The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “life between lives”

The King, Inviolate

Originally published August 16, 2014

medieval-castle

Do

I spent my life in avoidance. Avoidance of pain, certainly,   but also avoidance of risk of trust, avoidance of change, avoidance of the unfamiliar, avoidance of allowing myself to be open to anyone.

I was adept at sabotage, setting things up so nothing appeared to be my fault, and yet, I understand now how everything was on me.

A few women loved me but with each I played games until I’d made her cry and doubt herself, grow so emotionally brittle that she’d crumble. This made them easy to leave.

In many ways, I felt myself superior to others yet in fundamental ways, feared I was not as superior as I imagined myself to be. It was necessary not to let anyone too close, lest we all find out the truth of me.

I kept my children close by keeping them dependent. They were deeply damaged and this, too, was my doing.

By all appearances, I was a success but all the money and accolades never convinced me of my worth. Nothing external can ever assuage self-doubt.

I was very good at appearances. My ornate façade was solidly built of bricks and mortar. Traps were set everywhere. It was so impressive, even to myself, I often failed to notice the vulnerability I still felt within. In masking it so well to others, I masked it to myself.  In any case, I had no need to face my own weakness — that’s how thick my walls were.   Nobody got in.

I was so arrogant at my ability to play this game better than anyone else. I was proud of my fortress. While others inevitably showed their flaws and fears, I remained inviolate; the victorious king in his impenetrable castle.

But in the end, what did I gain by avoiding all the lessons I might have learned if I’d taken the risks? If I’d let someone in? If I ventured out?  I learned  that self-protection is not the same as emotional bravery. And very often,  by winning, you lose.

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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 Voice

First published August 13, 2014

fan

Si

Just when you think you have it all figured out, the proverbial ca-ca hits the fan. Everything is going smoothly. Your life is working. You feel safe in the illusion that you are in control. Then suddenly, it all blows up in your face.

The structure crumbles. Nature deals you a serious blow. There is illness, death, tragedy. Inability to control the circumstances. And then panic. Or depression. Or both.

The “luckier” and more privileged we think we are, the further we’re sent reeling by the smack down. We are unprepared. It feels as if we’ve fallen down a flight of stairs and had the wind knocked out of our lungs.

In many ways, life is easier when disappointment starts early. We learn the lesson at a young age that nothing is a given; that we must fight for every drop of happiness we experience. We come to appreciate the times when tragedy does not yank us out of our bed in the middle of the night and toss us out into the cold, dark night. We learn to value the moments when no pain pricks at our body or soul. We know that joy is fleeting, so when it comes, we embrace it and savor every second.

For some — those born into more “fortunate” circumstances — those lessons often don’t get learned until late in life, or perhaps not at all.

When we suffer, we rail against the injustice, failing to recognize that all of life is unjust, even for the so-called lucky ones. Joy is not a permanent condition, but we can achieve a kind of contentment if we can find the lessons and purpose in our journey.

From here, it’s easy to look back and understand all we cannot understand in life. The reasons for each journey are hidden from us behind a veil. Sometimes, we can see vague images, movements, the shadows of actions behind it. We may feel ourselves being pushed or led in a certain direction, but we never really know until we’re back here if we understood correctly, if we were following the right path, if we learned our lessons properly.   So many choices and no way to know, until it’s all over.

I was fortunate in that in life I remained strongly tethered to the part of me that remained here. My life was guided by this part of myself.   I was able to hear my true soul more clearly than others. I knew enough to listen for that voice, to heed its call, to follow its advice.

This is not to say I never made mistakes or suffered from sadness or pain which (at the time) seemed to have no reason. There were many occasions when I could not hear that guidance.  I lost my way, moving blindly and unsteadily through my circumstances, without any faith, hoping I didn’t make any irreparable mistakes.    Eventually, however, I’d rise through the pain with a sharper ear, listening more acutely, until finally I was able to distinguish it from all the background chatter, like picking out a familiar voice in the din of a crowd.

It was this voice that got me through.

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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!We may feel ourselves being pushed or led in a certain direction, but we never really know until we’re back here if we understood correctly, if we were following the right path, if we learned our lessons properly.

The Great Rift

 

New!

