The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “fear of intimacy”

He Carried a Torch

originally posted May 23, 2014

George_Rennie_Cupid_Rekindling_the_Torch_of_Hymen_at_the_V_and_A_2008

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Dim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps it’s the same thing.

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

I was blessed, but I didn’t know it.

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

 

 

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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
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Love Me, Love Me Not

First published March 4, 2015

sad marble angel

Ag

I was a disaster at love. My relationships never lasted more than a few years. I fell in love with the notion of love and never saw my partners as they really were.  I was interested in others only as long as they allowed me to feel within a narrow spectrum of emotion; as long as they didn’t force me to consider my own responsibility too closely. When my feelings began to stray beyond those parameters,  I might become angry or demanding or hurt or fed up.

None of my behavior was consistent with truly loving someone. I was never willing to stick around to do the work.

I thought I was doing the work. I thought I was being the mature, sensible one. I believed that what I wanted was within reason, and within my right to ask.  I wanted them to behave in the way which I believed was the correct way to behave. I wanted them to reciprocate my feelings.  To feel as I did. Respond as I did. Desire as I did. Love as I did.

I had lofty concepts of love, which, to my great heartbreak, no one else seemed to share.

When they finally would not or could not live by my standards, they would either leave or gradually stop making any effort until I ceased asking; until I abandoned my feelings and went away. This process was not without drama, which was mainly my own doing. It was, ironically, the very drama they’d been trying to avoid. It was the behavior which always proved them right in the end.

I believed myself to be loving yet tragically unlovable when in fact, I was quite lovable but tragically unloving.

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  Think of others who might enjoy it too,  and 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

Mastering the Art of Love

first published February 14, 2015

tree_of_love_0_0.preview

Aya (the “love expert” — again)

Lifetime after lifetime, I was trapped in the same not-understanding; unloved without any comprehension of why. In some lifetimes, I simply retreated into myself and didn’t bother with others. In other lifetimes, it pained me deeply to have my feelings reproached. I once threw myself off a bridge to escape the pain of unrequited love.

Eventually, I began to observe and learn. Over more lifetimes, I came to understand that the key to being loved is to remind others what is loveable in themselves.

When this is done as practice, one naturally observes others in a positive way, seeing them in the best possible light. This engenders more love, which radiates outward, contagiously.

To be loved, first you must learn to love properly. The art of love, mastered, is impossible to resist. But still, there will be those who cannot believe the good  you see  in them.  They cannot trust love. This is their  heartbreak, not yours. Each human must discover for him or herself the importance of opening the heart to others. You cannot cajole or threaten or coerce someone to love. Each must come to it in his or her own way, in his or her own time.

Never regret the love you have given another, even one who is not able to return it. Do not blame yourself for staying too long. Do not feel foolish for wishing too fervently. Love, when it deepens your own understanding, is never wasted.

 

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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 Long Mistake

 

Originally published February 11, 2015

tree heart aeg

To

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

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

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

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

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

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

Losing her was my first mistake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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 Subtle Bouquet of My Pain

First published Feb 5, 2015
Wine_Flood-es

Phi

I had so many opportunities to understand. I turned my back on almost every one of them, avoiding unpleasant emotions as much as possible. Of course, I did learn a few things along the way but these were mostly passive lessons. I didn’t throw myself into life, savoring every emotion, turning the flavors over on my tongue until I could discern the subtle nuance in the bouquet, the way an oenophile considers a complex wine. I did not understand the difference among love and lust and obligation and affection and self-serving need. I never picked up on the connection between insecurity and anger. I didn’t recognize the link attaching my deepest fears to my most self-destructive behaviors.

Instead, I festered and stewed; ate myself up with anger and resentment. I blamed everyone else for my misery. I never looked to the source of the problem which of course, in one’s own life, is always oneself.

It is only through the closest and most brutally honest examination of our emotions that we find our own truth, and the peace that comes with it.

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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

 

Short but Deeply Meaningful

First published April 30, 2016

 

my-locked-heart

Aya

(as usual,  Aya is short and to the point, but there is a lot to unpack here.)

Here is the pain in love:  to feel compelled to protect yourself from another.

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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

 

(artist unknown. If you know the artist, please let me know. I will happily post a link to his or her page.)

The Real Tragedy…

first published Oct 24, 2014MasksComedyTragedy
Aya (our resident love guru)

Like theater, the story of each human life is either comedy or tragedy. Certainly there is a mix of both laughter and sorrow in every life, but taken as a whole, each can be placed in one of these two categories.

The comedies end with the protagonist understanding the redemptive power of love.

The tragedies are those in which the protagonist never opens the heart to possibility, to risk, to intimacy, to fearless emotion, to the spiritual self.

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

 

A Prison of His Own Making

(continued from previous post, 11/24.   Please read it first.  This will make much more sense if you do!)
Originally posted  Nov 30, 2014

 

prison of his own making

Ru

There always came the day of reckoning when I’d be pushed to the wall and the truth squeezed out of me. There were tears and anger at my emotional treachery. My wrongdoings had to be discussed and dissected so the relationship could be closed with finality.

