The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “individuality”

Why Zig When You Can Zag?

  first published 8/1/14

zig-zag-cigarette-papers

Zig

I never understood why some people had a hard time with change. Me? I changed myself all the time. I must have totally recreated myself half a dozen times in my life. I would just decide what I wanted to be, and then, work hard at becoming that person. It was more than just changing my career or changing where I lived or changing my relationships. It was changing the way I looked at the world. Changing what I let in and what I kept out. Changing what I accepted and what I fought against. Changing what I respected and what I despised. Changing the way I let the world change me.

Some people didn’t take me seriously; they said I was just trying to find myself but I knew I was never lost. Inside, I was always myself, unchanging.  I simply wore these personae like costumes but my soul remained the same.

I was not looking to find a skin I felt comfortable in. I was seeking new experiences, new perspectives. I was attempting to live many lifetimes in one. There was something powerful about being able to recreate myself at will. I had no fear. I had no long-term attachments.   I never promised permanence to anyone, although a few wanted it.

There were many who thought there was some kind of pathology to this. Who knows? Maybe there was. But I never felt I was running away from anything. I always felt as if I were running to something. I was not stumbling around in a wilderness. I was boldly exploring new lands!

I pitied those who remained on the same course for their entire lives. It was as if they were compelled to follow the trajectory they set out on. Most of the time, they weren’t even the one who set the trajectory in the first place. “Go to school, get a job, get married, have kids, raise them up, retire, sit on the porch.”   What kid lies in bed at night, dreaming of such a future?  But that’s how it usually plays out, their futures molded by parents, teachers, society, blah blah blah.

I preferred challenge and change. When zigging was expected, I liked to zag.

Of course, if everyone preferred challenge and change, society would fall apart. The powerful (political, commercial, academic), need the masses to behave in predictable ways. People like me messed up their statistics!

But I figured, we have free will; might as well use it. Who has the right to tell us that we cannot recreate ourselves in our own image? Whose business is it but our own?

I understand better now that all that change was my trajectory from the beginning. In that course, I had far less spiritual choice than I thought.  But in each case, it felt as if I were expressing my singular free will.  Perhaps that, too, was merely an illusion.

Still, while I was living it, I felt as if I were the captain, well in control of my own ship,  navigating waters of my own choosing, using maps of my own making, following nothing but my heart and the stars.

This was certainly better than following someone else’s plan for me.

 

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

 

Sloppy, Painful, Glorious

 

First published Sept 1, 2015

messy-heart

Ge

For some, love is theoretical. All the action takes place in the head. Emotions are based on fantasy which  is within control,  and thus cannot disappoint. These people cannot bear to be soiled by love’s sloppiness and unpredictability.  They play at love, but never truly engage.

For me love was real and big and sloppy and painful and glorious. I wanted to be in it elbows deep, mucking about the unknown. I wanted to roll around in its stink; smelling everything and everyone who preceded me.

It was never going to be perfect. I knew I’d be lucky if it was merely good. But I relished the mess; the challenge of unwinding a knotted ball of yarn;  the stains and scars standing as witnesses.   This is living! To jump first and learn to swim as you’re drowning!

In the end, complex, challenging, emotionally-muddled love affairs cause far less heartbreak than those which never get started.

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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!

I, Golem

New!

bridge-to-nowhere

Riv

I was just eighteen when I married.  My first child,  a boy, arrived ten months later. Another child came quickly after that and by twenty-three, I was the mother of four. My husband offered little support or help raising them. They were all left to me, these young, hungry, screaming, clamoring, curious, mischievous, needy children.

I’d led a sheltered life within a religious family in a like-minded community.  I had not had much sense of myself to begin with.  I was raised for one purpose: to become a wife and a mother.  Once I was both, I had even less idea who I was except breasts to feed and lips to scold and arms to carry and hands to cook and legs that itched to just run and keep running until I was somewhere completely different, and all alone.

I felt no love for my children, no love for anyone or anything.  I knew this was wrong, that I was deeply flawed. It was one of the greatest sins for a mother not to love her children.  Love is what makes humans human. If I was not capable of love, then I was no better than a golem, an automaton. I was less than human.

But, in fact, I was not less than human.  I was painfully, achingly, tragically human.  I was simply numb to my own pain. I was too exhausted to live; too completely without ego to care about anything.

Perhaps, then, it is not love, but ego that makes us human. Without ego, there is no point to human life.  Nothing to drive us forward along our path.  Nothing to give us purpose.  No pain or joy to teach us lessons.

I was, therefore, nothing.

