The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the month “April, 2021”

Anhedonia

Originally published Feb 26, 2015

depressed-summer-day

Het

I played the game the way it was taught to me. I had a wife and children. I had a good job which I enjoyed. I was proud to be able to care for my family. We were happy. We laughed together. I enjoyed my life.  Things were getting better all the time.

Then I got sick. It was nothing terminal, unless you consider the cascade which it set in motion. It was just serious and long enough for me to lose my job. And when I was once again ready to work, there was no work to be had. It was an employers’ market. Nobody needed to take a risk on someone like me, who might become sick again. There were younger, stronger men ready to work.

And so, it came to be that I was no longer able to take care of my family. My wife worked hard, but we were always wanting. We had to move to a much smaller place, far from our friends. Our marriage was strained to breaking. I think the only reason she didn’t throw me out was because she took pity on me.

I was depressed. I worried constantly. Nothing interested me. Nothing gave me pleasure or joy. I tried to do my best for my children. I held myself together when I was around them, until I couldn’t anymore. The stress ate away at whatever remaining health I had.   I lasted for another ten years or so like that. I died young, leaving my family alone.

Looking back, I examine my life, to see what, if anything, I could have done to make things turn out differently, either before or after the trouble started. But I was limited by the resources given to me. It is pointless to say I should have felt differently. If I could have, I would 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
original artwork:  Adrienne Gusoff

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

Haters Gonna Hate

Originally posted March 13, 2015

acid

Nak

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

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

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

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

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

And so, I must do it again.

——————
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!
-A

Your Path

Originally published March 9, 2015

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

Fil

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

And there are relationships, circumstances, great successes and tragedies,  which feel important in the moment; feel at the time as if they are going to change everything.  But in the end, they have very little impact on your trajectory.  Looking back,  you can see that your life would have turned out essentially the same, regardless of these things. You would have ended up pretty much as you ended up, albeit by a slightly different route.

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

What you take from them is your free choice.

——————
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

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

Originally published July 25, 2019

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

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: