The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “communicating with the dead”

The Vulture

 

NEW!

Und

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——————

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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 Harshing of the Mellow…

first published June 5, 2016

cassandra

Cas

I fancied myself a tragic Cassandra, my warnings to the world ignored and unheeded. I could recognize the birth of a killing wave long before even a ripple fluttered beneath the water. I paid attention when the stone was dropped, and could accurately calculate how long it would take before those waves engulfed the shore, There, the revelers and the workers plowed on, willfully oblivious to impending disaster.

I was not well-liked. Few wanted to be reminded that their own greed and selfishness and laziness and ignorance were contributing to an inevitable crisis.  Nobody wants to be lectured by someone who is in no better a position to stop the juggernaut than they are. The best way to get through life with any measure of happiness is to ignore the sword that hangs over all our heads.  But I could not let anyone forget.  I would not allow them the luxury of denial or ignorance.  They mocked me, condescended to me, ignored me because I could see what they refused to consider.

It didn’t matter that my predictions generally played out as I said they would. I was not sought for my advice.  Instead, I spent my life on the edge of panic, without hope, certain every moment that the end was imminent.

But of course the end is always imminent for everyone. This is the human condition. Each generation eventually dies. Society, technology, mores…they are always changing,  sometimes unrecognizably so in a very short time. What is calamitous to the parent is perfectly normal to the child. As the older generation loses its ability to adapt,  the young easily inhabit the new conditions, having known nothing else.  The human race is resilient, after all.

In the end, the pattern unspools as it was always meant to.  All the millions of moving parts conspire to weave the future in the only way possible.  My dire warnings and fears were for naught.  What did it matter that I could see further than most? There was nothing any of us could have done to have made things turn out differently.  There was nothing to do but wait for another tide.

——————

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

Living in Limbo

First published March 2, 2015


swings-111925_640

Wir

The turning point of my life came when I was thirty one. Until then, most of my moderate expectations had been met.  I fell in love, got married,  gave birth to a beautiful, clever little girl we both adored.  We were financially comfortable and happy together. My mind was uncluttered by much introspective thought or intense emotion.

When my daughter was 7, she disappeared. She’d been playing in the park with friends, and then, they called for her and she wasn’t there. Nobody had noticed anyone or anything. She’d simply vanished.

The police looked for her. My husband and I, our friends and family, we all looked for her. But we didn’t find her. Not alive. Not dead.

And so I lived the rest of my days in a limbo.  I was filled with the kind of intense emotions I’d never felt before, and did not know how to process. I cycled through grief, despair, guilt, anger, sorrow and the occasional scintilla of hope, which was always quickly extinguished and replaced by fresh grief.

Sometimes I heard stories of children returning to their parents after many years.  Somehow, they’d remembered and found their way back.  Naturally,  I hoped for such an outcome,  but after a time, I would have been relieved to know for certain that she was dead. If I could have given her a proper funeral, I might have been able to move on.  If I knew what had happened to her, I might have been able to forgive.  As it was, however, I never could settle on a single emotion, and so this was the cycle which spun the wheel which turned my life.

My husband and I stayed together, but it was never the same. We both felt a similar range of emotions, but our moods were infrequently aligned. We rarely connected, except on her birthday when we both seemed to feel the same. For many years, we’d get a small cake with a single candle. We’d bring out the old photo albums. But then it became too awful. It made us feel helpless and hopeless.  We each tried to make our way through our pain in our own way, but neither of us had much success. Compounding our pain was that we were of no comfort to each other. Even after many years, we both suffered alone.

Her being ripped from our lives so cruelly was for a reason; for the lessons on tragedy and mourning. At the time, however, it didn’t feel like any useful lesson. If anyone had suggested to me that it was part of a greater plan, I would have lost all control and attacked them ferociously. The pain was wrapped around me too tightly to loose its bonds. What mother can ever make sense of such a thing? To come to terms with it would have be tantamount to abandoning her; to losing her again. She remained alive in my sorrow.

Now, however, I am afforded greater perspective. The unrelenting pain of that life is finally healed. She and I are together again, awaiting a next time.

——————

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 Hand of a Stranger

NEW!

Var

The trouble came when I was quite young.  My father was taken away when I was about three and he never came back. My mother cried for a long time, but I never knew where he was or why he did not return.

These were times of famine and political unrest, difficult for everyone, but especially for a widow with a small child.

Eventually, it became too dangerous to remain where we were.  Not just us, but for many, many people.  So, when I was about six, we packed up the little we had and left the countryside for a large town.  It was far away – many weeks walking.

