The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “abusive relationship”

The Perfectionist

first published September 15, 2014

Perfektionist | Metapher

Win

I was a precocious child, adorable and smart as a whip. Things came easily to me. I mastered whatever was put before me quickly and perfectly. I could not understand why others struggled with things that came to me so naturally. I always aimed for perfection (and usually achieved it) because I loved being praised for my cleverness. It made me feel special and more important than everyone else.

As I grew up, I become more and more accomplished at various things. I could do more in a day than anyone else I knew. I looked down upon those who could not complete tasks which to me were simple; or solve problems when the solutions seemed obvious to me. I felt pity and contempt for the lazy, the ineffectual, those who did not have the capacity to do what needed to be done. I assumed that anyone who claimed not to be capable of these things was just being lazy or purposely obtuse. I had no patience or compassion for those who struggled with what (to my mind at least) should have been straight-forward tasks and easy-to-attain goals.

I entered the business world and was extremely successful. It never occurred to me that I would be otherwise.   I went over and above what others expected of me, always working hard to top what I’d done before. I was driven, but the rewards were great.

That was the upside.

The downside was that I pushed others relentlessly.   I expected them to value perfection as I did. If I asked someone to do something and the result did not meet my high standards, I would get angry or dismissive or even cruel. I had no use for imperfect people. Those who wanted to work with me and for me, knew what was expected of them. Failure, laziness, mistakes, miscalculations were not options.

I was not well-liked.

There was no place for laziness in a relationship. How difficult was it to get things right? All they had to do was pay close attention, watch how I did it, and learn the right way. Wasn’t it better to do things the correctly than to make mistakes? Wasn’t it better to be industrious than to be lazy? My motto was “Properly not sloppily.”

How convinced I was about this! How sure I was right; that my way was the best and only way. I worked myself relentlessly towards perfection in everything.

Ironically, this was my greatest flaw.

I had no respect for the journeys of others. No compassion for their challenges. No empathy. No understanding of different values. And worst, no ability to feel or give unconditional love.

I was successful in life, but in death I see I was an utter failure as a human being

 

______

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

 

 

 

 

Layers of the Seasons

first published August 28, 2014

Lock and Key

Kah

He was the lock; I was the key. Or so I thought. Maybe it was the other way around.

I loved him because I could love him in exactly the way he needed to be loved. He was difficult (as was I!) and often tried my patience, but if I didn’t love him, who would? He  frequently treated me badly, occasionally took his hand to me, regularly neglected me,  routinely said hurtful things, but even so, I knew he loved me in his own, often emotionally convoluted way. He knew I could find a man who treated me better, a man who deserved me more,  so it meant everything to him that I stayed married to him.

Over the years, friends and family urged me to leave him. He was no good for me, they said. He made me cry, made me feel less of myself. They made me question whether I was lying to myself about why I stayed.

But not good for me? What did that even mean?

Sometimes, I thought of myself as pathetic, desperate and needy. Other times, I felt proud of myself for taking the higher but more difficult road.

When things were bad, they were painful and awful and made me doubt. But when they were good, they restored my faith in the belief that this was the right choice for me.

When he was sober and contrite, he was loving and charming. He was intelligent and deep, but too often his demons got the better of him. He knew he mistreated and neglected me, and he knew that he had to make it up to me, double, when he was capable. That was how he held on to me through the worst of times.

I suppose I could say our marriage had its seasons. There were times of plenty followed by drought and famine. When love was abundant, I’d gorge. I’d fill up my heart to bursting. I’d squirrel away every bit of kindness, storing them in the hidden recesses of my soul and my memory. This got me through the lean times.

There were months, even years of famine when I felt it was time to pick up and move away. This soil was dry and dusty and nothing would grow here anymore. And then, just as I was about to leave, the rains would come and everything would spring back to life! Love burst back into bloom, and I’d think, How can I leave this place? It’s the only home I know.

I felt bound to him though never dependent. If I’d felt dependent, I’d surely have left him early on. No, that wasn’t the word. I felt responsible for him. As if I’d been put on the earth just to understand him; to be the only one he could love.

But that was only part of it. It filled a need in me, too, to be with him. I needed to be loved like that – singularly and deeply. As long as there was that, I could deal with everything else.

Most people search for a perfect, flawless human being to love and be loved by. They believe that such perfect person will provide perfect happiness.   In fact, nothing in life is learned from perfection. The lessons are found in working with and through the imperfections. I could not have expressed this while I was alive. I raged at the imperfection. I wanted the pain and frustration to end so all would be peacefully ideal.

In the beginning, I didn’t understand all the layers beneath the layers. But as we shed each one, I loved us more. We became closer, paring away our fears, one by one. We scraped off the veneer to reveal the truth below. We melted off the coating that held everything neatly in place so we could deal the messy reality. Sometimes it became too much , and one or the other of us felt the urge to run.