 

Aki

I lived in a small village at the edge of a large salt lake. We did not have much that we didn’t make or grow ourselves, or trade for other goods. We had existed in this place, on this dry, inhospitable land for as far back as our collective memory and stories went. We followed a careful social order which kept everything and everyone stable and status quo. We each knew our duties and responsibilities — to our family, to our neighbors, to our small tribe. There was a strict hierarchy, and we all knew our place. The chief was at the top. His was only law we knew and the only law we needed.

One day, some wazungu arrived on a small bus driven by a man known by our chief.  The driver spoke our language and also that of the mazungu. Some of the men in our village had seen white faces before, in the city, but never had they come to us.

They were completely strange creatures to most of us women…not just their skin color, not even the texture of their hair or their impractical clothing… but the way the conducted themselves. There was no chief. The women laughed and talked among themselves, mostly ignoring the men, who never thought to scold or beat them.  What kind of women were these? Where were their children?  Did they have no important work to occupy them?  Why did they behave so freely, so foolishly,  as if they had no care in the world?  Were they not aware of all the misfortunes that might befall a woman if she let down her guard even for a moment?

We stared at them, and they stared at us. The driver told our chief to tell us to simply ignore them as they came from far away and wanted to watch us go about our lives in our usual way.  For this, the driver paid the chief a few shillings.  As he kept the entire amount for himself, he was quite happy with this arrangement.

After that, they came approximately once a moon, sometimes more, sometimes less.  This went on for many years.  Sometimes the driver gifted us all with a large bag of rice or beans, and then perhaps we might have a feast.

These wazungu were pleasant and friendly enough even though we could not communicate with them in words. Mostly, they wanted to watch us women doing our work…fetching water,  cleaning grain and pounding it into flour, weaving thatch, gathering wood and making a cooking fire, nursing our babies.  They liked to see inside our huts, where we slept. They seemed to particularly like watching the children, playing and climbing and running.

They pointed their small boxes at us but it was a long time until most of us understood what the purpose of that was.  None of us had ever seen a photograph of ourselves. I doubt I would even have been able to identify myself in a photograph. Some of the friendlier wazungu seemed to ask permission before pointing their camera box at us, but since we had no idea what they were doing, we just shrugged and smiled and let them do it.  We found it inexplicably strange.

We became accustomed to the visits. Some groups were nicer, more friendly,  more polite than others,  but mostly they were a waste of our time. Usually, we could truly ignore them as we went about our business but sometimes, they got in our way and made things more difficult. And for our compliance, we got nothing for ourselves.

We villagers knew better than to ask them for anything as compensation. That arrangement was strictly between our chief and the driver. The visitors also understood this and never offered us anything.

And then one day, the village was turned upside-down.

The wazungu came and their visit was going as they usually did.

There was a woman, in the village, of very low status. Her husband had left her and their infant son, and run off to the city, (so we were told.) She had been a bad wife (for why else would he have left her?)  and now she was a burden to the rest of us.

This woman, I shall call her K, was always far more fascinated by the wazungu than the rest of us. We used to tease her that one day she was going to hide on the bus and go away with them, but of course, it was a joke because where would she go?  What would she do?  She might have been low status in the village, but at least she was cared for.  Would any mzungu care for her out there?  She, as we, knew the answer.

Then, one afternoon, just before the guests climbed back into the bus, one of the mzungu women pulled the colorful scarf from her own head and gave it to K.

This small, soft, useless square of cloth nearly started a war.

After the bus left,   K tied the scarf around her head, the way the mzungu wore it,  and strutted around the village, acting better than the rest of us, behaving higher than her status.  She wore it like a crown and carried herself like a queen.

This immediately caused anger, resentment,  and jealousy among the village women.  The girl had done nothing to deserve any such honor, and in fact, she’d only received this gift because she’d lingered too long around the bus people, and let them hold her child,  when she should have been working.  It seemed doubly unfair that she was rewarded for her bad behavior.

We grumbled and gossiped, but she pretended not to care. This went on for several days, until one afternoon the chief’s first wife walked across the village,  her eyes burning with anger and purpose.  She walked into K’s small hut , pulled her outside, struck her knocking her to the ground, pulled her hair, grabbed the scarf off her head, and triumphantly tied it around her own.  K lay crying and moaning in the dust.

Violence among women was unheard of in our tribe, and this was shocking. None of us had liked K’s attitude but we were appalled at the behavior of the chief’s wife.

