The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “communicating with the dead”

Asch in Ashes

First published July 5, 2017

This week is the 109th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. March 25, 1911

 

Mir

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

______

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!

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

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

first published August 24, 2018

Nali

In the final years of my life, I and most everyone I knew were burdened by the heavy yoke of existential dread, knowing the Angel of Death might have been around any corner. He could have appeared anywhere, in any number of forms. There were so many different ways to die which during better times had never even occurred to us.

In the days of trouble, even the very old didn’t die of old age.  They might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Or perhaps infected with whatever fatal disease that was killing everyone.   Or maybe it was just the same slow starvation that weakened everyone.  The Angel of Death sometimes swooped down quickly, and took his prey without notice, without  witnesses.  Sometimes he took his prey in smaller bites, tormenting his victim with pain and suffering for many months, or even years.

And yet, we fought on.  There was no other choice but suicide. Some did choose that option. It was hard to blame them.  The poisonous fear flowed through our veins, carried by our blood, infecting every cell in the body with its black toxin.  It was more than many could bear — knowing that death would likely come soon, but not knowing how or when, not knowing how much suffering we might have to endure before the very end.

During those years, there was never complete joy.  Here and there,  we managed to grab a few moments of it  — an embrace between old friends, a stolen kiss, some food in the belly, a familiar song or smell or taste that reminded us of better times — but they were always eclipsed by the shadow of the Angel’s ominous, black wings, and the taint of blood, ever in the water.

The dread gnawed at me, ground me down. Like an automaton, I kept moving, putting one foot in front of the other, but it no longer mattered to me where I ended up.  It was pointless to make a plan, to have a goal or destination.  I had no control over my life and eventually gave up trying to exert any.

One day, I was caught by soldiers. I didn’t care enough to resist. One of them pulled his pistol out and took aim at my head. In that brief moment between knowing I was about to die and actually dying, I had but one emotion:  relief.  At last, the anticipation was over.  No more trying to hide, tensed for tragedy. The ending of my story was finally known. The tightly wound coil inside me sprang open and all the stress left my body. I was empty of it before the bullet hit my flesh.

Though I was gone, others managed to survive until it was all over. They lived, eventually, in peace and plenty, had children and grandchildren. But even in their many joys, they never forgot the shadow.

 

—-

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 Passing of a Dear Friend

 

New

Aside from my old boyfriend, L,  whom I write about last week,  I haven’t actively asked for signs or attempted to contact anyone that I’ve personally known who has passed on. (Although I  used to have some lovely visitations from my grandfather.)  But sadly,  a dear friend of mine of 35 years, H, passed away this week.  She had faced a lot of health challenges for well over a decade, maybe longer.  She had decided after the last incident when she was in the hospital for months, nearly dead more than once,  that the next time she got sick again, she was not going to allow the doctors to medically intervene to stop the inevitable.  She couldn’t bear another few months on her back in “the big house” as she called it, nor the long slow slog in rehab to get her strength back, to be able to stand and walk again, to get back to a semi-normal life.  Whenever I hadn’t heard from her for a while, I always feared the worst.  I knew the one of these days, that call would come. Each time she called me, it was a relief to hear from her.

She hadn’t been able to drive in years because of the heavy pain meds she was on, but she was determined to get off the medication, get her license back, and get back behind the wheel.  She’d finally succeeded. Only three weeks before her death, she’d leased a car.    She knew she didn’t have long to live — her health issues were a ticking time bomb — but she fought hard to stay independent and functional.   Being able to drive again went a long way towards allowing her to feel as if she were her old self again, even though she knew it was temporary.  Even a few good months, at this point, would be a blessing. On her last evening, she had driven to see her beloved dad at his assisted living place,  something which had not been easy for her to do without her own set of wheels.

Coming back home from her evening’s visit,  she had a massive stroke behind the wheel and crashed into a parked truck.  Fortunately, nobody else was injured.   I know if she had hurt anyone else, her soul would not have rested easy.  She, herself, was shattered.  Her bones were already so brittle, her skeleton was made of toothpicks.  She was still unconscious when they airlifted her to a hospital and died the following morning with her family at her side.  Whether it was the stroke that killed her or the trauma to her body,  I am not even sure anyone asked.   All in all, though violent and shocking, it was one of the best ways for her to go.  She was in a relatively good place in her life — well enough, mobile enough, to get around; finally driving again;. She was as functional as she was ever going to be again in this lifetime.  She had just spent time with her father, whom she adored. As traumatic as the end finally was, it was a far, far better end than a slow, painful death in the hospital,  pumped up with morphine to keep the pain at bay.