It followed, then, that my children were also nothing.  I regarded them as merely attachments to my appendages. If I had been capable of regarding them as individual, unique human beings, I would have had to also conclude that I, too, was human.  After all, a golem cannot create human babies.  But since I was certain that I was a golem, it followed by my logic, that my children must also be made of mud and clay. Empty. Hollow. Unable to feel.  Unhuman.

Given this line of logic, I did the only thing that made sense to me.

When my husband was off to work, I gathered my children for a trip. Only the oldest was curious about where we were going, but I quieted him by telling him we were going on a secret adventure.

I drove around for a while, in growing outward spiral, circling further and further from home.  I knew where I was going, what had to be done, but I needed to approach it obliquely, to work up my courage.

And finally,  the children fell asleep and I finally found myself where I was heading all along.

I drove to the big bridge.  Halfway across, I turned the wheel sharply and stepped on the accelerator. In an instant, we were over the edge and into the river.

It was where we needed to be. There, we would dissolve and return to what we were: just mud and clay.

 

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! 

Pain is Inevitable; Suffering is Optional

First published July 11, 2015
suffering

Ipo  (it’s been a while!)

Every living thing — human beings, animals, plants — does what it must to avoid deprivation, injury and pain. This is their biological imperative.

When pain cannot be avoided, it must be numbed or ameliorated as best as possible, with whatever means available. This too, is a biological imperative.

Since there is no life without pain, part of each human journey is to develop one’s own methods for avoiding as much of it as possible. This defines life’s path.

Even those humans who harm themselves or invite others to inflict physical pain, do it to supplant/ protect themselves against/ distract themselves from an even deeper, psychic pain.

If the pain, whether physical or psychic, is ongoing and considerable and cannot be avoided,  the method used to numb that pain becomes an addiction.

Some quiet their pain with excessive drink or inebriates. Perhaps they court danger by taking unnecessary risks.  Perhaps they lie naked, too often, with strangers. Or attempt dominion over everything around them. They may eat or starve themselves until they lose their health; or acquire too many things they do not need; or alter their physical form in the hope their monster will not recognize them.

But these methods merely mask the pain; they do not destroy it.   Until it is vanquished, there can be no release from addiction.

Much pain can be eliminated once the source is found. In order to find it, however,  one must stop running from it. It must be allowed to manifest itself completely in order to ascertain its full shape and size. It must be studied so its weaknesses are revealed. Confronting such a formidable enemy demands extraordinary bravery; it requires cutting a new path across uncharted territory.

Depression and anger are side effects of the belief that one is powerless against the pain.


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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!

An Uphill Battle, One Step at a Time

New

rock-uphill

*

Ruf

We were the same age, but she was so much older than I was. She always seemed to to know what she wanted, and what was right for her, and even what was right for others.

She inspired me to be a better man. To do the right thing. To take the high road. To push my limits. To do the things that made me uncomfortable so I could get past my discomfort. She never asked me to do anything that she wouldn’t do, herself. She held herself to a high standard and expected me to hold myself to that same standard.

I knew she was right and for long time, I worked hard.  I wanted to become that man she wanted me to be because I knew it would be an expression of my best self. But I was lazy and fearful and I didn’t trust my own instincts.

Eventually, I had to acknowledge to myself that I was never going to get beyond my limitations.   I was never going to be the kind of man who was truly worthy of her.  Trying and not succeeding made me feel like a failure, although she, herself, never suggested such a thing. For her it was enough that I remained dedicated to trying.

I started to resent her moral and spiritual superiority. I resented her certainty in always knowing right from wrong. I resented the way she was always sure of herself. It made me feel less certain of who I was and who I should be. I felt I was losing myself in her image of who she thought I could be. And so I stopped trying to live in the world as she saw it. That was her world. I needed to live in mine. I didn’t want to have to think about things so deeply. I lost my drive to see how good I could be. I simply wanted to be left alone, unchallenged. And so, eventually she obliged me.

Four years of marriage ended in acrimony. It took me many, many years to understand that love.

We had no children to hold us together and so we went our separate ways. Eventually we both married other people. I heard from mutual acquaintances that she married happily, to a man who saw life as she did. I married a woman who was easy and kind, undemanding and simple in her outlook. She didn’t require much more than casual kindness and some basic respect, which is as much as I gave her. I appreciated her but there was no deep love.  Her most endearing quality was that she let me be.

In the end, that was no good for me, either.  I reverted to my lazy ways; no longer pushed myself uphill.   Instead I remained down at the bottom where no effort was required, surrounded by those who were as lazy as I was.

In my life, I never accomplished anything without being challenged by someone else, yet when challenged, I grew resentful, angry; I backed away so as not to drown in the secret humiliation of inevitable failure.

