The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the month “July, 2019”

Perfection is Not So Perfect

Originally published March  17, 2015

alabasater statue of woman

Lub

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 steady work 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 forties, 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.

 
 

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

Strange Fruit

NEW!

photo: Associated Press

Clar

I always knew how I was going to end.  I didn’t know when or where, but I knew how and why.

I was taught at a young age to make myself as small and nonthreatening as possible. Never look my social superiors in the eye.  Always respond with great deference. Yes, sir. No, sir. Never look at those people too long, especially not the women. Show respect, even if I didn’t feel one iota of it for them.  Anything other than that might get me a beating.  Or worse.

I wasn’t but a boy when I started to understand how afraid they were of us, terrified that one day we would realize that their power existed only because we allowed it.  We believed they possessed it. We did not resist it. We accepted their justice as our justice even though there was nothing just about it.

As I got older I began to see their mediocrity and all the convoluted displays they devoted to hiding it.  This knowledge changed the way I interacted with them.

My friends, my parents warned me:  I’d better learn my place.  I’d better swallow my anger. Yes, they agreed, my assessment was well-justified but what did that matter?  If I didn’t learn to hide my feelings, I would only invite trouble on myself, and perhaps on them.  Those people, they warned me, did not brook any challenge to their superior position.

I tried to bow and scrape to those of higher status.  I tried to act as cowed as was necessary to ensure my safety. But there came a time when it was more important for me to be a man,  Not a man by virtue of my age or my position,  but a natural man.  A man who knows who he is.  A man who stands for his beliefs.  A man who is true to himself.  A man who does what is right according to natural law,  not living by the rules of other, inferior men.

Defiance glistened in my eyes.  This frightened them. They puffed themselves up to try to make me afraid, but I could see right through them, and that frightened them even more.  I liked making them afraid, even though I knew it would lead to trouble. All they needed was the flimsiest excuse.  I tried not to give them reason, but after a while, even the necessity of that effort stuck in my craw.

The defiance metastasized into hatred. I raged within. Forcing me to pretend I was inferior to them only served to prove their inferiority.  I seethed that they held power for no other reason than a fluke of birth. I was furious that they clung to that power at the expense of my people. The anger bubbled and seethed and curled my lip.  I could not hide it and they could not miss it.

I became less inclined to look away. Rather, I stood my ground and returned their gaze, unbowed, daring them to treat me as less than.  The women found this particularly unnerving. They felt threatened by my considerable size and strength.

There was one young woman, however, the daughter of a man of some power, who teased and coyly flirted with me when she knew no one was looking. She was spoiled and privileged, and enjoyed the danger of skating on the edge of the forbidden, acting out a fantasy in her head, all the while knowing she was safe — that I would never force myself on her because of the inevitable consequences. She was of the age when a girl discovers the power of her sexual charms. She was practicing on me. Certainly she’d noticed my defiant demeanor. The challenge, the possibility, the unknown, excited her.

I was not a fool.  I saw her game. She was exactly the kind of obvious trouble to be avoided.

Whenever she approached me, it was easy for me to slip into “proper” behavior. I never met her eye. I yes ma’med and no, ma’amed her. I knew she wanted me to pay her some interest; to flatter her; to initiate conversation. These things would prove that she was, indeed, irresistible to men. She loved the fantasy of having a man risk everything for her favor. She wanted me to act, in a small way – not to take her by force, but just enough to insist her brothers defend her honor. She was willing to manipulate me to enhance her reputation as an irresistible young woman, never giving a moment’s thought to the consequences for me.

I behaved myself carefully around her. I would not to give them reason to beat me or lock me up, as I knew they would at the slightest provocation.  But eventually she grew angry at my lack of interest, and simply made up a story. For her, it served the same purpose.

Nobody doubted it.  I’d unnerved all of them.  Her story was entirely in keeping what they thought they knew about me.  They were happy to give me what I deserved; to make sure I didn’t give anyone else any ideas.  For me to deny the charges would be to call her a liar, and that would only make the consequences worse —  a longer, slower, more painful end for me.  So I went defiantly, even proudly,  to the tree where they hanged me as a warning to others to know their place.

The girl never thought much about it.  She certainly held no guilt.  She sensed, like the others, that I was dangerous and that my ending was justified.

I felt no regret.  It was better to die like a man than live like a slave.

 

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

A Footprint; a Legacy

Originally published March 6, 2015

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.

