The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the month “September, 2014”

By the Sea

http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/Indonesia/Sumatra/Bengkulu/Bengkulu_Utara/photo97429.htm

Ja

I grew up in a busy fishing town at the edge of the sea. What I remember most is the smell of the place. I can recall it even now – briny, fishy, sweaty, acrid. The scent of wood fires and charcoal burning; the oil and petrol from the boats; salt water and rotting fish.   Sometimes, after school, I would go to a small cove, away from the boats, just to have the sea to myself. I would dig my little toes into the wet sand, and just breathe it all in.

The smell of the shore is, in fact, that of decay and death. It’s seaweed rotting on the sand; small sea creatures – shellfish and crabs – wounded or dead on or under the rocks. Even the sea birds dined on death, feasting on carrion. But these aromas were familiar to me. It was the smell of my home.

Once, when I was quite young, we traveled to visit some of my mother’s family up in the highlands. Even at that young age, I marveled at how different the air tasted.

Up there, was the sweet smell of life. Of flowers and things green. Of birds and animals living in the forest. It was the organic smell of humus which is technically not alive, but from which life springs so abundantly, it’s hard to think of it as anything other than a living thing. The scent of the flowers — pink and orange and violet — was intoxicating! They grew everywhere, springing up from the ground; hanging from the trees; climbing on vines up the walls of the houses.

It was a magical place, and I could not decide which I preferred more – the shore or the hills. I wondered where I would live when I was grown.

Like many of the other men, my father was a fisherman. One of the aromas I most associated with the shore, and which I loved the most, was his scent when he held me. When the smell of his manly body odor, fish, motor oil, and cigarettes tickled my nostrils, it meant I was safe.

As most young girls, I was in love with my father. He was a handsome man, brown from the sun, with thick, black hair and straight white teeth. His strong arms could lift me up high and carry me all the way home.

He went out to sea almost every day on his small wooden boat, painted white and blue. It had a motor in the back which was often in need of repair. He spent many hours working on it.

Although fishing was the main industry in our area, there were few who had the money for a brand new motor. They all bought the best used equipment they could afford. That meant being a successful fisherman was not just knowing where to find or how to catch fish. It meant one also be good at repair; to have an understanding of how a motor worked, how to fix it with whatever parts were available or that could be cobbled together, with old tools which were always on the verge of giving out. When a motor stopped, there was no time to waste, especially not out at sea.

I knew it was not good when my father couldn’t be out on the water; when he was stuck in port trying to make that old piece of machinery sputter to life. It meant a loss of income. This situation was inevitable for every boat owner. It was time loast which none could afford, yet, it was accepted that this was just how it was.   The men used to say, “Just when you get ahead, you fall ten steps back.” Thinking philosophically instead of feeling sorry for themselves was another necessary requirement for being a fisherman.

Still, as a child, I loved the days my father was stuck in the harbor. I was happy knowing he was safe, close to home where I could keep my eye on him or run to see him. It scare me to imagine him out there, with all the many unknown dangers. It was never far from my mind that the sea might take him and I would never see him again.

My mother was as beautiful as my father was handsome. She had a stall in the market where she sold small sweets and savories, all of which she made herself; some at home and some fresh on the spot. She was famous in town for her cooking.

She’d been in that stall since she was 16. Since before I was born. Since before she met my father. It had belonged to her mother, and when she died, it fell to my mother to cook and sell, to help support her family.

That’s how she met my father. He always joked that he first fell in love with her sweets, and then with her sweetness.

My mother’s sweets were so delicate, they would dissolve on the tongue. Some of her small pastries were so spicy, they could make a grown man cry. Her savories had such complex flavors, you could still taste them, mingling on your tongue even after you’d swallowed.

Most people didn’t take the time to really savor them, which was a pity. To them, they were just a quick bite to eat when they didn’t have time to stop and sit and have a proper meal. The shoppers, the other vendors, the workmen and women passing by, they all had a need of a her snacks, but only a few took the time to fully appreciate what an innovative cook she was. Everything she made — even for strangers, even for those who never gave her refined cooking a second thought — was made with love. But if people’s palates were not sophisticated enough to recognize her culinary genius, they certainly were able to taste the care and joy that went into each piece.

Her stall was in an excellent and much-coveted location, at the outer corner of the market, which gave her maximum exposure to passersby. Her food stall was the most popular and had been so since shortly after she began there.

If the market was open, Mother was there. Usually six days a week, even through her pregnancy with me and with my younger sister.

