The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the month “November, 2016”

A Leader for His Time

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let-go

Soa

I was a leader of my people for many, many years.  I was chosen because I was wise and good, and I had learned to lead from the leader who went before me. I was fair in my judgment, even-handed in my decisions.  I understood that if my people were to live in peace, everyone must believe their needs are being met.  For some to prosper while others suffered,  for some to win at the expense of others,  caused resentment, and this caused problems. No one went without, regardless of how little they were able to contribute. These were our values and we understood that they kept us whole.

But there came a time when I was old, when the bravery and boldness of youth was more important than the wisdom and steady guidance of age. And so I relinquished my power to a warrior chief.  I did not agree with all he did,  but once I ceded my position, I did not question his authority. He was the leader who was necessary for the times.

One must never hold too tightly to what must be let go in order to achieve  the greatest good for the greatest number. This is not a sacrifice.  It is the minimum requirement necessary in order to consider oneself a member of the human race.

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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 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!
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The Innocent Prisoner

First published June 14, 2014

prison Denver-DUI-Lawyers1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ot

First let me say, I was innocent and I never stopped saying so until the very end. Of course, nobody believed me. Eventually, not even myself. That’s just the way it was. They weren’t going to take me at my word. I was hardly the only one proclaiming innocence in that place! Some of the men in there had worked so hard to convince others of their blamelessness, they eventually believed it themselves. I guess it was the only way they could come to terms with what they’d done.

But I had done nothing wrong. At least not anything worthy of a life (and death) in prison.

I don’t even know if I was wrongly identified or if the police and prosecutors were too lazy or overwhelmed to bother looking for the real criminal. And who was I to them, anyway? If I hadn’t done that particular crime, surely I had done another for which I had not been caught. And if I hadn’t done another, certainly, eventually I would. Any which way they looked at it, they were doing society a favor.

I was put in too young, too poor, too stupid to even know what kind of life I’d missed. Maybe they were right. Maybe, eventually, if left on my own, I would have committed a crime to land me in jail. It’s not as if I had a lot of options.

So that was my life. Endless petty dramas. Insane acts of violence. Cruelty for the pure pleasure of it. Vengeance and spite. Tiny hopes, inevitably shattered. Lessons no man should have to learn.

After a while, even though I still proclaimed my innocence, I forgot to care that I’d been wrongly imprisoned. Prison was the only world I knew. I hadn’t functioned very well outside before I was arrested, but I was savvy enough to know there was no way I could function out there after so many years behind bars.   I had no clue how to live in freedom. We all talked tough about what we would do on the outside, what we eat, who we would fuck, how great our lives would be if and when we ever got out. But guys like me? We were more scared of being released than of dying in jail.  We just didn’t know the territory out there.

Eventually, unlike the others who self-denied their own guilt, I began to self-deny my own innocence. All the detailed stories they told at my trial; the way they said I’d done it; hell, maybe I really had. I could barely remember anymore what was true and what wasn’t. Maybe I was just like those other guys who had absolutely done the crime, and had absolutely convinced themselves they hadn’t.   Maybe my memory was playing tricks on me.

But anyway, what did it matter? After a while, you just abandon any hope of justice and just accept injustice as your lot.   I suppose it’s one of the lessons we all have to learn eventually, but there sure seems to be a lot of people learning it all at the same time, living that same pain over and over.

Maybe we need to experience it again and again because each time around, we miss the fundamental lesson. Maybe we have to experience it for a thousand lifetimes before we understand that injustice is a basic element of the human condition. And maybe, only then, in absolute irony, we will no longer need to suffer any more lifetimes of injustice.

 

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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 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!

Jack of All Trades

originally posted June 11, 2014

jack of all trades

Ja

“How hard could it be?” was my motto through life. I figured if one person could do it, in theory any person was capable of doing it, including me. And so I tried many things, curious to see how far I could go;  to what heights I might reach.

I was not blind to the fact that much of what others accomplished was a result of years of training and practice and hard work. I didn’t expect that I could simply decide to tame lions or do surgery or win a world class boxing match against the reigning champ   The people who did those things devoted their lives to becoming experts. But my point is, I never looked at those people and thought, “Oh, I could never do that!”   Rather, I’d think, “If I really wanted to do that; if I were willing to put in the time, I could probably do the same.”