The women were immediately divided in opinion. Some believed the chief’s wife did the right thing, that it was the only choice.  Some believed that as badly as K had behaved, nothing justified violence. And along this line, we fell into two camps.

The rift threatened to tear us all apart. Finally, the chief himself,  who tried as much as possible to remove himself from the petty problems of women, stepped in to settle things.

It was a delicate matter since his wife held high status, and it would be a humiliation for her to beaten publicly. This would only cause further problems.  He had the right to beat K, if only for her inappropriate behavior in the days prior. But he could not beat one without beating the other, and fortunately for all of us,  he was not the kind of man who enjoyed giving beatings.

He consulted with each woman alone, and heard some other opinions (whether he wanted to hear them or not.)  In the end, it was arranged thusly:  His wife returned the scarf to K, and in turn K made a show of giving the scarf to the chief to use as the village flag.

The wazungu never returned.

Throughout the rest of my life and even now, my mind returned to those few days.  I recognized how close we came to being destroyed by divisiveness and unrest and lack of forgiveness; how easily the fabric of our society might have become completely unraveled despite the fact that we depended upon each other for survival.

We were fortunate to have a wise leader who resolved the problem in way that satisfied everyone, and allowed us each to learn some important lessons.   The wrong decision might have destroyed us.

 

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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 Vaseline Jar

first published August 20, 2014

fog-man

Pe

Have you ever walked through a fog so thick, you can barely see your feet as they hit the pavement in front of you? You might hear voices, traffic, the sounds of others’ footsteps, but you can see nothing but yourself.

This was my normal state of existence — enveloped in an opaque haze which never dissipated.

Or perhaps it was more like living in a Vaseline-covered jar. I could see what was immediately around me; that which was inside the jar. I could feel my own feelings clearly enough, but could not see my effect on the lives or feelings of others. Beyond my immediate surroundings,  the world was fuzzy.  My future and the possibility of change were all out there, beyond my reach, and always out of focus.

Every so often, someone would come close and enter into clarity for a brief while, but inevitably they would move out of range, beyond my ability to see them clearly; outside my ability to understand; beyond my comfort zone which I could not step outside in order to follow or give chase.

I was too afraid to pursue my dreams in that terra incognita for fear I would stumble and fall. I knew there was joy and peace out there, but they existed in the midst of dangers and demons I could not see, and to which I would not allow myself to become vulnerable.

And so I remained trapped in this bleak brume, trying to hack my way through like a blind person tentatively feeling their way around new surroundings; waving my hands,  as if trying to clear the smoke out of a kitchen after a small grease fire without first bothering to put out the flames.

A few tried to lead me. Sometimes I would follow blindly for a while, clinging, but then the fear began to creep: What if they led me to a new, unfamiliar place and then abandoned me? I wouldn’t understand the rules. How would I cope in this strange landscape? I would be totally vulnerable.

I couldn’t bring myself to trust anyone that much, least of all myself.

So there I remained, safe in my Vaseline jar; in my smoke-filled kitchen, in my pea-soup-dense fog. Just me and my imagination of how it could be out there if I only could.

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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!

Going Under

first posted Sept 13, 2015

drowning hand

On

There are people who take genuine pleasure from making other people happy.   They will work to coax a smile from a stranger.  They will try to solve the problems of others as if they were their own. They will cry for the sorrows of loved ones; take on their suffering, if they could. Their joy comes from knowing they reside deep in the hearts of those whose lives they touch.

I was not that kind of person. But I knew many of them.

People like me seek out people like that for our survival. We crave and cling to any mode of escape from the torment that has barricaded itself within us.

Drowning in the inability to navigate our own emotions, we gratefully grab a hand offered in salvation.    Now we are filled with hope! We splash around, happy to have found a savior!   We wait to be pulled in.   We do not swim. If we could swim, we wouldn’t have been drowning in the first place.

At first, the ostensible rescuer works hard to reel us closer, but we are of little help. We have no natural buoyancy; we are dead weight. We take on water. Our flailing threatens to drown our savior, too.

I saw that look in the eye many times: the one of pity, of sorrow, of relief as they cut me loose. And I went back to the business of drowning.