We were a miserable lot, most of us near starving, cold, filthy, exhausted, frightened. The fields we passed were mostly bare.  Drought had destroyed the crops.  But if we scavenged carefully, we might find something still edible – a buried root, a struggling vine, insects.  If we were lucky, perhaps a small animal.

We slept outside, wrapped in blankets, huddled together for warmth, or in makeshift tents.

One morning, after many days walking, my mother could not rouse herself.  Her eyes were sunken and glazed, and she struggled to breathe.  “Go with the others,” she told me.  ” Survive. Be brave. Be strong. Be good.”

I cried and begged her get up.  I was terrified. I refused to leave her until some others pulled me away from her and folded me back into the caravan, where I was carried away in the tide.

Now, not only was I starving, filthy, exhausted, cold, and frightened,  I was also alone in my mourning,  with new things to worry and be frightened about.

A few people were kind to me but they had their own worries and they could not make my problems, theirs.  Occasionally one of them shared with me from their own meager food supply — a scrap of a scrap, here and there. But most of them had to feed their own families.  An orphaned boy was not their problem.

Finally, after many, many days, we arrived in a large town. The local people did not like us country folk. They didn’t know us, didn’t trust us, didn’t want us around to threaten their livelihoods with cheap labor and a need for charity.

Some of the people in our group had family there. They, at least, had safe places to go.  Some of them had skills that enabled them to find paying work, although it was usually grudgingly. The others only had their backs and remaining strength to offer. They struggled to survive, but at least they were adults.

But me?  I was an orphan with nobody to watch out for me, nobody to care if I lived or died.  But I’d promised my mother I’d survive and I’m sure it was that determination that kept me alive. I begged on the street,  ate discarded fruit and vegetables left on the ground after the market closed, slept against doorways to protect against the worst of the elements.  I was usually chased away from several before I found somewhere to settle in for the night.

One evening, I curled up in front of a small shop that sold pots and pans and other such housewares. The store owner came out and looked me over. I picked myself up,  sure I was about to be kicked along my way.   But he took compassion on me and brought me into his shop, which was warm!  I hadn’t been warm in months!  He give me a piece of bread and some soup that was heating on the wood stove. I was so grateful, I couldn’t say anything but thank you, bless you, thank you.

He allowed me to sleep inside,  enjoying the remaining residual warmth of the fire when there was nothing left but embers. The next morning, he gave me some fresh bread and tea for breakfast, and asked me to sweep the street out front, which I did gladly, with gratitude.  He asked me to climb up the ladder to fetch things he couldn’t reach, and scoot down low to pull things out from under the counter.

He was an older man,  maybe the age of my grandfather (whom I barely remembered). I learned later that his wife and child had died many years before, and he was alone.  He seemed as happy for my company as I was for his.

As we both got older, I got stronger and he got weaker, and he came to rely on me even more.  I was there for him in his old age.  There with him when he was too infirm to leave his bed.  I sad beside him,  and held his hand as he crossed over.

The store passed into my hands.   I eventually found a wife and we had two sons, who took the business from me when I passed on many decades later.

I never forgot his kindness to me and for as long as I lived, I endeavored to pass that kindness on to others.

——————

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

Satiated

Originally published June 23, 2016

stew

Ki

I was born in the time of famine. The crops had withered and died, and soon the animals followed.  We might have left to seek better circumstances but we were trapped geographically, surrounded by water and inhospitable terrain on three sides, On the fourth, in the distance, were soldiers stationed at the edge of a war.

As I child, I knew nothing but deprivation. There was barely water or food to survive. Starvation —  along with all its related miseries — were a permanent condition.  Few lived to see full adulthood.

Such a life doesn’t offer many opportunities for spiritual lessons.  To think about anything except the next scrap of food or the next drop of water was more effort than I or anyone else could spare. Philosophy was a luxury we could not afford.  There was no time to contemplate life; not a moment to wonder if one was on the right path; no opportunity to weigh one’s options. The choice was to blindly follow the trail of others, one step at a time, or lay down and die. But in my short life, I found another way,  all because of one specific day,  which I recall even now with the same amazement, longing, and wonder.

We lived in a remote place which rarely saw outsiders.  One day, some foreign workers passed through our village. They saw how we were starving and took pity on us.  They gave us whatever food they could spare. It wasn’t much and we had to share among all of us.  The women cooked it all into a weak soup to make it go further.  It did not have much flavor but it had more nutritional value than anything I had ever eaten. It was the first time in my entire life that I was able to eat until satisfied. It was I feeling that I could never forget.