Apart and together. Apart and together. Apart and together. And with each together, another layer was gone, bringing us closer to the meat of it, to the seed, to the real reason we stayed with each other; to understanding the basis of our bond.

I don’t know if I could have done it for fifty or sixty years. I died before I found out. I am not sure we would have been willing to keep scratching away like that or if we would have eventually come to an end.   Or perhaps, one day, finally, all would have been exposed and there would have been nothing left to learn of or from each other. Maybe one of us would have reached that point first, and walked away.

Certainly, I was not so easy to live with, myself. I was often angry, impatient, demanding, frustrated, mean, ornery and occasionally violent. I tried my best to rise above my anger but I will admit to flinging the occasional vase or dish.

I know now that this was one of my tests, my lessons for that life – to understand and overcome anger. I was better in this life than I was in lives past, but I still have work to do.

I supposed I stayed with him because I sensed I needed to learn this.

But it could have been he who ended it. He might have decided that domesticity wasn’t for him; that he was no longer willing to do the work to maintain the balance. He might have been no longer willing to toil when the land was fertile; unwilling to stock the pantry in preparation for the lean times. Without me, his life would have been easier in many ways, but I understand now that he needed the challenge of me, too. I suppose he knew that as well.

This understanding, though unspoken and unconscious, is what bound us. We both heard that inner voice that told us that we were on the right path.

Running away from the lessons is always an option. Human have free wll.   I doubt I could have stayed on that particular path for decades more.   Perhaps, if I had lived longer, I might have chosen another road,  leading to different but equally important lessons.

I stayed with him as long as I did because until the very end, I always felt I hadn’t yet solved the riddle of us.  It still intrigued me.

He is not here yet, but I will wait and we will do it again, in a different way.

 


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Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

 

As I was scheduling this one,  THIS came on from my playlist.   It captures the essence of this post.

 

 

photo credit

Going Under

first posted Sept 13, 2015

drowning hand

On

There are people who take genuine pleasure from making other people happy.   They will work to coax a smile from a stranger.  They will try to solve the problems of others as if they were their own. They will cry for the sorrows of loved ones; take on their suffering, if they could. Their joy comes from knowing they reside deep in the hearts of those whose lives they touch.

I was not that kind of person. But I knew many of them.

People like me seek out people like that for our survival. We crave and cling to any mode of escape from the torment that has barricaded itself within us.

Drowning in the inability to navigate our own emotions, we gratefully grab a hand offered in salvation.    Now we are filled with hope! We splash around, happy to have found a savior!   We wait to be pulled in.   We do not swim. If we could swim, we wouldn’t have been drowning in the first place.

At first, the ostensible rescuer works hard to reel us closer, but we are of little help. We have no natural buoyancy; we are dead weight. We take on water. Our flailing threatens to drown our savior, too.

I saw that look in the eye many times: the one of pity, of sorrow, of relief as they cut me loose. And I went back to the business of drowning.

Each time it happened, I believed I would be saved; my sins washed away; my wounds healed. I wanted that with all my heart. And yet, ultimately, I could be only what I was: someone who didn’t know how to be saved.

In the end, we all have to save ourselves.

 

—————–

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of

Right in the Eye

beaten-woman

 

Ber

I killed him.   I did.  I suppose I should have felt some kind of guilt or remorse but those feelings never occurred to me.  My immediate and final reaction was relief.  I had no choice.  It finally came down to him or me.  My actions were inevitable.

His abuse of me was no secret to anyone.  My body bore the colors and stains of his irrational anger. I never tried to hide them.  I wanted others to know.  I wanted justice.  I wanted vindication.  I wanted somebody to save me; to stop him. But nobody wanted to get involved.  Whatever was going on was between a husband and wife. It was nobody else’s business.  And so no one ever intervened on my behalf.

I made them uncomfortable.  Seeing me like that compelled them to have an opinion; to take sides; to confront the immorality of their silence.  But I refused to hide.  I wanted them to be feel guilty about their cowardice,  to feel uncomfortable in the comfort of their own lives.

I’d wear my bloodied, bruised face and body into town, forcing them to confront their own complicity by doing nothing.  Passing people on the street, I would look them in the eye and nod hello.    When I walked into the General Store, they’d all turn to look and see who’d just come in,  and then immediately, they’d look away.  I would walk right up to the counter, and ask for what I needed, and they had to wait on me,  all the while pretending they didn’t understand that I’d been beaten like an intransigent mule.

Some of them felt sympathy but I didn’t need their pity.  I needed action.  Most shunned me, as if I were shameful.  But why should I have felt shame?  He was the guilty one.  I was merely his victim.

I always knew that the day might come when I reached my limit, and I wanted everyone to understand why.

