The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the month “January, 2019”

Too Clever For His Own Good

First published Mar 24, 2016 Wenceslas_Hollar_-_The_sword_of_Damocles

Lig

Mine was a sad story, an old story, a story that’s been repeated a million times.  I saw the opportunity for easy illicit gain, and believed myself too clever to get found out.

This miscalculation was my ruin, all my youthful potential wasted.  With one ill-conceived plan, I blocked every path I might have taken to a normal happy life.  There was no undoing any of it yet not a day went by without me willing myself back in time to warn my younger self against this colossal mistake. For me, there would be no forgiveness…not by anyone else, but certainly not by me, of myself. This compounded the tragedy and deformed my life into one of adversity.

If I’d been able to forgive myself for throwing away my life, for wasting my talents and intellect, for hurting and disappointing and bringing shame upon the people I loved and who loved me, I might have found a measure of contentment in whatever I could make of things. But I didn’t feel as if I deserved any respite from my guilt and my shame, because my guilt and my shame told me I wasn’t worthy of respite. And thus, the unbreakable, inescapable circle. I punished myself far more harshly than society could have.

I’d started out with such promise, so clever and ambitious. Everyone thought I would be a great success. But eventually it occurred to me that I might not have what was necessary to fulfill these expectations. It took more than just cleverness and ambition.  To win, you had to play the game by their rules. But I’d always bristled at rules. I choked on the bit of authority. I would not follow when clearly I was smarter than all of them.

I would show them!  I would beat them at their own game! I would write my own rules!   They might try to keep me out, but they would be underestimating me.

And when I couldn’t break through, I decided to take what I felt was my due. I’d show those smug bastards!

In the beginning, none of them had any idea. I lived the kind of comfortable life from which they thought they’d successfully excluded me.

But my situation was untenable. I lived in denial for a while but it hung over me like the Sword of Damocles. I could not hide my malfeasance forever.

When discovery was imminent, I ran away with whatever I could salvage and lived the rest of my life in hiding, abandoning everyone and everything I’d ever known or cared about. I would not bring anyone else into my sinking ship. My life options had narrowed 1000-fold.

I never married. Never let myself get too comfortable in any once place, with any one person. Never dropped my guard. Never used my real name again.  Never let anyone get too close for fear of giving it all away or dragging them down with me. Never stayed in any one place too long. Never again held job worthy of my talents.  I died sad and alone, never again feeling the touch of someone I trusted, which I took as my penance.

____

Buy the book!

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
Advertisements

To the Bone

 

 

i.dailymail.co.uk-article-2440732-00329A4100000190-682_634x385.jpgarticle-2440732-00329A4100000190-682_634x385

Ser

I had  lived through many a freezing winter but none of them prepared me for the killing cold of that place. It sucked the heat from every cell causing the body to shiver and give up precious energy.  It was a place which, by all reason, should have been uninhabitable by humans.

And yet,  there we were.  Sent far from home for dubious crimes against the state.  I had made a joke to the wrong person.  My off-hand remark was reported.  No trial. No words of defense.  Just a guilty verdict and a train ride to hell.

They are wrong who say hell is an inferno. My hell was a frozen wasteland.

Escape was impossible. In the winter,  nothing but blinding whiteness for a thousand miles. Even in the all-too-brief summer, when the snow bled back into the earth and the yellow moss peaked through, we were hemmed in by dense confounding forests, impassable mountains, rapid rivers rushing with melt, and mosquitoes which attacked in thick, monstrous clouds. The guards, who were not much better off than we were, barely made an effort to keep us from running.  Why waste any more of their precious energy chasing us? Where could we go?   To stay was almost surely to die, but to escape guaranteed it.

From where I am now and from where you sit reading,  the wretched conditions seem abstract,  but in that place,  in that time, they were as real a misery as any human being can suffer.

We were forced to work, sometimes on so little food and so little sleep,  we were little more than walking dead, our souls tethered to our bodies by the most tenuous of threads.  We swung our pick axes at rock and frozen ground,  barely marring the surface, yet forced to keep on. We were left to sleep a few hours,  then awakened to do it again.

We lived in huts made of wood, which did little to keep out the bitter, bone-biting wind.   We huddled in tight clusters, taking comfort in the body heat generated by others,  inured to the stench of other filthy unwashed men,  all of us decaying from the inside out.

Food was as scarce as warmth.  We suffered from all the plagues of starvation.  Our teeth fell out,  which made eating difficult, compounding our malnourishment.  A downward spiral of organ failure.

Our pleasures were few.  Some made vodka from potatoes,  or wine from anything that would ferment. We drank to forget,  but in the long term,  it made everything worse. It destroyed our health,  our resistance,  and the harmony among fellow prisoners.

Death was not mourned. Clothes, shoes, coats were immediately stripped from corpses, grabbed as additional layers for personal use.  An old professor, whose only crime had been telling the truth,  didn’t last there more than a month.  He reminded me of my grandfather. I sat beside him as he died.  His cashmere scarf was already around my own neck as his soul left his body.