If I considered the outside world at all, it was to wonder if there were people who filled their bellies every day.  Were there some, like those strangers,  who never went hungry?  After the visitors,  I began to have a sort of recurring dream.  There was always a big welcoming pot of soup on the fire.  I’d lean in to smell and taste,  and I could see all kinds of wondrous things floating in the broth.  The imagined meats and vegetables were completely fantastical because I had never seen much of either in reality, and had no point of reference.  Mostly, they were just larger and more interesting versions of the few foods I’d actually encountered.  A thick stew overflowing with beans and roots.  Once, I dreamed a hawk dropped a goat into the pot from the sky.

I knew nothing of the world outside my village.  My people were too poor and weak to travel; too close to death every day to worry about what was happening elsewhere.

Finally,  driven by the fantasy that there existed a place where people ate until sated,  I set out from my village in the only direction I could – towards the war.  If I died on the way, or if they ultimately killed me,  it would hardly be a fate worse that the one I had in store remaining where I was.  But perhaps they would feed me! Perhaps I could experience that wonderful feeling of satisfaction again.

So I walked, surviving the route much the same way I survived in my village –foraging, digging, perhaps catching a small animal or bird.

Arriving at the encampment,  I collapsed at the gate in utter depletion of all my physical and mental resources. In that condition, I was no danger to them; that much was obvious.  They nursed me back to some strength, and when I was able, I worked for them doing small tasks to earn my keep.  I would do the jobs that nobody else wanted to do,  just to be fed.

Despite their kindness, I didn’t live very much longer. All those years of deprivation had exacted their toll on my body.  But I died with my belly full,  and so I died happy.

——————

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 Lure of the Jungle

Original publication date Feb 23, 2015

baby_monkey_2

Ca

I once had a pet monkey.  I loved him but he did not stay long.

He was just a baby when I found him. He was hurt and frightened. He’d been orphaned or perhaps abandoned. People believe that every mother has a biological drive to protect her child, but I can tell you this isn’t always so.  So I took him as my own child. I nurtured him and taught him as best I could.

After some time, he began to run away.    The first time, he was gone for a whole day. I looked for him everywhere! I called his name through the trees until my throat was sore.   I was mad with grief and panic! I was sure I would never see him again. But then, the next morning, there he was in his favorite spot on the porch. He greeted me as always. I was so happy to see him, I forgave him for putting me through all that.

As he got older, he began to run away more often. Each time, he stayed away longer and longer. Each time, I was sure I’d seen the end of him but he always came back. For a long time, each time he ran away, I would cry and worry but after a while, however, he was gone more than he was with me. When he went away, I simply shrugged my shoulders and went about my days, without giving him much thought.  I stopped looking for him.

He would return when he returned.

When he did, I let him inside, but I did not hold him close. I stopped feeding him. He didn’t need that from me anymore. I did nothing to keep him bound to me.  I did not allow my emotions to be stirred. I knew he would be gone again soon.

Until a year passed and I realized he was gone for good.

Eventually I moved away from that place. If he ever returned, he did not find me. He could no more stay with me than I could have lived in the trees in the jungle.

I soon forgot the pain of loving that monkey but I remembered the lesson: no matter how much somebody loves you,  if it suits them better to be elsewhere, they will leave. Sooner or later, everyone seeks to exist in the place where they are most comfortable; to live in their natural habitat.

 

——————

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</e

There For Each Other…Again

First published June 14, 2016

 

Where: Somewhere along the beach in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. When: August 2012. What: Three young men enjoying the sunset together. Camera info: Contax G1, 28mm Biogon, Kodak Portra 400.

 

 Maj

I was born into a family who lived on the outside.  We were not part of the main culture.  We did not follow their customs or traditions. We did not celebrate their holidays.  What was perfectly normal for us was an oddity to our neighbors.  Our family tried to be as unobtrusive as possible.  We made a special effort to be friendly, polite, law-abiding.  My brother and I were encouraged, cajoled, pressured,  to do well in school.   We did not know too many others like us except for extended family,  and they did not live very close.

I was the only one like me in my class throughout my lower school years but late into secondary school,  I met a few other boys about my age. Had we met in a place where everyone was like us,  we probably wouldn’t have chosen each other.  Personality-wise,  we were nothing alike,  but by this shared odd circumstance,  being three of a kind in a sea of others, we became bonded.