We worked our own land,  so although he was known in town,  he mostly kept to himself.  He mostly drank at home, but occasionally he drank at the saloon.  After a few,  he would become belligerent. But nobody ever stopped him from drinking, and nobody every stopped him from going home, even knowing what he was likely to do when he got there.

And then one night, in one of his rages,  he grabbed me by the throat and nearly strangled me to death. I managed to get away.  I grabbed his gun and I shot him, right in the bed.

I didn’t know what would happen to me but I didn’t run.  In any case, I had nowhere to go.  In the morning, I went into town and presented myself to the sheriff.  There was a trial.  It was quick.  I had nothing much to say in my own defense that wasn’t already obvious to all from the marks on my neck and years of history.

The jury of men deliberated for a long time but in the end, they could not set me free. That would send a bad message to the other wives.  And so, I was hanged.

I was calm when they put the noose around my neck. I felt I had fulfilled my destiny.

____

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

My Husband, My Jailer

New Post

falling down stairs

Am

I didn’t know him when I married him.  I was a young woman and he was much older than I was. He had never been lucky with women, never been married. My family arranged for me to travel from my country to his to be his wife. They said my life would be better there.

I was taught that wives should behave in a subservient manner towards their husbands so I knew my place.  I was clever enough to know I should hide my cleverness. I was efficient.  Reliable. Pliable.  Not too demanding, at least not initially.

This was my appeal for him.  He was a sad, weak man who needed a weaker woman to make him feel strong.

After a couple of years, we had a child.   I devoted myself to motherhood which gave me far more pleasure than my marriage.  I did not have too many friends.  My social circle was very small.  For the most part, I was limited to the wives of his friends, of which he had very few.  Some of the wives were also foreign-born, married sight unseen like me, but they were not from my country.  The language barriers made it difficult to share our experiences although I assumed their stories were similar to mine. I would have loved to have had a friend to talk to about my marriage,  but it seemed my own husband was not the only one who preferred to keep me from getting to close with others.

Initially, he was kind to me.  He sometimes lost his temper but he went through the motions of apology.  He pretended that we were a happy couple in love.   But we were not.  Soon he made less of an effort to control his temper.  He was an unhappy man and nothing I could do could change that, although I worked hard to be a good wife and give him what he needed.

I eventually realized that any intimacy we had at the beginning was purely fantasy. In reality, we had nothing in common.   When I first came to him, I respected him.  He seemed to me smart and successful and knowledgeable about the world, but of course this was only in comparison to the men I knew from my village.  When I got to know him, however, I recognized that he was not worthy of even my insignificant respect.   I tried to hide my growing contempt for him, but such things show on the face,  in the tone of voice, in the  lack of genuine interest in pleasing him.

He took out his anger at the world on me.   I could do nothing right.  I was useless.  He was going to send me back and keep our son.    No man would ever want me again.  Even my own family would reject me because I was such a terrible wife.  I would go back to my village and live out my days sweeping the streets, an outcast, a pariah.

I believed that he could do this.  Worse, I believed that he would do this.  I tried harder to put on a good face for him; to be obedient and of service.  I made myself small and invisible when I was not fulfilling his present needs.

And then, one day in the market, I saw a woman who had a face typical of the women who came from my country.   I said something to her in my language to see if she would respond.  To my delight, she did!  We became fast friends.

She had come over as a young woman and found work as domestic help.  The family she worked for was kind, and even allowed her to take some evening classes in school to improve her language skills.  This was something I dared not even ask my husband about. I already knew the answer.  I’d be punished in one way or another just for suggesting that I wanted to become more independent.

We met once or twice a week, me with my son and her with her charges.  We would do our shopping then steal a few minutes for ourselves in the park, while the children played. We chatted in our mother tongue,and for the first the first time since I’d arrived, I felt that I had a friend of my own, someone who understood me.

Even though, as a married woman, I had more status than she did, I was envious of her position.  She knew things about this new land that I never would have imagined and never would have discovered on my own. She was a window into the culture.  She might not have had much that was her own, but at least she was free (so it seemed to me, anyway.)

Eventually, I confided in her how unhappy I was.  I felt like a prisoner in my marriage, with escape being worse than captivity. I didn’t want to stay but I had nowhere to do. I had very little of my own money – just the little bit that I managed to hide away from my household budget.  It wouldn’t get me and my son anywhere. I had no skills and could not support us.  In any case, my husband would not rest until he had hunted me down.

I felt like a trapped animal.  The isolation of my marriage was unbearable.   If it weren’t for my son, I might even have killed myself but I would not leave him alone to be raised by that man.

In the early years, when I was merely unhappy, I used to pray for more kindness and understanding from my husband, more patience for myself.  Eventually, however, my prayers were not so noble.  I began to pray for his death.  I knew this was a sin, but it was the only path I could see to my salvation.  With him gone, I would be free and have the house and his money.

