The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “individuality”

Cleaved

First published Feb 17, 2015

fetus in womb

Zoj

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then it happened again. And again.

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

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

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

It went like that for perhaps a year.

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

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

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

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

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

But now, the logic was beginning to dawn.

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

It was the same as mine.

*****

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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).  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

 

 

 

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The Cure for Unhappiness

First published February 8 2016

zen bound

Ipo  (yes, him again!)

Wherever you find unhappiness in your life, seek the place where the spirit is shackled to the ego, then sunder the bond.

The spirit’s sole purpose is to ascend. The ego is ballast holding it earthbound. Loose the ties. The perspective broadens as you rise. What confounds and hurts when standing in the midst makes beautiful sense from a distance.

Humans pursue happiness in various ways but there can be no true peace until these knots are severed.

First, however, the knots must be acknowledged.

The ego manifests in our desires, our expectations, in our sense of entitlement from the rest of the world.   It manifests in our need to be loved and acknowledged. It manifests in the way the world is reflected back at us through the eyes of others.

But you are not these things. You are not your possessions or your job, not your social status or physical entity.

When you feel the pain of the ego, ask yourself “What does this represent?” “Why do I want this so much that not to have it will cause me pain?” And, most importantly, “Who am I without it?”

 ______
 
 me: This came to me the night before we hosted a big holiday party. I’d been cooking, baking, cleaning, setting up for days. I’d been on my feet for ten hours. My back was screaming. Finally, at 2am, thoroughly exhausted, I collapsed into bed, so happy to finally be able to rest. And then, IPO! (he’s so insistent!) Wouldn’t let me sleep until I wrote it down!
But as soon as it came into my head, I realized this was something important.
I’m generally happy and positive with very few things that nag at me, so this is not the kind of subject that normally occupies my mind. It literally popped into my head apropos of nothing. And not only that, but when I was so exhausted, I could barely formulate my own thoughts.
Since then, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about this.   When I consider the things which have made (or make) me unhappy in life – incidents or phases or interactions with others which made feel hurt, frustrated, angry, depressed — in every case, this unhappiness was/is indeed a result of my ego. Of course, even knowing this, it’s not so easy to let go but at least it puts me on the right path to solving the problem, and puts the responsibility firmly in my own court.
I know this for sure: the more in touch we are with our spiritual essence,  the less we need to possess or achieve in order to feel whole.

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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

 

Ipoism, Part 2

Originally posted February 2, 2015
scribe
 (Continued from previous post. Still taking dictation from Ipo!)

The only truth that matters is the one found within.

A good guru teaches how to dig a thousand layers beneath the ego to find it.

First, you must calm your mind. It matters not whether you recite the rosary, practice transcendental meditation or yoga, or whirl like a Dervish.

Each philosophy, each movement, each religion prescribes its own method of ascent. Many insist their path is the only way.   This is not true.   Dogma is political. It is a way to control. Ritual for its own sake is not the path to spirituality. Ritual is only effective if it quiets the mind and turns thought both within and without.

Choose whatever works best for you. But choose! You must choose! If one method does not work, try another. And another. And another. Do not be lazy about this. It is essential to your spiritual growth.   Without this, nothing else can be learned. So this is the first thing to learn.

The only prayer you need is “Why?”   Then quiet your mind and listen for the answer.

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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! Feel free to post/ask/suggest/comment.
-Adrienne

 

Ipoism?

First published January 30, 2015

HelixNebula

(Ipo again, yes.   And this is not even the tip of the iceberg! He’s got me on full-time dictation duty!)

It is a human need to explain the things that cannot be seen; to understand the things which cannot be controlled.

For the answers, some turn to formal religion (ritual and dogma). Others look to the universe without ascribing any anthropomorphic qualities or identifying a single creator (philosophy). Others rely on the scientific method, waiting for incontrovertible proof before they believe (science).

None of these are mutually exclusive. All desires coalesce at the All Knowing Eye at the top of the pyramid.   Those at the bottom cannot see the other sides. They each believe theirs is the only path to the top. But the higher one ascends, the more apparent it becomes that everyone is on the same quest, albeit in different languages. Each human on every side, is just trying to achieve understanding.

God is not a being or entity. God is a place. It is the single vantage point from which every particle and law of the universe is visible. From this perspective, the entire pattern can be comprehended. It is the place where all who quest knowledge wish to stand.

