The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the month “March, 2015”

The Definition of Us

Aya

hands

Love is defined not only by the emotions we feel for others but by how others feel about us.

We each make our choices about who we want to be. Shall we be the kind of person whom others feel joy to keep close to their hearts, even after we long are out of their lives? Will we be entirely forgettable, leaving little impression on those whose lives we’ve crossed? Will we be the person who causes others anticipate the relief of no longer feeling anything for us?   Do uplift those around us or prop ourselves up at the expense of others?

And it is from these basic choices that our actions flow.  And from these actions, grows our character.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne
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The Rule of Anarchy

Kha

In the time and place when I last lived it was impossible to tell the righteous from the evil.  Sometimes,  your enemy could be kind or generous or offer you aid in your time of need; and sometimes your own friends and family betrayed you.  Trust was a luxury in which no one dared indulge, not even in love.  Allegiances fluttered like leaves on the trees; showing first  one face and then suddenly, with a slight change in the wind,  exposing their their pale, veined undersides to the sun.

I worked hard to avoid aligning myself with either camp, but this proved nearly impossible.  I pretended to be feeble-minded so they would not demand too much of me; so they would not press me too often into service for their cause.  If I could not be relied upon to do their bidding, I would not be asked. Or, if I were asked and I failed,  I would not be thought a traitor.

But what was a traitor?  A traitor to what? What was left to betray? Nothing was black or white, up or down, right or wrong. Everything was a muddy dun-colored pile of string. You could not tell from looking if it was comprised of one long one strand or a hundred short ones.  But it did not matter if it was it was all connected or not.   In the beginning,  it had all been of one piece. Chopping it apart did not make the parts manifestly different from each other.

They all liked to believe they stood for something unique but there was no difference. People ostensibly chose sides but in reality, loyalties were too easily bought and sold for sides to have any real meaning. People stood with whomever could best provide what they needed most at that moment…food,  protection, shelter, weapons.

There was no law…not of government, not of God, and not even most natural laws of man. Society did not exist, only quotidian anarchy.

This was all I ever knew in that life.  My ruse of playing the fool worked to keep my out of any political tug of war and away from accusations, but it could not save me from random violence. I was killed by a bomb, along with the guilty, the innocent and the undecided.

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

Equilibrium and the Bell Curve

bigstock__d_gold_balance_the_scales_of_61236361

Mo

As a child, I never had much use for school. Perhaps I lacked the interest or the attention span. Or maybe I just wasn’t smart enough. Or maybe a little of each.   I dropped out of school before high school and felt like a big, important man because I worked and had spending money, while my friends suffered in school.

When I was older those same friends become more successful than I was because they had more resources, more knowledge, more information.   But I had my own small business and earned a good living – enough to support my family in a comfortable way. To be sure, I did some things that weren’t one hundred percent legal, in order to stay above water, but I was smart enough never to get caught.

I would never admit it to anyone – I couldn’t even acknowledge it to myself — but I was insecure about my lack of education.   Rather than consider myself less than those who had degrees, I mocked them – to myself and to others. I took the position that college-educated people had no idea about real life; that all their knowledge was theoretical. Their so-called facts had no relation to my world. The academics in government made policy based on statistics and theory. I, however, had real-life experience. My opinions were at least as valuable as their facts and theories; maybe moreso. I had no use for them.

I resisted change. My position was that the old way was good enough. It wasn’t so much that changes in the world did not benefit me (they generally did not) but rather I did not have the ability, knowledge or flexibility to evolve with the times. I couldn’t keep up with technology. I didn’t have the intellectual capacity to read about or comprehend new concepts. I didn’t have the energy or focus to navigate cultural shifts. Society grows ever more complicated, and I preferred the comfortable familiarity of what I already knew. I simply wasn’t up to the challenge of constant change. I voted for people who thought as I did, even though they were as unqualified as I was to run the country.

The older I got, the more conservative I became in my thinking. I became bitter and angry that the world was moving forward without me, regardless of how much I kicked and screamed. By the time I died, I was so fed up with the world and how (I believed) it had changed for the worse, I wasn’t sorry to leave it behind.