These wishes soon became manifest in my actions.  At first, I was defiant in small, secret ways.  For example, I would not wash all his clothes but rather fold them and put them back as if they had been laundered.  One afternoon, as I began to prepare dinner, I noticed the meat had gone bad.  I fed it to him anyway.  Slowly, I became emboldened.  Sometimes, I would pull plants from the side of the road and add them to his food, hoping that they were poisonous.  One day, after he beat me, I was so angry, I picked up some dog feces in the street and added it to his soup.

I would “accidentally” leave small objects, such as toys or shoes, near door and along the hallway, hoping that he would trip while drunk and break open his head.

I didn’t have the nerve to actually murder him, but I tried to give Fate a helping hand.  But none of these efforts,  not any of my prayers, seemed to have any effect on him.  How could a man so evil be so lucky?

I never told my friend about my prayers or small sabotages. I didn’t want her to feel responsible if I succeeded.  Maybe I was afraid she would encourage me to do worse to him, and that I would allow myself to be led.

Finally, one day, after many such miserable years, he was drinking in the local bar and simply fell over, clutching his chest.  I pretended to others to be sad – I had become quite good at pretending – but I was relieved that he was finally dead, and that I was not responsible for his death. (I didn’t figure my prayers had killed him because I’d been praying for a long time with no results.)

There wasn’t a lot of money left after everything was sold,  but it was enough to let me start over somewhere else.  I took my son and my friend, and we went far away, and made a new life for ourselves. It was sometimes a struggle, but at least we were free.

—–

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

Bully Bait

originally posted 5/6/14

prison cell block

Le

Life works in mysterious ways. At first, I couldn’t wait to marry her. At the end, I just wanted her dead. I wanted her mouth shut; her body rotting in the ground, where it belonged. I’d been helplessly in love with her and she had betrayed me; turned me into a cuckold; made me a fool; built huge, flashing arrows pointing to my weaknesses.

If anyone had asked me, I might have said I loved her, but I guess the hatred and resentment was always bubbling beneath the surface. I hated being in her power; hated myself for not being able to break free. She baited me all the time: Compared my “assets” to those of my best friend, who, I was often reminded, had a “much better set.”   Mocking me for every mistake, large and small. Belittling me just because she could.

Maybe I should have just left, but when she’d torment me, she would always say, “Look at you! You aren’t man enough to do anything about it!” and because I knew she was right – I wasn’t man enough – I obeyed and did nothing.

She was beautiful and a bit exotic.   When I met her, I couldn’t believe a woman like that would be interested in me. When I’d ask her why, she told me I was her “diamond in the rough.” She said she would teach me how to be a man, and I believed her.

In the beginning, she doted on me and built up my ego. I didn’t feel like merely a man; I felt like “The Man.” Ultimately, however, no matter how much she tried to polish me, no matter how nice a setting she put me in, I was always the same old hunk of worthless rock. Soon, she hated me for it. She believed, if I’d only loved her enough, I would change. My apparent inability to grow a spine was a slap in her face.

In our dynamic, every time she gave me a challenge and I failed to live up to her expectations, she was elevated in my esteem; and I was debased in hers. With each of my failures, the chasm between us grew.

It was a brutal transition between her believing in me and her no longer giving a damn. I ached for the early days. I still believed I loved her because I remembered how she used to make me feel.

She took so much pleasure in tormenting me, and I accepted it. I believed I deserved it. My thinking went: “At least she’s still here; at least I can satisfy her in some way.”

I was pathetic. I wasn’t even man enough to stand up for myself.

And then one day, I snapped.

My father had just passed away a few months before. I hadn’t had much contact with him since I’d left home years earlier. I had no use for him. From boyhood, he, too, belittled me. At the time, I would not have said I was deeply affected by his death.

It’s funny, but I can’t remember the exact words she said that set it all in motion, but it was something that cut me so deep, it opened up all the wounds from my youth.   Every last scab was ripped off and they were all stinging and bleeding again:  The existential fear of my own worthlessness.   The self-loathing because I didn’t have the confidence to stand up for myself.  The inability to trust my own judgment in any situation, thus deferring to anyone and everyone, and never having a voice of my own.

In that moment, I remembered the bullies who used to tease me, especially the day I came out of school to discover they’d set my brand new bicycle on fire. I remembered my father whispering to family members and friends, and them looking at me and laughing. I was never sure exactly what he was telling them, but I felt it had to do with my most recent failure at sports or at school, with the way I’d mishandled a chore or errand. Nothing – and I mean nothing in my entire life – had ever impressed him. Even when I got married to that beauty, he made sure I knew he didn’t believe she really loved me. She must be some kind of gold-digger, he suggested, then corrected himself. “Nah, you’re never going have enough money to make it worth any gold-digger’s time.”

