The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “Life After Death”

Anhedonia

Originally published Feb 26, 2015

depressed-summer-day

Het

I played the game the way it was taught to me. I had a wife and children. I had a good job which I enjoyed. I was proud to be able to care for my family. We were happy. We laughed together. I enjoyed my life.  Things were getting better all the time.

Then I got sick. It was nothing terminal, unless you consider the cascade which it set in motion. It was just serious and long enough for me to lose my job. And when I was once again ready to work, there was no work to be had. It was an employers’ market. Nobody needed to take a risk on someone like me, who might become sick again. There were younger, stronger men ready to work.

And so, it came to be that I was no longer able to take care of my family. My wife worked hard, but we were always wanting. We had to move to a much smaller place, far from our friends. Our marriage was strained to breaking. I think the only reason she didn’t throw me out was because she took pity on me.

I was depressed. I worried constantly. Nothing interested me. Nothing gave me pleasure or joy. I tried to do my best for my children. I held myself together when I was around them, until I couldn’t anymore. The stress ate away at whatever remaining health I had.   I lasted for another ten years or so like that. I died young, leaving my family alone.

Looking back, I examine my life, to see what, if anything, I could have done to make things turn out differently, either before or after the trouble started. But I was limited by the resources given to me. It is pointless to say I should have felt differently. If I could have, I would have.

——————

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne
original artwork:  Adrienne Gusoff

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.

——————

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne
original artwork:  Adrienne Gusoff

Haters Gonna Hate

Originally posted March 13, 2015

acid

Nak

My last living thought was of revenge. Not for one who had killed me, for I died of natural causes. Rather, I died of the slow poisonous desire for vengeance which had coursed through my veins for decades. This was my own doing. I could have let it go. I should have let it go. But instead I let it eat me up inside like acid.

He stole my life. His fame and success should have been mine. That is what I believed. He stole my ideas; he stole my relationships; he stole my chance at happiness. He alone derailed my life’s plan and I could not, would not, let it go.

He knew I hated him, but he paid me no mind. To him, I was a pathetic nobody. At worst, I was annoying, like a housefly, incapable of inflicting any real damage. He could have destroyed me as easily as a human hand can squash a bug, but he did not waste his effort. This, too, fueled my anger, for he did not even consider me a worthy opponent.

I wasted my entire life on hate. The taste of bile tainted every possibility of joy. And whose fault was that? Still, I refused to release it, even though all the damage was to me.

I know now I traveled the path I was destined to travel. If he had not taken from me what I believed to be mine,  I would have lost it another way. It was not meant for me to be a success this time.  This life was meant to teach me to conquer resentment and anger. It was for me to learn to be happy with what I had. It was meant for me to learn to move beyond disappointment and push through to joy. But I could not.

And so, I must do it again.

——————
Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-A

Your Path

Originally published March 9, 2015

a-path-in-the-woods-in-autumn

Fil

Maybe you see or experience or hear something when you’re young which seems insignificant at the time.  As you get older, however, realize it has shaped the whole of your thinking. Perhaps as you move through life, a casual word stirs an epiphany.  A minor encounter sets something large in motion.  A word of advice at the right moment changes you the way you see the world.

And there are relationships, circumstances, great successes and tragedies,  which feel important in the moment; feel at the time as if they are going to change everything.  But in the end, they have very little impact on your trajectory.  Looking back,  you can see that your life would have turned out essentially the same, regardless of these things. You would have ended up pretty much as you ended up, albeit by a slightly different route.

Your path is your path. You will become what you were meant to become. You will have the experiences you were meant to have.

What you take from them is your free choice.

——————
Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

Perfection is Not So Perfect

Originally published March  17, 2015

alabasater statue of woman

Lub

Most people believe that being fair of face is a blessing. For me it was no such thing.

I was such a beautiful child, even strangers could not resist stroking my hair or running a finger across my flawless cheek. They cooed and marveled over my perfection; called me a little angel. Even as I got older, all anyone spoke about in reference to me was my loveliness. No one ever inquired about my cleverness, my strengths, my feelings. It was as if I were a living alabaster sculpture without a soul, born solely for the appreciation of others.

I withdrew into myself as they observed me from the outside, and rarely revealed any of my own thoughts or feelings.  I fulfilled what I perceived to be my role in life – to be on display as a model of perfection.

