The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “reincarnation”

The Weirdness Begins

first published April 9,  2014

Fog 5 _ Another selection from Queensbury churchyard – Tim Green

One afternoon,  not long after I gave up my quest for astral travel, I was working at my desk when a very unusual foreign last name popped into my head. I’d never heard it before and had no idea where it came from, or what it meant.  Since I was already at my computer, I Googled it.

There was only one person with that name —  a doctor/teacher of metaphysics in Washington state.   How odd that of all the names I might have made up,   I was directed to somebody who could possibly help me on my spiritual quest.  In fact,  she offered an on-line course on Metaphysics at a cost of $250.  It was money perhaps better spent on more practical things, but both my husband and I agreed that her name came to me for a reason,  so I signed up. [As of this writing, I have spoken to her and have her course material, but have not yet had time to begin the work. **]

The next morning,  lying in bed, another name popped into my head. It was not a particularly unusual name, but it came to me with an uncommon spelling.  I Googled her as well. The first thing that came up were a couple of old Amazon reviews she’d written for books on spiritual healing and life after death.   “Hmmm,” I thought, “another nudge in this direction.”

I was curious about the reviewer, herself, so I did a bit more research, and quickly managed to track her down.   She died in 2010, in Phoenix, after a long illness. (If she were still alive, she would have been just a couple of years older than I am.)    The thought did occur to me that this person, who had obviously been reading books on the afterlife as she was dying,  might be sending me a message.   But such an assumption was pretty “woo-woo” and I was not yet willing to ascribe anything more to it than bizarre coincidence or perhaps a random psychic thought.  (I’ve had many psychic experiences in my life;  known things about people or future events which I had no rational way of knowing except by extra-sensory perception. But as with the OBEs,  I’ve never be able to control my clairvoyant thoughts, nor do I know in the moment of thinking them if I’m receiving them telepathically or if I’m just making them up.  They feel the same in my head.   It’s not until they are later proven to be true, that I am able to identify them as having been received via ESP.   Perhaps this is just a matter of practice, awareness, training and trust in my own instincts.)

The following day, I got another name, this one even more unusual. (I am not including the names here out of respect for the families of the deceased. Besides, what would it prove?)    A quick search brought up several pages of recent obits. She was an elderly woman, from West Orange, NJ. She’d been quite active in local charities, hence the many write-ups about her passing. She’d died two months previous.

OK….NOW I’m starting to feel that something strange may be happening.

Over the next few days, other names popped into my head – most of them too unusual to have been merely made up on the spot.   (Not all names were unusual, but I ignored the ones that were not. What would be the point of looking up a common name? There would be too many of them to sort through. How could I know if I’d found the right person – assuming there was a right person to find?)

Over the course of a week, I received maybe six or seven distinctive names, all of which I looked up. Every single time searched, the very first thing that came up was an obit; most of them were deceased fairly recently.

Initially, this was intriguing in its strangeness. After a while, however,  it became kind of annoying.  What kind of a lame psychic power is this?  I could get the same names by reading obits in the newspaper. I hardly needed all this random info cluttering up my psychic airwaves!

I decided to have a stern talk to “them” (whoever “they” were.)     “Enough already! What am I supposed to do with this information? Should I call up your family and tell them you talked to me? And what am I supposed to say?”

Obviously that would have been pointless and cruel,  so what good were the names and obits?

After that, I got a couple more names but refused to look them up.   Take that, dead people!!  “If you want to use my brain,” I told them,  “you’re going to have to use it for something more interesting than this, because I’m not playing this game any more!”

I guess “they” got my message, because the names stopped and  sure enough,  something a lot more interesting started to happen…

 


**Update:  Eventually, I did start to read the material but I found it so poorly written as to be impenetrable.  I did speak to her a couple of times, but found her to be condescending and unhelpful.   In the end,  I continued to do my own  research, reading on a wide range of subject as varied as scientific research on reincarnation, astral projection,  quantum physics,  the biology of the brain,  spirituality, philosophy, etc.

—-

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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Imagine What I Could Save on Airfare!