——————

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
original artwork:  Adrienne Gusoff

Beautiful Dreamer…

 

A scene at the docks in New York City, New York, New York, circa 1920. (Photo by Underwood & Underwood/Underwood Archives/Getty Images)

 

NEW

As regular readers know, I’ve been trying to astrally project for years now — with full consciousness and control — but haven’t had much success – at least not the way most of the literature describes these “trips.”

I have, however, had lucid dreams most of my life. When I’m in the midst of such a dream, I can direct the action and/or rewind anything I don’t like and change the scenario. These dreams can go on, literally, for hours.

Sleep scientists say dreams don’t really last that long – you only THINK they do — but in my case I know that’s not true. I have frequently awakened in the middle of one, checked the time, gone back to sleep, and continued with the same dream. From time to time, I’ll wake up from a vivid dream well before dawn, go to the bathroom, crawl back into bed, and pick up where I left off (as long as I don’t turn on the lights and wake myself up too much). I might still be in the same dream when I wake up at 9 or 10 in the morning. However, these types of dreams rarely have an emotional aspect to them. There’s a level of detachment. It’s as if I’m directing/writing a play or film.

For example, last week I had one of those long, detailed mega-dreams. In it, I’d been kidnapped by a couple of white nationalists. [I consume wayyyyy too much news!] The leader was just about to hit me, but I used my best Eriksonian hypnosis techniques to convince him that his problem was not with me, but rather with his own inability to express his emotions. If he only had the emotional vocabulary (and I could help him with that) his life would be much happier. [in other words, he would no longer have to live the life of a hateful, violent incel.] I have to say, my induction techniques were spot on. They may well have worked in real life.

Eventually, we got into a long personal conversation and he softened up and became less threatening.  He mentioned that although he didn’t like Jews in general, he did like Howard Stern and listened to his radio show all the time. [I know he isn’t doing radio anymore. It was a dream.] I mentioned that I’d gone to camp and college with Howard [true].  My captor told me if I could get him on his show, he would set me free and renounce his white supremacy.

I explained that I had not seen Howie [as we used to call him] in nearly 45 years and in any case, we’d never been friends; we’d been on the periphery of the same crowd and knew lots of people in common. [i.e.I almost lost my virginity to his freshman year roommate. Dodged a bullet on that!] I didn’t even know how to get a hold of him. But White Supremacist Guy was not taking no for an answer. Finally, I figured that if I sent an email to someone at his radio station, they might pass it on to him if they saw that it was both personal and urgent. So, I composed a long letter with lots of references to/updates on mutual friends/acquaintances [the letter was all very lucid and true. I could not have written a better one had I been awake.] I explained the situation clearly, and mentioned that together we might just be able to turn this guy around, and maybe he, in turn, would turn others around. I was fairly certain if he saw the email, he would respond. Alas, I awakened before he got back to me.

All in all, the dream must have lasted about three hours. Now, I would consider that a lucid dream because I was able to come out of it and go back into it, and while in it, I could think logically and solve problems successfully.

That’s how my lucid dreams usually went.  And then,  a couple of weeks ago,  I experienced a totally different kind of lucid dream which is much more fun!

I found myself standing on a pier along the water in dream version of NYC. It looked the way Manhattan did maybe a hundred years ago, with wooden warehouses along the docks that were right up against the river. I stood on a pier with a warehouse behind me. Looking into the harbor, I could see islands with what seemed to be old castles on them. [In fact, there actually IS an island in the Hudson with an old “castle” — Bannerman Castle – but it’s up near Peekskill, about an hour north of the city.]

Although I was definitely dreaming, there was a sense of almost hyper-reality as if I were awake, even though it was somewhat surreal. Everything was sharp and clear, with no fuzziness around the edges. I could turn in any direction and look around, and the details, even far into the distance, were readily apparent, as in real life. The experience was somewhat like virtual reality — awake within a different existence.

As I stood on the dock, looking out onto harbor, and I was suddenly filled with the most joyous realization that, hey, I am dreaming and that I’m AWARE that I’m dreaming; fully asleep and yet completely conscious. I was euphoric realizing that I had control, a sense of free will within the dream.  The feeling of being aware and “conscious” within the dream was thrilling, as if I’d discovered the secret entrance to a time tunnel or intergalactic worm hole.