Those who pray and think and meditate will surely ascend.  They will gain wisdom and understanding.  But no soul, living or dead, can ever reach the top. They will clamber up the sides in pursuit of it, but the mystery will never be unraveled.

Those who long for absolute scientific truth and knowledge, those who desire understanding of the spiritual universe and those who long to know God, they all pursue the same.

In the midst of this great clamoring for Truth, there are many gurus and teachers, counsellors and priests who call for attention. They offer promises of enlightenment. They flourish because people are lazy. They want others give them the answers.

(continued…)

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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 Great Architect

earth from space

Ipo (yes, again!)

Ipo keeps coming back. He’s become my new “imaginary friend.” When I go off to meditate, my husband says, “Say hi to Ipo!” I would seriously worry about this except that my imaginary pal says such interesting things! I’ve heard about “spirit guides.”   Perhaps he is mine. This particular time, I found myself strolling through the forest with him. He was back on the subject of reality.

Absolute reality is an illusion. Reality is dependent upon position and perspective. Each human lives within his own version which differs, even if only slightly, from everyone else’s. Two people witnessing or experiencing the same event or relationship will each perceive it differently, each one believing their version is The Truth. In fact, no earthly being is high enough to have a completely clear perspective. Yet with distance, the emotion is lost, and so, that is not absolute reality either.

Human beings have many delusions about the universe but what they are most deluded about is themselves. Each human has an ego. The ego does not exist on the spiritual plane but it is necessary while alive to propel and pull them through the course they need to travel. Lessons learned along this course contribute to the development of the soul.

Living conscious humans can never completely separate themselves from their ego, regardless of how spiritually aware they may be. This is as it should be, for without ego, there is no motivation, no action, no movement, no goals, no emotion, no thought.  Yet  ego is the source of all delusion. Humans fabricate their own illusions in order to satisfy, to placate, to uplift, to defend, to justify, to support and even to deny the ego.

Ironically, the humans who are most deluded are the ones who appear to have the most control over the world around them; the kind of people other humans usually refer to as “great” – powerful rulers, captains of industry, leaders of armies.   They live under the delusion that they are the authors of their fate; that they are shaping the history of man.

In fact, they are merely tools of the Great Architect of the Universe.

The Architect alone designs and weaves the tapestry. Only the Architect sees the entire pattern — past, present and future – and spins the threads necessary to create the motifs, both large and small. The Architect knows when and where there must be shadow and light. Just as a human artist understands how a single point of white can bring alive a dark eye, so the Architect knows that goodness brings clarity to evil, and evil to goodness.   (From here on, for brevity’s sake, I shall refer to The Architect as TA. Pronouns, such as He or She imply human gender, which TA does not possess.) TA paints human history using a brush of enlightenment and darkness, war and peace, good and evil, tragedy and joy.

In so doing TA uses humans to affect these desired outcomes. Thus the conquered are as integral as the conqueror; the blind as important as the visionaries; the ignorant as important as the wise.

Ego is like an individual stitch believing itself to be the most important aspect of the tapestry.  To put aside the ego is to recognize, in humility, that we are each merely a single point in a larger design.  Only when taken together can there be a pattern.

 

 

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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

Decisions? Decisions! Decisions.

NEW!

Cel

I grew up in a small farming town with an older sister and two younger brothers.  My sister and I could not have been more different.  She was everything I was not but wished I could be.  She took risks and did as she pleased, while I was afraid of disappointing others. She was outgoing and made friends easily, while I tended to trust only those I’d known all my life.

She left home as soon as she was old enough and headed to a big international city, where she found rewarding work and moved a large circle of interesting friends.  She had many admirers, and eventually married a successful man who loved her and treated her well. They traveled extensively and saw the most exotic corners of the world.  They had two children — a niece and a nephew — whom I only saw perhaps once a decade.

I stayed put, rarely venturing more than half a day’s journey from home. I envied her life, but I knew I could never follow in her path.  My brothers, rather than envy her, resented her for leaving them with a heavier load.   They were happy to remain in our town; content with their lives. The difference between my brothers and me was that while I despised myself for my fears, they either did not have any or they pushed them down so thoroughly or disguised them to themselves, they were not aware of them.