These boys remained my dear friends all through my life,  even after we discovered larger communities of our people, and tapped into its business network.  Ever after we didn’t need each other anymore.  Despite our differences,  we remained close.

We forgave each other sins that would rend other relationships asunder.  We trusted each other with secrets nobody else in the world knew, not even our wives.  We were brothers.  It was understood that if something should happen to one of us, the others would take care of his family.   We were responsible for and to each other.  We shared a storied history.

We didn’t discuss or analyze the nature of our friendship.  We all understood it the same way.  There was nothing to discuss. We knew what had to be done.  We knew what had to be said.  And we knew when to do and say nothing.

I sometimes I forgot how much they meant to me.  Sometimes,  I took them for  granted.  Sometimes I needed time away from one or the other one  because he exasperated me so.   Sometimes,  there was anger, and it seemed as if the friendship might be over, but none of us felt quite whole without the others, and so somebody would apologize. They would make the effort to reconcile.  They would recognize their own fault in it. They would take responsibility for it.  And in this way,  we grew as men.

It was only after they were both gone that I truly understood how important they’d been to  my life.  I didn’t survive them by very long.  We were all old men when we died. But that short while of living without them was spent in the contemplation of their friendship, and its importance to all of us.   How blessed I felt to have known these simple men.

Now we are together again and always will be, in some form or another.

——————

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

 

photo credit: Simon Garnier    http://www.simongarnier.org/three-friends/

 

Skin Deep

First published February 20, 2015

vintageglam

Gai

I was a great beauty. All my life, I was grateful for this. It opened many doors which never would have opened to me if I’d been born plain.

My mother had been a great beauty herself as a girl, and was still beautiful as I became a young woman. She’d been divorced from my father since I was small. For my entire childhood, she was obsessed about finding a second, wealthy husband. She studied, calculated, plotted. She was singular in this goal.

She was not above telling men that I was her baby sister; that she was raising me alone after our mother died. This, she believed, made her seem saintly and nurturing without the taint of “used merchandise.”   She dated a lot of men, but to her great heartbreak, promise seemed to vanish just as she was feeling most hopeful about permanence.

To the outside world, she remained gay and carefree, but alone at night, while doing her evening beauty regimen, she’d examine herself in the mirror and fret that her looks would run out before she found a suitable man. She had no means of supporting herself. Her only skill was to convince a man to take care of her. If she lost that advantage, she’d have nothing.

She taught me everything she knew. She showed me how to use a coy glance to bring a man to my side. She taught me how to tease a man with promises of his own imagination.  She taught me the trick of giving just enough to make him want more, but not so much as to ever satisfy him. She dressed me to accentuate my natural assets (which were considerable.) She showed me the secrets of maquillage, which, when used skillfully can make a woman appear to be more or less than what she actually is.

When I was sixteen, I fell in love with a sweet young man. We talked about running away together. Mother quickly broke us apart and forbade me to see him again. I was devastated.   A woman’s status, she explained, was completely dependent upon the status of the men in her life. She had great hopes for me. I would use my beauty to marry somebody powerful and wealthy. She would not let me throw myself away on a common boy who would never go very far.  There would be more suitors, she promised, of far higher caliber.

And so there were. Mother made sure of that. She pushed and preened and schooled me; she insinuated me into the right circles. She invented a story for me to tell about myself. I met rich, handsome men. Captains of industry and their sons. Famous entertainers. Influential politicians. Mother married me off to the best prospect. I was elated. I had won the prize! My life was exactly as it was meant to be.

But soon I was no longer happy. We had both conquered each other and had no further need of each other. An unhappy wife makes an unhappy husband. And vice versa. We ended in divorce, but not before I had acquired property and position. I did not want to make the same mistake my mother had made.

I was a divorcee but I was moving in more rarefied circles. I leapfrogged from one man to the next, each more powerful and wealthy than the last. I accumulated status and money. All that was important to me was to rise as high as possible above my standing at birth. I swore I would not end up like my mother.

Over the years, Mother’s fret gave way to worry. The worry eventually blossomed into full panic. By the time she was in her late forties, she was finding it difficult to hold her desperation in check, even though she knew she must — nothing sends a lover fleeing faster than the fetor of desperation.

Eventually, she found a much older man to marry. To my mind, he was a soft and ugly beast, but he was well-off and kind to her,  and she was grateful for him.