I understand now that my first wife was right.  She wasn’t pushing so much as encouraging me to create my own challenges.  Positive changes are positive changes, even if they are small and incremental.    It’s the not size of the change but the direction.

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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!

 

*Artist: Janusz Kapusta

The Engine of Progress

New!

hill-steam-engine-patent-drawing-from-1883-vintage-aged-pixel

Ipo

We want every moment that which we do not have… a thing, an experience, a feeling. This need propels our lives forward. It is the engine of growth and progress. Yet it prevents us from the peace of being content in the present.

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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!

 

Q and A with Davoo

Originally posted May 12, 2014

davoo

Davoo  (This is just a name I made up for this entity, not a name given to me.)
S/he is clearly different from the others thus far, in that s/he is answering my mental questions.

Davoo (this is just a name I created for this entity, not a game given to me.) S/he is clearly different from the others thus far in that s/he is answering my mental questions.

What are my regrets, you want to know? So many, I don’t know where to begin. On the other hand, I know that no one can do it all in one body.   We break off bits of human experience and take them one life at a time. I did what I could do, to the best of my ability. And if my ability was limited, that was as it should have been — for the lessons, of course.

I had more regrets at the end of my life than I do now, because now I can see the bigger picture. Then, dying for two years, I had plenty of time to think about all the things I did wrong and all the things I should have done that I didn’t. I regretted not appreciating my parents more when they were alive. I regretted not savouring the childhoods of my kids to a greater degree.   They grew up so fast!   And because we weren’t close, they moved far away and I didn’t get to see my grandkids more than a couple of times a year. I regretted not expressing to those I loved how I felt about them.

You want to know if I was a man or a woman. Does it matter? Here, there is no gender. I barely can remember through whose eyes I saw the world in which lifetime. I am still trying to figure out how I need to come back the next time.

You want to know how many lives. Honestly, I don’t remember. At least ten. It’s hard to remember further back than that. As I said, they all kind of blend together.   I’ve often been with the same souls, so I get confused sometimes if, in any particular life, I was the husband or wife, the mother or the child.   It’s as if we’re a troupe of actors who often work together, always performing different plays.

How long between? Depends. Sometimes we have to figure things out first; contemplate and answer our own questions. Sometimes we have to wait for others to die, so we can be together again. But here, there is no time, so what does it matter? A month of earth time or a hundred years. It’s all the same.

Do I feel emotional pain? When I first came back I did. I was still somewhat attached to the regrets of my last body. I had to work though my guilt.   But sooner or later, I got the necessary perspective. Now when I feel anything, it’s compassion.

How? Compassion in that I understand that everyone is on their own journey. We are all doing what we need to do, and our worldly goals often conflict with others’.   Up close, we butt up against each other. We are constricted by our lack of understanding; by our base human emotions and instincts.   It is difficult to find compassion among the living.    But here, we are so removed from the pain of everyday life, we are able to see things objectively. We can watch dispassionately yet with more understanding. We can see the how the small players influence the main stage. Mostly I guess, it’s because nobody’s doing anything to us anymore so it’s easy to be generous with our love.

How does that love manifest? As I said, mostly as compassion. Sometimes, we try to whisper and nudge humans in the right direction.   To them, it sounds like an inner voice. Unfortunately, most of them don’t listen. I guess we show our love in that we keep trying to make them hear us, even when they ignore us.

Do some listen better than others? Oh, some are marvelous listeners! Everybody recognizes them, too. They always seem peaceful and sure of themselves. And never afraid. Humans admire those qualities in others, but most of them don’t understand how those qualities develop. They don’t recognize that they could be the same if they only listened to those internal voices that either urged them forward or warned them away.

***

I hope to hear more from this entity.  My impression was, it had a lot more to tell me, and that it would, at some other time.   I look forward to our next “chat.”

 

***

I hope to hear more from this entity.  My impression was,  it had a lot more to tell me, and that it would, at some other time.   I look forward to our next “chat.”

 

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The Veteran

Originally posted May 3, 2014
http://www.stripes.com/news/latest-va-estimate-of-veteran-suicides-comes-from-limited-data-1.206614

image:  stripes.com

Matt (I have an impression of a big, buff guy)

I knew it was going to be over soon when I started getting the night terrors. Everything spooked me…every creak of a floorboard; a branch blowing against a window. When a plane flew low over the neighborhood, I’d start shaking and sometimes couldn’t stop for hours.

During the day, I went to the Center, where there were other guys like me. We joked around, played cards, told jokes. Smoked a lot of cigarettes. We held it together in front of the others with the one gram of pride we had left. But when I went home alone to my small room over an old lady’s garage, that’s when the fear started to come back. Too jumpy to sit still, sometimes I’d work out until I dropped from exhaustion.