First post of this blog, originally published August 23, 2014

Astral-Travel

 

About six months ago, I picked up working on a novel I’d started writing about ten years ago. In it, the main character has spontaneous Out of Body Experiences (OBEs).  In order to write about them in more depth and with greater understanding, I began to research the subject.

The notion of astral projection has long fascinated me. Imagine! Being able to leave your body at will and travel anywhere in the world you want to go!   Screw you, American Airlines, with your $25 per bag handling fee!

Over my lifetime, I’ve had several extremely detailed dreams in which I visited places which seemed and felt entirely real.   In a few cases, I later found myself in these places and recognized them from my dreams.  Had they been spontaneous OBEs?

Back in junior high, I dreamed about a lake in the mountains. Overhead,  was an impossibly clear, high,  cerulean sky. Lavender-colored mountains, ringed with mossy green,  spilled into the purest aqua water!  The colors were so vivid, they were surreal; I’d even say emotional.  When I awoke  I felt compelled to sketch it out, in full color pastel chalks (which didn’t at all do it  justice. No artist’s medium could have captured the intensity.)  My drawing remained in my desk drawer for years as a “snapshot” of my trip.  (It may even still be with my old papers.)  I felt I had absolutely been there and seen it with my own eyes, even though I didn’t believe such a perfectly beautiful, beautifully perfect place could actually exist on this planet.

After college, I traveled for eight months around Europe and lived for a while with a man in Athens.  When I got home, we remained in touch, sending letters back and forth across the Atlantic (this was long before email.)   Initially, the letters were weekly, then dwindled in frequency to monthly,  until finally, it had been nearly nine months since I’d heard from him.

One night, in a dream, I went to visit him in the tiny apartment in the Ano Ilisia section where we’d lived together.  I was “informed by neighbors”  he no longer lived there;  that he’d moved to a different neighborhood – an area where several of his friends lived and which we’d visited together on a couple of occasions.   I “flew” to the new neighb and tried to find him, without luck.

The very next day, I received a letter from him telling me he’d moved from Ano Ilisia to a new apartment, in the very area where I’d been looking for him in my dream!

In my mid-30’s, I traveled for a while in Tibet.   Most of the roads there are carved into the sides of mountains, with  a precipitous drop off the other  side.   One afternoon,  the bus I was traveling on came to a stop behind a long line of traffic. Way ahead of us, a truck had fallen halfway off the mountain. Other drivers (who seemed used to this kind of thing) had attached thick ropes to it, and were attempting to pull it back onto the road before it tumbled into the abyss.

Clearly, this was going to take several hours, so I (and others) got out of the bus to stretch our legs and have a little walk-about.  And there, just ahead, around a bend, was my lake, just as I’d pictured it!  In the thin air of the high altitude,  the colors shimmered with the same intense clarity they had in my dream! It was very literally, a mystical experience because of the dream, because of my own journey, because of where I was (in the Himalaya, for dog’s sake!!!) and because of the incredible intensity of the color.   The intensity was made even more jarring and poignant, by my having just spent half a week bouncing across the bleak, colorless landscape of the Tibetan plain. This lake was like a miraculous view of heaven; as if I’d been blind and suddenly was able to see again!

yamdrok-lake-tibet-scenery

I have always accepted these and other similar dreams as spontaneous OBEs but of course, I had no control over my itinerary.

At various times in my life, I’d made half-hearted attempts at astral projection without success, but finally, I felt I was spiritually mature enough to re-tackle my goal.

I read books and articles,  visited websites,  and I listened to recordings embedded with binaural tones at specific frequencies which were supposed to facilitate OBEs.  I spent many hours, over the course of a couple of months, attempting to fling my consciousness out of my corporeal form and into the ether.   I usually got as far as the pre-flight indicators — vibrations along my entire body; heart palpitations; a sense that my limbs were in different positions than they physically were —  but I don’t believe I ever achieved lift off.   Anything I saw or felt in that condition could easily have been explained as a fantasy or a dream or self-hypnosis.

On several occasions, while listening those recordings, it felt as if my conscious mind were separating from my body, but I could never get it to go anywhere.  Every time I tried to turn around and look back at myself on the bed, I still felt my consciousness inside my own head.   (No doubt I wasn’t separating at all but just in an hypnotic state.)