My father and I both agreed that my mother was the prettiest woman in the town. She had big eyes and long lashes and skin the color of the sweet milk tea I loved to drink. She had long, dark hair which she wore in a single braid down her back. I, myself, wore two braids, which she plaited for me every morning and carefully combed them out every night before I went to bed. Then she would brush my hair, gently, as she sang to me or told me stories, relaxing me for bed.

Some days, after my father came in from the sea and had unloaded his fish and had finished cleaning the boat, and tuning the motor, my mother would take me and my sister to meet him in the harbor. Mother would bring whatever snacks she had left over from the day, and together we would sit on the boat and talk about our day, as we watched the sun set over the ocean. We were happy and we loved each other.

I was lucky. Between my mother and my father, there was enough money to send me to school, and in a new dress every year.

Every year, at the end of December, we celebrated a family tradition, the same as my mother had done as a child. There was an exchange of gifts. The year I turned eight, my special gift was a new pair of “big girl” shoes. They were shiny and black with a pink ribbon. I felt like a real lady in them. I couldn’t wait to show them off to my friends at school! As was always the case with new shoes and new clothes, they were purchased a bit too large to give me time to grow into them. I pushed paper into the toes so they wouldn’t fall off.

The next morning, on my way to school, I scanned the harbor. Most of the boats were already out to sea. Father’s was not there, which meant his motor was working that morning. I would worry about him until I saw him again in the evening.

And then something strange happened.

The sea peeled back from the shore, exposing more beach than I’d ever seen before. It sloped steeply down.

Some people started to panic and run away from the water, but most either weren’t paying attention or, like myself, went closer to see what was going on, not understanding what it meant.

I stood there, fascinated. And then,   suddenly, there was a wall of water so high and frightening it took my breath away even before it crashed over me. Instantly, I and everything else was under it.   My new shoes were sucked off my feet. In those last seconds, before I drowned all I could think about was my lost shoes.

We were all lost except my father, but when he came back to shore and saw the devastation, he no longer had the heart for living. He rejoined us soon.

By human standards, it was a great tragedy. So much loss of life. But it was a necessary correction which the universe must make from time to time. I do not understand the reasons.

So many souls, all leaving the living world at one time, creating so much energy. I was just a small part of it; a tiny speck in a cloud of dust, floating upwards on a ribbon of sunlight.

____

http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/Indonesia/Sumatra/Bengkulu/Bengkulu_Utara/photo97429.htm

Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. New posts every three days, and they are getting more and more interesting. I promise! Comments are welcome here or at https://www.facebook.com/livesofthedead.   If you know anyone who would enjoy or relate to this,  please forward and/or share on Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks!

The Wisdom of the Shepherd

Ib

[While I was channeling The Liar, (the previous post), a different fellow came into my head as clear and powerful a picture. (Most often, stories come to me in words or as feelings).

He is an adult man, a poor shepherd in ragged clothes, tending his flock. He sits on a rock, with his rifle close at hand. The terrain is bleak and mountainous. I know we are in the foothills of the Hindu Kush… Afghanistan or Pakistan perhaps.]

“I grew up with it,” he said, showing me his gun. “It was an extension of myself. It never left my side.  I learned to shoot as a child and so I was an excellent marksman. When I was out with my herd, I was always scanning the horizon and the skies for predators – wolves, jackals. Even a hawk could take away a small lamb.”

“I also watched the narrow paths leading into our valley, keeping my rifle trained on anyone I didn’t recognize until it was known whether they were friend or enemy. In this way, I, like everyone else, helped guard the safety of our village.”

All well and good, I thought “aloud” to him, but this is not really a story. It’s just an image, and I might just be remembering that image from a photograph.   I need more.

He then “showed” me his small house – a typical low mud and brick hut. He told me he had four children, two boys and two girls. The girls were married and living with their husbands’ families.

Sorry, but this is still not particularly interesting. Yet he was coming to me so strongly,  I felt he must have more to say.

Don’t you have a story, I asked. A lesson?

And then he started to wax philosophical…

===

Living in such a small, isolated village, it is impossible to comprehend the life of a person who works in an office in a big city in another country. And the person who lives and works in a big modern city cannot fully imagine the life of a person who lives in a small village.

It is difficult enough to understand the feelings and the suffering and the pain and even the joy of your own neighbor. Sometimes, not even your own family member. Each human being is at the center of his or her own reality. The reality of others is completely abstract. You might as well be on completely different planets.