“Maybe,” he then suggested, “she’s going to take out an insurance policy on your life and kill you for the money” (the subtext being, “because what else are you good for?”)

She and I were standing in the living room, next to the fireplace. She was on a rant, haranguing me with the entire catalog of my flaws and weaknesses.  After a while, I didn’t hear the individual words; I just felt the toxicity of their intent.   I couldn’t breathe. The poisonous cloud was enveloping me, choking me. I had to make it stop.

I picked up the heavy, metal mantle clock, and without thinking, hit her with it on the side of the head. She crumpled in a heap. Dead. Oh yes. Definitely dead.

Panicked, I ransacked the house to make it seem as if there had been an intruder, then I called the police and told them I’d found her this way.

It didn’t take them long to figure out the truth. She was dead and I was crying crocodile tears. I had motive and opportunity. It took about ten minutes at the station for me to confess the whole thing. I was actually relieved that it was over.

At least in jail, it would be free of her incessant emotional assault. In jail, I’d be a disappointment only to myself.

I forgot, though, about the bullies. Prisons were full of them.

I was in my own private hell. It was as if every torment in my life had been distilled to its very essence and applied here. There were no lessons to be learned, only pain to be avoided.

After about four years, with another 20 before I was even up for parole, I wanted to die. Ironically, in prison, they do their best to keep you from killing yourself.   They prefer you alive so they can take their retribution one cut at a time.

So I committed suicide by bully.

I knew what to do to provoke them, and they did me a favor of literally beating the life  out of me.

Next time, I would like the confidence to stand up for myself. I would be interested to see where that might lead.

____

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

Gen

Originally published  April 18, 2014

 Woke up this morning with a “story” in my head, demanding to get out. I “wasn’t allowed” to eat or get dressed or turn on my computer until I’d written this down, long-hand, in the notebook beside my bed.  I’m still not sure if I’m “writing” or “channeling” them. Either way, I have decided to keep a journal as they come to me.

The nature of the stories is changing. Previously,  I was shown a scene and was imparted with information about how the person died.   Now, I am getting feelings and translating them into words.

Most of these “narrators” do not tell me their names, and I don’t ask.  I like the idea that they could have lived almost anywhere in the worldThis makes their stories more universal.  However,  going forward,  in order to be able to distinguish  one narrator from another,   I have given each a one syllable name.  I have made the names purposefully vague and cryptic so they do not imply any geography or ethnicity.   They are indicative of nothing.  Please do not read anything into them.

From time to time, however, I am given a name or other identifying information. In those cases,  I include that with their story.

*******

argueing couple

Gen 

I debated writing down my feelings when he finally left me and the boys, but by that point, I had no feelings left.

I suppose if I felt anything, it was relief. I was exhausted from trying to make it work. Years and years of forgiveness and sacrificing my own needs to the needs of the relationship. I knew it was going to be a long, hard slog, raising two young boys on my own, but at least we’d all be pulling as one unit, in the same direction,   instead of working against each other, draining each other of happiness, sucking each other dry.

In the long run, the boys would be happier, too.  Br was an angry and selfish man. The boys saw him in the clear pure way that children always see the obvious truth. Their dad was an insecure bully and though the kids had no respect for him, he was their father and he still had the power to hurt them. He wasn’t worthy of their respect, but they still wanted his. They thought, in their innocent way, that if he could just stop the anger in his head long enough to really see them for the terrific little people they were, he’d realize what he stood to lose. Then he’d change and everything would be OK.

Maybe I hoped for that, too.

Br  was very good with words. He was a real poet when it came to asking for forgiveness. An irresistible force.   But no matter how many times he promised to do better for us, no matter how many times I reached deeper into my soul to find a little more love for him, he would invariably disappoint us and hurt us again.

It was better apart. He would no longer have to face, on a daily basis, what an utter failure he was as a husband, as a father, as a functional human being. He just didn’t have the energy any more to try and be someone better.   I thought my love, our love, would be enough to change him,  but none of it did any good.

The kindest, most loving thing he ever did was to leave us so we could forge the bonds of love, stronger, among the three of us.

And so we did. We were bound in a way that I suppose many single-mother families are.

I could now devote my full emotional attention to my boys. They’d always craved more of me. They were happy and relieved to finally have it. They healed me, they did, with their humor and insight and childlike wisdom that so often brought things into perspective when I felt as if I were spinning out of control.

When my youngest was in the second grade, I forgot to attend his school play.  I knew it was coming up, but forgot about it the day of.   I was overwhelmed at work. I’d been working 12 hr days for the past few weeks and had barely gotten to see the kids. My mom sometimes watched them. Some nights, they went home with friends. Sometimes I paid for a babysitter — a girl who lived down the street.