What I was expecting —  what I wanted –– was for my mind to travel at will, with control.  I wanted to visit a place far from home and witness things  which could later be verified (as had happened during my spontaneous travels).  Although I very much wanted to have a “real”  OBE,  my criterion for judging whether I’d actually had one was (and continues to be) very high.  If my experience  can be explained in a simple, logical, scientific or psychological way,  I am always inclined to accept this versus some mystical justification.  Still, I was always hoping for the mystical; hoping to have an experience which I could not explain in another way.

After a couple of months without lift-off, I gave up further attempts at OBE.  I assumed that would be the end of it.

But then some strange things began to happen…

 

_____

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

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

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.  She was painfully shy. 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

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin

originally published April 3, 2015

 

(Although written over three years ago,  the moral of this story is excruciatingly apt for what’s going on now.)

alexmankiewicz.com-ostrich2

 

Ha

The writing was on the wall, plain enough to see for anyone who looked. I saw it, myself, but I could not believe what was written. All the signs were there. Danger increased every day. Mistrust festered. Hatred boiled just below the surface. You couldn’t help but feel it, but many of us were hoping it would burn itself out.  We could not believe it would get worse. Surely people would come to their senses!   After all, we were living in modern times, in a civilized place. So we thought. But then, doesn’t everyone believe they are living in a civilized place in modern times?

The lucky ones, the smart ones, they left while they still could. The earlier they heeded the signs, the more they were able to salvage of their lives. Others, like me, simply couldn’t believe it could get bad enough to warrant picking up our entire lives and fleeing; leaving behind everyone and everything we knew. Leaving behind our homes, our businesses, our jobs, our schools, our places of worship, our sense of belonging.

By the time things became desperate, there was no escaping. The slaughter had begun and there was no one and nothing to protect us. In that time of fear, what was most terrifying of all was seeing how quickly men become animals; how uncivilized they can be the defense of their civilization.

It’s natural to look at violence and war and cruelty that takes place far away or happened long before we were born, and think, “That was a different time; those were different people. It can’t happen here. We are better than that.”

I learned in the most cruel way, it is always dangerous to underestimate the brutality of humans.

Too many are of them are voids, easily raised to ire and led to violence by those who can fill their hearts with meaning.

artwork: http://www.alexmankiewicz.com

_____
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

Anhedonia

Originally published Feb 26, 2015

depressed-summer-day

He

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

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

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

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

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

 

——–
Buy the book!

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

The Eagle Has Landed!!!

 

Yippeeeee!!  The book is live on Amazon!!!  (click link to purchase)

I was hoping to keep the price down but It’s nearly 400 pages so printing is expensive. Sorry!!! Nevertheless,  I’m quite pleased with the way it came out.  What I particular love about the book format is that you can randomly open to any story, and depending on your mood and where you are in your life at that moment,  you may find different meaning in it each time.

Positive feed back on Amazon would be MOST appreciated!!!  (hint, hint!)

It would thrill me no end if small groups of people got together regularly (like a book club) to discuss some of the stories as jumping off points to their own deeper understanding of themselves and of life.  I’d love it if teachers assigned the book to students, then asked the students to write their own life story in a similar format. Therapy patients could benefit from a similar exercise.  I invite actors to use the stories as monologues and writers to use them as jumping off points for books, plays, or movies.  Truly, I hope this book finds some life outside the blog. I’d be most appreciative for any help you might offer in spreading the word/work.

Thank you ALL for your loyal support and feedback.  Gail, you see I took your advice re the cover. And Lino,  I took your advice about arranging the stories in a way so that each one informs on the one before and after it, (unlike the blog, where they are published as they come to me.) Both excellent suggestions!

Much love,

Adrienne

Haters Gonna Hate

Originally posted March 13, 2015

acid

Nak

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

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

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

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

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

And so, I must do it again.

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! 

Perfection is Not So Perfect

Originally published March  17, 2015

alabasater statue of woman

Lub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I became sick in my 40s, it was the first time anyone looked past my façade and regarded me as a full human being. They saw my suffering and in it, finally recognized my humanity.   I did not last very long but strange to say, it was the happiest year of my life.

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

 

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.

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