Human culture is continuum of those who remain grounded in the past and those who are willing to leap off a cliff into the unknown. Sometimes a leap into unknown produces great advances forward. Sometimes, it brings disaster. Those who resist change function as an anchor. They assure that when those who jump off the cliffs make a big splat, someone is left to run things. On the other hand, if nobody is willing to take the leap, there is no progress; humankind would stagnate and die. Those at the extremes balance each other, keeping the equilibrium.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

Fields of Dreams

Jean-François_Millet_(II)_-_The_Gleaners_-_WGA15691

Ju

When things got too bad to tolerate, my mother took my sister and me across the border. We didn’t have papers, so the only kind of work we could get was in the fields. I was ten, old enough to get a job picking fruit alongside my family. I wasn’t sure how much better it was than where we came from, but my mother believed it was, and so I eventually believed it, too.

To me, my mother always seemed like an old woman but she was only twenty-three years older than I was. When I was fifteen, she was thirty-eight but she looked sixty. The sun had dried and darkened her skin. Her body was bent and permanently contorted in pain from hard labor and injury. Her hair had already begun to turn gray. She seemed to be biding time until it was her time to die.

When I was 17, I met a girl. She also worked the farms, like we did, doing seasonal work. We fell in love and wanted to marry.   My mother discouraged it. She wanted me to make something more of myself. With the burden of a wife and then, inevitably some children, I’d be caught in the same trap she was – no hope, no options with too much responsibility for the luxury of suicide.

Maybe it was a good thing that fell in love when I was young. Another few years and I think I might have also felt as my mother did — that it was a hopeless situation and it was madness to bring children into the world. But I was young enough and naïve enough and passionate enough to throw caution to the wind.

My girl was smart, and she had the idea that we should move to the city where we might find better opportunities. Even though we could not work legally, we were willing to do anything. We were grateful for the kind of jobs that so many others felt were beneath them — cleaning houses, digging ditches, working in hot kitchens, caring for elderly or sick people when their own families could not.   Together we made just enough money to rent a tiny place over someone’s garage.

Life was hard, but we were always looking for new chances and ways to move up. We went to night school and learned to read. I was never very good but at least I was no longer illiterate, and that was a great source of pride for me.

Eventually we did have children, a boy and then a girl. They were born in our new country. They could not be forced to leave. Even if we could do nothing else for them, at least we gave them this. Even my mother had to admit this was a good thing.

They went to school and it wasn’t very long before they knew more than we did.   My boy was a good man but average in every way. My daughter, however, was special. She had a way of seeing the angles that nobody else could see.   You could show her a tiny corner of a page and she’d be able to figure out what the whole book was about.  She could tell upon meeting someone for the first time whether they were the kind to be trusted or if they were only being friendly to get from you whatever they could for themselves. She was a natural at navigating the often complex legal and educational systems. Even as a teen, she knew how to talk her way into or out of anything.

She was smart, that one! She finished school at the top of her class and went on to college, where she figured out how to apply for scholarships which mostly paid for her education.

She eventually became a successful lawyer.   My son did OK for himself. He had a good sales job and was able to support himself and his family. But oh, my girl! It was hard to hide my pride in her! I tried not to make my son feel less loved because he wasn’t, but even he recognized how special she was. He knew she would always outshine him. He never minded. Never saw a hint of jealousy in him, and I loved him for not forcing me to choose.

My daughter was not only smart; she was a good girl, too. She never forgot the debt she owed both to my mother, and to us, her own parents. She took care of us as best she could, forsaking nice things she could have had for herself so we didn’t have to live in constant worry. This is a blessing at any time in life, but especially in old age.

My mother did not live to see her great-grandchildren but my wife and I were very happy, doting grandparents.

During my life, I often thought how lucky it was that I didn’t listen to my mother when she discouraged me from marrying so young. It was the right choice for me, and I never once had a single regret. When I died, I died content knowing I had added good to the world; left it better than when I came in. Because of that, I’d knew I’d earned my place in it.

Perfection is Not So Perfect

alabasater statue of woman

Lu

Most people believe that being fair of face is a blessing. For me it was no such thing.

I was such a beautiful child, even strangers could not resist stroking my hair or running a finger across my flawless cheek. They cooed and marveled over my perfection; called me a little angel. Even as I got older, all anyone spoke about in reference to me was my loveliness. No one ever inquired about my cleverness, my strengths, my feelings. It was as if I were a living alabaster sculpture without a soul, born solely for the appreciation of others.

I withdrew into myself as they observed me from the outside, and rarely revealed any of my own thoughts or feelings.  I fulfilled what I perceived to be my role in life – to be on display as a model of perfection.