When the feelings and hopes and dreams and pain of others are abstract, and when their needs and desires conflict with your own, it becomes easy to vilify and hate.

To push aside your own limitations in order to see beyond the limitations of others is the path to compassion. But this takes a tremendous amount of work and energy, more than most humans are willing or able to expend.

It takes far less energy to hate.

Humans like to believe they are compassionate but they make so many exceptions, that they are not compassionate at all.   There are always others — a group or a class or an ethnicity or a nation — for whom they make exceptions.   “Yes,” they say, “compassion is good BUT those people….” are this way or do that.  They are somehow unworthy of compassion.

And how many humans can feel compassion for their enemy, especially if they are trying to kill them? But without compassion enemies are always plentiful.

People claim to want peace in the world as if it is the responsibility of nations or governments. But peace begins with compassion within ourselves. Each time we vilify others, even a neighbor or an old friend or a family member – even if we feel justified because they have done us grievous harm — we move the world one step further from peace.

====

Addendum:  Well, I have to admit, by these standards,  I’m not very compassionate at all!  Guess I have something to work on!

****

Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. New posts every three days, and they are getting more and more interesting. I promise! Comments are welcome here or at https://www.facebook.com/livesofthedead.   If you know anyone who would enjoy or relate to this,  please forward and/or share on Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks!

The Liar

Pinocchio by Caralo Collodi

 

La

I started lying almost as soon as I was able to talk. My first true memory of this was as a child, maybe 3 or 4. I was alone, happily entertaining myself. My mother called to me to ask what I was doing. I was playing with some toys, perfectly innocent and acceptable behavior. But something compelled me to tell her I was coloring and drawing.

It wasn’t much of a lie. My mother didn’t care what I was doing, as long as I wasn’t getting into trouble or making a mess. But for me, it was the point when everything changed; the moment when I asserted my independence; took a stand of defiance.

My play time was my domain. What was it her business how I spent it? (As long as I wasn’t getting into trouble or making a mess, of course.) I felt the first frisson of rebellion; of claiming something which was mine and mine alone. I liked how it felt. And so I continued.

At that age, my lies were small and meaningless. I didn’t do bad things, such as steal then blame it others or deny my own complicity. I simply lied as a way of keeping a private space around myself; keeping out the prying, controlling eyes of my mother.

Sometimes, I’d set things up just so I could tell a fib. For example, I’d put a toy in my pocket and take it outside, but tell her I was going out to play with something else. There was no real point to this. It wouldn’t have mattered to her one way or the other, but it was secretly thrilling to me to have this way of keeping a part of me out of her reach; to have her not know everything about me; to carve out a tiny corner of privacy for myself in my childhood life where I had so little control.

This continued and soon became a habit. When I got to school, I lied to my teachers and others in authority.   They were the same kind of small white lies that meant nothing in the larger scheme of things, but it was already an addiction. It was my identity. To me, the lying created a bubble around me which nobody could permeate.   It was a way of protecting myself from others, most especially those in authority.

When I finished university, I worked at some really bad, low-paying, worthless jobs for a couple of years. I was lazy and didn’t care much about anything. I partied a lot with friends and was often hung over at work. I got fired often. (And I lied to my bosses all the time!)

Eventually, I realized I had to grow up and put my life in order. I put together a resume and began searching for an adult job.

I knew it would go against me to list all those pathetic jobs I’d had; to say honestly what I’d been doing for the past few years. There wasn’t a single employer who would have given me a decent reference. And I couldn’t very well leave that period blank on my resume.   Instead, I created a fiction that I’d been traveling though India and Asia; teaching in small villages here and there. There were not enough details for anyone to check up on me. Besides, it had nothing to do with the job I was applying for. Not as if they were going to attempt to locate some fictional grade school in India.

I’d read enough to be able to invent a few convincing stories should anyone inquire. This made me appear interesting and exotic instead of the lazy screw-up that I’d been.

It worked. I got a good job.

I didn’t speak about my “travels”. I wasn’t as if I’d been trying to impress my potential co-workers with my tales of adventure. Still, word got around, and from time to time I was called upon to answer a question or settle a bet. If I didn’t know the answer, I just made something up. Nobody seemed to notice or care. Back then, there weren’t too many ways of checking up on these things.

When I started dating, there were more lies…where I’d been last night, who I was with. Mostly the lies were about how I felt and what I wanted.