Each time it happened, I believed I would be saved; my sins washed away; my wounds healed. I wanted that with all my heart. And yet, ultimately, I could be only what I was: someone who didn’t know how to be saved.

In the end, we all have to save ourselves.

 

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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

Things of Beauty

NEW!

Dre

Oh, I had such things!  Things so splendid, magnificent and rare, they could take your breath away.   Beautiful objects made with such pride of craftsmanship,  with love for the act of creation,  by hands dead far longer than mine.

While I, myself, created nothing,  by owning and cherishing such things, I felt part of the creative process.  Beauty cannot exist anywhere except in the eye of the beholder.  I was completing my part of the bargain, to behold, appreciate, and preserve it for future generations.

These things were precious and rare but it was neither preciousness nor rarity which drew me to them.  Even though they were inanimate objects, they contained in their making the best of humanity.  What I loved was the singularity of their beauty, the detail of workmanship. When it takes a master a year or a decade or a lifetime to create a project, such a thing will be, by definition, rare. And rarity makes for preciousness. Those were simply by-products

In my entry foyer, stood a carved, antique mahogany desk with half a dozen secret drawers which revealed themselves only when other drawers were opened and levers tripped in a specific order. The desk surface was an intricate mosaic of exotic veneers from trees which grew in the far jungles and forests of the world.  In the center was a writing surface of polished green leather the color of Irish moss, tooled around the edge in gold in an ivy pattern. It was made for an Italian prince centuries before I acquired it at auction.

In the living room was a magnificent silk Tabriz rug, 400 knots per inch, of a design so intricate the details were like a fine painting.  I tried not to think how many young girls went blind working on it. But it too was an antique when I bought it,  and those young women were long dead before it came into my possession. I was not insensitive to their sacrifice for art, willing or not.

There was gold enamel tea set of fine detail, set with pearls and semi-precious stones.  To drink from it was merely an excuse to admire it.

To fill my house with such masterpieces was to bring into my home the energy of genius. Sometimes, I felt as if I could slip inside the mind of the creator.   I had, you might say, an emotional relationship with beautiful objects.

Perhaps that is why I never felt the need to marry or have children.   I had an older brother who died in middle age.  In my old age, the only blood relative who remained was his son.  My nephew was rather boorish, despite a cultured upbringing, with little appreciation for anything fine. He knew the cost of everything but had no aesthetic sense whatsoever.  If he owned anything beautiful, it was only because he was impressed by the price tag. This was his only criterion. Not surprisingly, he had been fooled more than once by a dealer who could spot an ignorant mark.

Despite this, I did not dislike him.  He was pleasant enough, if one didn’t mind his lack of a good eye, the complete absence of discernment.  But I was not so shallow as to judge him too badly for that.  He was a good a kind man, who loved his wife and children, and checked after me from time to time out of genuine concern.   It would have been cruel to leave my beauties, which comprised the bulk of my fortune, to a museum or to someone who would have appreciated them more. I assumed he’d sell it all off and use the proceeds for other things more to his personal liking…expensive but tasteless, gaudy and new.  Someone else would then come into possession of my beloved objects, just as I had, and they would love them as I did.

After I passed, he had the contents of my home appraised by professionals with the intention to sell.  They ooohed and ahhed and gushed over the collection, and in hearing them speak of these things and their history and their singular beauty, he began to regard them with a new eye.  His mind had been opened to the pleasure of the exquisite hand-made object.  In the end, he sold most all of my possessions,  not because he did not understand their artistic value but because he understood it too well; he recognized such things would need more care than he was willing to give.  He did retain a couple of small items which he came to appreciate,  perhaps not as emotionally as I did, but at least intellectually.   He began to develop an aesthetic sense.

He and his family made good use of the money. They applied it to things and experiences that made them happy, and that was well and good,  but I consider his late-in-life appreciation of beauty the more valuable inheritance.

