The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “love”

A Gentle, Invisible Force

First published August 16, 2016

Vintage-Little-Girl

 

San

I first met her on my first day of school and she was there when I died, but I barely knew her.  Our lives crisscrossed each other like strands of DNA.  Though we rarely interacted in any deeply personal way,  we applied a kind of subtle gravitation force upon each other.

In school, she was the pretty one.  The smart one.  The one who never let her emotions get the better of her, even when, as puberty hit,  the rest of us were turning into mad witches.  She remained always cool and aloof.   Although popular with a select crowd, she was never mean or condescending to others.  She was naturally intimidating but she was never unkind.

I, for one, did not think of her as an individual.  To me, she was an icon.  The epitome of all I wanted to be, and which I knew I would never become.  I tried to emulate her style, her grace,  but she always did it better, easier.

When we were about nine, I developed a very secret crush on a boy in our class and carried a torch for him all through school.  I dared not share my feelings with anyone lest they laugh at me.  It was obvious he would never feel the same about me.  He barely noticed me.  I was beneath him in every way.

When we were 12,  they discovered each other and became inseparable. I wasn’t jealous.  It made sense that the perfect girl would end up with the perfect boy.  Rather than envy, I felt curiosity.  What would it be like to be that confident?  To be the kind of woman who could attract a fine man?

After graduation, we all went our separate ways and I didn’t think about her much, except still, perhaps as a standard by which to judge myself.

Many years later, coincidentally, our children went to school together.  We would nod a polite hello to each other, or perhaps converse casually about upcoming events. I hated to admit it to myself, but I was still intimidated by her.  I always felt bad about myself when I saw her.  She reminded me, through no fault of her own, that I was “less than.”  Still, I felt no animosity for her. It wasn’t her fault that I felt as I did. She wasn’t doing anything wrong. She was just living her life, being perfect.

Her house was nicer than ours.  Her children, better behaved.  Her husband, more successful.   But she never noticed the envy of others.  She did not act superior.  She simply was,  by any measure I could think of, superior

I never sought her friendship nor she, mine.

Eventually, our children moved to different schools and once again, she was out of my life.  Another decade passed,  and then we met again,  this time working for an organization.  She had all the right social connections and so rose quickly to the top.  I remained firmly in the middle.  We ran into each other from time to time, and as always,  chatted politely though never vapidly.  Short, intelligent conversations about current events or organizational issues.  I felt flattered that she took me as her equal.

After a few years,  I moved on from that organization, while she remained and rose higher still.  Meanwhile, I occupied myself with other things.

Many years later,  we met again at the home of some old school friends.  Her position in the organization had been terminated. Her husband had left her for a younger woman.  She was forced to sell her beautiful home.  She revealed these turns of event matter-of-factly, still hiding behind her impenetrable facade, emotionally aloof as always.

That night,  when I went home,  I looked at my life and I felt grateful.  I was happy and I was loved, and those were the most important things.  Why should I be jealous of her when I had everything I needed right here?

After that,  I removed her from her high pedestal and placed her on a lower shelf.  I no longer compared myself to her version of perfection.  I realized I was perfect in my own way, and I was OK with that.   We are all good at something.  I didn’t have to be good at her thing. I only had to be the best I could be at my own.  This was the beginning of my self-acceptance.

In and out,  again and again, over the years,  we would encounter each other in casual ways.  Never friends but eventually friendly enough by virtue of our long history, to catch up on the essentials of our lives –  for example, the deaths of our parents, the births of our grandchildren,  her eventual happy remarriage.

I came to know her better, although never well. I began to understand that the woman I thought she was had existed only in my imagination.  She wasn’t aloof.  She was painfully shy.  She cultivated her friends carefully and so didn’t have many. She curated her facade meticulously but she was far more fragile than she ever appeared.  With these realizations, I stopped judging my perceived faults and the perceived faults of others, by a false standard of perfection.  I began to notice what was right about people instead of what was wrong with them. These lessons informed my life and my relationships.

Many years passed without us crossing paths.  I hadn’t given her more than a fleeting thought in years.  But then, in our late years, we found ourselves in the same home for the aged, both widowed, both great-grandmothers. Only we, of all those others in that place, shared a history that went back to childhood. Only we, remembered all those places and people, long gone. And what we didn’t remember, the other often filled in.   And so we talked.  And talked.  And talked.  The separation that had always been between us fell away.  We were too old to care about hiding our feelings, protecting our faces to each other.

One day, I told her how I’d envious I’d been of her in school, and for many years after; how I’d judged myself against her, and finally, eventually,  I felt myself perfectly equal.  Better in some ways, worse in others.

And what she confessed to me made me rethink my entire life.