I mostly lied in response to direct questions, as a means of deflecting curiosity.

I didn’t make up stories for the purposes of self-aggrandizement, but rather as a way of keeping others off balance; to prevent them from knowing me too deeply; to keep them from stealing my soul.

I pretended to like the same music and books and films as others, not because I didn’t have opinions of my own, but rather because I preferred to keep those opinions private. I was more expedient to simply agree and go along than to tell the truth and risk revealing too much.

I let them see me as they wished to see me. I let them project their own thoughts, desires, and expectations on me and didn’t correct them. I was happy to remain safe from their prying eyes. I was content to live inside my own head, with my own thoughts, in a domain that nobody could enter.

I was such a facile liar, I had no tells – no give-away twitch or inappropriate smile. Perhaps that was because, for the most part, my lies were not particularly egregious. At least, that’s how they felt to me at the time. Nobody seemed to really care what I thought, anyway.

Ultimately, of course, my lies isolated me. There was not a single person with whom I was completely honest. Nobody ever knew me as I really was. What began as defiance ended up a lifelong habit that made intimacy impossible.

 

===

Addendum: This entity (male energy, I think) told me this story over the course of two days. As happens with some of these, I get images and emotions in drips and drabs during my everyday life. I can “feel” the story coming, wanting to get out, but it’s only when I sit down in a meditative state that they really come through in all their detail.     Tonight I was meditating and he came to me again, but this time telling me his stories in greater detail.   I could literally feel him as a small child in his room.

 In the middle of this meditation and channeling, however, I became distracted by other images which were also calling me strongly (more on this later). And when I came back to The Liar, he scolded me! “Pay attention,” he said. “I’m trying to tell you my story!”

 Each time my attention drifted to this other powerful image, he would reprimand me and call me back.

 The meditation was very deep tonight. I was in a relaxed and open state. As The Liar was narrating to me, I saw another figure – the outline of a human form comprised of white light. It was standing at the end of a long corridor. Behind it, a doorway – also filled with white light. I didn’t want to go there yet. I was trying to focus on The Liar’s story since he was being so insistent.

 The light figure said, “OK, come whenever you are ready. We will be here.”

 So, I went back to The Liar. And while he was talking, another unrelated spirit came into my head, with his own story. (which I will tell in the next post) The two of them battled for my attention, until I finally heard them both out to the end.

And then I was ready to go toward that room filled with light. I felt my body elongating; my arms and legs stretching off into infinity.

When I crossed the threshold, I saw it was filled with thousands (millions?) of other white light entities.   I thought, “Wow! So many stories here! Each one, with something different to tell!”   I felt like the Barbara Walters of the afterlife, interviewing and writing about between-life spirits!  

I felt very welcome there. Again I was told, come back any time.   I felt a lot of souls wanting to reveal their lessons.

I was not sleeping. I was not tripping. I was not hallucinating. Granted, I might have been “merely imagining” but then, who knows how “communicating with the other side” really works?  Or if it’s even real.

I am not making any claims.  I am merely reporting my experiences, and how the process feels to me. Make of it what you will.

****

Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. New posts every three days, and they are getting more and more interesting. I promise! Comments are welcome here or at https://www.facebook.com/livesofthedead.   If you know anyone who would enjoy or relate to this,  please forward and/or share on Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks!

A Bottle In Front of Me

 

Pe

I had my first drink when I was around ten. My parents were having a party and I sneaked out of my room and watched them through the bannister on the upstairs landing. The adults all seemed so much more sophisticated than they did when I saw them during the day.  The women, in their little black dresses and high-heeled shoes. The bursts of laughter from various corners as people told jokes or funny stories or made a clever remark. I watched a neighbor slip a kiss to a man who wasn’t her husband. There was music playing, and the sound of ice clinking in glasses. People danced and snuggled on the couch. They were happy. I couldn’t wait to grow up and be part of that sophisticated world.

It was late when the last guest left. My parents ignored the mess and went up to bed, leaving the cleanup for morning. Once they were in their room, I tiptoed downstairs. I could still smell the mingle of perfume, cigarette smoke and human pheromones.

I picked up a glass that had an inch or so of some kind of liquor – I’m not sure what it was. I sat on a high stool near the small bar in the corner of the living room and in my pajamas,  imagined having a conversation with several sophisticated people at once. I imagined them all laughing at something witty I’d just said. I picked up the glass and had a sip.

