The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “Meaning of Life”

And Here We Are, At the Beginning Again

Dear Readers,

The last story,  A Gentle Invisible Force,  is the final post of the original series.  The next post will begin the entire cycle again,  with new stories and commentary interspersed, as before.

If you joined the party late,  I think you will find the genesis of this project quite interesting.

Now that the book is finished and published*, hopefully I’ll find more time to channel some new narratives.   Stay tuned!

Thanks, as always, for your continued support.

-Adrienne

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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The Measure of a Man

first published July 2, 2016michelangelo_david

Ke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 —

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

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 loveable 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.

 

—————–

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 Subtle Bouquet of My Pain

First published Feb 5, 2015
Wine_Flood-es

Phi

I had so many opportunities to understand. I turned my back on almost every one of them, avoiding unpleasant emotions as much as possible. Of course, I did learn a few things along the way but these were mostly passive lessons. I didn’t throw myself into life, savoring every emotion, turning the flavors over on my tongue until I could discern the subtle nuance in the bouquet, the way an oenophile considers a complex wine. I did not understand the difference among love and lust and obligation and affection and self-serving need. I never picked up on the connection between insecurity and anger. I didn’t recognize the link attaching my deepest fears to my most self-destructive behaviors.

Instead, I festered and stewed; ate myself up with anger and resentment. I blamed everyone else for my misery. I never looked to the source of the problem which of course, in one’s own life, is always oneself.

It is only through the closest and most brutally honest examination of our emotions that we find our own truth, and the peace that comes with it.

——————

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

 

Ipoism, Part 2

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

The only truth that matters is the one found within.

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

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

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

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

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

——————

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

 

Ipoism?

First published January 30, 2015

HelixNebula

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(continued…)

——————

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 Sliver of Light

originally published January 26, 2016

rocks piled

Ca

When I was about 45 years old, I gave up sex. Eventually, I went into religious seclusion so I might focus my full attention upon my studies and meditations of the wonders of the universe. I cut my ties to the secular world because none of it interested me.

I had spent half my life chasing money, career advancement, possessions, — empty goals, all of them. When I finally came to that understanding, I could no longer bear to live in that world.

It didn’t happen all at once. It began with a seed but the subject so fascinated me, it became an obsession.

It started with a drug that opened my mind just enough to let a sliver of light in. The first time there was no great epiphany. It was only different enough for me to say, “What was that!?” I’d seen only a glimpse but I knew I wanted to go back there.   So, I did it again. This time I looked for the opening, and when I found it, I moved into it. People call this a hallucination but many so-called hallucinations are more real and more true than what humans call reality.

I did it again and again. I couldn’t get enough of that place. The more I went there, the less I cared about chasing the middle class dream.   My family and my friends lamented.   They felt I was throwing my life away. They begged me to get help for my problem.

The problem was that I didn’t see it as a problem. I saw my family and friends as the ones with the problem. They chose to remain enslaved to the pursuit of meaninglessness.

Of course, as I started to care less about the shackles of modern civilization, the more strange I seemed to most everyone else. They saw me as kind of feeble-minded, my once-intelligent mind now addled by drugs.

There were names for people like me and they were all dismissive and condescending. Society as a whole needs to ostracize people like me, the way I was. If they didn’t, and others joined the search for Truth over Power, the situation could become dangerous.   If people are not kept in lock step with The Human Plan, the entire structure of power falls apart.   Humankind could not function if everyone had their heads in the clouds like me.   Who would run the factories? Who would wage the wars? Who would supply the food for all to eat? Who would produce the goods for all to wear?   Who would build the places for all to live? Who would create the scaffolding upon which the human ego hangs?

The human species advanced because of cooperation among people; the division of tasks.   When one person alone must hunt or gather all his own food, build his own shelter, gather his own fuel, haul his own water, make all his own tools — such a man has no time for philosophy.   But when humans live together in a group, each is able to specialize in their own particular task. The more they do it, the better they get at it, and thus, technology is born.   This co-dependent situation is to the benefit of everyone.

Modern society is built on this same structure, writ large, with each person far removed from most everything he or she eats or drinks or acquires.

So, if everybody followed my way, society would crumble, and humans would go back to having to do everything themselves, either way, leaving no time for philosophy.

But what would society be without a soul? Without a hand on the rudder to keep the human race from being set adrift?