I would listen to the litany of all the ways I had disappointed and hurt her. I did not run from this. This was my penance. Once again, I had selfishly allowed an innocent person to fall victim to my toxic curse. Whatever vitriol and disgust she felt for me, I felt it exponentially more. She would get over me; but for me there was no escape from my worthlessness.

These final conversations, though painful and difficult, came as a relief.  I was weary from dancing around the truth. I welcomed the opportunity to relax my vigilance.

If I had withdrawn completely from sex and emotional relationships, I might have avoided most conflict. If I could have merely skimmed the surface of love with no deep or meaningful involvements, I would have taken fewer trips to the black depths of my soul.

I tried. I did enter into these emotional hibernations from time to time, but I could never withdraw completely. I could not forgo passion or the excitement of discovering a new woman. I loved the sensation of falling in love.

To hibernate forever would have been tantamount to abandoning any hope of overcoming my curse.  So I tottered on the razor’s edge between optimism and despair, my mood dependent upon which way the wind was blowing.

After every hibernation, came finally an awakening; a desire. The seeds of Hope. But before love flowered, it was strangled by the weeds of her expectations: Reciprocal love. Commitment. Proof of the depth of my feelings. Intimacy.  Trust.

None of these desires were unreasonable.  Other men seemed able to fulfill them,  but (so I believed) they were not as flawed as I was.  I, however,  always hurt my women in the end.

Believing this, I didn’t trust myself around them. I saw myself like the Frankenstein monster, destroying those who were good and kind to me because I couldn’t stop myself.

This cycle was repeated so many times, with so many women, it wore a deep groove into my psyche. I was exquisitely attuned to every nuance. Long before a woman noticed anything amiss between us, I sensed the moment when the balance shifted. As soon as she cared enough to be disappointed, I started to slowly back away, using the same techniques one might use if confronted by a wild bear: No quick movements; speak softly; do not become agitated lest you be perceived as a threat, and be attacked. Avoid eye contact and walk slowly in reverse, without turning your back. If confronted, play wounded or dead.

I continued this way, one woman after another, around and around, the shape of my life always drawn by someone else’s needs. I felt emotionally distant from my own relationships, and always on the wrong side of the cage.

Unable to understand the root of my problem, I thought of myself as tragically complex. I imagined my head filled with millions of tiny gears, levers, and switches,  each acting upon others in arcane ways. I had no hope that anyone would ever understand me, least of all, myself.

From here I see there was only one moving part in my head, and that was the axis of the hamster wheel I ran on.

Each lap, I`d notice something a bit different and I`d think I was making progress. In reality, I never went anywhere. To have gotten somewhere, I would have needed to step off the wheel.

Sometimes to go forward you first have to step sideways.

I spent my life fighting to control my guilt and shame and fear without success. I did not understand that mastery over human emotion is not possible.  I did not recognize that others were also caught in their own emotional struggles;  struggles which were going to plague them with me or without me.

Humans seek the emotional interactions which move them along their spiritual path. The victim seeks the abuser; the masochist seeks the sadist; the giver seeks the user.   Those who cannot bear the truth attach themselves to liars.   Those who cannot accept responsibility for their own feelings seek out those who burden themselves with responsibility for the feelings of others.  And vice versa.

Similarly, we can only give to others that which they are willing to accept from us. Kindness is not always met with appreciation.  Compassion is sometimes fosters anger or guilt;  trust can engender suspicion and fear. Love is not always received with love.

Humans radiate uncontainable emotion, broadcasting not only in words, but in body and face; by action and inaction;  attention and inattention;  fear and trust.  Others perceive these emotions instinctively, unconsciously.

So many signals! So much energy! All there for the taking. A boundless emotional bazaar! Find anything you’re looking for! Set out shopping for anger, and you can always find plenty to raise your ire.   Seek victimhood, and your ego will become bound by every slight and insult and disappointment. Search for love, and you will find it mirrored back to you everywhere.

In my case, I sought guilt and found it by the boatload.

We choose what we seek. Mastery comes in recognizing when we’ve found it.

 
artwork and photo: (c) 2014 Adrienne Gusoff

 

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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 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.

The Curse that Was Me

First published Nov 29, 2014

my voodoo vignette

Ru

My father was always angry at the world. To his mind, no one – not the people he worked with, not his own family, not complete strangers – gave him the respect he believed he deserved.   At home, he was a sullen bully. The rest of us responded each in our own way, based on our own character.

My mother was passive and docile. She accepted his emotional coldness and frequent verbal abuse, cowering but never daring to talk back to him or demand anything for herself.   My sister found her comfort and support elsewhere. She spent as much time away from home as possible. Whatever positive things she learned about family was from the parents of her friends. My brother, the oldest, hated my father. They got into frequent screaming matches, which often ended with my brother storming out of the house.

