The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “communicating with the dead”

Manipulator of Men

first published May 28, 2014

Golden Egg

 

Et

When I was young, I never met a man I didn’t want to manipulate. I was a beautiful child and grew into a beautiful young woman. My family was not at all rich but I quickly learned that I could get more of the little I had by playing a feminine game of misdirection: Make a man think he was going to get something from me, take whatever he offered in order to win those favors, and extricate myself cleverly before I had to pay the piper.

Finally, it came time for me to marry, because I knew I could not continue this way forever. My charms would not stay fresh indefinitely. I had to find a man who would give me what I wanted without being strong enough to demand too much in return. A rich son was the perfect fool, and he kept me comfortable for a long time. I was mostly faithful to him because I never gave away my favors cheaply. I did, however, use my charm on other men to get whatever my husband couldn’t give me; these other men were social conduits who helped me gain the spotlight.

I did have children, and I loved them in my way, but mainly they were also useful as a anchor around my husband’s neck.   Once the children came, he would not, could not leave me.

Over the years, I became used to him. He wasn’t a bad man. He provided well for me and my children. He was a good father.   I didn’t hate him or take pleasure in humiliating him, as did some women – even those far more “respectable” than I.   I valued his position in the community and was always discreet so as not to shame him, either privately or publicly, although people sometimes talked. They could prove nothing, so I ignored them.

I was already old when he died. I’d long lost my beauty, and had settled in to a comfortable and relatively content life. This became possible by readjusting my lofty goals to those more realistic. My number one priority was no longer being the center of attention.   It took me a long time to get to that point, but it’s good I finally learned it. At least I won’t have walk that path 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!
-Adrienne
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Stranger in a Strange Land

First published Oct 11, 2014.

(Published again today, out of order,  a couple of days late for/in honor of Indigenous People’s Day)

 


indiginous

Je

I was born among my people on land we had lived upon since the beginning of time. I was bound to that land through my soul.  I lived many, many lives there.

I knew all the trees by name. The paths through the woods had been worn deeper into the earth by my feet, over thousands of years.

I knew the place in the river where it curves around a sharp bend.  The fish got trapped there.  They were easy to catch. I knew the warrens of the rabbits  — the entrance hidden between the roots of a large tree or under a large, moss-covered rock. I knew where to set my traps. I never went hungry.  I knew every plant, nut and berry and which of them were edible, medicinal, intoxicating.

I knew every landmark; the way the silhouette of the hills cleaved the sky from every angle. I always knew how far I was from home.  I could walk for days and never get lost.

Everything I had ever seen or tasted or touched or heard or smelled had been of that land.   My parents were born there.  My grandparents were both there,  and theirs, and theirs, and theirs.   I was married there.  I had children there.  And everything they had ever seen or tasted or touched or heard or smelled had been of that land.

It was not a paradise.  Life was hard.  But it was our life.  We were characters in the same story as the land.  Inseparable.  Our histories, intertwined. To take one from the other would be to destroy both.

And then, eventually,  the Strangers came.  I was a grown child before I ever saw one with my own eyes.  But slowly,  like stalking a deer,  they drew closer in increments so small we barely noticed.

Soon there were borders which were not allowed to cross; where we were not allowed to hunt.   They would not bother us as long as we stayed on our side.  But they kept pressing forward,  encircling us,  drawing the noose tighter.  We were being strangled but we were too small a group to put up much of a fight.

Eventually,   they took us all to a place far, far away. There were many different people there, speaking languages I did not understand.  It seemed there were many who did not understand each other.

I did not understand this land.  It was dry and dusty.  There were no forests.  There were no streams or rivers anywhere.  There were no hills.   Just ugly, flat, colorless dust for as far as my eyes could see. I hated it instantly.  I was resentful and angry.  I had been forcibly removed from my past.  I no longer felt whole. I knew as long as I lived there I never would.

Some tried to live outside our forced settlement,  but it was nearly impossible to survive.  It was a world so different, so strange from the ones we had known. We had no skills; did not understand their customs or their ways.   At least within the settlement,  we were with others in the same predicament.  For the benefit of all, each People tried to put aside their ancestral differences with others,  so we might all work as one.

The elders knew immediately this would be the end of all of us.  In order to survive, it would be necessary to give up some of our past identity and forge a new identity.   If we were unwilling to do that, if we insisted on clinging to the old ways,  if we wasted our energy to getting back to the old lands which no longer existed as we once knew them, we would have been too divided and too weak to survive in the face of the Strangers.  We needed a single, strong, united voice.