Even primitive man understood this, and designated one person in each group, to remain in touch with the Spiritual.   By so channeling, this person maintained the group’s balance between the quotidian and the heavenly.

This basic dynamic carried forward from small primitive groups to large cities teeming with millions. There are those who have the gift, the purity, and the charisma to remind humankind of its spiritual destiny.

But I was not one of them.   I did not have the ability to make others understand what I saw or how I was feeling.   If I told them what I knew, they would have thought me a lunatic and locked me away.   Instead, I went away from them.

I retreated to a place where I could exist with the minimal. The less I possessed, the less I needed to worry about holding on to it.   Without that concern, I no longer had to work long hours, putting my mind to things that ultimately made no difference.

Work is work, regardless of whether one is digging ditches or communing with the universe.   All work is noble, as long as it gratifies the soul.   Find meaning in your work, and it will show you the path.

My path led me to this new kind of work even though, to those I left behind, it did not appear to be work at all.   I depended on the kindness, generosity and favors of others —   friends and strangers alike.

I earned no money but even still, I had to do physical toil. No good comes from idleness, either.

And that’s where I spent the rest of my days, leading a simple life so I might spend more time in contemplation.

Those from my past believed I was turning my back on life. They pitied me. I, in turn, pitied them. So much wasted time and energy on empty things. The answers were beyond myself and I wanted to spend my life looking,  even if I never found them.

——————

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

 

 

The Great Architect

earth from space

Ipo (yes, again!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

——————

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 Curse that Was Me

First published Nov 29, 2014

my voodoo vignette

Ru

My father was always angry at the world. To his mind, no one – not the people he worked with, not his own family, not complete strangers – gave him the respect he believed he deserved.   At home, he was a sullen bully. The rest of us responded each in our own way, based on our own character.

My mother was passive and docile. She accepted his emotional coldness and frequent verbal abuse, cowering but never daring to talk back to him or demand anything for herself.   My sister found her comfort and support elsewhere. She spent as much time away from home as possible. Whatever positive things she learned about family was from the parents of her friends. My brother, the oldest, hated my father. They got into frequent screaming matches, which often ended with my brother storming out of the house.

Me? I took on all the emotional weight upon myself.

No matter who was upset, I always felt I was to blame. If my mother cried, surely it was because of something I’d done. If my father was in a particularly foul mood, somehow I knew I was at the root of it. The voice in my head said, “See what you did?! This is all your fault!”

I felt perpetually guilty. Even if I couldn’t see it, certainly I was responsible for the suffering of someone, somewhere. It was irrational, of course, but this was hard-wired into my brain when I was very young.

Everything I became followed from that.

Since any drama triggered a cascade of guilt and self-loathing, I developed a lifelong distaste for confrontation. I cut as wide a swath as possible around anything emotionally fraught. By the time I was a young man, I’d become quite adept at avoiding conflict.

I cultivated the persona of an affable, agreeable, easy-going gent; polite and courtly in my manners so as not to cause offense.  I made myself small and innocuous to diminish my emotional footprint on the world.

Avoidance of confrontation served me well enough in my twenties. Nobody expects too much maturity from a man at that age. As I got older, however, this behavior became habit, and soon it became my character.

Since I internalized any unpleasantness (hurt feelings, tears, anger) as being my fault, from my perspective it seemed I always left a wake of tears. I felt cursed. Anyone who got too close would inevitably fall victim to this poisonous spell. I would disappoint and hurt them. I was dangerous; not worthy of anyone’s trust, love or affection

All my romantic liaisons followed the same basic script and always ended the same way.

Generally, to avoid conflict, I acceded to as many of her superficial and material demands as I could without actually giving anything significant of myself. I did this to keep her quietly satisfied and emotionally calm. When she asked for more than I was willing to give, I had an unassailable excuse at the ready, one with which she could not argue. Like Houdini, I could make myself vanish.

In this way, I found myself always stuck between a rock and a hard place. I was either submitting to her will or fretting about finding ways to painlessly avoid such acquiescence.   I felt cornered, trapped by my inability to say “No! This is not what I want! I want to do it my way.” Although this cage was of my own making, I resented her for putting me there.

This resentment harkened the beginning of the downward spiral.