She told me she’d always been envious of me!  (Even in my dotage, I was shocked!)  She was envious that I did not live in fear of the judgment of others.  Even as children, she admired my ability to make friends easily.  She felt compelled to always behave in a certain way – quiet, dignified.  She admired my willingness to make a joke at my own expense. She felt constrained by having to pay attention to detail.  She admired my ability to roll with the waves, make the best of whatever came along.  Her shyness was crippling. She recognized that many took this for aloofness, but still, she could never overcome it.   She admired my ability to easily engage others in conversation.  She rarely felt as if people saw her as she was.  She did not feel known.  She wished she could be casual and easy with people, let down her guard, and not be afraid to let them see her.  She thought I was brave, not caring about perfection.

Oh, the irony of that!

She sat at my bedside the day I died.  I’d been unconscious for nearly a week, and she sat with me every afternoon for a few hours after lunch, in silence, just thinking about all the things that had happened to both of us over the years; how our lives had been so different. Yet here we were at the end,  in the same place, in the same situation.

I understand now that there are people who remain on the periphery of our lives, but who nevertheless affect us deeply, and whom we affect in return, often unawares.  They may meet us upon our journey as merely a pebble in the shoe or a jug of water when we are thirsty.  They might be the shade of the trees overhead, which we barely consider until we walk must through a desert with the sun beating down upon our head. They may be a vulture in that desert. They may be an oasis.  Or they may be the shepherd dog who nudges us back onto the path. They may be the fruit of wisdom, which we come upon at the moment of peak ripeness.

—-

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 Definition of Us

first published March 29, 2015


hands

Aya

Love is defined not only by the emotions we feel for others but by how others feel about us.

We each make our choices about who we want to be. Shall we be the kind of person whom others feel joy to keep close to their hearts, even after we long are out of their lives? Will we be entirely forgettable, leaving little impression on those whose lives we’ve crossed? Will we be the person who causes others anticipate the relief of no longer feeling anything for us?   Do we uplift those around us or prop ourselves up at the expense of others?

And it is from these basic choices that our actions flow.  And from these actions, grow our character.

_____

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

The Lure of the Jungle

Original publication date Feb 23, 2015

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

Mastering the Art of Love

first published February 14, 2015

tree_of_love_0_0.preview

Aya (the “love expert” — again)

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

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

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

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

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

——————

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

Short but Deeply Meaningful

First published April 30, 2016

 

my-locked-heart

Aya

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

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

 

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

——————

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 Look of Love

First published April 20, 2016

old-married-couple

 

Lef

There was a time when just the sound of his voice, the sight of his face, brought me joy.  His presence soothed me; made me calm,  allayed my fear and disquiet.  My heart leapt at his caress.  I slept better with him safe beside me.  He made me feel invincible.

But then, over the  years,  he grew distant.  Perhaps we simply grew apart.  In any case,  we became strangers occupying the same space.

And even though I was no longer pained by the loss of love, for it was gradual and mutual and impossible to get back, I missed the relief of unpacking my troubles to someone who was listening.  I missed how everything could be made right again by touch.  I missed falling asleep feeling protected.

I never took a lover although it was probably would have done me a world of good.  Not even after he died.  I felt too old at that point to even think in that way.

But strangely,  alone,  I started to regain my equilibrium.  Instead of feeling sad that he was not fulfilling my emotional needs, I began to learn how to fulfill them myself.   I was not alone long enough to learn all I needed to learn,  but these are lessons which I will have to learn another 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 Hero of the Story

First published January 14, 2015

AA046331

Ti

I met him when we were children and I loved him the minute I laid eyes on him.

It was in the play yard of my first school. The Bully, who tormented us all in one way or another, was picking on a much younger boy. He was boxing at his ears, tugging the collar of his jacket as if to pull it off, stopping short of hurting him but tormenting him nevertheless. It was his idea of fun, puffing himself up at the little one’s expense.

I was on the swings, pumping my legs furiously, taking myself as high as possible, not paying much attention to that bit of mischief. Suddenly a boy with dark curly hair, way on the other side of the yard, noticed the altercation and made a beeline across the playground. His direct path, fierce determination and brisk pace made him pop out against the random chaos of recess. He caught my interest even from way up in the air.

It was clear to me he was going to interfere, but what would he do? The Bully was bigger than everyone. And yet, this hero seemed fully confident, full of righteous indignation. I scraped the heels of my white shoes on the dirt to bring myself to a full stop, and followed him with my eyes.

The Bully was backed up by his friends, as bullies often are. Simply humiliating another human being is never enough. They need an audience; someone to remind them that, at least for the moment, they are in control.

The hero walked right up to them, stepped between the troublemakers and the little boy, and nudged the child aside, to safety. The boy ran away, frightened but relieved. Then, the hero leaned over and whispered something to the Bully so that none of his friends could hear.   It was as if he had stuck a pin in a balloon, that’s how quickly the Bully deflated. He slunk away, his head hung in shame. The hero never even took his hands out of his pockets.

I knew right then, in that playground, I would marry him someday. And so I did. And I spent my life striving to become worthy of such a man’s love. He made me a better person, and that was only one of the reasons I loved him.