Positions of power went to those from warrior Peoples.  My People were small in number and not known for their bravery against the Strangers. It was natural that we all put our faith in the mightiest warriors of all.

But,  in the end,  none of it did any good. Our weapons and tactics were ultimately useless against them.

The old ways are gone.  Some rituals and stories remain of course, but now, disconnected from the land, they no longer make sense. The food and methods of cooking are lost, because we could not find what we needed in our new land.  We lost our cures, our intoxicants, our aphrodisiacs.

We survived, but we did not thrive.

It had always been the duty of all elders to teach the young ones their People’s history, traditions, language,  culture and skills.   But now,  what did it matter?  Many elders realized this knowledge was not useful for the new world.  We needed to learn a common language so we could communicate with other People.  We needed to learn new skills for new land with new rules. What was the point of passing on valuable information such as the best place in the river to catch fish,  or the best place to set a trap for rabbit,  when that river and that mossy rock were half a continent away? (Nobody knew exactly how far,  but certainly a walk of many moons.)

There was no going back.  The elders were without hope.  Most,  like myself, who remembered the land eventually died lost and heartbroken,  with wounds to our souls that never healed.

The younger ones took to changes more readily,  more willingly.  For them, it was an adventure.  They didn’t have such long memories.

They had fewer psychic wounds but they also grew up without traditions and stories that bound them to their spiritual past, without the reassuring knowledge that they stood upon the land upon which they were born and to which they belonged.

They had no ambition for anything for what could they aspire to?

Some took on the ways of the Strangers.  I did not blame them.  They needed something to fill the huge gaping voids inside themselves.

If the old stories don’t work, find new ones.  So they discovered Jesus. They learned to read and write and count many things.  They learned the ways of the Strangers so they could interact with them and perhaps find some advantage.

But even with this, they were not accepted outside.

And so, all the Peoples are not really People at all anymore. They are the children of People and Strangers. It is impossible to be anything else.   They live in two worlds and will never again be whole.

I am grateful that many still have pride in who they are, in who we were.  It is good to know that the People still endure.

—-

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!
-Adrienne22

Not Right in the Head

First published Oct 22, 2016 mentalillness-450x300

Vil

There was a label affixed to me all my life: crazy.  I behaved in ways that were considered abnormal. I burst into tears in the midst of laughter, and laughed at inappropriate moments. I became angry at things that were imperceptible to others. I would sometimes overreact dramatically to  insignificant experiences.

I was difficult to live with. When I was around, there was no calm. I tried the patience of everyone, and except for my family who did their best to tolerate me, I had few relationships and no real friends.

Perhaps in a more tolerant place, in a more tolerant culture, I would have been accepted enough to have some kind of life, but I lived in lonely despair, on the outside of society.

My emotions were unrelated to reality. Those familiar with my strangeness kept their distance; they never knew what might spring the hair-trigger trap.   A glance that lingered too long might set me off screaming, hurling epithets, maybe even lashing out violently.  A word that seemed innocent to others might cause me to break down in tears or curl up into a fetal knot, rocking myself to whatever small measure of comfort I could manage.

I could feel the emotion building inside me — big, powerful, explosive emotion — and I had no control over it.

I was not stupid, but it was hard to focus on learning when every moment was a struggle to maintain equilibrium. If I relaxed my vigilance for even a second, I could easily fall apart. It was exhausting.

I did not work but I received money from my family and a small stipend from the state, and was able to live in a tiny room by myself. It was better for everyone that I lived alone.

Many odd little rituals helped keep my mood level — not all the time of course, but at least for hours, sometimes even weeks on end. I woke up at the same time every day, ate the exact same thing for breakfast, wore the same clothes the same on the same day of the week.

I did my best to steer clear of strangers and they instinctively steered clear of me, but sometimes interactions were unavoidable.  Maybe somebody pushed past me on the street or cut in front of me at the market.  In these situations, I’d try to leave as quickly as possible before the emotions erupted. But if it was a bad day, if I was stressed by other things, I might not make it.  I might react in ways that were inappropriate.  I once screamed and ranted at a small child because he rode too close to me on his bicycle, frightening him and causing him to cry.  In moments like these, I hated myself.

In those moments when I could not calm myself, I had no restraint, even knowing I’d pay for my actions — cursing at the grocer,  shoving a neighbor, throwing and breaking my own possessions.