Her family felt the exact same way.  Although H. was a lapsed Catholic (quite a big deal, since she’d gone from kindergarten through graduate school at Catholic institutions),  and asked for a Unitarian funeral,  in the end, her family gave her typical Catholic send off.   Her brother told me he was relieved she hadn’t died at home alone, perhaps not being discovered for days, thus missing the opportunity to receive Last Rites.  I am not sure she would have taken that sacrament of her own choice (although at the very end,  she might have found comfort in it)  but if she was astrally present, I think she would have approved, knowing how much that ritual comforted her family — especially her devout father.

Though I am sad at her death,  I feel incredibly grateful that her end was quick and painless and she never saw it coming.  If a fortune teller had told her 3 years ago that she was going to die in car accident while driving, she would have demanded her money back, so ridiculous would that notion have seemed at the time, (given her lack of a driver’s license and significant health problems.)  We all figured we knew how she’d go, herself included.  I am so relieved that it didn’t happen when she was home alone, as well.  Not for religious reasons, but I could not have borne the thought of her home alone, perhaps even partially conscious,  immobile,  terrified, suffering,  with death no longer an abstract concept but rather right up in her face.  I am happy that she did not have to endure another stint in the hospital, knowing this time for certain that she’d never get out. These would have made too unbearably sad and lonely an end for such a beautiful soul.

H. read/subscribed to this blog so she knew of this project.   She knows that I make an effort to communicate with the other side. So I have told her,  “If you’re out there, and you can ‘read’ me,  I’m listening.”   While  I’m receptive to any signs she might offer, when I was trying to think of a sign I could ask for,  the image of Lilies of the Valley popped into my head.  It has no significance for either of us — not a fragrance she or I wore; not her birth month flower — but let’s see what comes up.

I do feel her around me very strongly but perhaps that’s just because I’m thinking of her so much.

Rest in peace, my dear, sweet friend.

 

The Rule of Anarchy

Originally published March 26, 2015

Kha

In the time and place when I last lived it was impossible to tell the righteous from the evil.  Sometimes,  your enemy could be kind or generous or offer you aid in your time of need; and sometimes your own friends and family betrayed you.  Trust was a luxury in which no one dared indulge, not even in love.  Allegiances fluttered like leaves on the trees; showing first  one face and then suddenly, with a slight change in the wind,  exposing their pale, veined undersides to the sun.

I worked hard to avoid aligning myself with either camp, but this proved nearly impossible. I pretended to be feeble-minded so they would not demand too much of me; so they would not press me too often into service for their cause. If I could not be relied upon to do their bidding, I would not be asked. Or, if I were asked and I failed, I would not be thought a traitor.

But what was a traitor? A traitor to what? What was left to betray? Nothing was black or white, up or down, right or wrong. Everything was a muddy dun-colored pile of string. You could not tell from looking if it was comprised of one long one strand or a hundred short ones. But it did not matter if it was it was all connected or not. In the beginning,  it had all been of one piece. Chopping it apart did not make the parts manifestly different from each other.

They all liked to believe they stood for something unique but there was no difference. People ostensibly chose sides but in reality, loyalties were too easily bought and sold for sides to have any real meaning. People stood with whomever could best provide what they needed most at that moment…food,  protection, shelter, weapons.

There was no law…not of government, not of God, and not even most natural laws of man. Society did not exist, only quotidian anarchy.

This was all I ever knew in that life.  My ruse of playing the fool worked to keep me  out of any political tug of war and away from accusations, but it could not save me from random violence. I was killed by a bomb, along with the guilty, the innocent and the undecided.

_____

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

Control Freak Marie

Originally posted 5/9/15

control freak https://thelivesofthedead.wordpress.com

 

Marie  (I got names on this one)

Margaret called me to tell me the news. I’d been expecting it for months; always on pins and needles waiting for the call to say that Mum was finally gone. She’d been deteriorating for a couple of years, but since the previous winter, when she’d taken a nasty spill on the icy sidewalk in front of her house, she hadn’t been herself.   She was mentally closed in. She didn’t care about anything any more. She’d lost her appetite for baking, for her favorite TV shows, for Bingo – for any of the small things that had previously brought her joy.

