s true self.  “Lack of empathy” defines the narcissistic personality and sociopathy, in a kind of intense self-loathing, turned outward.

See every behavior as love or a call to love, no matter how deeply buried that call.  This is how it looks to me, and it has become more glaring during my years of work.  More recently, the journey into myself and my writing, with few distractions, a conscious practice of greater awareness, and swaths of contemplation have further convinced me of this reality, and of the need to live fully in life’s most important love story.

I believe that the greatest love stories aren’t the ones written out there, but the one written within ourselves.  I’ve finally started living the truth, “I myself am the most deserving of my love and affection.”  It’s a story unfolding in an unfamiliar landscape, a land that I’ve taken the long roads to enter, and an environment that I am easily and surprisingly getting used to.

A story will nicely illustrate.  I adopted a cat from the no kill shelter, several lifetimes ago.  He was older and had been dumped.  Someone found him wandering around, homeless.  A big white and grey boy, about 16 pounds, who needed all of his teeth removed.  Older.  Abandoned.  Health issues.  But I adopted him anyway.  I soon lovingly referred to him as “The King of Everything,” and he accepted that role and his place in our little universe quite easily.  One day, he was not too happy with the food in his dish (some of the best organic feline chow for sale), and let me know about it.  “You seem to forget,” I told him, “that you were once just an abandoned old cat with little hope of a roof and food.”

He ignored me.  He was worthy of all the love and affection of the universe, he was convinced, no question about it.

Takeaway: the learning curve for self-love need not be years long, according to cat wisdom.

This Valentine’s Day, I am writing the greatest love story every written.  I’m deeply and wholly — or holy — loving myself, with all the care and affection that my heart can hold.  No permission needed.   Trusting myself.  Enjoying the moment on its own terms.  Refusing unnecessary baggage and anxiety.  This seems to be the best story that stillness and awareness can write in our understanding — religion sometimes calls it the Kingdom of Heaven, sometimes enlightenment.

I embrace this love story, because I know that the more one lives this primary story, the more love stories proliferate from this sacrosanct nucleus.  Spiritually.  Creatively.  Personally.  Professionally.  Not necessarily in that order.  The first love story gives birth to another, then another, then another.  Then suddenly the idea that there’s only love becomes real and palpable.  Not because it’s been found “out there,” but because the primary love story has been brought to life, lived, made real.

This particular story about loving one’s self has been told for millennium, but we still rarely get it.  Besides, as we evolve, we need new ways to reference the mystery of ourselves.  We are addicted stories, and addicted to love, but we’re still not sure how to dissolve those barriers that we’ve built against it, walls that won’t be eroded with a Hallmark card, dinner and champagne, or a series of toe curling orgasms.  Only through a radical return to our primary, most important story do those walls yield: the return to ourselves, and our most important love, the love from which all love finds its ground to grow.

My version of life’s oldest and least understood story, offered for Valentine’s Day.


Social Media Sabbatical

In order to go deeper into what’s important to me, I’m taking a social media sabbatical through at least March.

Technically, I’m supposed to be “platform building” so that I can acquire an agent or build a base for self-publishing, but at this juncture, I don’t even know what platform building means.  The people who use the script with that language, I find mystifying and even more frenetic than myself.   These are the folks who use the words “marketing,” “branding,” “tribe,” and a whole slew of terms that I have tried my best to connect with, but I can’t for the life of me wrap my head around the disconnect between the life I’m living, and the life they are talking about that exists in social media.

Construct.  Produce a product.  Disconnect.  Market.  No seeming intimate connection with materials or sources.  No substantive discourse, rather, the bulk of the conversation revolves around product.  Just product production (a.k.a. my story) and marketing, measured in sales, followers, and surveys.

Everyone and everything is an economic construct, that’s a reality.  But I have already lived an extreme version of that reality, and that’s the purpose of my living in the middle of nowhere, to get myself into something bigger than consumerism’s one dimensionality.  Sex is the most ubiquitous product for consumerism run amok, no matter how banally packaged.  In my mind, everything else seems child’s play, and extraordinarily obtuse.  But that’s an excess of unkind experience speaking, and not necessarily a good thing.

Yes, we are all hemmed in by economics, but isn’t living life well determining how we will define our economic decisions, instead of letting economic forces define us, over and above all else?

Also, I’m hearing too much noise on social media.  Either I’m getting more neurotic, or the stridency and one dimensionality oozing from the interwebs is getting exponentially worse, a rapacious Godzilla of opinion and policing that I find myself too easily participating in and contributing to, and I seem always to offer the contrary opinion.

Perhaps that’s the neurosis.  Doesn’t matter.  At this time, social media isn’t where I need to be.  Following my inner GPS, I deactivated my personal account, and may or may not be back.  My author page will be used only for blog updates until I understand “platform building” a little better.

Relieved of my innate tendency for over sharing, I’ve returned to things that are necessary and important, explored areas I’ve left aside, gained clarity, and done some good work.  I’ve returned to myself in unexpected ways, journeys that at I am not sharing now that the social media over -sharing animal has been tamed for a time.

Because what’s important isn’t the construct we create on social media, it’s giving more quality space to creating a beautiful life, one consciously lived in rhythm and color.

Social media may or may not be part of that life, in the future.