In a life previous to that one, I had been quite plain. You might even say homely. I longed to be beautiful. I envied those who were able to wear fine clothes and look elegant.  I knew that some people pitied me and tsk-tsked at my sorry state.  I lamented my lack of suitors and opportunities. I remained single all my life.  I had a steady job which supported me in reasonable comfort.  I had  friends among people who accepted me as I was.

But, as much as I desired to be different,  I was far less lonely in that lifetime than I was in my most recent.

In my life as a beauty, I was utterly unhappy. If I could have articulated the thought, I might have said I wanted the world to simply take me as I was, flaws and all. But I was so accustomed to playing my part as a mere object, so used to concealing what was inside, so disinclined to grow or to think too deeply or independently, that I didn’t even know, myself, who I was. I never gave myself permission to explore beyond the edge of what was expected of me.

I was completely passive in all things. I let others make all plans and decisions for me, as if they were selling and buying and moving an inanimate object.

When I became sick in my 40s, it was the first time anyone looked past my façade and regarded me as a full human being. They saw my suffering and in it, finally recognized my humanity.   I did not last very long but strange to say, it was the happiest year of my life.

I understand better now that what you think you want is not always better than what you have.

 

Haters Gonna Hate

acid

 

Na

My last living thought was of revenge. Not for one who had killed me for I died of natural causes. Rather, I died of the slow poisonous desire for vengeance which had coursed through my veins for decades. This was my own doing. I could have let it go. I should have let it go. But instead I let it eat me up inside like acid.

He stole my life. His fame and success should have been mine. That is what I believed. He stole my ideas; he stole my relationships; he stole my chance at happiness. He alone derailed my life’s plan and I could not, would not, let it go.

He knew I hated him, but he paid me no mind. To him, I was a pathetic nobody. At worst, I was annoying, like a housefly, incapable of inflicting any real damage. He could have destroyed me as easily as a human hand can squash a bug, but he did not waste his effort. This, too, fueled my anger, for he did not even consider me a worthy opponent.

I wasted my entire life on hate. The taste of bile tainted every possibility of joy. And whose fault was that? Still, I refused to release it, even though all the damage was to me.

I know now I traveled the path I was destined to travel. If he had not taken from me what I believed to be mine,  I would have lost it another way. It was not meant for me to be a success this time.  This life was meant to teach me to conquer resentment and anger. It was for me to learn to be happy with what I had. It was meant for me to learn to move beyond disappointment and push through to joy. But I could not.

And so, I must do it again.

 

Your Path

a-path-in-the-woods-in-autumn

Fi

Maybe you see or experience something when you’re young which seems insignificant at the time, but as you get older, you realize it has shaped the whole of your thinking. Perhaps as you move through life, a casual word stirs an epiphany.  A minor encounter sets something large in motion.

And there are relationships, circumstances, great successes and tragedies,  which feel at the time as if they are going to change everything but in the end have very little impact on your trajectory.  Looking back,  you can see that your your life would have turned out essentially the same, regardless of these things.

Your path is your path. You will become what you were meant to become. You will have the experiences you were meant to have.

What you take from them is your free choice.

 

A Footprint; a Legacy

creative-head

Ga

When I was young, I was sure I would someday come to wide acclaim. I was certain my genius would be recognized by a great number of people. I imagined my work being discussed among the intelligentsia at cocktail parties in distant cities, long after I was dead.

I expected I would soon be able to earn a living through my own work and never have to trade my labor for a wage.   I wanted to be paid very generously, not because I needed to be rich, but as proof of how much others valued my talent.

I never doubted that this would eventually come to pass. My own self-worth was never in question.

For decades, I worked hard to make a name for myself. I honed my craft. I charmed and cajoled to get my work seen, produced, written about. Generally, I received excellent reviews. Sometimes, here and there, I made a big splash but it never turned into a tsunami.  I still had to work for others in order to support myself.

I watched others succeed in big ways. I cannot deny my resentment. Many rose to the top because of who they knew or because of family money or because of who they slept with. Fame requires a cleverness at selling oneself as a commodity; a willingness to do the bidding of those who can grant favors;  a strong inclination to push aside whoever and whatever stands in the way.

It was one thing to put myself out there, but I was unwilling, on principle, to whore myself. I believed my work deserved to stand on its own.