The taste was awful but at the same time, it was as if a key had slipped into a lock and opened something inside my head. A rush of chemistry surged through my blood. I felt complete in a way I’d never felt before. It was as if I’d been missing this but only now just knew it.

This was a secret the adults were trying to keep from us kids! It was a rite of passage, an invitation into adulthood, to finally be legally old enough to drink sometime in my late teens.

I wasn’t going to wait nearly a decade to be able to feel that way again. I didn’t want to live without it.

From that point on, to drink was both an act of pleasure and of defiance. I wanted it and I was not going to let any  rules get in the way of my having it.  I wondered what other secrets the grownups were keeping from me.

It was around then that I stopped trusting what others told me about “good” and “bad.” Who decided which was which? Why did I have to go along with the rest of the world, anyway?

I started the way many alcoholics do:  I raided my parents’ liquor cabinet. I started at the back, with the weirder stuff that they rarely touched. By the time they got around to it,   they would never remember how much had been left in the bottle. So it was crème de menthe, peach schnapps. Pretty awful stuff, especially straight up.

From there, I moved up to the gin and vodka which I replaced by volume with water. If they noticed, I never found out. I was careful not to replace too much.

I did the same with my friends’ parents’ liquor cabinets. Some of them had bottles I’d never seen before in my parents’ bar. Foreign, unpronounceable names. Years and numbers, as if they were something special. They seemed exotic.

I had a French teacher when I was 15.  By the end of the first week, I knew she was an alcoholic.   I recognized the signs.   I’d see her around in the morning and she’d seem normal, but by the time I sat in her class in the afternoon,  she was already a bit drunk.  She’d slur her words;  lose track of her thoughts;  bob and weave a bit when she walked.   I quickly figured out this meant she kept a bottle close at hand.

I watched her classroom, and when it was empty, I crept in in and searched her desk.  There it was,  in the lower left hand drawer — a small bottle of vodka.

I took it. I had no fear of being caught.  I knew she would never, could never, report it stolen.  Anyway, she was an adult. At worst, for her a missing bottle was an inconvenience and the loss of a some pocket money.  I told myself I was doing a service to my fellow students — she’d be sober for at least one afternoon’s classes.

I knew she’d replace it; I knew she couldn’t be without.   Several days later, I stole it again.   It took her a week or so to realize someone was taking her desk bottle; that she hadn’t just misplaced it or finished it and forgotten to buy more.  When I went to look for it the next time, it wasn’t there.  I figured she’d hidden it somewhere else.  She needed a few shots to get through the afternoon, and she needed easy access to it.  It took me a couple of days to locate the new hiding place, and that was only because I didn’t have much time to search.

It became a game.  She would find a new spot, and I would look until I found it. (It rarely took me more than a week.)  I drank and entertained myself for the entire school year playing cat and mouse with that one teacher.

As I got older, I  became more creative about finding ways to drink.   I also started to know more people who were above legal drinking age. I was able to exchange favors – sexual and otherwise – for a bottle or two.

Beer would do in a pinch, but I’d developed a preference for vodka which had the benefit of not really smelling on the breath. I realized this was why my French teacher preferred it.

By the time I was of drinking age myself, I’d learned quite a few tricks about how to drink for free. Mainly, it helped to be funny and charming, to know a lot of good stories and jokes. That’s how one got invited to all the parties.  And when you’re entertaining, people always want to ply you with liquor.

I was The Drunk at every party. Sometimes, I was the only drunk guest. But I never got sappy or obnoxious. Even in my alcoholic haze, I never lost control. I was still able to be funny. Sure, I slurred my words and occasionally knocked things over, but I never vomited on anyone’s rug (or in anyone’s bathroom, either, for that matter.) I never said or did anything that was hurtful. I would often get very affectionate. Liquor made me happy; it made me love the world and myself and all of mankind. Sometimes, I’d lose track of others’ conversation and became confused about what they were talking about. I’d make a comment about what I thought they were discussing when in fact I had missed the point entirely.  In turn, they were confused by my remarks because to them they made no sense.  Of course they made sense to me, based on what I believed they were talking about.   I developed a reputation for saying these crazy, off-topic things.   But they made people laugh, so they kept me around.

This was how I lived my life.

I had a decent career which enabled me to support myself.  Ultimately, however,  it was always about the next drink. I never loved anyone or anything as much as I loved the feeling I got from liquor.

I only dated other alcoholics because the sober ones always pushed me to quit.  Yes, I was an alcoholic, but quite a functional one.  I saw no need to stop something that gave me so much pleasure.