When I came home that evening and realized what I’d done, I was horrified, sick and full of shame. I could barely look at myself in the mirror.

The play was on a Friday afternoon. Saturday morning, I came down to breakfast, eyes swollen from crying at the mess I was making raising my kids; feeling sorry for myself because of all the pressure on me.

I sat my baby down with the intention of begging forgiveness, as his daddy had done of me so many times. It was a scene that my kids had witnessed too often in their short lives.

“I’m soooo sorry, baby…” I began.

And in the sweetest, most loving voice, that little boy said to me, “It’s OK, Mommy. I know you feel bad about my play. I know you are worried that I think you don’t love me, but I do know how much you love us because I can see how hard you work to take care of us. A school play is just one day but a job is every day.”

I can barely describe the relief and love I felt at that moment! Just seven years old and he already had more love, more understanding, more wisdom than most adults.

Maybe that’s a stereotype – kids of divorced parents growing up, emotionally, very quickly.  It’s a kind of Hollywood trope that such kids are preternaturally wise beyond their years. But it does seem to happen that way in real life quite a lot. Now I know the reason why.

They are literally old souls, or perhaps more accurately “more connected souls”,   born to people like me who need some spiritual guidance. They are the spiritual adult to their biological parent.

In those days, I had no time to think about spiritual matters. I was working long hours, topped off by parental responsibilities. In the very early days, there was the additional stress and nastiness of a messy divorce.

Br had started drinking again, in earnest now and without brakes. When we were together, he would fall off the wagon from time to time, and that was bad enough, but now he wasn’t even trying to stay sober.   On several occasions, he didn’t make it to the lawyer’s office for meetings. When he did, he was usually at least partly drunk or hung over.

Whereas in the past, I might have tried to reach in and “save” him or at least make the effort to understand the psychic pain he was trying to self-medicate away, I no longer felt him as a part of me. He wasn’t my emotional responsibility anymore. If he drank himself to an early grave, I wasn’t even sure I’d feel sorry.   I simply had no emotional energy left for him. He’d frittered away all my concern and love for him.  If and when he ever needed it again, there would be nothing left in reserve.

Ironically, when I died years later, he was still alive, albeit not so well. The boys were already grown. My oldest was married with a new baby girl, who I was so happy to get to meet before I left.

My husband came to my funeral and sat in the back. He was sober then, but years of alcoholism had taken their toll. He looked 87 not 57.

Our youngest child was the first to speak to him.  He was moved by his father’s genuine tears.

“Your mother was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he told him. “but I wasn’t good enough for her. I had to leave, otherwise I would have destroyed all of you.”

He was right of course, and I was glad that he understood it.   My boy nodded and gave his dad a hug, because he knew it, too.

 

 

____

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

-Adrienne

The Long Mistake

Originally published February 11, 2015

To

I made a big mistake which took me a long time to recognize. And as my life went on, I compounded that mistake until there was no going back.

When it began, it was just for fun. I wasn’t looking for anything more than a temporary distraction. But she was not the kind of girl one trifled with. She made me laugh and she made me think. Each time I thought I had come to the end of her, she pulled me in deeper.

And before I knew it, I loved her. And she loved me.

We were bound. We both knew it. But she alone tended the tie that held us connected.   She kept the line in good repair so we would not drift apart. I paid it no mind because I assumed she would always take care of it. Often, I would drift away from her until we were out of sight of each other. This hurt her, I know. She wanted to let go, but could not. All I had to do was tug the line, and there she would be at my side, loving me again. In my selfish, childish heart, I believed it would ever be so. She was mine forever and nothing would ever break us apart.

Eventually, she stopped minding the rope. For her, there was nothing much at the other end except me with all my faults and lies and disrespect and silences and selfishness and carelessness of her feelings. The line began to fray with neglect but I did not notice until one day, I pulled and came back empty.

She had finally moved on and was lost to me forever. The knowledge of it made me sick.

Losing her was my first mistake.

My second mistake was living the next decades as if it didn’t matter. Everything I did was just another form of running away from my feelings, from relationships, from the fear of my own vulnerability.

As I got older and felt the end coming near, I realized I needed to make amends, not just to her, but to all the people I’d hurt and disappointed. She was gracious and listened to my feelings, out of habit no doubt, because she was kind. But she was not moved. My words changed nothing. Apologies are meaningless unless one sincerely intends to stop the very actions one is apologizing for. My bad behavior was already too deeply engrained. It was too late to change and part of me that would have made any difference. She had no reason to forgive me; no reason to trust me. She didn’t need my love. She didn’t need my friendship. I didn’t even understand what was required. I had nothing to offer her or anyone else.