In a life previous to that one, I had been quite plain. You might even say homely. I longed to be beautiful. I envied those who were able to wear fine clothes and look elegant.  I knew that some people pitied me and tsk-tsked at my sorry state.  I lamented my lack of suitors and opportunities. I remained single all my life.  I had steady work which supported me in reasonable comfort.  I had friends among people who accepted me as I was.

But, as much as I desired to be different,  I was far less lonely in that lifetime than I was in my most recent.

In my life as a beauty, I was utterly unhappy. If I could have articulated the thought, I might have said I wanted the world to simply take me as I was, flaws and all. But I was so accustomed to playing my part as a mere object, so used to concealing what was inside, so disinclined to grow or to think too deeply or independently, that I didn’t even know, myself, who I was. I never gave myself permission to explore beyond the edge of what was expected of me.

I was completely passive in all things. I let others make all plans and decisions for me, as if they were selling and buying and moving an inanimate object.

When I became sick in my forties, it was the first time anyone looked past my façade and regarded me as a full human being. They saw my suffering and in it, finally recognized my humanity. I did not last very long but strange to say, it was the happiest year of my life.

I understand better now that what you think you want is not always better than what you have.

 
 

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

Strange Fruit

Originally published July 25, 2019

photo: Associated Press

Clar

I always knew how I was going to end.  I didn’t know when or where, but I knew how and why.

I was taught at a young age to make myself as small and nonthreatening as possible. Never look my social superiors in the eye.  Always respond with great deference. Yes, sir. No, sir. Never look at those people too long, especially not the women. Show respect, even if I didn’t feel one iota of it for them.  Anything other than that might get me a beating.  Or worse.

I wasn’t but a boy when I started to understand how afraid they were of us, terrified that one day we would realize that their power existed only because we allowed it.  We believed they possessed it. We did not resist it. We accepted their justice as our justice even though there was nothing just about it.

As I got older I began to see their mediocrity and all the convoluted displays they devoted to hiding it.  This knowledge changed the way I interacted with them.

My friends, my parents warned me:  I’d better learn my place.  I’d better swallow my anger. Yes, they agreed, my assessment was well-justified but what did that matter?  If I didn’t learn to hide my feelings, I would only invite trouble on myself, and perhaps on them.  Those people, they warned me, did not brook any challenge to their superior position.

I tried to bow and scrape to those of higher status.  I tried to act as cowed as was necessary to ensure my safety. But there came a time when it was more important for me to be a man,  Not a man by virtue of my age or my position,  but a natural man.  A man who knows who he is.  A man who stands for his beliefs.  A man who is true to himself.  A man who does what is right according to natural law,  not living by the rules of other, inferior men.

Defiance glistened in my eyes.  This frightened them. They puffed themselves up to try to make me afraid, but I could see right through them, and that frightened them even more.  I liked making them afraid, even though I knew it would lead to trouble. All they needed was the flimsiest excuse.  I tried not to give them reason, but after a while, even the necessity of that effort stuck in my craw.

The defiance metastasized into hatred. I raged within. Forcing me to pretend I was inferior to them only served to prove their inferiority.  I seethed that they held power for no other reason than a fluke of birth. I was furious that they clung to that power at the expense of my people. The anger bubbled and seethed and curled my lip.  I could not hide it and they could not miss it.

I became less inclined to look away. Rather, I stood my ground and returned their gaze, unbowed, daring them to treat me as less than.  The women found this particularly unnerving. They felt threatened by my considerable size and strength.

There was one young woman, however, the daughter of a man of some power, who teased and coyly flirted with me when she knew no one was looking. She was spoiled and privileged, and enjoyed the danger of skating on the edge of the forbidden, acting out a fantasy in her head, all the while knowing she was safe — that I would never force myself on her because of the inevitable consequences. She was of the age when a girl discovers the power of her sexual charms. She was practicing on me. Certainly she’d noticed my defiant demeanor. The challenge, the possibility, the unknown, excited her.

I was not a fool.  I saw her game. She was exactly the kind of obvious trouble to be avoided.