There are many kinds of fear in the world, but I suffered from a particular brand of cowardice that permeates small towns. I was afraid of making a mistake with my life; of doing something unfortunate which could not be undone, so I let others make choices for me.  Before I committed to a suitor, I needed my family’s approval. I was afraid to venture into the unknown lest what I believed to be right be proven wrong.  I hesitated to make my own moral decisions for fear I’d end up in Hell, and so I followed the rules of the church.

In a small, closed community, politics is little more than institutionalized gossip, power struggles among the powerless, and petty vengeance. Those who are willing to speak most loudly are those who seize control. And so it was in our town.  No one attempted to topple the pecking order; it was simply accepted as the natural way of things. Our brand of cowardice preferred a strong, confident person telling us what was right and wrong, even if it wasn’t.

Gossip was a necessary evil which kept us obedient. The worry that our deepest personal secrets might be publicly revealed,  perhaps discussed at a church social or whispered about in the beauty salon as if we were a character in a tawdry novel, was enough to keep most of us on the straight and narrow.

Those who did not fear change, who were willing to speak truth to power, who embraced the unknown, who thrived on risk,  quickly came to the conclusion that if they didn’t leave, they would wither and die.  They, like my sister, made their escape and rarely returned.

I envied my sister for breaking away; for being brave enough to create her own version of happiness while I remained riveted to my unchallenged, uneventful life.

I did not have much trouble or sadness or conflict so I assumed I was happy. I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.  I nurtured my children, obeyed my husband, did the requisite charity work, faithfully attended church.  Others made my decisions for me.

Because of all this, I missed many opportunities.

 

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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.
 

I Love The Smell of Free Will in the Morning

first published March 3, 2016dark_alley_b_w_by_godkill-d8w13xp

Co

I was a coward but, in my defense, most humans are in one way or another. It is in our nature to be afraid – of the unknown and of being known, equally of failing and winning, of loving and of not being loved, of change and of not being able to change.

Perhaps it is an unconscious itch at the back of the skull that leads us, in ways unrecognized, to a lifetime of habits. Or they may be burdensome fears, compelling and crippling, which weigh heavily upon us, miring us and slowing our progress. Or perhaps they are blinding and oppressive,  which drive us into dark corners and onto malevolent detours, hijacking our lives.

To be conscious of the fear and the ways in which it shapes us is to finally enter into the terrain where dominion is ceded to no one and nothing; where the blossoms of free will perfume the air.

 

image: Simon Valcourt  https://www.facebook.com/simonvalcourtartiste

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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 Wisdom of Failure

First published November 28, 2014

Mother-and-Child-reading

Ye

I died while giving birth to my second child. This was how we arranged it before any of us were born. They needed to experience life without a mother.

Previously, we had also been mother and children. In that lifetime, I was very controlling. I lived a long life so neither of them ever learned to be fully independent. By the time I died as an old woman, my children were old themselves, with children and grandchildren of their own.

By then, they were fearful of everything, full of self-doubt and lacking all natural instinct. I recognize now how deeply I crippled them but at the time, in that life, I was only pleased and made secure by their need of me.

It seemed to be accepted by us all that I alone, knew what was best for them. They deferred to me on almost all their life decisions, from who they married to what kind of work they did to what they believed about the world.

Of course I always had their best interests at heart and usually chose well for them, based on their personalities, their abilities and their nature. They understood this and so deferred to me on everything.   But in doing this, I never allowed them to find the way on their own

They brought me all their problems and ceded to my advice. They were usually satisfied with the results, if only because they were content and secure in knowing the best decisions had been made for them. They trusted that I would always direct them to the best possible outcome, given the circumstances.

They valued me for my wisdom, and it is true that I was wise in many ways. I did provide well-considered solutions to their problems. But in the most important way, I was not wise at all. I kept them passive and obedient, willing to accept the wisdom of another, never motivated to search for wisdom on their own.

This time, they have no choice.

 

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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.

 

Laugh, So You Don’t Cry

 

Originally posted October 24, 2014

comedytragedy masks

 

Jo

It’s a good thing parents are biologically programmed to love their children; to believe that even the strangest-looking baby is the most beautiful creature on earth. Otherwise I’m not sure I would have survived. I was not an attractive child. As a toddler, I had the nose of a 90 year old man. People kindly told my parents it was just an awkward phase; surely I’d outgrow it.