In the beginning, with a little luck and a pill, I could sleep through the night. Towards the end, nothing helped me stay asleep. Through it all, I was terrorized by memories of the things I’d seen and the things I’d done.

I always had more questions for myself, but no matter how many I asked and answered, I never came to a satisfactory enough conclusion that allowed me to resolve things and make peace with myself. My thoughts were haunted by a million “what ifs”, all of them unalterably in the past.

Regret, guilt and terror. These were all I was capable of feeling.  When I first returned,  I thought my emotions would eventually normalize and I’d go back to the way I used to be. But I was permanently damaged. Eventually I came to understand that some things change us so cataclysmically that the core is literally ripped from our soul. Reunification comes only with death.

This dawned upon me slowly. For a long time, I was in denial. I told myself I would get better — I’d just have to work harder. Ultimately, though, I recognized there would never be healing for me. This was my only option. Eventually, I would have to do it.

I walked around like an oozing sore, pustulating with malignancy and anger, infecting those around me. I was angry that killing myself was my only choice. I was angry that at 24, it had come to this. I should have had a long, happy life ahead of me; a wife and kids. Instead, I was just a husk of a human being. Killing myself wasn’t really going to destroy anything that wasn’t already completely destroyed.

After I realized that this would be my inevitable end, I still managed to hang on for nearly another year. In that time, I turned over every rock in my soul,   looking for progress, looking for a reason to hope. Under everything there was nothing but dust.

There are those who say suicide is the coward’s way out, but that one act took more courage than anything I’d ever done before in my life.

I thought about it seriously for a few weeks, wondering how I would go about it. I didn’t want to leave a mess upstairs for the old lady. She’d been nice to me. It didn’t want her to be traumatized by finding my body. I didn’t want anyone to have to find my body or clean up after me. I just wanted to be gone, quickly, quietly, painlessly and with the least amount of fuss.

One night, I packed up my things in a bag, left out whatever money I had on the bed for the landlady to find, and walked out to a place I knew would work. I threw the bag off the bridge first, then followed it into the dark icy water below.  Nobody saw me fall. The current was swift. I was out to sea before anyone missed me.

I didn’t leave a note. No one would bother to look for me. They’d all assume I’d just left town.  If anyone did eventually figure out what happened, they would know the reason why.

 

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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 Footprint; a Legacy

Originally published March 6, 2015

creative-head

Ga

When I was young, I was sure I would someday come to wide acclaim. I was certain my genius would be recognized by a great number of people. I imagined my work being discussed among the intelligentsia at cocktail parties in distant cities, long after I was dead.

I expected I would soon be able to earn a living through my own work and never have to trade my labor for a wage.   I wanted to be paid very generously, not because I needed to be rich, but as proof of how much others valued my talent.

I never doubted that this would eventually come to pass. My own self-worth was never in question.

For decades, I worked hard to make a name for myself. I honed my craft. I charmed and cajoled to get my work seen, produced, written about. Generally, I received excellent reviews. Sometimes, here and there, I made a big splash but it never turned into a tsunami.  I still had to work for others in order to support myself.

I watched others succeed in big ways. I cannot deny my resentment. Many rose to the top because of who they knew or because of family money or because of who they slept with. Fame requires a cleverness at selling oneself as a commodity; a willingness to do the bidding of those who can grant favors;  a strong inclination to push aside whoever and whatever stands in the way.

It was one thing to put myself out there, but I was unwilling, on principle, to whore myself. I believed my work deserved to stand on its own.

For decades, I felt myself to be on the cusp of being discovered, but eventually it became too much of an effort to chase elusive, ever-receding fame. This requires the unbridled optimism, energy and naiveté of youth.  There was already a second and third crop of hopefuls behind me. My window had closed.

I never stopped creating.  Until the end, I had a small group of admirers, many of whom were strangers to me, personally. I learned to be satisfied with this. My audiences grew smaller but I became more grateful for each and every one. Once in a while, I’d get a letter saying how much someone had enjoyed my work, or how it had influenced their own.

I suppose, in the end, that’s all an artist really wants. To leave a legacy. Our work is our contribution to greater human understanding.  We want our footprints to remain after we have moved on.

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! 

 

original artwork:  Adrienne Gusoff

The Measure of a Man

New!michelangelo_david

Ke

I was the youngest of four brothers. My father had been a great athlete in his youth and he expected all of us to travel the same path. From the time we were old enough to walk, we were encouraged to run and swim and climb and throw and fight and do all the things that strong, powerful, masculine men do.  There was no sympathy or indulgence of weakness of any kind.