But just because my life was relatively functional, didn’t mean there wasn’t damage – to my body, to my brain to my resistance. I got old, fast.   The best thing that could have happened to me would have been a small car accident or a crazy drunken tirade in the wrong company or an arrest for some inebriated infraction.   Any one of those might have served as a wake-up call.

Instead I managed to live in the no-man’s land of functional alcoholism. I never fully acknowledged to myself how my craving for liquor was stronger than anything else inside me.   My entire life,  I chased chemical spirituality. I was beneath any true understanding or enlightenment.  And that was the tragedy of my life.

____

 addendum:  I should add that I, myself, do not drink nor have I ever.  None of the people I knew growing up were like this.  None of my adult friends are like this.   This is definitely not coming from me!!!

***

Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. New posts every three days, and they are getting more and more interesting. I promise! Comments are welcome here or at https://www.facebook.com/livesofthedead.   If you know anyone who would enjoy or relate to this,  please forward and/or share on Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks!

Love is the Way to the Truth

 Aya (a new voice)

I believe in the redemptive power of love. It is the prism through which everything passes. It is the path along which the most important lessons are learned. Love turns you inward; directs you to where the most important answers are.

When two people make a commitment to each other in love, that commitment is as much to themselves as to each other. It is a promise to grow and change; to bend to fit with an open heart; to see clearly both the good and bad in oneself;  to continually reevaluate beliefs; to rethink behaviors and view them from different perspectives; to see the world through another’s eyes.

To love is to commit to working on everything that prevents us from becoming our best self. We commit to knowing our own true self, and when we have discovered it, all things become clear. The result is true intimacy — with ourselves, with each other, with the universe.

In loving fully, we make ourselves whole.

[more from Aya later]

The Perfectionist

Perfektionist | Metapher

Wi

I was a precocious child, adorable and smart as a whip. Things came easily to me. I mastered whatever was put before me quickly and perfectly. I could not understand why others struggled with things that came to me so naturally. I always aimed for perfection (and usually achieved it) because I loved being praised for my cleverness. It made me feel special and more important than everyone else.

As I grew up, I become more and more accomplished at various things. I could do more in a day than anyone else I knew. I looked down upon those who could not complete tasks which to me were simple; or solve problems when the solutions seemed obvious to me. I felt pity and contempt for the lazy, the ineffectual, those who did not have the capacity to do what needed to be done. I assumed that anyone who claimed not to be capable of these things was just being lazy or purposely obtuse. I had no patience or compassion for those who struggled with what (to my mind at least) should have been straight-forward tasks and easy-to-attain goals.

I entered the business world and was extremely successful. It never occurred to me that I would be otherwise.   I went over and above what others expected of me, always working hard to top what I’d done before. I was driven, but the rewards were great.

That was the upside.

The downside was that I pushed others relentlessly.   I expected them to value perfection as I did. If I asked someone to do something and the result did not meet my high standards, I would get angry or dismissive or even cruel. I had no use for imperfect people. Those who wanted to work with me and for me, knew what was expected of them. Failure, laziness, mistakes, miscalculations were not options.

I was not well-liked.

There was no place for laziness in a relationship. How difficult was it to get things right? All they had to do was pay close attention, watch how I did it, and learn the right way. Wasn’t it better to do things the correctly than to make mistakes? Wasn’t it better to be industrious than to be lazy? My motto was “Properly not sloppily.”

How convinced I was about this! How sure I was right; that my way was the best and only way. I worked myself relentlessly towards perfection in everything.

Ironically, this was my greatest flaw.

I had no respect for the journeys of others. No compassion for their challenges. No empathy. No understanding of different values. And worst, no ability to feel or give unconditional love.

I was successful in life, but in death I see I was an utter failure as a human being

 

Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. New posts every three days, and they are getting more and more interesting. I promise! Comments are welcome here or at https://www.facebook.com/livesofthedead.   If you know anyone who would enjoy or relate to this,  please forward and/or share on Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks!

 

 

 

 

Without a Trace

gowanus

Ja

I was just 27. I had my whole life in front of me. I had a good job, career prospects, lots of friends.   One night, I went into the city to meet a buddies for drinks. It was late when I left them to head home. I was a bit tipsy but not exactly drunk.  A man on the street approached me, asking for directions. I stopped to help him.

