The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the month “March, 2021”

Between The Lower Self and Reaction

 

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space.

In that space is our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Viktor Frankl

(Sorry for the premature post last night.)

With perfect timing, this quote popped up on my Twitter feed just after my last post (Trilogy of Self) went live.  In this sentence, Frankl sums up the practical application of Ipo’s lesson.

It’s more than “look before you leap.”   It’s a matter of pausing and setting aside your emotions you speak or act. For example, while it may feel momentarily satisfying to clap back with a hurtful remark after somebody has insulted you,  if you remove your own emotions,  you might recognize a person who insults you is likely insecure and feels threatened by you — perhaps because they like you and cannot express it,  or because they believe you have qualities they wish they had but lack.  In other words,  they feel inferior to you. Looking at it that way, an insult is actually a compliment.  But could come to such a useful and practical and really, life-changing realization if your own emotions were triggered every time you were insulted?

It’s what we call in NLP “disconnecting the buttons.”   As we say in the hypnosis biz,  “synapses that fire together, wire together.”   In other words,  every time you respond the same way to the same stimuli,  you wire your brain into a kind instinctual loop.   So, for example,  let’s say every time you speak to your mother,  you feel angry, resentful, stressed. You have accustomed yourself to being pissy, to starting arguments, fighting. Just the phone ringing with her call sets your teeth on edge.  But what if you put your emotions aside next time you had to deal with her, and listened to her the way you might listen to, say,  an elderly neighbor?  How might the dynamic be different?

You can only be truly free when you release yourself from the “hard-wiring” of your own emotions.

 

Photo: Orla/Shutterstock

 

——-

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

 

Asch in Ashes

First published July 5, 2017

Today marks the 110th anniversary of the tragic  Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. March 25, 1911.   For twenty years, I lived around the corner from this building, and whenever I passed by,  I always thought about these poor young women; about their bodies lying on the very sidewalk where I walked. Their ghosts spoke to me even then.

 

Mir

I was thirteen, and my brother sixteen, when we left our family home and set out for the New World.   It was a great adventure – both exciting and terrifying – but as long as I had my brother to care for me, I felt safe.

He and my parents had been saving money to send us both together.  The plan was, they would continue to save and my brother would find work and send money home, until eventually they would join us.

My mother had a younger cousin who had been living in New York for several years. She was, by our standards, a “real American” already,  settled with a husband, an apartment, and a job.  They had agreed to sponsor us and take us in until we could make our own way.

My brother was a big strong boy, tall for his age.  He quickly found work ferrying packages from suppliers to manufacturers, from manufacturers to the showrooms and shops.  It had been agreed by all before we left that I was to continue my education for at least two years.  My parents wanted me to also become a “real American”. They made my brother promise to keep me in school.

Our cousins were very welcoming and kind.  They gave us a corner of their small apartment.  There was just one cot, and my brother and I took turns sleeping in it while the other slept on a pile of folded blankets on the floor.  I often let him have the bed, even when it was my turn because he worked so hard during the day and was so physically exhausted.  I didn’t have the heart to make him sleep on the hard wooden floor.  It was by the grace of his hard work that I was able to remain in school. Since I didn’t have money to contribute,  I made myself as helpful as possible – cleaning,  washing, cooking some simple meals,  doing marketing and errands, mending clothing as I’d been taught by my mother.

When I was 14, and my English passable, my cousin found me a job at a small restaurant owned by her friend and her husband.  The husband cooked and the friend waited tables, but they had a young daughter who needed attention after school while they prepared for the dinner customers.

It didn’t pay much but it was the perfect situation for me.  I started in the afternoon, so I didn’t miss any classes.  I would sit with the girl while she did her schoolwork, and my own English skills improved.  Sometimes if they needed extra hands, I cleared tables or swept the floor or even chopped vegetables.  Occasionally, they’d send me out for an errand.

They were good to me and I was determined to justify their faith in me.  I worked hard and they came to rely on me more and more.  For this, they raised my pay as much as they could afford. It wasn’t much, but it enabled me to contribute a bit to the rent and to my parents’ travel fund.

I had been working there for just over a year when we received terrible news.  My father had become ill and within a very short time had passed away.   My brother and I would not, could not, let my mother remain alone in the Old World.   My brother took on extra shifts and I found additional work minding other children in the evenings.  Within the year, there was enough in the fund to bring her to us.

In the days before her expected arrival, I was so excited I could barely eat or sleep. When we met her at the boat, we all burst into tears at the sight of each other, touching each others’ faces and stroking each other’s hair, reassuring ourselves that we were all real.

We went back the apartment and my mother and her cousin caught up on the family news, remembering old times, laughing and crying.

Later, the three of us squeezed into our corner, with my brother and I insisting my mother take the cot. It was obvious we could not remain in this situation for much longer.  Fortunately, my mother was an experienced tailor and seamstress, and she was able to find work quickly.  Within a couple of months we were able to move to our own small room on Hester Street.  It was tiny, and the bathroom, down the hall, was shared by others, but to us it felt like paradise, an unimaginable luxury to be living with just our own family in our own room.

I finished school in my sixteenth year, and my mother got me a job at the factory where she worked, making ladies’ blouses.  Initially I was thrilled to have a real job; to get a regular paycheck; to be an adult among other women like myself and my mother — new immigrants, filled with hopes and dreams for a better future – but the novelty wore off quickly.