To the surprise of my family,  I lived to be quite old,  with the responsibility for my care passing from my parents to my siblings to their children.

None of them mourned too much when I finally passed over, but they were finally able to find some compassion.

 

—-

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 Stain

first published May 25, 2014

Sen

Sometimes you see something so horrific, it eats at you for several lifetimes. It changes your essence in a fundamental way. Ultimately this takes you to a higher level, where you are more compassionate, but it is still a scar on the infinite soul.

Of course, we must not hide ourselves from the truth, but it is nevertheless deeply disturbing to see, even from a distance, that humans can be so brutal.   It doesn’t matter if you’re the victim, the aggressor or merely a witness. The stain is the same.

 

 

****

I wonder again,  are these ghosts, spirits talking to me? Or are these stories just thoughts and emotions bubbling up from my own psyche? Can it be proven either way?  If it could be proven that these narrators are just manifestations of my own unconscious mind,  might it not also be possible that such thoughts were placed in my unconscious by energies beyond myself?  Or,  even more trippy,  that the energy inside myself is one and the same as the energy outside myself?

I might be delusional or I might be incredibly spiritually receptive.  Like Schrodinger’s cat, these possibilities exist at once.

Is there a difference,  generally speaking, between a prophet and a lunatic?   Perhaps there isn’t one.  Or perhaps  only a porous wall separates them.  Or maybe the truth is in eye of the beholder.

A skeptic might hold up Jim Jones as an example of a lunatic masquerading as a prophet.  A believer, on the other hand,  might argue that drinking the Kool-Aid and dying en masse was the spiritual destiny of those people; that the value of the lessons they learned along that path only became apparent on the other side.   In that case,  Jones was, indeed, their prophet.

I don’t expect I will ever know the answers to these questions.  I just find them interesting to ask.

—-

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

Rarefied

First published May 28, 2016

mountaintop

Arj

Looking back, if I have anything to apologize for, it’s that never apologized for anything. I did what I wanted, what I had to. If people were hurt or inconvenienced by the way I lived, this was their problem to solve. I couldn’t be responsible for the feelings or well-being of others. Should I have pulled back on the reigns of my ambition for fear of stepping on the toes of those who did not want to win as badly as I? Should I have kept promises which no longer suited me, for fear of shattering someone else’s dreams? (Simply being able to shatter the dreams of others made me feel powerful!)   Should I have allowed myself be weak so as to give space to those who were not as strong?  To do any of those things would have compromised who I was and who I was determined to become.

Others hesitated for such sentimental reasons, and consequently lost ground. Greatness requires a monomaniacal fixation on the prize.   One misstep, one falsely placed trust, one momentary glance away from the path, and it might all crumble; the fractured shatters of ambition tramped upon indifferently, like long-neglected Roman ruins.

The best game is at the top. There you meet others who are as good and as determined as you are. Maybe more so.  Players are steeled for a fight to the death. Dying is better than achieving that height without finally taking the prize.   Each, willing to die for the glory of standing in the rarefied air at the top of the peak. Each, willing to kill for the privilege of being able to look down and survey the land below, knowing everything and everyone belongs to you.

It was in this struggle that I felt most alive.

The urge drove me like a ravenous, heartless beast.

Most humans don’t have the stomach for this game. They do their best to stay out of the way of people like me. Little fish, schooling together, believing that in numbers and anonymity, they will better their odds of surviving the inevitable shark attack.

Most, even those with a fair amount of ambition, are limited by their unwillingness to sacrifice everything else in order to play The Big Game. They are unwilling to take what they want. Only those who take, get.  They are unwilling to compromise their so-called morals.

I had only one moral: Win at any cost.

And so I did.

I lived for years at the top of the mountain, self-glorified and in absolute belief that I was deserving of my lofty place. I never fell from grace; I died of old age at the pinnacle.

Only then did I understand what I had missed by not living in the valley below.

 

—-

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

He Carried a Torch

originally posted May 23, 2014

George_Rennie_Cupid_Rekindling_the_Torch_of_Hymen_at_the_V_and_A_2008

_

Dim

I married her because she was the closest thing to the One Who Got Away, but she was not the same girl at all. I probably should have married someone who was the total opposite so there would be no temptation for comparison; so I would not be constantly reminded of what I was missing.

The reality, of course, was that I had no idea what I was missing, or even if I was missing anything important or worthwhile.