After that was a blur. I woke up groggy, bound with nylon rope, in the trunk of a car, bumping along very potholed roads. I had no idea where I was. Or why. Or how. It took a while for me to put it together, but he must have drugged me somehow. Maybe stuck me with something. I didn’t remember.

Finally, we came to a stop. When he opened the trunk and pulled me out, we were in a garage…not a house garage but a commercial one, like a chop shop. I had no idea exactly where we were but my sense was that it was in a remote, industrial part of an outer boro, far from prying eyes and out of earshot of anyone who could help me.

My captor was insane. That much was obvious.   I was terrified. I knew I was going to die at his hands, but I didn’t know how, which terrified me more.

He started with the tools for breaking apart cars, and took me apart slowly, methodically. He knew was he was doing. He took pleasure in my pain.

As soon as I realized what was happening, I tried to will my soul out of my body, so I would die faster. It didn’t work as quickly as I prayed it would. When I passed across, as soon as I felt my soul leave my corporeal form, I was met by others; other young men he’d killed in the same way.

New York has a serial killer but nobody knows it. He disposes of bodies so well, none of us were ever found. We are all still listed as mysteriously missing persons. Nobody suspects that all our disappearances are related; the work of one man. Nobody is looking for a single killer. He is too clever for them.

Our bodies are in the Gowanus Canal, but no one would ever think to look for us there. Even if they did, they would never find us. We are melted into the toxic soup.

 

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Sooner Than You Think

calendar pages turning

Ke

Well, tomorrow finally came, and here I am.

I put off almost everything I dreamed of doing until it would be more convenient; when I’d have more time, more money, more bravery than I currently possessed. That I would eventually run out of time or energy or opportunity was such an abstract concept that it had virtually no meaning.

Equally abstract was the notion that I could ever actually have or do the things I’d always dreamed about having or doing.

My dreams existed only in the future.

“Someday” became tomorrow. Tomorrow became next week. Next week became next year, until one by one, the windows closed for me on all my dreams.

I never completely threw myself into any of those pursuits.  In my heart of hearts, I never believed the things I most wanted were possible. I didn’t think I was good enough to deserve them. I didn’t believe I was clever enough to grab them and hold on to them, even if they were within reach.  It was easier and safer to simply fantasize, and perhaps blame others, or circumstances, or even some completely unrelated flaw in myself for the unfulfillment of my dreams.

I never started my own business, which I’d always fantasized about. Instead, I stuck with my boring but reliable job until I finally retired.   It was the safe choice but of course, how could I have ever achieved my dream until I’d been willing to take a risk. Which I was not.

I never traveled to all the exotic places I thought I wanted to go; never explored the world. Truth was, I barely ventured out of my comfort zone. I never went to places where I didn’t understand the language.   I worried that I wouldn’t be able to communicate; that the food would be too strange for me to eat; that I wouldn’t understand the money and end up being taken advantage of.

I always wanted to learn to play a music instrument. Maybe piano. Perhaps guitar. In my fantasies, I was quite good. I would entertain my friends at parties.   But in truth, I never took a lesson. Never stuck with anything long enough to even get past the most rudimentary familiarity with a chord or a scale.

Most problematic of all, I never really found love. None of those other things would have mattered if I’d given up those pursuits in exchange for another person’s happiness. But that was not the case.

I had several long-term relationships, but the longest one lasted only about seven years. Never a lifetime commitment and all it entailed. Maybe I never met the right person. Maybe I was never ready for it. Maybe I was not open to it. Maybe it was simply not my destiny in that life. I still haven’t figured it out.

I thought I loved a few of them, but looking back, while some relationships were emotionally intense, they were not really loving. I felt no deep commitment in any of them. I was content as long as things were going well, but as soon as things got rocky, I saw no point in sticking around. I’m not even sure that more of a commitment on my part would have made any difference. Let’s face it. Sometimes, you just have to cut your losses. But then, sometimes, you have to see it out past the bad or inconvenient stuff and hope it turns a corner.   I was never good at knowing which was which, nor very patient at waiting to see how it would turn out. Perhaps the right person might have inspired me to put it more of an effort. Perhaps I was the one who needed to be the inspiration.

I never had children either. I always thought that, too, would just happen. But it never did. Never the right time. Never the right person.

I lived a small life; didn’t learn as many lessons as I could have, should have.

The main thing I’ve come to understand is that fear is the enemy of everything good.