Of course, the reason you devote your life to such things is because you enjoy it and it interests you. Or because you’re good at ityou’re your own accomplishments bring you satisfaction. Or, sometimes because you have no other options. Or any combination of those.

I had zero interest in becoming a lion tamer or surgeon or boxer, but I did pursue many other interests, some to excellence, some to mere competence. Some I found I had no natural affinity for, and decided that I wasn’t willing to invest the energy it would take to become good. But I have to say honestly, I was far better at many things than most people are at one. I was a happy dabbler.

When I died, some people lamented that I’d never really done anything with my life; that I’d “wasted” my talents. I was never at the top of any career or profession. I’d never had much money. I wasn’t famous. I’d hadn’t won any awards. I was the kind of person they called a “Jack of all trades, master of none.”   They meant that as a bad thing, but I never took it like that.

If I’d settled on one path early in life, and worked at it until I was The Best (or at least one of the best) in my chosen field, I certainly would have been more successful in life by most human standards. But I would have had to sacrifice the constant joy of new discovery. I would not have had the time or freedom or mental energy to throw my whole heart into whatever caught my fancy. I would not have owned my possessions; my possessions would have owned me. There is a reason they are called the “trappings” of success.

Maybe another time, I will choose one thing and stay with it until full mastery, but I don’t think I have any regrets about not doing it this time. Others might have seen my life as wasted, but I see a life spent in freedom, following my own heart.

 

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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 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.
 

Sorry for the multiple posts….

Sorry, readers…I was scheduling future posts and entered some dates incorrectly so several posted at once.  You can ignore the multiples…they will be reposted in proper sequence later on.

Carry on!

-Adrienne

An Uphill Battle, One Step at a Time

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rock-uphill

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Ruf

We were the same age, but she was so much older than I was. She always seemed to to know what she wanted, and what was right for her, and even what was right for others.

She inspired me to be a better man. To do the right thing. To take the high road. To push my limits. To do the things that made me uncomfortable so I could get past my discomfort. She never asked me to do anything that she wouldn’t do, herself. She held herself to a high standard and expected me to hold myself to that same standard.

I knew she was right and for long time, I worked hard.  I wanted to become that man she wanted me to be because I knew it would be an expression of my best self. But I was lazy and fearful and I didn’t trust my own instincts.

Eventually, I had to acknowledge to myself that I was never going to get beyond my limitations.   I was never going to be the kind of man who was truly worthy of her.  Trying and not succeeding made me feel like a failure, although she, herself, never suggested such a thing. For her it was enough that I remained dedicated to trying.

I started to resent her moral and spiritual superiority. I resented her certainty in always knowing right from wrong. I resented the way she was always sure of herself. It made me feel less certain of who I was and who I should be. I felt I was losing myself in her image of who she thought I could be. And so I stopped trying to live in the world as she saw it. That was her world. I needed to live in mine. I didn’t want to have to think about things so deeply. I lost my drive to see how good I could be. I simply wanted to be left alone, unchallenged. And so, eventually she obliged me.

Four years of marriage ended in acrimony. It took me many, many years to understand that love.

We had no children to hold us together and so we went our separate ways. Eventually we both married other people. I heard from mutual acquaintances that she married happily, to a man who saw life as she did. I married a woman who was easy and kind, undemanding and simple in her outlook. She didn’t require much more than casual kindness and some basic respect, which is as much as I gave her. I appreciated her but there was no deep love.  Her most endearing quality was that she let me be.

In the end, that was no good for me, either.  I reverted to my lazy ways; no longer pushed myself uphill.   Instead I remained down at the bottom where no effort was required, surrounded by those who were as lazy as I was.

In my life, I never accomplished anything without being challenged by someone else, yet when challenged, I grew resentful, angry; I backed away so as not to drown in the secret humiliation of inevitable failure.