We were raised to carry on his legend by becoming  the kind of men other men admired. As children,  we were expected to be braver, smarter, and more well liked than other boys. It was impressed upon us from the time we were very young we must never do anything to tarnish our family name or reputation. There must never be even a whiff of controversy or disagreeability about us. We were raised to be kind to those weaker than ourselves. We defended injustice when we saw it.  We were helpful to those in need.  We were generally peaceful but strong and able enough to win a fight should someone else throw the first punch. We were raised to be real men, good men, admirable men.

I never doubted that my father’s values were well-placed. His moral compass was infallible.  I understood his reasoning in everything.  I lived to make him proud of me. And he was proud of me.  I was handsome, popular, smart, a champion athlete. I didn’t have to be coerced to adopt his values.  I did not stay the course merely to please my father.  It was obvious to me that this was the right and proper way to be.  I felt fortunate to have his guidance knowing that others floundered with no beacon to light the way.

When I was about 13 or 14, an uncomfortable stirring began to nag at the back of my mind.  Other boys my age were thinking about girls.  In fact, that’s all they thought about.  I kept waiting for that same fascination to arise in me. I expected to wake up one morning and find myself as lust-driven as my classmates.  I worried that I did not share this irresistible biological urge.  I told myself I was just a late bloomer.  Or maybe my glands were afflicted in some way and not producing enough hormones.  Perhaps I needed to eat more masculine foods. (I began a diet heavy in red meat, certain that would solve the problem.)

Meanwhile, I kept a low profile. It was not in my nature to lie, so instead I was reticent and shy. I didn’t want anyone to examine me too closely, to ask too many questions. My athletic skills were valuable to the various teams I played on, but I rarely socialized with the boys outside of practice.

When I was 17, I started dating a girl in my class.  This was done for the sake of appearances; to stave off the inevitable questions.   I did not want to have to explain why I didn’t have a girlfriend.  The answer was too complex and I didn’t even understand it, myself.   The girl was also shy and from a religious family.   Our relationship was respectful and chaste, which was ideal as neither of us were interested in anything sexual, each for our own reasons.

When my friends started bragging about their conquests, I held my tongue. Even if I had been having sex, I still would not have shared my exploits. Such behavior was unseemly. They grudgingly admired me because I didn’t kiss and tell.

Eventually, I went off to university, far from home, away from the inquisitive eyes of anyone who had any preconceived notions about me, where I could start again with no preconceived notions about myself.

I had long harbored suspicions about myself, and they haunted me.  Such thoughts were terrifying and when my mind alighted upon them, I quickly changed the mental subject.   Eventually, however,  the feelings, the desires, the need,  were too big to deny.  They screamed and barked and howled.  They would not stop, would not be silenced.  They could no longer be ignored.

Here was my dilemma: if I could not face the truth about myself, I was a coward, and that I could not abide.  But if my suspicions were correct, my life was a ruin.

But the truth could no longer be denied, and so it was there that I discovered what I was.

This knowledge ripped my sense of self right out from under me. It went against everything I’d ever believed I was, everything I’d spent my life preparing to be.   I’d become that thing that brings shame on the family; that thing that can never be accepted; that thing that made a mockery of my father’s fine lessons in manhood.

I could not be my true self and remain part of my own family.  They would never accept me as now knew I was.  And now that I knew, I could not pretend to them to be otherwise. By deceit,  I already put myself apart from them,  even if they didn’t know.

And so, I was cast adrift with no moral anchor. What did it matter if I was brave and strong and true? I was still a mockery of a man.

But then, who could I be? I needed a new identity, a new way of being, a new skin.  I tried on many, but nothing felt comfortable. No matter who I tried to be, it all felt like a costume, a pretense, a role that wasn’t at all natural.  I had been taught to be a certain kind of man, and now all those lessons were moot.  What was left?  Who was I?  What was I?  I spent several wasted years adrift, searching but not finding the answers. I did things that, had they known, would have disgraced my family.  I was not always honest nor brave nor true.  Even crying filled me with shame.

I couldn’t be myself anymore and I couldn’t be anyone else, either.  I was nothing.  Nobody.  Nothing about me was true or real. There was no reason for me to exist.

And so, at 24, I hanged myself.  I did not leave a note. I did not reveal my secret. The act of suicide, itself, I knew, would be shameful enough.

The pain was ultimately intolerable but from this side I can appreciate the understanding that has followed from it. This loss of identity, the complete denial of ego, and the accompanying torment provided the most valuable lessons I have ever been shown in any lifetime.

There needs to be a balance between feeling the importance of the self and realizing how unimportant we really are.

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