I approached each finale with mixed feelings. On one side, I hated to let go. I took great comfort in the love and touch of a woman. Their emotional essence which so confounded me, was the very thing which drew me to them. (What was the point of being with a woman if I felt nothing?) If only we could have remained in the passion phase! But the seed of romance quickly become overgrown with duty and obligation and expectations which I could not fulfill.

How could I be responsible for someone else’s happiness when I could not even nourish my own?

Her emotional demands piled up. The pressure built as she required more of what I could not give.

I avoided and evaded and let her believe whatever she wanted. Honesty and assertiveness were not options. They would have occasioned drama, which would inevitably precipitate cascades of guilt. Rather than revealing my true feelings (or lack of them), I held up a mirror and reflected back what she wanted to see. Direct questions were met with silence or evasion or misdirection, leaving her to fill in the blanks. When pressured, I lied.

But one can only avoid confrontation for so long.

(continued in next post)

 

photo/styling:  Adrienne Gusoff

____

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.
 

What Money Can’t Buy

first published Nov 20, 2014

rich kid silver spoon

Cha

What a waste of a life!

It took me until my 40s before I started to feel as if something were missing from my life. I made a few of attempts to find ways to fill the void but I was useless at anything practical. I failed at each attempt — spectacularly and embarrassingly. So I gave up and went back to my former louche, superficial and self-indulgent ways, but now with much less pleasure.

When I was young, I never questioned that I could have anything I wanted. I could buy whatever I wished. I could pick up at a moment’s notice and travel halfway around the world on a whim.  There were always lots of people willing to laugh at my jokes,  to revel in my company, to sleep in my bed. It never occurred to me to feel bad or ashamed that everything I had had been bought…including, in their fashion, the laughter, the reveling and the sex. There was nothing beyond that which I wanted.  I had all that I desired and desired all I had.

Eventually, however, as I got older, the people I met in my circle tended to be wealthy because they had accomplished something.  Even those born rich, seemed to have achieved success in their chosen pursuits.   And while there was a fair share of marriages of convenience, there were many who genuinely loved their spouses.

This started to nag at a corner of my psyche.

The thought started small but I soon began to feel that people only saw me as an extension of my money.

Of course that should have been ridiculously obvious. But for decades it was completely opaque to me.  I’d been content in my shallow world and had seen no reason to think too deeply about matters which might sow seeds of dissatisfaction.

But as this realization grew, I got the notion that I wanted to possess something money could not buy: The pride of accomplishment.   Self-respect.   Someone who loved me for myself.

This was the first good impulse I had in my life.

Unfortunately, it came too late.  I had no idea how to be loved for myself or what that even meant. I did not possess the emotional skills needed to truly love or be loved. My values were too warped. I had no instincts. I tried to express love but other than buying material gifts, I had no idea how to give of myself. I sought love but was too naive to know when I was being taken advantage of. I paid a heavy price for that, both emotionally and financially.

I tried my hand at business and even local politics. Once again, my instincts (or rather lack of them) failed me. I had no understanding of how the world functioned outside my rarefied milieu.

After several years of failures, I was, for the first time in my life, dissatisfied. I still played my social role. Still traveled in the right circles.  Ate and drank in the right places. I was now aware, however, of the subtle mocking disdain of others. Or perhaps that was self-disdain. I honestly don’t know.

There came a time when I withdrew from that circle and surrounded myself with those who admired me…for the same superficial reasons I’d once admired myself.  It was a vain and shallow and unexamined life. Pickled in gin.

I ran away from those who I felt judged me negatively. Ironically, if I hadn’t cared about their respect, they’d have respected me more. Or, again, perhaps I only would have believed they did. I imagine, either way, the same number of people would have liked me perfectly well (or disliked me) exactly as I was (and had always been).

The issue, I understand how, was not how they perceived me, but how I perceived their perception of me.

So, I surrounded myself with those even more needy and self-loathing than I. This allowed me to feel better about myself. My positive delusions about myself were reinforced by my coterie of hangers-on.

I told myself I didn’t need my old circle.  I talked myself into believing that I was lucky not to have been caught in that prison of strict mores and expectations. I convinced myself I was better off and freer where I was.

On those rare occasions when I was took a good, hard, honest look at myself,  I granted that I had run away from them. This notion made me feel bad enough not to want to examine it any more deeply.

What I never understood was that I was not running away from them.  I was running from the image of myself which I projected on upon them.

 

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