I did not want to become a woman who waited for men to choose her. I vowed to always be the one to chose. Even as I got older, I carried myself with confidence. I was an aging beauty but a beauty nonetheless. When I wanted to, I could still be quite charming. But I was selfish; I was vain; I was spoiled (as beautiful woman often are.)   I was perfectly willing to use anyone who could be helpful without a single thought to the consequences for them. I was very practiced at extracting what I wanted from others,  as quickly as possible, with as little emotional investment as possible.

I married three times. I had two children, both of whom met tragic ends, ravaged by the plague of a selfish, vain, spoiled mother. I can’t say I mourned very deeply at the time. We’d never been particularly close.

Few, if any, of my ex-lovers or husbands had much good to say about me. Once my spell on them was broken, all my ugliness became apparent. I made no effort to hide it. I didn’t try to be polite or kind. It mattered not what they thought of me; they were of no use to me any longer.

One evening, when I was in my late 70s, I came home from a gala, went to sleep and never woke up. Some acquaintances might have shed a polite tear or two, but there was nobody to truly mourn me. I’d only grazed the surface of the lives of others.

My mother had convinced me that my beauty was a key that would open doors for me. I understand now that it was not a key at all. It was the padlock. It kept me a prisoner of shallow intentions.

——————

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

Cleaved

First published Feb 17, 2015

fetus in womb

Zoj

As a small child and well into adulthood, I felt a part of me was missing. It was as if my soul existed both within me and without me, and I had no agency over the part outside myself.

I could not explain this sensation in any way that would allow another human to understand. To others, I seemed strange. My feelings were often bizarrely congruent. For example, sometimes, when things were going badly, when I was hurt or deeply disappointed, when my heart was broken and by all rights I should be crying, I’d be filled with a strange sense of satisfaction or happiness.

The day my father died, I was weeping and mourning with my family, feeling all the pain any adult child might feel at the loss of a beloved parent. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by a deep sense of joy and peace. I stopped crying and sat wordless, smiling beatifically. In an instant, I no longer felt like grieving.

By then, people were used to my strange moods.   They shook their heads and reminded each other in whispers that I’d always been odd.

Sometimes, too, in the middle of a happy time, when it seemed everything was going my way, I would be stricken by a sadness that sucked all the joy out of me. On my wedding day, I could not stop crying. I loved my husband.  He was the right man for me. I was thrilled to be marrying him. I had no doubts. And yet, I was filled with inexplicable sadness. They made no sense, not even to me.

Eventually, my husband and I moved to the city.   One day, a friend became angry at me because she said I had snubbed her in public. I had no such recollection. “You looked right at me, smiled back at me, and kept walking.”

Then it happened again. And again.

Sometime, strangers would approach me, greeting me familiarly, calling me by a different name. When I denied I was who they thought I was, most did not believe me. Some thought I was joking or playing a game. One or two became angry or insulted.

I began to seriously question my sanity. I was used to my unexpected emotions but I would never ignore my friends. I was not rude. I worried that the issues which had plagued me all my life were now progressing into a serious mental disorder. Was I losing touch with reality? Was I losing hours without knowing it? Was I losing my ability to recognize familiar people?

I did not share my fears with my husband so as not to worry him.

It went like that for perhaps a year.

Then, one day, I was in a café, reading a newspaper, having a my lunch. Out of the corner of my eye, I perceived what I believed, in that first tenth of a second, was my own reflection. In the next tenth of a second, I realized this was not so. We were not moving in tandem. We were not dressed alike.

I looked again, this time, more carefully. She hadn’t noticed me yet.

I could not stop myself from staring. Finally, I stood up and walked over to her table, and sat down in front of her.   She picked her face up from her book, first in annoyance at being disturbed, and then, her jaw dropped in incredulity.

We were not merely two people who looked similar. We were identical. Even to a mole on high on our right cheek.

We sat there for what felt like a long time, just staring at each other.   She too, had had a lifetime of disconsonant emotion. Her recent encounters with strangers and the upset of friends at having been snubbed had also made her question her sanity.

But now, the logic was beginning to dawn.

“Birthday?” I asked. Just one word. She immediately understood the importance.

It was the same as mine.

*****

When we were little more than a cluster of cells, we split in two. “I” became “we” inside our mother’s womb. There, we shared one soul. When our forms became more distinct, our soul also split in two. One soul, one set of DNA, two separate people.

We came into the world minutes apart, and clung to each other in our first hours. Others saw us as two, but we still felt as one.