I walked to the edge of the wooden dock and thought, OK…here I go. I stepped off but rather than falling into the water, I took off into the air, flying easily, gracefully, over to one of the castles. Inside, there was a theater with a play going on which I watched from beginning to end. It was fantastic! After the curtain, the playwright/director walked onto the stage to a standing ovation. I thought to myself, “that was a great play! If I write it down, and try to publish it, it wouldn’t be plagiarism since it was in my dream, which means technically, I wrote it.”  Unfortunately, upon awakening, I could not recall a single thing about it.

After that experience, I couldn’t wait to do it again! I started again to use the lucid dreaming binaural beats (found on YouTube). It took another few days to have another one.

Rather than just hoping for something to happen, I tried an experiment. I imagined myself relaxing in a comfortable lounge chair at the end of the dock, from where I’d previously launched.  I focused on relaxation, keeping my mind clear, and allowed the dream to pull me back into it. To my amazement, this worked. Once again, I found myself in that same joyous state of consciousness within a dream.

The scenario was similar, but this time, I was in a row boat on a large lake, again with castles all around the shoreline. Being in control, I was able to direct the boat just by thinking where I wanted to go.

I arrived at one of the castles and went inside. What a disappointment! Turned out, they were better at a distance. Most had been turned into cheap tourist hotels which hadn’t been renovated since the 1950s or 60s. They were decorated with cheesy, functional Eastern European-style furnishings. It was a place for working families to spend a few weeks.

The only person I saw was a little boy in the lobby. I stopped to play with him, [as is my habit when I meet children in real life.] I asked him if he knew the song, “The Wheels on the Bus”. He did, so we sang it together, making up some silly lyrics of our own.

And then it was over.

Now I can’t wait to go to sleep at night.  It’s pretty sad that my unconscious mind in a dream state is having more fun than my waking self.

-aeg

——————
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

Yoo-Hoo! Lou! ‘Zat you?

Lou Reeds?

 

A revisiting of my astral experimentations from last year.  As most regular readers know,  this was about the end of my deep dives into this stuff because shortly thereafter we sold our apartment and I was crazed with packing,  looking for a new place, finding a new place, moving,  unpacking,  setting up, etc etc.  I’m only just now,  a year later,  feeling semi-settled enough to get back into it  (although the vivid hypnogogic images never abated, and still, sometimes make it hard to fall asleep,)

Some other news!  My husband and I have found office space in Kingston, NY in which to see clients.  While I can certainly do regular hypnosis for a variety of issues (anxiety, smoke cessation, weight loss),  I plan on specializing in Past Life Regression.  So… if you’re in the area and would like to schedule a session,  give me a shout!

First published May 18, 2018

I think I’m finally getting somewhere. Maybe literally. While I still don’t feel as if I’m leaving my body and walking around outside of it , there are some new developments.  First, when I go into my meditative state, I’m feeling a sensation that I would describe as a  slight shift of my energy which sort of “flickers” away from me and then snaps back. It’s like one of those lenticular “winky” pictures that you’d get in a box of Cracker Jack. Or that slight difference in perspective when you put your glasses on, then take them off, then put them on, then take them off.  I guess you could call it a vibration in that it’s cyclical energy, but it’s not the tingly feeling along my nerves which I’ve experienced before. It’s less a physical sensation than a perceptive one.

Also, the vivid hypnogogic images are coming almost as soon as I close my eyes, and they keep coming fast as long they remain closed. The other night, I was finding it difficult to fall asleep because they were so intense and frequent. As always, they are not particularly interesting by themselves. For example, the other Saturday evening after yoga, during my shavasana, I saw clearly a stand of high and bushy grasses with white feathery tops in a narrow patch along the side of a road. They were being sprayed,  possibly with water so the area would not be dry and flammable, or maybe with insecticide or herbicide.  I could not see who or what was doing the spraying.  If I were going to imagine something,  I’d like to think I’d imagine something considerably more interesting.   Yet it was as if I were standing right there, looking at it.

So I wonder,  are these just “brain regurgitations” of things I’ve seen before which my conscious mind has forgotten, or is it distance viewing?  I have no idea.

Also,  the other evening, while in this state, I saw flashes of light with my eyes closed.  It wasn’t actual light (i.e. not lightning or a car outside) but rather a kind of explosion of light in my head.  Very intense. Very brief.

I am just reporting my experiences.  I am truly not sure if they are “woo” or if there is a physiological explanation.

If I am, indeed, distant viewing, at the moment, I have no control over what I’m looking at so once again, as superpowers go, it’s a lame one.  (I seem to be the Queen of Lame Superpowers.)