I understand now that my first wife was right.  She wasn’t pushing so much as encouraging me to create my own challenges.  Positive changes are positive changes, even if they are small and incremental.    It’s the not size of the change but the direction.

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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 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!

 

*Artist: Janusz Kapusta

Dress Up

originally posted June 8, 2014

closet-photo-730x285

Pa

I can still smell the sweet, musty scent of old perfume clinging to her elegant clothes; the tickley feeling of her long fur coat brushing against my face;  the smooth skin of her fine, leather high-heel shoes lined up neatly in the shoe rack.

My mother’s closet. It was the place I hid when I needed to feel safe.

When I was very young, and my parents fought, downstairs, I would run up to their room and slip into my secret fortress, pulling the door closed behind me.  I kept a flashlight hidden in the back. Sometimes, I turned it on. Sometimes, I sat in the dark. When I was in grade school, and the kids at school bullied me or called me names, when I felt myself weird and disconnected, that’s where I ran.   It was my secure, perfect little world, where every color,  smell, and texture was familiar and reminded me of unconditional love.

It was a finite place yet it contained infinite peace. The sounds of the world outside were muffled by tightly packed garments of silk, linen and wool. If my parents were shouting, I couldn’t make out the words. If I fell asleep, when I woke up, I couldn’t tell if it was day or night. I might have been sleeping for an hour or for years, and this too seemed mystical and magical to me, because there was always the possibility that I’d been asleep so long that when I emerged, everything would be completely different.

When I got a bit older that pleasure was no longer available to me. It was OK for a small boy to hide in the closet, but not at all appropriate for a thirteen year old. Which is not to say I outgrew the need or desire for it. I was just more afraid of being humiliated, especially by my father.

In order to recreate that feeling as best I could, I would sneak one of my mother’s silk shirts or casual dresses — something with her scent on it — or perhaps a pair of her shoes, and I would keep them near my bed. At night, I would pull them beside me, and they helped me fall asleep.

One day, when I was about 14, I put on her shirt, just to feel it against my skin, and I become sexually aroused.   This confused me and made me feel ashamed and yet, it excited me in such a primal way.

As I said, I never outgrew the need for the closet so I found another way to hide in it: by wearing women’s clothing.

There was so much shame involved in this practice, it colored everything else I did in my life. I hid this deep, important part of myself from everyone, including my wife. I lived in fear that my humiliation would be discovered. The mocking voices of my childhood classmates accusing me of being strange never left my head. I had to admit to myself,  they were obviously right. I was weird.

I tried so hard to control my need, but the more I resisted the more obsessed and stressed I became. The more stressed I became, the more I needed it. It was a cycle I could never break.   And every time I went back to it, after being “good” for a while, I was filled both with relief and a deep-sense of self-loathing.

This was the core of my life. The rest of it doesn’t matter. Not my job nor my family nor any hobby or interest. They existed outside of me. I played my roles well and nobody ever suspected — I hid myself that perfectly.

My entire life was all about what and how and when I could do it again; about balancing my need with my terror at being unmasked as a pervert. My entire life was a lie. I hid the most important part of myself from everyone and in doing so, sacrificed any hope that anyone would love me for who I truly was.

My life was a never-ending cycle of self-loathing, fear, determination to change, failure, collapse.   I suppose the only way to have broken that cycle was to accept myself as I was, for who I was.   It didn’t matter if nobody else loved me; more important, I needed to accept myself as the imperfect being I was. This is something, I never managed to do. Perhaps if I’d been brave enough to share my secret, I might have found acceptance, but I could not. The shame was too deep. It was a part of my DNA.

It was a secret I took to my grave.

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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 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!

Way To Go

originally posted 6/3/14

http://maggieevansart.com

http://maggieevansart.com

Az

Sometimes, when you are hurting, you just want to be with someone who loves you. You don’t necessarily have to say or hear those words, because even unspoken; it’s understood. Sometimes, when you are sad and confused; flailing, near drowning, in a stormy ocean, you need an anchor; someone to keep you from drifting out to sea. You can put on a brave face to the world, but sometimes it’s nice to have someone to hold you when you fall apart, away from judgment.