 

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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!
~~~~~
(When looking for an image to illustrate this post,  I did a Google  search using some basic keywords per the description (antique inlaid mahogany desk)  and this came up.  It’s so close, it might seem as if I found the image first and simply described it…but not so!)
Photo: http://www.artfactory.com/

 

When I Stick a Spike Into My Vein…

Originally published August  7, 2014

heroin bottle

Lo

I was famous. You probably would know who I was. I say now, with no attachment at all to that ego, and with complete modesty, my fame was well-deserved. I was a genius in my field, and will long be remembered as so. But what does that matter now? Fame was just my particular path, no better and no worse than any other. Genius was merely a means to attain fame, which afforded me access to the lessons I needed to learn.

I was born with a terrifying hole inside myself. That was the price for my genius and the source of my creativity. The fount of my talent was a dark place deep in my soul; a place which attracted and repelled me at the same time. It was as if I were suspended from a thin wire over a gaping, black, shark-toothed maw. I’d lower myself down carefully trying to snatch what I needed without falling, then getting out before the jaws snapped shut.

The deeper I went into the blackness, the more my genius spoke to me. I needed to go down there to retrieve what was necessary, but it cost me dearly.

I paid for my talent with pain and fear. How often I longed for less genius and more peace! It took all my psychic energy to cling to that wire!

I needed to numb the fear of falling. I needed some detachment.

This was easily accomplished with alcohol and narcotics. By the time I was 17, I’d settled on heroin as my drug of choice.   I wasn’t stupid about it. I guess technically I was a junkie because I was absolutely addicted for most of my adulthood,  but I never was one of those nodding-out smack-heads who slept in parks or shot up in squatters’ crash pads. Unlike others, I didn’t go from one ill-conceived smash-and-grab petty crime to another.   Well, perhaps a bit, in the very beginning, when I was just starting. But I became professionally successful early on. I was able to afford my own place, pay my bills. I had access to the good stuff whenever I wanted it. I had people to take care of me. I never (well, rarely) shunned my responsibilities when people were counting on me. I was able to enjoy my escapes with what I thought was little danger. I didn’t think the consequences would apply to me. I thought I could forever live this lifestyle with impunity.

I loved being high. I existed on an entirely different plane which felt as much like reality as reality. More so, even. I’d wonder, what is reality? The truth was, nobody was ever able to give me convincing argument that one was more real than the other. That was the beauty of it! Maybe the high was true reality and what most people thought of as cold hard reality was merely illusion.

Now, if a living junkie said that to you, you’d probably think their brain was totally fried; that it was just the drugs talking; that it was a way of denying the damage, of justifying the addiction. But just look at my current reality. I’m pure white light,  the state I’d long been trying to achieve through various means.  Maybe I wasn’t so wrong to have asked those questions when I was alive.

I guess always suspected that a state such as this was the true reality, or at least another valid reality. I was just trying to get to it, all the while playing a game of chicken with The Angel of Death and The Gaping Maw.

Reality, I have come to understand, is purely subjective.

 

Listen to “Heroin” by The Velvet Underground

 

addendum:  This narrative was channeled in early July.  At the time, I wondered if it was Lou Reed dictating.  I recognized that it was wishful thinking to believe that Lou had chosen to speak to me,.  I’ve always been a huge fan of his,  ever since the first “Banana” album.  He was famous and certainly qualifies as a genius.  But since I neither get (nor do I want) any personal details,  the narrator’s identity would have to remain a mystery.

Then yesterday (early August) I was working in the kitchen,  listening to my stereo which contains 200 CDs (about 3500 songs) and is always set to “random.”   Apropos of nothing,  I started to think about Lou, wondering again about this narrative, recognizing that I will probably never know either way if it was him or someone else or nobody at all or just a figment of my imagination.  As I thought about him, an obscure song of his popped into my head. (“This Magic Moment” from the Doc Pomus tribute album) and I kid you not,  the next magic moment,  that song came on the stereo!

Perhaps it was just a coincidence…or perhaps it was Lou saying, “Yeah,  that was me.”   Readers, you can decide for yourselves.

(By the way, I’ve never done heroin or any other narcotic.)

 

 

 

 

 

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!

The Greatest Sin

NEW!in-shell

 

Pau

Of all the sins and injustices ever perpetrated against me, the second cruelest was being told “I love you” when it was known to be lie.

I lived for years believing it was true, when all the while I was nothing more than a convenience, a stepping stone, someone to be mollified until something better came along.

The reality of the lie shook me to my foundation.   It was more than a betrayal by a lover. It made me doubt myself to my core.  How was I not able to differentiate truth from lie? How could I have been so naive? Was I really that gullible, that desperate to believe?  How did I  miss the signs, which in retrospect seemed obvious. What did all that say about me, about who I was? About who I thought I was?