But here’s a nifty little thing that happened on Mother’s Day:  somebody I follow on Twitter mentioned that he set his music system on random and asked for a message via music from his mother. The song that came on had specific meaning for him. I mentioned that I think Lou Reed spoke to me in the same way,  and I posted the link to the story.  The moment I posted it,  Lou’s New York Conversation immediately came on MY randomized music system!  “I am calling, yes I’m calling, just to speak to you…”  That’s twice.  I suppose it could be a coincidence but hey, maybe Lou IS trying to communicate with me, if only because I am open to listening.  Perhaps I should talk back?  (Now I have this image of Maureen Stapleton in the original movie version of  Bye-Bye Birdie trying to communicate with her dead husband, Lou, by shouting at the ceiling.  “Ya hear me, Lou?”)

I suppose it’s also possible that I’m losing my mind.  But given our current political situation,  it’s not so bad to let go of reality for a couple of hours now and then. It might, in fact, be the only thing that’s keeping me sane.

++++

Addendum:  The original post from last year featured news about my book with an image of the cover.  When updating, I edited that out and looked for another image.   When trying to decide what photo to use with this post, I thought,  maybe the image of the reeds.  Only after I dropped it into this post did  get the connection:  Reeds/Lou Reed.  Significant? Coincidence? Subliminal?   Your guess is as good as mine.

——————

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

Adrift

 

 

NEW!

Gree

I can remember my final day so clearly.  It was a crisp winter day.  I walked home from school with my best friend,  as we usually did.  Her house was closer to the school than mine, and sometimes I stopped there for warm milk and a biscuit before plunging back out into the cold. Our family farm was about a half hour’s walk beyond hers and it was nice to have a little warmth and and a little sweet in my belly on my solo hike home.

I didn’t mind the walk.  Not usually.  I was used to walking in the cold.  Everybody did it.  The trick was bundling up well.  I enjoyed the bite of the wind on my cheeks; the way my nostrils stuck together as I inhaled the frosty air.

On that day,  her mother shooed me out quickly.  The sky was looking overcast and she wanted to be sure that I would be home before the weather turned bad.

I had gotten almost half the way home when a cold and bitter wind kicked up. It pushed against my tiny frame slowing my progress.  On a couple of occasions, I was forced to stop and wait until it let up because I could make no progress into the fierce gusts.  Once or twice, I had to hunker down and make myself as small as possible so as not to be buffeted about. The temperature had dropped and icy rain pelted my bare face.  It stung.

I was not enjoying that walk in the cold at all but I plowed ahead because I had no choice.

The rain turned to frozen snow and the world turned white.  Although I’d walked this route hundreds of times,  the weather had so obscured the landscape, I did not recognize where I was.  I could not distinguish the road from the field.  I drifted off the path and slipped into a drainage ditch, twisting my ankle. The pain was sharp and unrelenting.  I could barely put weight on my foot.

I continued walking because I had no choice.

I started to cry but the tears froze on my face.  There was no use feeling sorry for myself.

Under normal conditions, I would be have been home in another ten minutes.  In a short while, I could be in a hot bath, and then snuggled warm in my  own bed.  I pressed on, yet no house appeared.  Soon I realized I’d become lost and disoriented.  I started to panic. I knew I could not last much longer outside. I had no idea where I was or how far I was from home.

And then I saw a small hay shed by the side of the road.  It offered a modicum of shelter.  I limped over and crawled in. I could wait it out there.  It was no respite from the cold, but at least I was out of the wind and the snow, and I could rest my throbbing ankle. I pulled the hay bales close for a little warmth and fell asleep from exhaustion.

I know now they came out to look for me but the weather was too fierce and they were forced to turn back. When the snow stopped the next day, again they (and other neighbors) went out searching for me but of course I was not on my usual route and so they did not find me.

In the end, I wasn’t found by anyone who was looking for me.  I was discovered accidentally by the farmer who owned the shed. He found me three days later,  exactly where I’d fallen asleep, frozen to death.

——————

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

The Measure of a Man

first published July 2, 2016michelangelo_david

Ke

I was the youngest of four brothers. My father had been a great athlete in his youth and he expected all of us to travel the same path. From the time we were old enough to walk, we were encouraged to run and swim and climb and throw and fight and do all the things that strong, powerful, masculine men do.  There was no sympathy for or indulgence in weakness of any kind.