Our mother was sick and poor and alone, not able to care for us. And so we were given away to those who could. No one would take us both. Those with the power over our lives decided it was best for us each  to have a loving home, rather than to remain together in an orphanage. Cleaved yet again, both from mother and each other.

We were too young to remember any of this. Even our adoptive parents did not know we were twins.

****

That was the first time in our lives we both felt whole and that our feelings made sense.

We each had places to go, obligations to keep. It was painful to take leave of each other but we arranged to meet later that evening, in the same cafe. We talked until the place closed down. We then went back to her apartment which was closer than mine. Her husband and son were already sleeping, but she insisted I peek into the boy’s room to see him. My nephew! Flesh and blood, twice in one day!

From that day on, we were as inseparable as two separate people can be. Our families became one. Our children played as cousins. Our husbands became as brothers.

We still felt each other’s feelings, but they were no longer a mystery.

We both lived to be quite old, and died within months of each other. And here we are, together, waiting to be born again. Perhaps as one, perhaps as two.

 

——————

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

Compound Fracture

Originally published May 9, 2016

Exposición Sistema métrico campo de fútbol de Hisae Ikenaga. Abierto x Obras. MATADERO MADRID. Abril 2011

Kar

It was an accident. I was only a child myself when it happened. It destroyed my family. It destroyed my life.

My little brother was three. I was five.   We were playing together,  as we often did.  Typical boys of that age, we were loud and wild, often disobedient (especially me) and always looking for new ways to get around the rules.

My mother stored some special sweets in a high cabinet far out of our reach,  available only as rewards when we were well-behaved.  One morning, when she was distracted  by other things,  I convinced my brother that we should climb up and retrieve them.   We stacked some chairs, stools,  small tables,  and boxes into a makeshift ladder to enable us to reach the cupboard.

Then, in an instant it was over.  The pile collapsed and we came crashing down, bouncing first off the counter which was crowded with jars, canisters, sharp implements.  Somewhere along the fall,  he hit his head.  There was a lot of broken wood and shards of sharp, smashed ceramic.   I landed hard on top of him.

Mother came running when she heard the noise and found us in a bloody pile. I was hurt — my arm was badly broken – but I was still conscious. My brother was not. He was bleeding so much, it was hard to know exactly from where.

My mother rushed his limp body to the doctor who immediately realized the need for the hospital, where my father joined her. Two days later,  my brother was dead.

From that point on,  my family was irrevocably broken. My father blamed my mother for not taking proper care of us; for leaving us unattended even for five minutes, but she barely heard him.  She  blamed herself even more, and that was a much louder voice in her head. My own guilt and pain were only just beginning.

At the time, I was too scared, and my parents were too distracted,  too inconsolable,  too angry at me and at each other for me to dare mention the pain in my arm.  I never said a word about it.  The break eventually healed unattended and incorrectly, rendering my arm practically useless for the rest of my life,  a physical  reminder of what I’d done; an external symbol of my internal pain.

Over my lifetime, I must have replayed that morning in my head a million times. If only I hadn’t suggested we climb, he would still be here with us.  If only I had landed first and he fell on top of me perhaps he would still be alive.  If only Mother had not been so stingy with the sweets, I would not have spent my life crippled and racked with guilt.

The guilt and blame destroyed my parents’ marriage. They did not divorce, for they were bound forever by this tragedy  but there was no love, no kindness, no compassion for each other’s suffering. They lived together, side by side, going through the motions,  each alone in their unhealed pain

My mother died when I was 15.  My father was never an expressive man.  He had barely said a word to me for most of my life, but while my mother was alive,  there was some semblance of communication as they maintained a semblance of a normal life.   Once my mother was gone, however, he made no secret of ignoring and avoiding me.   He could barely stand to have me around.  His disdain seemed natural and understandable to me.

I left home a few years later and never saw him again. I heard after the fact that he died a few years after I left  but I felt no sorrow. He had been dead to me since my childhood.

I lived the life of a wanderer, doing what I could to make enough money to survive, living hand to mouth. I was often hungry and homeless but I knew life did not owe me more. I had to pay for what I had done.

Although I could not have articulated it then, this was my spiritual debt. If I hadn’t paid it while I was alive, I would have had to pay for it eventually.  I know now, that this was a debt already owed from a lifetime previous, when I committed evil with impunity.

——————

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

 

Photo:  ¨Furniture pile¨, 2011, furniture¨ HEIGHT OF ABIERTO X OBRAS SPACE: 102 STACKED UP FURNITURE Photograph by Paco Gómez/NOPHOTO.

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