I’d tried to plan my life around her inevitable and impending passing. I knew when the time came, I’d have to go back home for a few weeks to help Margie sort things out, sell the house, settle the estate. I never committed myself firmly to any social plans that I couldn’t back out of at the last minute. I made sure to carefully document everything I was doing at work, so anyone else could step in and pick up where I’d left off.   I didn’t leave anything for the last minute, but instead made sure I was ready to go at a moment’s notice. I even had a packed bag stowed in the hall closet.

I liked having everything under control. People thought I was uptight and anal, but I found a kind of comfort in having no loose ends, planning for every possible contingency.  I had no patience for those who were caught unaware because they hadn’t thought things through. That was just sloppy living, as far as I was concerned.

I lived conservatively, saving as much as I could so I’d have a nice nest egg when I retired…in 30-something years.   I kept my resume up to date and made sure I was current on all the newest industry news and technology, just in case my employment situation changed. When I took a vacation, every hotel, every activity, every transportation connection, every moment, was planned.   I was not a spontaneous kind of girl.

So, when the Margie’s call came, I called the airline (I’d already done the research on bereavement airfares) and made my reservation.   I told my boss that the time was finally here. (She already knew I’d be gone for a few weeks, and knew how to retrieve my updated files and worksheets.) When I got home, I called the funeral home to set into motion arrangements which had already been made. I booked a car service to take me to the airport for my 10 a.m. flight. I called my neighbor who had my key and had already agreed to water my plants.   At 6:30 a.m. I pulled my bag from the closet and threw in a few last minute items. The car arrived at 7:00 and off we went. It was only a twenty-minute drive to the airport, but I wanted to be sure I left myself plenty of time, just in case there was traffic.

In the back of the taxi, I was sad but calm. Everything was under control.

I was searching through my handbag, mentally calculating how many people we could expect at the house after the services, when I caught some movement ahead. I looked up, curious, to see the side of a huge tractor-trailer coming at us at 50 miles an hour.   In actual fact, the truck had jack-knifed and wasn’t moving at all. We were the ones going 50mph.

The next thing I knew, I was here. Like this. Looking back.

I realize from this perspective how much of my life I wasted on planning. I should have taken more chances. I thought I was protecting myself from risk, but in fact, I was just boxing myself off from growth. Perhaps it’s just as well that I died young. I’m sure I never would have changed, and it would have been another fifty, sixty years of mere existence, and what’s the point of that?   At least now I have the opportunity to start 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

Coincidence or Communication from Beyond?

Yesterday, I was thinking about an old boyfriend, L.  I met him in my twenties and we had an intense yearlong affair, then he moved out of the country, back to where he was from.  We stayed in touch. We both had other relationships but in between, we always found ourselves back in touch.  Every few years, we’d meet up somewhere, spend a week together.  The old feelings and passion were still there for both of us.  He was the only man, until I met my husband,  who ever “got” me.  We adored being in each other’s company.  But he was deeply flawed — he cheated on every woman he’d ever had a relationship with.  He lied.  He was emotionally uncommunicative.  He drank too much.  He took advantage of everyone’s kindness and patience. He was selfish. We were good for short bursts but I knew that if we ever lived together I’d quickly be miserable.  He, however, held on to the hope that someday, somehow, we would end up together, maybe grow old together.

Then I met my husband.  Initially L assumed this was just another affair that would burn itself out like all the others before (because how could I ever love anyone more than I loved him?) He expected he and I would go back to the way we’d always been. I assured him that M and I were forever.

Although I’d loved L, I hated that I loved him. He had hurt and disappointed me so often,  it was a relief to finally feel nothing for him.

Even after M and I were married,  L would call me now and then to see how I was doing (maybe checking to see if M and I were still together).  He was living in Miami by then, and I in NYC. We’d become Facebook friends and kept in touch with occasional text conversations.  He asked me several times if I’d come visit him — with M.   He just wanted to see me.  So, when M and I went to visit his mother in Florida, about nine years ago,  we took an afternoon drive to  meet him and his girlfriend at the Hard Rock Cafe in Hollywood.  It was a surreal place to meet.