 

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Rational Fear

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Ru

I was born in an unfortunate time. As a very young child, I was taught to walk quickly, keep my head down, never look strangers in the eye and certainly never to speak to them. I learned to blend into the background and make myself invisible. I was too small to completely understand what was going on, but I sensed enough to understand that the adults were deeply fearful. As things got worse and as I began to become more aware of what was happening around us, the fear took hold of me, too, like tentacles. It did not let go. I felt the panic everywhere; it emanated from everyone. I could smell it in their sweat. I could sense it in the darting eyes, the furtive glances, and the hushed, secretive conversations which ended abruptly the moment they became aware I was in the room.

Over time, I could feel it getting worse. Grownups started to disappear.   Some neighbors – a father and son – went off to work in the morning and never came home. People said they saw them being taken away. My school friend’s mother went off alone to the market, never to return.

At first, nobody could believe the truth because it was too terrible to comprehend. They could not believe that such a thing could happen to them, in modern times, in a modern country. This was not the middle ages!

Soldiers shot an old man in the middle of the street and kicked him as he lay bleeding to death. They laughed. This news sent chills, waves of nausea, horror, terror through the community.

They started to search the apartments so we created hiding places, where we ran the instant we heard the first boot on the stairs. Mine was behind the stove.

One night, the soldiers came to our building. We heard them calling in the street and ran to our places. They weren’t afraid of our hiding. They were on to our game. I could hear them, banging on doors, kicking them in, shooting off their guns. I heard screaming of people I knew. “Why!? Why are you doing this?” they asked. “We’ve done nothing wrong!” they cried. It was like a mouse trying to reason with a hungry cat.

I knew what was happening. I’d seen it a few nights before, when they went to the building across the street. Shivering, terrified people in their pajamas stood outside in the cold, guarded by other soldiers with guns. But this night, I was in my place, huddled in a ball, trying not to sob or make any noise, though I was sure they could hear my heart pounding even in the street.

I heard them come into our apartment. It was empty, or so it seemed. Maybe on spite for not finding anyone, or for fun, or out of pure evil or because they were too lazy to really look for us, they shot up our apartment.    They laughed and fired bullets everywhere, as if they never had to worry about a lack of them.

Finally, they left.   I waited a long time to be sure before I pushed aside the panel and crawled out.

I found only my mother still alive. The soldiers’ bullets had penetrated the other hiding places and had killed my father, my brother and my grandmother. My mother wouldn’t let me look but I remember the blood dripping from my brother’s secret spot.

That night, my mother packed up a small bag with some clothing, photos, whatever small valuables she had, and a enough food to take us only until the next day. She said a few prayers – it was the best we could do, because we could not bury our family properly — and we left. I had no idea where we were going. I don’t think she did either, but we both understood in our own way that remaining there was impossible. I remember walking for a long time.

The next year or so was a blur to me. We moved all the time. We lived in hiding, like fugitives, like animals. Some people were kind. They gave us food and shelter, at great danger to themselves, but we were afraid to trust or endanger anyone too much.

My mother learned about some people who might provide false documents for us, and we traveled to see them. It was a far and dangerous journey but we had no choice. We were among the lucky ones.   We got the papers and my mother found a way for us to leave the country. I don’t know how she did it. She never spoke of it. When I brought up the subject, she closed down completely, overcome with such obvious sadness and pain, I quickly learned never to ask.  It was a secret she took to her grave. I always suspected she gave herself to a man in exchange for this favor, and could not bear to think about the shame she felt at betraying my father. She did it for me. This I know. She would not have done it for herself, alone.

We went on a boat, across the sea. And later, another boat, across an ocean. We started a new life in a new land. We assimilated as best we could, and had, by outside appearances, a normal life.

My mother never remarried. She lived to 91. The sorrow and fear never left her eyes.   I think, until the day she died, she always expected them to come for her and her family again.

I married and had children and tried my best not to transfer my lingering mistrust of strangers to them, my mistrust of life in general, nor my paranoia nor my deep sense of loss of the life I might have lived had my world not been turned upside down. I’m not sure I succeeded very well. I think it was all well-embedded in my genes.

Here is what I know: There is no such thing as permanence. The life you think you are living can be pulled out from under you at any time. You comfort yourself with the belief that although such atrocities might have happened in the past,  they could never happen again.   Humans can be so bitterly cruel to each other, it’s hard to comprehend they are of the same species. Without vigilance, life quickly becomes tragedy.

Irrational fear is just a trick of the mind but rational fear scars the soul.


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photo: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

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