The pain of the loss hit me anew. Finally, I was beginning to understand just how much I had wasted. She had been my moral compass. From her, I always heard the truth. I should have held her close. Instead, I let her go and spent my life adrift. If we’d stayed together, I thought, I might have been happy. I might have lived a peaceful life. She would have kept me righteous. She could have stopped the self-destructive cyclone my life had become.

And so I regretted not just the loss of her but what my life had become without her. And I died choking on that regret.

All the currents of my life had pulled me away from her. I was destined to travel no other route than the one I traveled. It was not for her to keep me on course. That was my own duty. Certainly I could have kept her if I had loved her more than I hated myself, but if I had been able to do that,, I would have had to have known then what I only understand now.

The tragedy of my life was not that I lost her. The tragedy of my life was that I’d missed the opportunity to learn how to  love.

 

——————

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

 

Friendly Fire

First published January 8, 2014

cowboy2

Po

From the earliest time I can recall, I hated my father.  He was a mean drunk who sometimes got physically abusive.  I remember him hitting my mother once or twice when I was very young,  but soon my older brother put himself between the two of them and voluntarily took the brunt of the blows upon himself.   I watched that sick theater from the sidelines, rarely finding myself in the middle of it, but hating him all the same.

When I was in my mid-teens, I quit school and started working as a ranch hand on local farms. Whenever possible, I’d sleep in the bunk house to avoid going home.

There were all sorts of men in there, mostly itinerant, rootless farmhands. Some were good men – kind, generous, funny; some were as miserable and ornery as my father. Many were from far away; some from other countries. It was the kind of life which made having a stable romantic relationship or family life impractical, unsustainable. And so, a subculture of homosexuality arose. These men were “homosexuals of convenience” not because of any innate proclivity. They wanted sexual satisfaction, and other men happened to be most proximate. Man-on-man sexual trysts were not discussed openly, but they were alluded to; joked about, judged as nonchalantly as masturbation.   This might have been what they did but it wasn’t who they were, or how they defined themselves.

For a young man my age, with few heterosexual outlets, this kind of easy sexual satisfaction had its appeal.  I felt no shame about it. I had no reason so. Within the limited micro-culture in which I existed, it was perfectly acceptable behavior.

Normalcy is always relative. What feels normal to us is simply what is familiar.  Whether one grows up in a family of straight-laced missionaries or a tribe of flesh-eating zombies,  with little outside reference, this is going to seem perfectly normal.  And so,  touching men and having them touch me felt completely natural.

My brother remained at home,  standing guard over my mother.  By the time he was 22, however, he’d had enough.   He joined the army. It was a time of relative national peace and it provided an easy and expedient remedy for his unhappy and stifling situation. Before he left, he sat me down and told me that I would now have to sleep at home every night and take over the responsibility for my mother’s protection.

I did this with mixed feelings.  Certainly, I wanted my mother protected from my father’s drunken furies. Since she refused to leave him,  the duty fell to me.  By then,  I was big and strong; my physical presence was enough of a deterrent.   He knew he raised his hand to me at his own peril.  I wasn’t worried that I’d ever have to fight him.  I just didn’t want to live under the same roof as him; didn’t want to breath the same air;  didn’t want to be subject to his angry tirades or sullen moods.

I’d been living at home for a year or so, hating every minute, when we got the news. My brother had been killed in a training exercise. We didn’t get many details but it didn’t much matter. He was gone and never coming back.

My mother was inconsolable.   She blamed herself for not standing up to my father,  thus forcing my brother to take the only option he felt he had available to him.  She blamed herself for not having chosen a better father for her children.  She was consumed with grief and guilt and pain until it literally ate her up inside.  She died of cancer within the year.

I stuck around until after the funeral, but had little reason to remain anywhere near my home town. I drifted for a while,  working on ranches, here and there.  It was a comfortable way of life for me.  I was good at what I did and I enjoyed the work and the camaraderie.

Eventually, however, the smallness of my world became claustrophobic. The wide open spaces closed in. I became fascinated with the notion of getting lost in a crowd; of becoming anonymous in a human crush; of leaving my baggage behind and reinventing myself.

I took a bus to the big city, ready to start a new life.

I hadn’t considered that I had no idea how to survive in this alien environment, nor did I know anyone there who could teach me.   I was such an outsider, it was impossible for me to blend in, to vanish inconspicuously into a crowd. I didn’t understand the pace,  the lingo,  the urban mentality. I had a limited education and no practical business skills. I was a naïf in place that chewed up people like me and spit them out.

I had only one marketable skill: I knew how to give a man sexual pleasure.

Fortunately (so it seemed at the time), there were plenty of men who were willing to pay for this and I quickly I learned where to find them.  For many, an authentic cowboy held a certain appeal. My skill with a rope was in demand and offered an introduction to a more discriminating and higher- paying crowd.