I idealized her insanely; nobody could reach that impossible standard.  I hid this truth from my wife but such feelings cannot be concealed.  They permeate every action, every thought, leaving a whiff of disappointment and regret on everything.  My heart was elsewhere; my desires lived in the past.

My wife deserved to see love in my eyes, but I never fully gave myself to her. I held back a large part of myself for a phantom. I refused to let go of this fantasy of a missed lifetime of perfect love based on a few hormonal months when I was seventeen.

My wife didn’t know any of this. She just thought there was a piece missing from my soul; that I was crippled and unable to trust. I let her believe it. She was patient and loved me anyway, always hoping that someday I would let it all go and that she would be there when the floodgates opened, that she would finally be washed in all the love I’d been holding back. During the occasional discussions about my inability to embrace intimacy, I let her believe that this was the issue. I never told her “the truth.”

Looking back, it’s obvious that she was right the whole time. I was the one who didn’t understand the issue.

I never cheated. I was good and kind to her. I treated her well. I genuinely liked her and didn’t want to hurt her. She loved me and was good to me; she believed in me and was there for me whenever I needed her. And I really did appreciate all that. But still, I refused to give her my heart.

After she died, when I was in my late seventies,  I made a serious effort to find my lost love, as if it were my last chance to finally have what I’d been missing my entire life.

I never found her. (I know now that she died in her 20s. Oh, the irony of that!)

I lived my entire life chasing some imagined love out there when all the while, all I had to do was turn to my wife and look at her and really see her. If I had done that just once, everything after that might have been different.

I thought I was worshiping love, keeping it holy, when in fact I was avoiding it.

Perhaps it’s the same thing.

There are a lot of kinds of love, and one type is not necessarily better or worse than another. Most people are lucky to have even one kind of love in their life. To have more than one is to be truly blessed.

I was blessed, but I didn’t know it.

I should have trusted her with my heart. She would have taken gentle and good care of it.

 

 

—-

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 at 67

originally posted May 18, 2014

 

In February 2004, San Francisco began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Del Martin, 83, and Phyllis Lyon, 79, a couple that had been together for 51-years were the first to be married.

In February 2004, San Francisco began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Del Martin, 83, and Phyllis Lyon, 79, a couple that had been together for 51-years were the first to be married.

Ce

I married because it was what was done. I had children and I loved them but I can’t say there was a lot of love in my marriage. I did my wifely duties, and my husband did what was expected of him, but still, I suffered from the most profound loneliness.

In the beginning at least, there was a kind of friendship and a domestic comradery which made things tolerable. The thing is, I never cared much for sex. I never felt any passion for him, or for anyone. I just assumed this was how it was.   For a long time, when I saw ostensibly happy, loving couples, I thought they were just putting on a show for the sake of appearances. Or that they were lying to themselves and after a while, they would no longer be able to sustain the charade.

I had a good job as a supervisor in a large hospital so I was always financially independent. This was important to me in case I ever decided to leave.   I’m not really sure why I didn’t. I guess I was secretly afraid of what I’d discover about myself out there.

My children grew up, got married, and had children of their own. I loved my grandchildren and was happy to live so close, so we could be an important part of each others’ lives.

By this time in my life, I’d come to the realization that some couples really are happy. I was pleased to see that my children were among them. But this was a bittersweet feeling because it always made me wonder what was wrong with me. It made me realize what I had missed.

When I was 63, my husband was killed in a work-related accident. I should have been sad, but I felt nothing. For years, he’d merely been a presence in my life – neither positive or negative.   We both went about our business and never included the other in any interests or plans. The only time we appeared in public as a couple was at family functions and at holiday time, and even then, we didn’t relate much.

I often wondered if he kept a girlfriend on the side, but I wouldn’t have cared much if he did. His private life was of no concern to me.

After he was gone, I became more social. I joined clubs and organizations and even some citizen action groups.   I tried dating, at the insistence of my children, but no one ever interested me and it just wasn’t worth the effort.

When I was 67, I met a woman in one of my groups, who made me feel something I’d never felt for a man. For the first time in my life, another human being gave me butterflies. She was a few years younger than I was and a recent “widow”… (I later learned, from a long term relationship with a woman.)

I didn’t understand my own fascination at first. To be honest, it disgusted me. I disgusted myself. What kind of freak was I? I’d been married for nearly forty years. I had kids and grandkids. I wasn’t like that!