We worked long hours, six long days a week in very unpleasant conditions. The supervisors treated us more like slaves than workers. But, with the three of us bringing home a salary each week, we were able to save money.  The dream was for my mother to buy a sewing machine and have her own tailor shop so we could get out of that awful factory which seemed to suck more life out of us every day.

And then,  one Saturday afternoon,  there was chaos!  A fire!  There were so many flammable scraps and pieces around that it didn’t take long for the fire to be raging.  The doors were locked as they always were.  There was no escape.

I pressed to the window with my mother and the other women, barely able to breathe, terrified of being burned alive and equally afraid of jumping onto the unforgiving pavement below.

In the end, I jumped.  My mother stayed.  It didn’t make a difference.  We, along with dozens of our friends and coworkers, all died that day.

My brother,  alone and lonely,  soon took a wife.  They named their children after me and my mother, so our story would not be lost – a story of two women with dreams, unfulfilled.

 

 

 

——————

 

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 Trilogy of the Self

NEW!

Ipo

As I mentioned a while back, Ipo has been whispering a new lesson to me, which has been coming in snips and snatches.  Or perhaps it’s that I haven’t been focused enough on listening to him long enough to have gotten the whole thing at once.   But finally, I have the basics.  The rest, as Hillel said, is just commentary.

He has been sharing his thoughts on the three parts of the human psyche. They are: the animal self, the base/lower self, and the higher self. (These seem to correspond roughly with Freud’s id, ego, and superego,  or even, in some ways,  chakras.)

What Ipo calls the animal self is what we often refer to as the reptilian brain.  It controls our instinctual and physical reactions to various stimuli.  For example, the physical indications of sexual arousal; blushing with embarrassment; the dilation of our pupils in the dark; a mistrust of strangers/others/the unknown;  the pounding of our hearts and the hair standing up on the backs of our necks when we sense danger.

Our base/lower self (ego) is motivated by emotional want, both conscious and unconscious.  Almost all our non-instinctual behavior stems from desire, both positive and negative. For example, we desire to achieve or possess that which we think will bring us satisfaction or happiness. Contrarily, we also desire to avoid that which we fear; the things that  cause us physical and emotional pain, rejection, humiliation, failure, loss.

Our higher (spiritual) self functions beyond emotion. Through our higher self, we can understand that there is no empirical right or wrong, good or evil. These judgments are a function of the culture and zeitgeist in which they exist.  Their moral value often cannot be assessed for decades, perhaps even centuries.

Reality and truth are like the weather.  Even when we stand under the same rain cloud as others, though we may all be getting wet, we are being soaked by different raindrops.  No two people experience “reality” in quite the same way. Our emotions create a kind of frost on the window through which we view the world, thus distorting what we perceive as reality.

When we are in touch with our higher self, we are able to see beyond our triggered emotional responses, and gain a 30,000′ overview. From this perspective, many of the solutions to our problems and the answers to our questions often snap into great clarity.

I’m sure Ipo will have more to say on this subject (if I can just give him some trance time!) Until then,  I know I will be thinking a lot about this, myself.  Already I can see that this understanding can potentially impact every aspect of life.

——————

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

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 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

Kev

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.

 

——————

 

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

Love Me, Love Me Not

First published March 4, 2015

sad marble angel

Agat

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

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

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

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

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

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

——————

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 Vulture

First published June 22, 2019

Und

Have you ever watched a vulture swooping on carrion? They do not kill, not usually, but they can smell imminent death. They circle, waiting, ready to feast when their next meal takes its final breath.

You could say I was a human vulture. I removed corpses from various circumstances of unfortunate, unexpected death, and transported them to the morgue This was not a job many people desired, and those who did this work usually lived outside society as outcasts.  Maybe it was because humans don’t like to be reminded of their own mortality.  Or perhaps that’s putting the chicken before the egg.  Maybe it was that people like me, who’d been ostracized their entire lives, simply felt more comfortable among the deceased. The dead did not insult or bully or disappoint the way the living did.

The pay was meager. Barely enough to hold body and soul together.  Eventually I became emboldened; when the opportunity presented, I took for myself what the dead no longer needed: a jeweled ring, a gold necklace, a purse full of money.

After many years, by virtue of having been around the longest, I attained a modicum of seniority among the handful of others in my line of work. By then, I could sense which round trip to the morgue would be worth my while and which I could safely assign to the others.  I could sniff out the death of a rich man in a bed not his own; the demise of a lady of some means who happened to be in town when the Angel of Death plucked her from among the living. These poor souls did not have the good fortune to die in the comfort of their own bed surrounded by loved ones. And if they were doing something sinful or illegal, all the better.

By the time the deceased’s family claimed the body, it had been through so many hands, it was impossible to say where or when the valuables had disappeared. I was careful to travel far away to sell what I had taken, lest suspicion fall on me.

I did not get rich from this enterprise but it allowed me a few small comforts that I could not have afforded otherwise — enough fuel to keep warm in winter; it kept my belly full with meat and ale; a new pair of shoes when the old ones wore out. I survived because they had died. They didn’t need their worldly possessions any longer.  I, however, could make good use of them.

We weren’t so different, the dead and me.  I was just holding on to life a bit more tenaciously

——————

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

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