Tuesday, December 18, 2007
What About the Boy?
I feel like I should be passing out cigars.
A few weeks ago, I became the proud father of...myself.
Allow to me explain. I'll try to make sense, but I make no guarantees.
I have to take an airplane flight in the near future and I'm not handling it very well.
I'm what you might call a fearful flier, a first-class white-knuckle loon who has left his hand prints in the cushions of a squadron of passenger jets over the years.
The very thought of getting on to a plane makes my stomach turn upside down and inside out--all at the same time.
The logical side of my brain tells me all about the statistics of car crashes versus airline crashes but my neurotic side won't answer the door.
I wanted to do something positive, try and rid myself of this irrational fear that has plagued me since I took my first flight out to San Francisco nearly 30 years ago.
So I did some research. I thought about behavioral therapy with a flight simulator. I've heard that there's some kind of fearful flying program at LaGuardia Airport that involves an actual "graduation flight" to Boston and back.
Some people had simpler suggestions.
"That's what Xanax is for," a neighbor said to me.
But I settled for hypnosis, which has always fascinated me. I know all too well the mind's self-destructive power, it's ability to create disaster scenarios instantly without the slightest bit of evidence.
Hypnosis seeks to turn that around, to dismantle the mind's evil apparatus, the dark factory that belches out streams of negative smog every waking second.
All I've seen of hypnosis is the nonsense on TV, with some guy waving a watch in someone's face, intoning "You are under my power" and then people are forced to cluck like chickens or commit heinous crimes without remembering anything after they're done-like The Manchurian Candidate.
I wanted the real thing...whatever that was. But where to begin? I didn't have much time to do much research, which is definitely the wrong way of going about it, but I was running out of time.
I had taken a seminar on self-hypnosis a few years back, so I decided to call the woman who had run it. I liked her style and after a brief phone call, we agreed to meet earlier this month.
She would put me through one session, record it, and have me listen to the tape every day until flight time. The cost was more than I really wanted to pay, but my sister said that if the process worked, it would be money well spent.
I went to this place off Park Avenue South that looked like some kind of New Age clearinghouse, with several rooms reserved for...I don't really know.
I imagined people levitating in one room, holding a seance in another, and contacting UFO's in yet another.
My hypnotist arrived and we got our own room. Once inside, she put on a tape of ocean sounds, turned down the lights and started to Svengali me.
People, Let Me Tell You About My Best Friend...
This had to be one of the strangest experiences of my life.
I'm sitting in a chair with my eyes closed while, Marianna, the hypnotist, talks me to from what feels like a thousand miles away.
I think I actually might have nodded off at one point, but I recall Marianna asking me what I saw.
Well, I saw a little boy, about 7 or 8 years old. He had dirty blond hair, a red short-sleeved shirt, blue jeans with the cuffs turned up and white sneakers.
He was running around an empty airliner while cottony clouds rolled by the window against a cartoon blue sky. The kid looked like something from the Sixties, like Dennis the Menace. So who was this kid?
He was me.
I don't know how I knew this, but I did; there was no doubt. This boy was some version of me, young and innocent, happy before the nuns and adulthood got hold of him. He was the inner child I've been hearing so much about for so long, here in the flesh...more or less.
I loved this kid so much--instantly, the emotion just welled up inside me. Marianna could see it in my face.
"Something's going on," she said. "Tell me what's happening."
"It's me," I said, and tears rolling down my face.
"You love him, don't you?"
"Yes," I said, "very much."
"Do you want to give him a hug?"
That's what I did, up there in the cartoon, I picked up my young self, Little Rob, and hugged to my chest, kissed his cheek and told him how much I loved him.
It--he--felt so real, this was real person I was holding in my arms and I loved the hell out of this kid.
"Little Rob needs to be protected," Marianna said. "He needs you to be strong, because he doesn't understand what's going on. If you get upset, he'll get upset."
Amazing how the mind works. I have these regrets about never having children and I'm also filled with this incredible self-loathing.
Now I was faced with a version of myself that I could love unconditionally, who was innocent of all my crimes, real and imagined, who needed to be protected and nurtured.
It was beautiful.
Every day I see real parents with their real children on the subway as I go to walk. I think of how on some mornings, most mornings, I feel lousy, unhappy with place in life, sometimes I feel physically rotten.
Now imagine having to go through all that and then have to be responsible for a child as well.
Maybe the child takes your mind off your own problems and forces you to take care of someone else.
As I get older, I see how hard my parents had to work, how they were just people with hopes and dreams, good points and bad, just trying to do their best.
When the session ended I stood up, dried my eyes, and had this urge to look around for Little Rob.
"Give me a hug," Marianna said, and I gladly obliged.
I left New Age Acres feeling relax, loose, confident and a little confused about what had just happened.
This experience underscores how empty my life is and how I need to love someone for real, how I need to take care of a flesh and blood person, not an image from a trance.
Every morning I play the tape of my session with Marianna and I'll keep doing it until I take off, and then, I'll bring on the plane with me so I can listen to it as I sail over the country.
It's part of my routine, along with prayer, meditation, and the morning pages. At this rate, I'll have to get out in the middle of the night just to be on time for work.
This morning I was walking to the post office to pick up a package and I was feeling agitated about the upcoming trip, about all the things I had to do before leaving, crap I had to deal with at work.
I was getting really angry, when I saw a woman coming toward me, holding her little girl by the hand.
That's right, I thought. I'm a parent. I don't have time for this. I've got to take care of Little Rob.
I put my gloved hand out into the cold air and gave a squeeze. And I'd swear I got a little squeeze in return.