I had arrived just in time for the heyday of gay nightlife. Discos and bathhouses were teeming with horny men.  There was a never-ending supply of drugs which kept us up all night or melted our muscles or enhanced our orgasms or cured the diseases we passed back and forth to each other.

I cultivated some wealthy men friends who were happy to pay for my skill set but I never deluded myself into thinking I was anything more than a toy to them.  They were educated and refined. They read books,  went to the theater,  discussed politics,  understood the nuances of business.  They felt comfortable in expensive restaurants and knew how to order fine wine. They knew where to shop and how to dress.  I did pick up some refinement from them but mostly, these things remained foreign to me.

I didn’t care. I was in it for the fun. For the freedom. For the money. I was grateful to be half a continent away from my father, and having a great time of it, too!

Although I traveled with that crowd, I never thought of myself as gay.  I didn’t love men.  I didn’t have any feelings for them.  I never looked at a man with sexual desire.  To me,  they were merely a means of making a living. If a woman wanted to have sex with me, I was OK with that too.   They would suffice if I were drunk or stoned enough,  but women never wanted to pay for sex (at least not the ones I met)  so ultimately, they were of no use to me. The few times I did sleep with a woman,  things always got complicated in ways I didn’t understand. They weren’t like men.  I could have sex with ten men in a night without knowing any of their names, never see any of them again, and none of them would care.  I preferred it that way.

I suppose eventually I would have found emptiness in this lifestyle too but before then, the sickness came.  At first,  it was mysterious, disturbing. But soon it became terrifying in the way it spread, in its quickness and mercilessness. Friends and acquaintances became ill and died. If I didn’t run into someone for a while, I always suspected the worst and was often right. There was a pall on the scene. The bathhouses were closed.  We were shunned.  People said horrible things about us and perhaps some of them were even a bit true.  For the older men, this was far worse than the early years when they had to live in secret.

And then it was my turn.  When the night sweats started, I knew what was coming.  I’d seen it all too often.

I had no one.  Those older rich men — the ones who were still healthy — wanted no part of someone like me.  I had never been their friend and now I was a pariah.  The sick ones, rich and poor, had their own problems.  I had nobody, no place to go, no money, no way to make a living.

And so,  because I didn’t want to die on the street,  I did the only thing I could.

I went home.

In the years since I’d left, my father had found God.  He’d stopped drinking and, to his credit,  had developed compassion.  He wanted to make amends, to pay penance for the deaths of my brother and mother.  He accepted responsibility for the broken mess my family had become.  He felt it was his duty to take care of me during my final months.

The irony wasn’t lost on me.  I’d come full circle.   In the end,  the most significant relationship I had, the only  person I’d ever shown any vulnerability to, was the one person I spent my whole life avoiding.  I couldn’t get far enough away from and yet, in the end, I traveled halfway across a continent to die in his arms.

 

——————

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  Also,  I have also started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.   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. )
-Adrienne

To Conquer the Beast

NEWcoalmine

Thra

There are all kinds of men who abuse women. I recognized them everywhere,in all their forms, because I saw in them a reflection of myself. Such men need someone needier and weaker to counter our own weakness and insecurity. Such men live with the fear that our deepest secret – that we are wholly inadequate–will be revealed.

The formula is simple. First, find a woman who holds herself in even lower esteem than you hold yourself; someone consumed by doubt The game begins with flattery and attention to make her feel special, to buoy her self-confidence. Continue this until she views you as the single source of her happiness and well-being. Once this has been accomplished, systematically separate her from her family, job, friends, until she becomes dependent on you, until she looks to you for confirmation on everything. Now, begin to undermine her confidence and her resolve until she is convinced she cannot exist without you. At this point, if you have played your hand property, no matter how badly you treat her, no matter how much you demand from her, she will feel unable to leave you.

I have seen many men whose lack of self-esteem is for good reason. They have little to be confident about save perhaps a useless skill or two. Their women are even more needy and pathetic than they are.

I despised such men. I put myself high above them.

For me, conquering such a woman neither proved nor satisfied anything.

I had unflagging conviction in my own intelligence, in my business acumen, in my power in the world. Others saw me as confident, sure of myself. But deep inside was a secret cavity gnawed hollow by the beast of self-doubt. Said beast was fed by the belief that no matter what I achieved, I would never be good enough. I will spare you the psychological gibberish about my discommending mother. Suffice it to say, a hole this size in a man such as myself can never be filled by easy conquest.

The only way to keep this monster inside of me from consuming my soul was to feed it the volition of a strong, independent woman; to press her into subservience. This took considerable charm, charisma, subtlety, patience, and a deep understanding of the female psyche. To conquer such a woman unequivocally demonstrated to the beast who was the master.

I subjugated a few such women during this lifetime. But in the end, they always managed to break free, abandoning me in ruins, leaving the monster laughing and more ravenous than before.

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