I almost didn’t recognize him.  It was shocking and sad to see what he’d become.  He used to be absolutely stunning;  a smart, savvy businessman with a deep soul, who could always make me laugh.  Now he was a mere husk of his former self.  He sat there inert, barely speaking. She did all the talking. He wasn’t senile.  He simply had no spark.  This was a man who used to ooze mojo. Women would fall at his feet. (For me, it had been love at first sight.)  Now he was an empty shell with no life force. For as long as I’d known him, he’d been on anti-anxiety meds and anti-depressants. That, coupled with the heavy drinking and the fact that he didn’t take care of himself, had all taken their toll.   Health-wise, he was a mess. As a human, he was barely there.

Although he’d still text me via Facebook, over time his messages become unintelligible word salad.  He’d call me on the phone from time to time, but was nearly incoherent.  I eventually stopped responding.  I didn’t know if it was a permanent condition or if he only reached out to me when he was drinking and feeling sentimental. Either way, it was difficult and unpleasant to converse with him.  I no longer wanted to make the effort to peer inside him to understand what he was feeling, something I used to do so easily.

One day he called me and for some reason,  I picked up the phone. Surprisingly, he sounded like his old self.  Smart, funny, sensible.  He said he realized that if he didn’t stop drinking and get his shit together, he was going to die,. He’d started a program to get healthy.  I was truly happy for him.

But, as always, it didn’t take long for him to sabotage his own life and go back to his old ways. He was always one to take the path of least resistance.  His tragedy was that he was smart and deep enough to understand himself, and recognize what had to be changed, but he was lazy about actually doing the work.

Then, one evening about seven years ago,  I got a call from his girlfriend.  A few months prior,  one Saturday evening,  in their living room, he’d had a heart attack and died.  He was 60.

By that point, he’d alienated everyone in his life,  Even his own children didn’t go to the funeral.

I felt sad because I felt nothing.  After having loved him so deeply for so long, what did it mean that I felt not even a wisp of sorrow at his passing?

Back in the early days, when things were hot and heavy, we always promised each other that whoever died first would find a way to communicate with the other.  But that was forty years ago and I didn’t expect he’d remember or keep his promise from the other side.   He certainly didn’t keep any promises when he was alive so why would he keep any now that he was dead?   Besides, I didn’t want to “talk” to him. I had nothing to say to him, not even in my imagination. I was still angry at him for having thrown his life away.  I could not forgive him for squandering our love.  I was not at all open to hearing from him.

But yesterday, I thought,  I wonder…if I give him the opportunity, would he communicate?  Had I forgiven him enough to at least listen? I have learned that hearing the dead requires, at the very least, the willingness to listen.

So I said to him, wherever he may be,  “If you’re listening,  give me a sign.”  I thought about what that sign might be — it needed to be something significant to us but not so common as to be mere casual coincidence.  I thought about it.  We used to have an inside joke about Charlie Brown so I said,  “if you’re listening, show me Charlie Brown. That will be the sign.”

This morning, I woke up, opened Facebook, and one of the first posts on my feed was big picture of Charlie Brown

So, what do you think?  Mere coincidence or a message from Il Mondo Beyondo?   (I shall give him another opportunity soon.  See what happens.)

-a
—-

P.S.  Since I wrote this,  I saw yet another Charlie Brown meme on FB.  And then,  a couple of days after that, when we went to our local transfer station (aka “the dump”), and on the “take table” somebody had left a small framed panel cartoon of Charlie Brown and Linus.  And then again, somewhere else.  Charlie Brown seems to be popping up everywhere.

I don’t know if it’s because I simply wasn’t paying attention before, but honestly,  I don’t think I’ve seen any pictures of Charlie Brown in ages, and suddenly they seem to be everywhere.

Then,  to add another layer of weird,  yesterday, I was contacted by a client in LA (I have a party entertainment business,  www.bubbygram.com) whose name (first, middle, last) is the same as L’s second son (although he’s no relation.)

So, I’ve said, into the ether,  “OK, L.  I’m listening.”  Let’s see if he has anything interesting to say.

 

—–

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

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.