I convinced myself that I just enjoyed her friendship. I’d never met anyone before her with whom I was so compatible. We laughed at the same things. We’d read the same books,  had seen the same movies, and loved and hated them in the same measure and for the same reasons. We liked the same music. Had the same values. It was easy being with her. I felt I could tell her anything. We quickly became almost inseparable, but if my feelings drifted into the realm of romantic love, I quickly pushed them aside.

It went like this for over a year until finally she suggested we go on vacation together. I was happy to have someone to travel with – I’d always wanted to, but was afraid to go alone. To save money, we shared a room. It made perfect sense.   It didn’t occur to me that anything would happen. Looking back, I was in deep denial.

The second day, we walked for hours. That evening, she offered to rub my feet, and one thing led to another, and soon I was kissing her with complete abandon; with more passion than I’d ever felt in my life!

I am ashamed to say, I wasn’t very nice to her for the rest of our trip. I was scared and confused. But she understood and give me enough time and space to find my way back to her. And so I did.

Eventually, we moved in together. We called ourselves “roommates” and claimed it made the most efficient use of our limited budgets, but I’m not sure how many we actually fooled. Of those we didn’t,  I doubt any of them even cared. I always assumed my kids had figured it out, but they never actually said anything. They simply accepted us as a unit.

We were happy like that for many years, until at 85, she passed away in her sleep. At our age, it was inevitable that one of us would leave the other. I should have been prepared, but I was inconsolable. I, myself, was also gone within the year.

I know now that we’ve been together before, and that we will be together again. I just hope that next time, it doesn’t take so long for us to find each other. Maybe the lesson here is, it’s best to be true to yourself from the very beginning

 

 

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

A Mere Babe in the Woods

First published April 10, 

deep woods

                                                                       have a listen…

Gre

I was still just a girl when he took me as his bride.   It was just a few months shy of my sixteenth birthday when parents arranged for me to marry him.  He, at twenty-three, seemed ancient to me.

He was a hunter and trapper and lived deep in the woods, far from town, where we had both grown up.  Although he had some money, he was somewhat coarse and lacking manners, having lived alone for many years.   He was big and tall with a long thick black beard and wild black hair.  He towered over my tiny frame. Although his size was intimidating, he did not seem unkind. I was not afraid of him.

He had done well in his trade over the previous years, and felt it was time to take a bride; to start a family.  He came to town to seek not a beauty or a spoiled rich girl.  He needed a wife to do the woman’s work,  to mother his children.  He knew he could not live alone forever.  It would drive him mad, like some of the old woodsmen he’d met.

In the village, the daughters of wealthier fathers had better choices. I was a plain girl,  from a poor family.  I felt lucky that my parents were able to find me a husband at all.  To not have a husband and children was a cause of great shame. It was the worst kind of failure, a bad reflection on the girl herself, and her family. Nothing good became of such women.

I was not asked if I wanted to marry him. It was not my decision.  In any case, it was not a question I would have thought to ask even myself.  As most young girls, I’d often wondered what kind of man my future husband would be but it never crossed my mind that I would have any choice in the matter. I could only hope my parents chose well.

Our marriage was a practical transaction. He was in need of a wife and I was in need of a dependable husband with whom to make babies. He’d heard of me though some family of his who still lived in town.  He sought out my parents and made the arrangements. We were married in a quick service the next day. Afterward,  we rode back to his small house, in the forest,  far from any neighbors.

He was solitary by nature; not comfortable around people. A more social man never would have taken up that line of work.  Whether he preferred being alone because he was not good with people, or whether he was not good with people because he spent so much time alone, I really don’t know. I always suspected he never had much use for other humans.

In the beginning, living there was torture.  When he was home, he barely spoke at all,  and there was no one else to talk to.  I would often have imaginary conversations with myself, in my head when he was there,  or aloud when I was alone.  Every few weeks, we went to town for supplies and to visit my family;  more often in the nice weather,  less in the winter. Although the trip was arduous and took the better part of a day,   I always looked forward to it.

My family might not have had much money,  but I was trained to be a good, efficient, frugal wife.  I saw what needed to be done around the house and I did it without grumbling.  This was my lot in life, same as my mother’s, and her mother’s, and her mother’s before her.  Without choice, I had no cause for complaint. I did my best and learned to find satisfaction in my own accomplishments.

In bed,  he took me when he wanted me, not cruelly and not forcefully,  but neither without any passion or recognition of me as a person.

Eventually, there were children.  Five. Three boys and two girls.   The boys followed in their father’s trade, and the girls married better than I and lived in town.