I had a lot of close acquaintances in my life — people I laughed with when times were good — but there were not too many who took my confession. I protected my fragility well. Not too many breached my walls.

As I grew older, one by one, they started to die, leaving a landscape pocked with gaping chasms of loneliness. Gone were those precious few humans whose souls resonated with mine; who knew where the shattered pieces fit.

Soon, there was nobody left who knew me; nobody left who could look me in the eye and see clear down to my soul. I was old and alone. I wasn’t sick, but at such an age, infirmity can overtake you in the blink of an eye – a bad fall; a cold that becomes pneumonia; a stroke; the wear and tear of time on the body and then the final straw that snaps the back. I lived in dread of that day coming upon me. I would end up alone in some awful place where they put old people to die, surrounded by strangers who would take care of my body while ignoring my heart.

I couldn’t let that happen to myself.

There was nobody left who cared enough to warrant a note or a goodbye. Most would just see a sad end to an old person who had nothing left to live for.

But that’s not really how it was. Not exactly.

I didn’t kill myself because I had nothing to live for. I killed myself because I wanted to leave before I lost control of my own story. I didn’t want to lose my autonomy. That would have been worse than death.

Once the death spiral began, there would be no pulling out. Worse, there would be nobody who would save me from the horrible end. There was nobody left who loved me enough to pull the plug, disconnect the tubes; nobody to slip me too much morphine so I could go in peace.   No, I’d have to ride it out, counting the minutes until it would all be over.

That is not a way to die. This is one of the greatest tragedies of modern man, but if you took a survey among the living, it wouldn’t even make the list.

Only a handful of people were at the funeral. Some relatives were there out of respect (respect for what, I have no idea). A couple of good-time pals from the old days (who weren’t looking too great, themselves) Someone hired religious figure, who’d never met me, to say a few blessings.

If I’d had pills, I would have used them, but in the end, I did it with gas. I wasn’t brave enough for violence. I just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up. I was serene and sure. In those last hours, and just until I lost consciousness, I really missed my dearest friends. But this time, it was tempered with the joy of knowing I would soon be with them all again.

 

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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 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!

The Engine of Progress

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hill-steam-engine-patent-drawing-from-1883-vintage-aged-pixel

Ipo

We want every moment that which we do not have… a thing, an experience, a feeling. This need propels our lives forward. It is the engine of growth and progress. Yet it prevents us from the peace of being content in the present.

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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 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!

 

Mountain Mom

Originally published June 3, 2014

mountains - Carpathians

 

Fi

I lived in the mountains all my life, and they were cold. The only time I remember being warm was in the afternoons of summer. Lying on the grass, basking in the sun for an hour or so,   feeling the warmth of its rays bake into the bones, was a pleasure I can barely express. The nights were always chilly enough to make me shiver to the bone.

Life was hard there. We gathered wood for fires and hauled water from the well. We had only what we could grow or find ourselves, or trade, or, on rare occasion, buy.

But I was always happy. I loved being among my family who told stories and sang songs. We laughed together, teased each other, told jokes. Even when I got married, and had to move from that house, I was happy. My husband was my friend and he always did small things to please me, as I did for him. Life was hard but we were good to each other, and that made all the difference.

We had five children. From the time my middle boy was a was a child, we could already see that the village was too small for him. When he was older, he wanted to pursue his education. That meant moving alone to the city, several hours away. We knew we would miss him but we all encouraged him. He was smart and resourceful. He did well. He got his education and he found good job and sent money home so the rest of us could have the basic necessities and even treat ourselves to a small luxury now and then.

My boy eventually married a girl from the city. They had children and lived in a nice place with all the things he didn’t have growing up in the mountains. We went to visit a few times, and to be honest, as much as I was impressed with all the modern conveniences, the whole place scared me. I much preferred the tempo and familiarity of our small town.

After about a dozen years, they became unhappy. She moved far away with the children. He was sad and lonely, alone in the big city. He was far too citified by then to come home, and besides, what kind of job could he do? He had no country skills.

My heart ached for him, because he had become a man without a home; living between here and there, in the place where there is nothing in between.