Whenever she approached me, it was easy for me to slip into “proper” behavior. I never met her eye. I yes ma’med and no, ma’amed her. I knew she wanted me to pay her some interest; to flatter her; to initiate conversation. These things would prove that she was, indeed, irresistible to men. She loved the fantasy of having a man risk everything for her favor. She wanted me to act, in a small way – not to take her by force, but just enough to insist her brothers defend her honor. She was willing to manipulate me to enhance her reputation as an irresistible young woman, never giving a moment’s thought to the consequences for me.

I behaved myself carefully around her. I would not to give them reason to beat me or lock me up, as I knew they would at the slightest provocation.  But eventually she grew angry at my lack of interest, and simply made up a story. For her, it served the same purpose.

Nobody doubted it.  I’d unnerved all of them.  Her story was entirely in keeping what they thought they knew about me.  They were happy to give me what I deserved; to make sure I didn’t give anyone else any ideas.  For me to deny the charges would be to call her a liar, and that would only make the consequences worse —  a longer, slower, more painful end for me.  So I went defiantly, even proudly,  to the tree where they hanged me as a warning to others to know their place.

The girl never thought much about it.  She certainly held no guilt.  She sensed, like the others, that I was dangerous and that my ending was justified.

I felt no regret.  It was better to die like a man than live like a slave.

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

Adrift

NEW!

Gree

I can remember my final day so clearly.  It was a crisp winter day.  I walked home from school with my best friend,  as we usually did.  Her house was closer to the school than mine, and sometimes I stopped there for warm milk and a biscuit before plunging back out into the cold. Our family farm was about a half hour’s walk beyond hers and it was nice to have a little warmth and a little sweet in my belly on my solo hike home.

I didn’t mind the walk.  Not usually.  I was used to walking in the cold.  Everybody did it.  The trick was bundling up well.  I enjoyed the bite of the wind on my cheeks; the way my nostrils stuck together as I inhaled the frosty air.

On that day,  her mother shooed me out quickly.  The sky was looking overcast and she wanted to be sure that I would be home before the weather turned bad.

I had gotten almost half the way home when a cold and bitter wind kicked up. It pushed against my tiny frame slowing my progress.  On a couple of occasions, I was forced to stop and wait until it let up because I could make no progress into the fierce gusts.  Once or twice, I had to hunker down and make myself as small as possible so as not to be buffeted about. The temperature had dropped and icy rain pelted my bare face.  It stung.

I was not enjoying that walk in the cold at all but I plowed ahead because I had no choice.

The rain turned to frozen snow and the world turned white.  Although I’d walked this route hundreds of times,  the weather had so obscured the landscape, I did not recognize where I was.  I could not distinguish the road from the field.  I drifted off the path and slipped into a drainage ditch, twisting my ankle. The pain was sharp and unrelenting.  I could barely put weight on my foot.

I continued walking because I had no choice.

I started to cry but the tears froze on my face.  There was no use feeling sorry for myself.

Under normal conditions, I would be have been home in another ten minutes.  In a short while, I could be in a hot bath, and then snuggled warm in my  own bed.  I pressed on, yet no house appeared.  Soon I realized I’d become lost and disoriented.  I started to panic. I knew I could not last much longer outside. I had no idea where I was or how far I was from home.

And then I saw a small hay shed by the side of the road.  It offered a modicum of shelter.  I limped over and crawled in. I could wait it out there.  It was no respite from the cold, but at least I was out of the wind and the snow, and I could rest my throbbing ankle. I pulled the hay bales close for a little warmth and fell asleep from exhaustion.

I know now they came out to look for me but the weather was too fierce and they were forced to turn back. When the snow stopped the next day, again they (and other neighbors) went out searching for me but of course I was not on my usual route and so they did not find me.

In the end, I wasn’t found by anyone who was looking for me.  I was discovered accidentally by the farmer who owned the shed. He found me three days later,  exactly where I’d fallen asleep, frozen to death.

——————

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

Love Me, Love Me Not

First published March 4, 2015

sad marble angel

Agat

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.

——————

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

Living in Limbo

First published March 2, 2015


swings-111925_640

Wir

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——————

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

The Lure of the Jungle

Original publication date Feb 23, 2015

(This is still one of my favorites)

baby_monkey_2

Ca

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

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

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

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

He would return when he returned.

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

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

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

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

——————

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne</e

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