Me? I took on all the emotional weight upon myself.

No matter who was upset, I always felt I was to blame. If my mother cried, surely it was because of something I’d done. If my father was in a particularly foul mood, somehow I knew I was at the root of it. The voice in my head said, “See what you did?! This is all your fault!”

I felt perpetually guilty. Even if I couldn’t see it, certainly I was responsible for the suffering of someone, somewhere. It was irrational, of course, but this was hard-wired into my brain when I was very young.

Everything I became followed from that.

Since any drama triggered a cascade of guilt and self-loathing, I developed a lifelong distaste for confrontation. I cut as wide a swath as possible around anything emotionally fraught. By the time I was a young man, I’d become quite adept at avoiding conflict.

I cultivated the persona of an affable, agreeable, easy-going gent; polite and courtly in my manners so as not to cause offense.  I made myself small and innocuous to diminish my emotional footprint on the world.

Avoidance of confrontation served me well enough in my twenties. Nobody expects too much maturity from a man at that age. As I got older, however, this behavior became habit, and soon it became my character.

Since I internalized any unpleasantness (hurt feelings, tears, anger) as being my fault, from my perspective it seemed I always left a wake of tears. I felt cursed. Anyone who got too close would inevitably fall victim to this poisonous spell. I would disappoint and hurt them. I was dangerous; not worthy of anyone’s trust, love or affection

All my romantic liaisons followed the same basic script and always ended the same way.

Generally, to avoid conflict, I acceded to as many of her superficial and material demands as I could without actually giving anything significant of myself. I did this to keep her quietly satisfied and emotionally calm. When she asked for more than I was willing to give, I had an unassailable excuse at the ready, one with which she could not argue. Like Houdini, I could make myself vanish.

In this way, I found myself always stuck between a rock and a hard place. I was either submitting to her will or fretting about finding ways to painlessly avoid such acquiescence.   I felt cornered, trapped by my inability to say “No! This is not what I want! I want to do it my way.” Although this cage was of my own making, I resented her for putting me there.

This resentment harkened the beginning of the downward spiral.

I approached each finale with mixed feelings. On one side, I hated to let go. I took great comfort in the love and touch of a woman. Their emotional essence which so confounded me, was the very thing which drew me to them. (What was the point of being with a woman if I felt nothing?) If only we could have remained in the passion phase! But the seed of romance quickly become overgrown with duty and obligation and expectations which I could not fulfill.

How could I be responsible for someone else’s happiness when I could not even nourish my own?

Her emotional demands piled up. The pressure built as she required more of what I could not give.

I avoided and evaded and let her believe whatever she wanted. Honesty and assertiveness were not options. They would have occasioned drama, which would inevitably precipitate cascades of guilt. Rather than revealing my true feelings (or lack of them), I held up a mirror and reflected back what she wanted to see. Direct questions were met with silence or evasion or misdirection, leaving her to fill in the blanks. When pressured, I lied.

But one can only avoid confrontation for so long.

(continued in next post)

 

photo/styling:  Adrienne Gusoff

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

A Selfish Cad

First published October 18, 2014

selfish

 

Na

I was not a good person in my lifetime. I cheated and took advantage of people. I always chose was what best for myself and never fully chose for anyone else. Even when I behaved in an apparently magnanimous way, it was only because it furthered my own needs.   This was true even in my marriage, even with my own children.

But these were not my worst sins. The tragedy of my life was that I was completely oblivious to what a selfish, unenlightened human being, in fact, I was.  I never had a moment’s doubt that my behavior wasn’t righteous and justified.   After all, if I didn’t choose in favor of myself, who would? Others could not be trusted to watch out for my best interests.

There is absolute truth in that. It’s an important lesson; something I’d learned before and brought with me to this last life. But that is only half the lesson. Without the corollary, the real lesson has not been learned.

There is no question that the point of life is to learn to love. All goodness and enlightenment of the spirit spring from accepting this as the absolute truth.   All routes to all lessons pass through love – not only by understanding how best to achieve it, but by confronting all the reasons we run from it; and by examining the ways we comfort ourselves when we don’t have it.

But one cannot love if one cannot trust. Those who cannot trust themselves, cannot love themselves. Of all the kinds of human love, self-love is most important. Without self-love, it is impossible to accept love from others. Without this, one cannot love.

The more we truly love and accept ourselves exactly as we are, the more we are able to love and accept others exactly as they are, and thus, the more loveable we become.

Always behave in ways that foster self-respect. Take the high road not for the sake of others, but for your own benefit.  Release anger and forgive. Expect the best of others thus giving them the opportunity to live up to those expectations still recognizing that if they do not, that is their burden to carry. The misdeeds of others taint us and attach to us only when we respond in kind.

I only know this now, too late to have benefitted anyone in my past life. My punishment, if you want to call it that, for being such a shallow, selfish cad, is to know how much I hurt the ones closest to me, and how much better it would have been for all of us, if I’d be able to see then what I see now.

 

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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 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.

 

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