We were raised to carry on his legend by becoming  the kind of men other men admired. As children,  we were expected to be braver, smarter, and more well-liked than other boys. It was impressed upon us from the time we were very young we must never do anything to tarnish our family name or reputation. There must never be even a whiff of controversy or disagreeability about us. We were raised to be kind to those weaker than ourselves. We defended injustice when we saw it.  We were helpful to those in need.  We were generally peaceful but strong and able enough to win a fight should someone else throw the first punch. We were raised to be real men, good men, admirable men.

I never doubted that my father’s values were well-placed. His moral compass was infallible.  I understood his reasoning in everything.  I lived to make him proud of me. And he was proud of me.  I was handsome, popular, smart, a champion athlete. I didn’t have to be coerced to adopt his values. I did not stay the course merely to please my father.  It was obvious to me that this was the right and proper way to be.  I felt fortunate to have his guidance knowing that others floundered with no beacon to light the way.

When I was about 13 or 14, an uncomfortable stirring began to nag at the back of my mind.  Other boys my age were thinking about girls.  In fact, that’s all they thought about. I kept waiting for that same fascination to arise in me. I expected to wake up one morning and find myself as lust-driven as my classmates. I worried that I did not share this irresistible biological urge. I told myself I was just a late bloomer. Or maybe my glands were afflicted in some way and not producing enough hormones. Perhaps I needed to eat more masculine foods. (I began a diet heavy in red meat, certain that would solve the problem.)

Meanwhile, I kept a low profile. It was not in my nature to lie, so instead I was reticent and shy. I didn’t want anyone to examine me too closely, to ask too many questions. My athletic skills were valuable to the various teams I played on, but I rarely socialized with the boys outside of practice.

When I was 17, I started dating a girl in my class.  This was done for the sake of appearances; to stave off the inevitable questions.  I did not want to have to explain why I didn’t have a girlfriend.  The answer was too complex and I didn’t even understand it, myself.  The girl was also shy and from a religious family. Our relationship was respectful and chaste, which was ideal as neither of us were interested in anything sexual, each for our own reasons.

When my friends started bragging about their conquests, I held my tongue. Even if I had been having sex, I still would not have shared my exploits. Such behavior was unseemly. They grudgingly admired me because I didn’t kiss and tell.

Eventually, I went off to university, far from home, away from the inquisitive eyes of anyone who had any preconceived notions about me, where I could start again with no preconceived notions about myself.

I had long harbored suspicions about myself, and they haunted me.  Such thoughts were terrifying and when my mind alighted upon them, I quickly changed the mental subject.  Eventually, however, the feelings, the desires, the need,  were too big to deny.  They screamed and barked and howled.  They would not stop, would not be silenced. They could no longer be ignored.

Here was my dilemma: if I could not face the truth about myself, I was a coward, and that I could not abide.  But if my suspicions were correct, my life was a ruin.

But the truth could no longer be denied, and so it was there that I discovered what I was.

This knowledge ripped my sense of self right out from under me. It went against everything I’d ever believed I was, everything I’d spent my life preparing to be. I’d become that thing that brings shame on the family; that thing that can never be accepted; that thing that made a mockery of my father’s fine lessons in manhood.

I could not be my true self and remain part of my own family. They would never accept me as now knew I was. And now that I knew, I could not pretend to them to be otherwise. By deceit, I already put myself apart from them, even if they didn’t know.

And so, I was cast adrift with no moral anchor. What did it matter if I was brave and strong and true? I was still a mockery of a man.

But then, who could I be? I needed a new identity, a new way of being, a new skin. I tried on quite a few, but nothing felt comfortable. No matter who I tried to be, it all felt like a costume, a pretense, a role that wasn’t at all natural. I had been taught to be a certain kind of man, and now all those lessons were pointless.  What was left?  Who was I?  What was I?  I spent several wasted years adrift, searching but not finding the answers. I did things that, had they known, would have disgraced my family.  I was not always honest nor brave nor true.  Even crying filled me with shame.

I couldn’t be myself anymore and I couldn’t be anyone else, either.  I was nothing.  Nobody.  Nothing about me was true or real. There was no reason for me to exist.

And so, at 24, I hanged myself.  I did not leave a note. I did not reveal my secret. The act of suicide, itself, I knew, would be shameful enough.

The pain was ultimately intolerable but from this side I can appreciate the understanding that has followed from it. This loss of identity, the complete denial of ego, and the accompanying torment provided the most valuable lessons I have ever been shown in any lifetime.

There needs to be a balance between feeling the importance of the self and realizing how unimportant we really are.

——————

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-Adrienne

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