We married young, raised three children, and had a good and happy life together. We had our challenges, but we never let anything or anyone come between us.   He was my hero, always and forever.

And then he got sick.

It started slowly, the descent into infirmity. We weren’t very old. Our youngest child had just gotten married. It was right after the wedding when the weakness started. The disease progressed slowly. In the beginning, we were able to joke about it. We accommodated his limitations. We took things more slowly, spent more time at home.   As long as we were together, we could manage everything.

Eventually, as he deteriorated , it was hard to maintain our sense of humor. We saw doctors more often than we saw our children or grandchildren.   He became dependent upon me for everything. I was happy that I was there to help but this kind of constant care takes its toll on the caretaker. I dreaded the time when I could no longer do for him what he needed. I knew I could not carry or lift him,   even as frail as he had become.

I don’t deny that I sometimes felt put upon and angry and frustrated by our, by my, circumstances, but I resisted self-pity and did everything I could to keep him at home. My children begged me to put him in a place where he could have full time care. I was not so young myself, anymore, and it was wearing on me. But I couldn’t do that to us. His body was gone but his mind was intact. Our love was intact. I would not be the one to abandon it.

The time came, however, when I could not care for him alone. His mind was starting to go. The end, while not imminent, was not far away.

One day, when I was cuddled in bed with him (as we still often did), he asked me for the biggest favor he’d ever asked of me. He wanted me to help him die, there at home, in our bed, with my arms around him. He did not want to die in a hospital, hooked up to tubes, unconscious or unaware of his surroundings, being poked and stuck with needles and monitors.  We both knew there wasn’t much time before that would be inevitable.

I was terrified, both of living without him and of being the cause of his end, but he knew what he wanted and I was the only one who could give it to him. I cried for days when he asked me, but we both knew I would do it.  It was time for me to be a hero to my hero.

I found a method that was painless and undetectable.   I held him in my arms, stroking his head, as his breathing slowed and eventually stopped.

I lived for many years more, alone, missing him every minute of every day. When my time came, he was here waiting for me. I flew to him in joy.

 

  image: Getty

 

——————

 

 

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

Til Death Do Us Part

First published April 11, 2016

old-couple-holding-hands

Saj

I know he loved me, in his detached way. He showed me by the things he did for me. He was a wonderful father, and by almost any measure, he was a good husband, faithful and a good provider. He watched out for me; he took care of my feelings; it made him happy to make me happy. What more could a woman want?

That’s what I told myself for our first two decades as man and wife. There was a quiet voice in the back of my heart whispering, “I want more” but there was too much going on in my life, commanding too much of my attention to allow me the luxury of dissatisfaction.

When the children got older and were more independent, I had the time to indulge my sexual and emotional fantasies, of which my husband was usually the object. I longed for him to look me in the eyes and really see me. I ached for him to hold me and feel my heart beating for him. I wanted to shiver at his touch.

I became more assertive about putting more romance in our relationship, but he resisted. Emotional intimacy wasn’t in his nature.

And so, my dissatisfaction and resentment began to grow. I was angry that he couldn’t let go enough to show me his love in the way I needed to be shown. I wanted to feel it viscerally, not just believe it intellectually.

He sensed my resentment; felt me pulling away. And even knowing the reason, felt helpless and frustrated in the face of it. It was a dark time in our marriage.

I took a lover. I have no guilt about that. I needed to feel those feelings. I needed to held and seen that way by someone.

But such illicit affairs are usually short-lived. Passion fades and then the practicalities set in. The clandestine trysts, the hurried phone calls, the fear of getting caught. One or the other wants more while the other fears to upset their entire life. We went back and forth like that for a while, crying and fighting and making up, until eventually, we mutually agreed to part ways amicably.

To leave my marriage would have devastated my husband. He was a good man. He deserved better from me.  The problem was mine.

But that little interlude gave me new perspectives.

That was when I first began to truly love my husband, to accept him as he was; with all his limitations.   My heart had been opened to love, and I liked the feeling. I was determined to keep it open to him, even if he had difficulty keeping his wide open for me. Instead of finding fault in what I wasn’t getting, I focused instead on the ways he showed his love. His way wasn’t my way; he wasn’t expressive; he wasn’t passionate; but I came to understand that neither way was right or wrong. It was just a matter of style.

And once I loved him without expecting him to reciprocate in the same way, he began to open up, loving me more in the way I wanted to be loved. He did not become a romantic but he made more of an effort. I appreciated how difficult that was for him, and it made me love him more. I learned to read between the lines, and there was a lot written there.

As we grew older, we stopped resisting each other. Instead of growing apart, we grew together. For fifty two years we were married, and I was grateful I did not leave him. I never told him about my affair but I always believed he knew. By unspoken mutual consent, we agreed never to mention it. That was part of accepting each other as we were.

 

 

______

 

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 Real Tragedy…

first published Oct 24, 2014

MasksComedyTragedy

Aya (our resident love guru)

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

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

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

___

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

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