For decades, I felt myself to be on the cusp of being discovered, but eventually it became too much of an effort to chase elusive, ever-receding fame. This requires the unbridled optimism, energy and naiveté of youth.  There was already a second and third crop of hopefuls behind me. My window had closed.

I never stopped creating.  Until the end, I had a small group of admirers, many of whom were strangers to me, personally. I learned to be satisfied with this. My audiences grew smaller but I became more grateful for each and every one. Once in a while, I’d get a letter saying how much someone had enjoyed my work, or how it had influenced their own.

I suppose, in the end, that’s all an artist really wants. To leave a legacy. Our work is our contribution to greater human understanding.  We want our footprints to remain after we have moved on.

Love Me, Love Me Not

sad marble angel

 

Ag

I was a disaster at love. My relationships never lasted more than a few years. I fell in love with love and never saw my partners as they really were.  I was interested in others only as long as they allowed me to feel within a narrow spectrum of emotion; as long as they didn’t force me to consider my own responsibility too closely. When my feelings began to stray beyond those parameters,  I might become angry or demanding or hurt or fed up.

None of my behavior was consistent with truly loving someone. I was never willing to stick around to do the work.

I thought I was doing the work. I thought I was being the mature, sensible one. I believed that what I wanted was within reason, and within my right to ask.  I wanted them to behave in the way which I believed was the correct way to behave. I wanted them to reciprocate my feelings.  To feel as I did. Respond as I did. Desire as I did. Love as I did.

I had lofty concepts of love, which, to my great heartbreak, no one else seemed to share.

When they finally would not or could not live by my standards, they would either leave or gradually stop making any effort until I ceased asking; until I abandoned my feelings and went away. This process was not without drama, which was mainly my own doing. It was, ironically, the very drama they’d been trying to avoid. It was the behavior which always proved them right in the end.

I believed myself to be loving yet tragically unlovable when in fact, I was quite lovable but tragically unloving.

 

 

 

Living in Limbo

swings-111925_640

Wi

The turning point of my life came when I was thirty one. Until then,  most of my moderate expectations had been met.  I fell in love, got married,  gave birth to a beautiful, clever little girl we both adored.   We were financially comfortable and happy together. My mind was uncluttered by much introspective thought or intense emotion.

When my daughter was 7, she disappeared. She’d been playing in the park with friends, and then, they called for her and she wasn’t there. Nobody had noticed anyone or anything. She’d simply vanished.

The police looked for her. My husband and I, our friends and family, we all looked for her. But we didn’t find her. Not alive. Not dead.

And so I lived the rest of my days in a limbo.   I was filled with the kind of intense emotions I’d never felt before, and did not know how to process. I cycled through grief, despair, guilt, anger, sorrow and the occasional scintilla of hope, which was always quickly extinguished and replaced by fresh grief.

Sometimes I heard stories of children returning to their parents after many years.   Somehow, they’d remembered and found their way back.  Naturally,  I hoped for such an outcome,  but after a time, I would have been relieved to know for certain that she was dead. If I could have given her a proper funeral, I might have been able to move on.  If I knew what had happened to her, I might have been able to forgive.   As it was, however, I never could settle on a single emotion, and so this was the cycle which spun the wheel which turned my life.

My husband and I stayed together, but it was never the same. We both felt a similar range of emotions, but our moods were infrequently aligned. We rarely connected, except on her birthday when we both seemed to feel the same.  For many years, we’d get a small cake with a single candle. We’d bring out the old photo albums. But then it became too awful. It made us feel helpless and hopeless.   We each tried to make our way through our pain in our own way, but neither of us had much success. Compounding our pain was that we were of no comfort to each other.  Even after many years, we both suffered alone.

Her being ripped from our lives so cruelly was for a reason; for the lessons on tragedy and mourning. At the time, however, it didn’t feel like any useful lesson. If anyone had suggested to me that it was part of a greater plan, I would have lost all control and attacked them ferociously. The pain was wrapped around me too tightly to loose its bonds. What mother can ever make sense of such a thing? To come to terms with it would have be tantamount to abandoning her; to losing her again.  She remained alive in my sorrow.

Now, however, I am afforded greater perspective. The unrelenting pain of that life is finally healed. She and I are together again, awaiting a next time.

 

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If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  Think of others who might enjoy it too,  and help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey! 
-Adrienne
tipmewbg

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