—-

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

 

To Feel Something, Anything

NEW!

 

 

(this was channeled over a couple of weeks.  Each time I revisited it,  I got more detail.  I could see the details of the room very clearly.  This image is not exactly what it looked like, but it gives the general impression of the back of the house.)

Guli

As a woman, happiness and satisfaction were not things I had the privilege to think about. I was taught from birth that my purpose was duty to my husband and my family. I had no right to demand anything for myself. I was hardly more than a slave. This was life.  No point in complaining about it.

When I was fifteen my parents gave me in marriage to a man many years my senior. I was no great beauty and walked with a limp from a childhood accident. They did not have much money and they were happy to find someone who would take me off their hands.   He gave my family some money,  as a gift to celebrate the marriage it was said, but in my heart, I felt he was buying me.

My husband had a shop where he repaired vehicles, motors, even hay wagons. He needed a wife and not many would have him.  He was an ugly brute — short and round, with fat, indelicate fingers. His body was covered in more hair than I’d ever seen on a human being.  He was more ape than man. And his manners were not much better, at least not around me. Only the most desperate family would give their daughter to such a man.  He knew it, and he resented me for that.

We lived in a one room house in back of his shop.  There was a kitchen area with a wood stove,  a sitting area where we might entertain guests (though we rarely had any), and a sleeping alcove.  To relieve ourselves, there was an outhouse in the back which was nearly unbearable in summer and bitter cold in the winter.

He drank often — sometimes alone in the shop, after he closed up for the day; sometimes I assumed he drank at the home of an old friend. He did this even though it was haram. I do not know where he got the drink. Perhaps from a traveling transport driver he was acquainted with. Those men were often a source of contraband.

When he was drinking, I was happy to be free of him for a few hours, although I knew it often meant trouble when he got home. If I were lucky, he would fall asleep quickly but sometimes there was  violence,. Often there was forced sex. It was easier be passive and let him do with me whatever he liked. It was over fast enough. Resistance would have only made him angrier and prolonged my misery.

I hated him on top of me, inside of me. His breath was foul and his hands and hair and body always smelled of motor oil and grease and cigarettes. Even so, there were times I longed to get pregnant, to relieve the nearly intolerable loneliness and boredom. I could happily devote myself to a baby. But then I’d ask myself if it would not be cruel to make an innocent child join me in my misery.  What kind of life could I offer, with such a man for a father? What if he beat the child, too?

It wasn’t for me to decide, however. It was in the hands of God, and I suppose in His wisdom, he decided it was better not to force an innocent to live in such conditions. I never conceived. My husband didn’t seem to mind. One less mouth to feed. That much less responsibility.  One less person to take my attention away from his needs.

After several years of this, I lost my desire to live.  I was nothing but a beaten mule with no hope, nothing to look forward to, no joy in my life. I contemplated suicide but I knew it was wrong, and that I would never get to Heaven if I killed myself.  And if I were going to spend an eternity suffering for my sin,  I might as well stay alive.

I didn’t intentionally set out to provoke violence in him, but when I stopped caring about doing my chores – cooking tasty food for him, chopping wood for the fire, washing his clothes – he would become angry, and the beatings became a daily thing. I didn’t mind. To be honest,  in a strange way, I liked them. They allowed me to feel something when otherwise, I was numb.

In the beginning, I did not resist. I stood before him and took his blows, and then went off to tend to my bruises in the most matter of fact way. without feeling sorry for myself.

One day, however, as he rained down his blows on me for allowing the fire to go out,  I became angry.  At last! An emotion! I felt something other than nothing!  I welcomed that feeling, and let it grow until I hit him back.  I didn’t care what he did to me.

I got in a few strikes and even drew some blood,  but he was bigger and stronger than me,  and he beat me unconscious and left me on the floor.

That was when I realized that if I could make him kill me,  the sin would be on his soul, not mine.  My suffering would be over, and I would spend eternity in Heaven, free of him forever. I knew he would likely not suffer any consequences for his actions in this life, but at least he could not follow me into the next.

And so, oddly, that became my reason to live:  to make him beat me to death.

It took nearly a year, but finally, he succeeded.

And the irony is, I did not escape eternity with him. He is here with me now and we will be together again in another life, although in very different circumstances which we have yet to decide.

 

—-

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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