But it made me realize that happiness comes not from what you have or where you are, but who you are with.  And on all those cold nights, having fallen bone tired into bed, wrapped up safe in my husband’s arms, I counted my blessings.

____

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 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!

The Philanderer

first published May 31, 2014

The Philanderer - GB Shaw

Abe (I think this was his name)

I was always a sexual person. I lost my virginity when I was 13 to an older girl who lived on my street. From that point on, I never stopped trying to get more. I certainly played the field, even after I married. My wife looked the other way. She understood that sex was sex, and love was love. And I did love her, she knew that. So she let me have my fun. She knew it made me feel confident, young, virile and that’s how she wanted me. She wasn’t jealous. She understood that to fill this particular need, quantity trumped quality.

Years after the fact, I learned that many of her friends had informed her of my affairs. They were shocked and offended by my behavior. A philandering man in their camp was too much of a threat to their own marriages. If an upstanding family man and loving husband such as myself could cheat, how could they possibly trust their own husbands? They reassured themselves that they would never be as naive as she was. They would raise a fuss! She should raise a fuss, they insisted (just to teach their husbands a lesson!)

She brushed off every accusation until finally, when they got no rise of indignation out of her, they stopped telling her. They just pitied her behind her back. She never confronted me about any of my affairs, despite some of her friends’ insistence, because that would have forced us to discuss things neither of wanted to discuss. So, she looked the other way. Again and again and again.

Make no mistake – she did that out of the deepest love for me; and I knew it.   She understood what I got from my dalliances. I suspected she was envious of them because I’m sure she would have liked some of that feeling for herself once in a while.

Each new affair filled me with passion and lust and the sense of being a virile young man again. But eventually – in a few months or perhaps as long as a year – they would burn themselves out. These women entered into relationships with me because they all assumed they could lure me away from my wife. The affairs inevitably ended when it became apparent to them that this was never going to happen.   (I never lied to any of them,   but I admit to letting them believe whatever they wanted. Their fantasies of our future were useful to me.)

There was inevitably a lot of drama, which was stressful, and which I just wanted to leave behind as quickly as possible.   This was not always possible as some of these women did not want to let go without a fight. It was sometimes a challenge to keep this drama from spilling into my home.

These were the times I devoted myself to being the best husband I could possibly be.  And when we reconnected during these periods, we felt each other as if we were new.   You might say we rediscovered each other and fell in love again. And in this way, she did have some of what I was getting out there.

We both understood that this embrace-and-release was our special rhythm. We had grown comfortable in it.

She always could sense where I was in my cycles:   New suit, new haircut, watching my weight. This was the courting stage.   When I developed a glow; when I reached for her at night, when I started to exercise – this indicated the affair had begun.   The excuses for disappearing for hours in the evenings? That was when the feelings were in full blossom (and when I ignored her most).   When I inevitably figured out a way to take a weekend with my new paramour, oh, that meant the girl was getting serious and I was allowing myself to be carried along in her fantasy. From this point, it wouldn’t be long before the ultimatums started. She would then realize the truth and it would be over. A lot of whispered phone calls and guilty, sleepless nights: this was the end.   I would be both relieved and disappointed, even though I always knew, going in, that it would eventually come to this.

When each one ended, she was especially kind to me. She held me and petted me and told me I was still her handsome boy. She knew, but she never said a word. She just stepped in to fill the void as best she could.

I knew that she knew and she knew that I knew but neither wanted to know. Neither of us expressed our needs to each other, either because we didn’t have the words or because we were afraid, I really couldn’t say.   Maybe love is just paying close enough attention to someone so that you understand them without words, and give them what they need without them having to ask.

Eventually, even though I chased the ladies like an old dog, I was too old to catch anything. During these years, she was most loving and supportive of all, and I came to realize how lucky I’d been. When she became sick, I told her all these things — what I’d learned about me, about her, about us. I told her how much I appreciated her, even though I didn’t always show it. I was happy that I finally had the chance to express my love to her. I wanted to be sure she knew there was nobody else who ever came close to her.

When she died, I lost interest in women altogether. No amount of quantity could ever make up for such a loss in quality.

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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 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!

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