After all those years of marriage, even without speaking,  we learned to communicate. We took care of each other, watched out for each other, even worried about each other.  We became kinder, more thoughtful.  We slowly pushed the boundaries of our trust.  We respected each other’s differences and gave each other plenty of room.  I don’t know if I would call it love,  exactly.  It was two people making the best of their circumstances.

He died at a old age, and by then, I was old myself.  It was too difficult for me to be alone in the house,  so I moved back into the town  to be closer to my children and grandchildren.

You might think, after all those years,  after all we’d been through together,  I would have missed him. But no. What I missed was the quiet solitude of the woods.

 

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

Who By Fire?

Originally published  5/15/14

Sati

Ra

I was nine when I was betrothed to him;  fifteen when we married. He was an old man to me at thirty-four; older even than my own mother. I went to live with his family – his brothers and their wives, and his proud and unkind mother. She was haughty and arrogant about being the mother to five children — all boys — who were obligated to take care of her. Their wives were just another set of servants required to cater her. She ruled the roost, not only at home, but in the village, too.   She acted as if having boys was all her doing; that she was somehow responsible for this stroke of fortune.

The first time he took me, I didn’t know anything about sexual relations. It hurt. There was no pleasure in it for me…not that time, and not ever. We didn’t even sleep in the same bed. I slept with the other wives, on mats on the floor in a small bungalow off the main house.

He called for me when he wanted me and I had to go.

I liked being pregnant because then he didn’t bother me too much. His mother made him leave me alone lest he hurt the child growing inside.  Although he had control over me, his mother had control over him. She could overrule any decision he made.

I was hoping for a boy, because then he could take care of me when I was old. I could make his wife a servant. But I had a girl. She was a disappointment to all.

My next child was a boy, but he was born sickly and weak and he died very young. I prayed so hard for him to get well, but when he didn’t, I just assumed it was because the gods didn’t listen to women like me. I was not important.

The next was also a girl and now my status was very low, indeed. She was a smart one, though. I could tell even when she was a tiny baby. The way she looked around and took in everything. She didn’t cry like normal babies. She just seemed to understand that nothing could be done about her discomfort. That was just the way it was.

I secretly hoped that she would break free somehow and not follow my path. One of the other wives knew how to read a little bit, and I begged her to teach my youngest the letters and words that would hopefully someday make her independent. She agreed, but as payment, I had to take her most unpleasant tasks. I didn’t mind. I was used to hard work. Every slop bucket I emptied, every floor I cleaned, gave me pleasure. I had no power in the world, but still I’d found a way to invest in my daughter’s future.

Normally, girls didn’t go to school but she was very curious. She was forever bothering her boy cousins with questions about what they’d learned in school. To their credit, they answered her, mostly because she was able to grasp it quickly and explain it back to them. She actually helped them with their schoolwork. She borrowed their books and would hide herself behind a tree or out in the field, and read them all.

When she was ten, I convinced my husband and mother-in-law to send her to school. My argument was that she was smart enough to someday get a real job, and bring money into the family. And so they did.  She did well, and wanted to continue her education.   There was no secondary school in our village, so she went far away and stayed there while classes were on. I missed her, but I knew she was happy. I wanted her to succeed.

Meanwhile, my oldest daughter was already married off; also sent to live with her husband’s family.  Her husband was closer to her own age and he seemed to love her. Fortunately her mother-in-law was a generous and pleasant woman. Her situation was already better than mine. It was the best I could have hoped for her.

When I was forty-two, my husband died. His mother, now very old and on the verge of death, herself, wanted me to commit sati. I did not want to die. I barely knew my husband as a full person; I obeyed him as was proper, but did not love him. I certainly wasn’t going to mourn him. The old witch knew this and it made her angry. In her mind, I should suffer from his death as she was suffering.

Truly, it is a mother’s greatest sorrow to bury her child. She didn’t seem to remember I, too, had buried a son.

Sati had long been outlawed, so I refused. Legally, she could not compel me. This was the first and only time I stood up to her and I was defiant. Better she should throw herself on his funeral pyre. She couldn’t have had more than a few years left, anyway. My defiance only angered her more. Who was I, a mere nothing, to refuse her command?

She seemed to back down, and I naively thought I’d won, but do you know what she did, that evil woman? She had me drugged! While my husband’s body was burning, I was led to the fire by her other sons, where I was half- hypnotized, half shoved into the flames.

She, herself, only lived a few months more.

 

—-

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

My Husband, My Jailer

Originally posted September 25, 2016

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, even 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.

—-

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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