I never did get over it.  I could never bring myself to trust anyone again because I was no longer able to trust myself. I crawled down deep inside myself and let nothing and no one pull me out.  It was lonely but it was safe.

The cruelest sin of my life, the one that did the most damage, was the one I perpetrated upon myself.

What I could have learned, what I should have learned, is that there is no love without risk. The very nature of love requires flying without a net.

 

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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!

Fields of Dreams

Originally published on Mar 20, 2015

Jean-François_Millet_(II)_-_The_Gleaners_-_WGA15691

I am republishing this one somewhat out of order.  I thought it was appropriate to read now,  given the recent outrageous  round-ups by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) here in the USA.   They were targeting parents when they went to pick up their children from school.  They are rounding up people in raids all over the country. We are in frightening times.   

 

Ju

When things got too bad to tolerate, my mother took my sister and me across the border. We didn’t have papers, so the only kind of work we could get was in the fields. I was ten, old enough to get a job picking fruit alongside my family. I wasn’t sure how much better it was than where we came from, but my mother believed it was, and so I eventually believed it, too.

To me, my mother always seemed like an old woman but she was only twenty-three years older than I was. When I was fifteen, she was thirty-eight but she looked sixty. The sun had dried and darkened her skin. Her body was bent and permanently contorted in pain from hard labor and injury. Her hair had already begun to turn gray. She seemed to be biding time until it was her time to die.

When I was 17, I met a girl. She also worked the farms, like we did, doing seasonal work. We fell in love and wanted to marry.   My mother discouraged it. She wanted me to make something more of myself. With the burden of a wife and then, inevitably some children, I’d be caught in the same trap she was – no hope, no options with too much responsibility for the luxury of suicide.

Maybe it was a good thing that fell in love when I was young. Another few years and I think I might have also felt as my mother did — that it was a hopeless situation and it was madness to bring children into the world. But I was young enough and naïve enough and passionate enough to throw caution to the wind.

My girl was smart, and she had the idea that we should move to the city where we might find better opportunities. Even though we could not work legally, we were willing to do anything. We were grateful for the kind of jobs that so many others felt were beneath them — cleaning houses, digging ditches, working in hot kitchens, caring for elderly or sick people when their own families could not.   Together we made just enough money to rent a tiny place over someone’s garage.

Life was hard, but we were always looking for new chances and ways to move up. We went to night school and learned to read. I was never very good but at least I was no longer illiterate, and that was a great source of pride for me.

Eventually we did have children, a boy and then a girl. They were born in our new country. They could not be forced to leave. Even if we could do nothing else for them, at least we gave them this. Even my mother had to admit this was a good thing.

They went to school and it wasn’t very long before they knew more than we did.   My boy was a good man but average in every way. My daughter, however, was special. She had a way of seeing the angles that nobody else could see.   You could show her a tiny corner of a page and she’d be able to figure out what the whole book was about.  She could tell upon meeting someone for the first time whether they were the kind to be trusted or if they were only being friendly to get from you whatever they could for themselves. She was a natural at navigating the often complex legal and educational systems. Even as a teen, she knew how to talk her way into or out of anything.

She was smart, that one! She finished school at the top of her class and went on to college, where she figured out how to apply for scholarships which mostly paid for her education.

She eventually became a successful lawyer.   My son did OK for himself. He had a good sales job and was able to support himself and his family. But oh, my girl! It was hard to hide my pride in her! I tried not to make my son feel less loved because he wasn’t, but even he recognized how special she was. He knew she would always outshine him. He never minded. Never saw a hint of jealousy in him, and I loved him for not forcing me to choose.

My daughter was not only smart; she was a good girl, too. She never forgot the debt she owed both to my mother, and to us, her own parents. She took care of us as best she could, forsaking nice things she could have had for herself so we didn’t have to live in constant worry. This is a blessing at any time in life, but especially in old age.

My mother did not live to see her great-grandchildren but my wife and I were very happy, doting grandparents.

During my life, I often thought how lucky it was that I didn’t listen to my mother when she discouraged me from marrying so young. It was the right choice for me, and I never once had a single regret. When I died, I died content knowing I had added good to the world; left it better than when I came in. Because of that, I’d knew I’d earned my place in it.

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