Unfortunately, my awkward phase lasted my entire life.

I learned early that being funny was the key to my emotional survival.   It was far better to have people laugh with me at myself, than to laugh at me.   If I made a self-deprecating remark, they were disarmed. If I could laugh with them laughing at me, I was protected from their barbs. If they repeated my observation as an insult, I was able to take it as a compliment. They were using my joke, after all, and that meant they thought I was funny. Or, if they insulted me but not as cleverly as I insulted myself, I won again! Say the worst about yourself and nobody can insult you!

Humor was the path I took to love. There are other paths, but that was mine.   When I made people laugh, they wanted me around. Instead of being ostracized, I was included in their social groups. I was popular, even. Playing the clown was how I negotiated my way through everything. All my life lessons came through this.

I may not have been much to look at, but what did beautiful people offer the world anyway? You have to be a decent human being to be truly beautiful. Still, I was never quite able to let go of the nagging sadness to not have been born lovely. I eventually learned that everyone hurts in their own way. Everyone carries the wounds of childhood well into old age. Maybe forever.

The funniest people (and I have known many) are always outsiders. Sometimes they’re on the outside because of their odd appearance. Or maybe they’re just quirky in some way. Usually, though, they it’s just because their observation post on the world is in an out-of-the-way place where others dare not go. From their unique viewpoint, they see the things in ways that most others cannot.

I’m not saying that it’s only funny people who have unique viewpoints, but if you can make people laugh while they consider your way of seeing things, they are more likely to remember and agree with you and see things as you do. “Speak softly and carry a big shtick.”

The funniest people are also very smart. They can pluck the seed of truth from chaos. They hone in on hypocrisy like heat-seeking missiles. Their lack of respect for authority makes them natural iconoclasts. They are natural empaths, too. They instinctively understand the deepest fears and insecurities of others; they clearly perceive the nature of the ego that drives them.   That’s why comedians make such great actors. They understand the most subtle nuances of emotion, something also absolutely crucial to delivering a good story. Looking at people, they see behind the veil of bluster and into the folds and shadows where self-doubt hides.   Once seen, it cannot be un-seen.

The great funny people are also often the most troubled, the most confused. We all secretly believe we don’t belong. There’s this over-reaching fear that if others saw us as we saw ourselves, they would look at us with the same pity and contempt they regard a sad, desperate, alcoholic clown at a three year old’s birthday party. “Get lost, Bozo! That red nose and big shoes aren’t fooling anyone!”

I developed a thick skin. I took the hits and stood back up again. I had no choice. I won’t say I wasn’t hurt when people said bad things about me – and they did, because I had a sharp tongue. I had no patience for the thin-skinned; for those who could dish it out but couldn’t take it; for those who pointed to the sins of others without considering their own. I pushed the edge, I know. Sometimes I went too far. I often made people cringe. I did try to limit myself to those who I believed could take it. But if they couldn’t? Well, that was their problem, not mine. I wasn’t responsible for the feelings of everyone in the world.  I’d taken my licks and learned my lessons. They had to take and learn theirs.

There were the haters. Lots of them.  I tried to ignore them but when they got under my skin, my salve was to surround myself with people who got me; who could laugh with me at the same stuff; who enjoyed the view from where I stood.   If I could make someone laugh – even one person —   really laugh from the deepest part of themselves; if I could get them to laugh at my truth, I was healed. The rejection of those who didn’t understand me no longer mattered.

To the question of whether a sense of humor is an innate talent or a learned skill, I say it’s a bit of both. Like any talent, most people pursue what they are good at. No normal person pursues a lifetime of failure and humiliation. And the longer you pursue, the better you get. Like an Olympic athlete. It’s natural talent, nurtured. I was the Nadia Comăneci of the Chuckles Olympics.

Being able to laugh at ourselves and at our tragedies takes the sting out of it. It puts things in perspective; helps us wrestle an unruly life back into our control. Laughing files the sharp edges off the pain.

 

(I know who this is, but we agreed that it would be best if I didn’t say.  😀  Nevertheless, we had a couple of very deep yet funny “conversations.”  I was given some personal messages for others, two of which I was able to deliver. The general message for all is “Be kind to others. Make sure the people you love know it. Do the right thing, follow your conscience, be true to yourself, and if they don’t like you,  f&^% ‘em! That’s their problem!”)

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