Some could not wait for their natural ends. They committed suicide by escape.  They wandered out into a frozen landscape, where the snow-covered tundra was indistinguishable from the silver sky.  A colorless, disorienting,  horizonless void.  But at least they died in freedom, a choice to be admired.

I did my time of eight years.  I was 24 when I went in.  I was 124 when I came out;  sick,  half-toothless,  mostly crippled and in constant pain from a broken leg which was not attended to properly and healed badly.   There was nobody waiting for me when I returned to the world.  My situation was not much better at home. I was dead within the year  but at least I saw one more springtime.

In my final hour, I sat on a bench in a park,  so tired,  so hungry, in so much pain, knowing I wouldn’t last much longer,  But I did not mind any of that. I was at peace; content to feel the warmth of the sun on my face; to smell the living green of the grass and the budding flowers; to see the girls with their hair loose and free.

And I was free, too.

 photo: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/10/01/article-2440732-00329A4100000190-682_634x385.jpg

——————
Buy the book!

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

Beyond The Veil

First published Jan 2, 2015

aeg eye curtains sky

 

Ipo (again)

There is a veil which separates humans from the spirit world. It is neither completely opaque nor completely transparent.

Sometimes, humans can see shapes and shadows moving behind the screen. Some catch occasional glimpses by accident. Perhaps they are looking in just the right place in the right moment. Some are able to peek behind it regularly. They know how and where to find the split in the curtain. Others don’t know where to look and cannot not see anything at all. And even those who can see do not always know what they are seeing.

An earthly event with a thousand human witnesses produces a thousand different accounts, each person experiencing and perceiving events in their own way.

And so it is when humans peer behind the veil.

Humans can only see as much as their limited senses allow. The Other Side is not comprised of substance or dimension which humans can perceive or understand. They can distinguish light within a certain spectrum, but The Other Side has colors which humans cannot even dream of. They can hear only within specific frequencies. Most of what is on the Other Side vibrates differently.

Skeptics who seek unequivocal proof of the Other Side will never find it. There must always be room for doubt. Without doubt, there can be no faith.

It does not require faith to believe in the things you can see, feel, taste, smell. Faith is believing in the intangible; in what you feel, what you think. In what your heart tells you. It follows from your perception of reality.

Faith is the path to love and love is the path to all other lessons.

Humans are given this choice —  to believe or not to believe — so they may exercise their free will and follow the path of their faith.

It doesn’t matter if that path leads to false reality. In this case, simply developing faith is the lesson.

This is not to say you shouldn’t question. It is not faith to follow blindly, obediently believing everything you’re told. Try on various beliefs until you find the ones which feel right.  It is through this process, you develop faith.

Those things in which we have faith are what we love. For some, it’s God. For others it’s money or power. For the lucky ones, it’s faith in themselves.

And we love that which we have faith in — the things and people we can count on; who and what does not disappoint us; who and what we trust. Faith is the belief that these will always be the answers to our questions.

When a belief system no longer provides answers, faith is lost. Spirits are crushed. Souls are set adrift. By instinct, humans will immediately begin searching for a new set of beliefs which will answer their questions and quiet their doubts.

Thus, our lives are about the search for love via our search for faith.

Me:
I am fortunate in that the deeper I go into the belief system which I’ve held since I was a child,  the MORE answers I discover and the clearer those answers become.

I was raised in a formal, organized religion but never had any use for it. My form of religion has always been extremely personal,  which I believe is the only valid kind of religion. The answers are different for each of us, and can be found only within each individual.

Dogma is the curse of enlightenment.

______

Buy the book!

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

photo: (c) Adrienne Gusoff

Dress Up

originally posted June 8, 2014

closet-photo-730x285

Pad

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.

____

Buy the book!

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

Need Your Input

Hi all,

It occurred to me recently that to really excel at one’s chosen enterprise, whether creative,  emotional, professional, or even criminal,  it’s extremely helpful to understand people what makes people tick.  You need to be able to get inside the heads of others to  know their fears, their dreams, their fantasies, their insecurities, the person they imagine themselves to be,  the person they hope to become, the person they fear they are.  In this way, you can negotiate the best possible outcome for yourself.   The ability to put yourself in the shoes of others is an extremely useful life skill.

I believe that this blog (and the book) can help you think in those terms; to help you see others the way they see themselves, and thus to become better negotiators (ideally in win-win situations.)

I have been toying with the idea of using the blog/book as a jumping off point for a series of discussions on these, and other useful life skills.  For example, the notion that  our pain and disappointment is a result of being tethered too tightly to our egos.   Once you understand that,  a lot of the suffering evaporates.

I would be most interested in hearing from regular readers,  to know if you have learned anything from reading this blog — anything that can be shared and taught to others, with guidance — as I work up a curriculum of sorts.

Thanks!!

-Adrienne

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.

____

Buy the book!

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

An Uphill Battle, One Step at a Time

First published Nov 18, 2016

rock-uphill

*

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.

____

Buy the book!

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
*Artist: Janusz Kapusta

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: