The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “self-love”

A Selfish Cad

First published October 18, 2014

selfish

 

Na

I was not a good person in my lifetime. I cheated and took advantage of people. I always chose was what best for myself and never fully chose for anyone else. Even when I behaved in an apparently magnanimous way, it was only because it furthered my own needs.   This was true even in my marriage, even with my own children.

But these were not my worst sins. The tragedy of my life was that I was completely oblivious to what a selfish, unenlightened human being, in fact, I was.  I never had a moment’s doubt that my behavior wasn’t righteous and justified.   After all, if I didn’t choose in favor of myself, who would? Others could not be trusted to watch out for my best interests.

There is absolute truth in that. It’s an important lesson; something I’d learned before and brought with me to this last life. But that is only half the lesson. Without the corollary, the real lesson has not been learned.

There is no question that the point of life is to learn to love. All goodness and enlightenment of the spirit spring from accepting this as the absolute truth.   All routes to all lessons pass through love – not only by understanding how best to achieve it, but by confronting all the reasons we run from it; and by examining the ways we comfort ourselves when we don’t have it.

But one cannot love if one cannot trust. Those who cannot trust themselves, cannot love themselves. Of all the kinds of human love, self-love is most important. Without self-love, it is impossible to accept love from others. Without this, one cannot love.

The more we truly love and accept ourselves exactly as we are, the more we are able to love and accept others exactly as they are, and thus, the more loveable we become.

Always behave in ways that foster self-respect. Take the high road not for the sake of others, but for your own benefit.  Release anger and forgive. Expect the best of others thus giving them the opportunity to live up to those expectations still recognizing that if they do not, that is their burden to carry. The misdeeds of others taint us and attach to us only when we respond in kind.

I only know this now, too late to have benefitted anyone in my past life. My punishment, if you want to call it that, for being such a shallow, selfish cad, is to know how much I hurt the ones closest to me, and how much better it would have been for all of us, if I’d be able to see then what I see now.

 

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

 

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An Oyster, Ostracized

originally published oct 15, 2014

(this story seems particularly apt these days,  given how the current political situation has torn families and even marriages asunder.)

oyster with pearl

 Cha

The pain of my family haunted me all my life.   My parents and siblings were not particularly evil people, but they were small and callous, jealous and petty, insecure and often mean.  The toxic dynamics in my  childhood shaped me as an adult – my needs, desires, fears, insecurities, my ways of interacting with the world.

When friends or acquaintances make us unhappy,  we are free to sever those ties. Family, for better or worse, is forever.  I withdrew as much as possible from mine, but there were inevitably situations where interaction was unavoidable.  Family is genetically and biologically intertwined.

I dreaded the occasions when I had to spend time with them. I always left their company licking my wounds, feeling once again, like a rejected, unwanted child.

No one in my family understood my choices.  At best, I was tolerated but never embraced. I was unwelcome and unaccepted not because of anything I had done, but simply because of who I was and what I believed. My feelings were never taken seriously. My siblings’ own families later learned to mock and mistreat me the same way.

It wasn’t until much later in my adulthood,  when I met other outsiders like myself, that I eventually found love. Because it had taken me so long to find it, I treasured it.  I savored the feeling of being embraced and accepted for exactly who I was.

Even so,  it took me most of my life to shed the pain of being shut out of my family.  I clung to my anger  because it made my pain righteous.  I refused  to let it go until I had from them an apology; an acknowledgement of wrongdoing.  I wanted them to accept responsibility for the misery they had caused me.

Finally,  I understood I would never have that from any of them.  My only release was in forgiveness.

That was the lesson I was born to learn.

We travel and are reborn, again and again, with the same group of souls. But sharing the same journey does not mean we will receive love or understanding from each other.   Some share our paths specifically to aggrieve us, or for us to aggrieve them.  The same soul may take the form of a different kind of  nemesis in each lifetime.

From irritants, an oyster can make a pearl.

The hardest kind of forgiveness is for those who don’t believe they need to be forgiven.

______

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

 

 

Going Under

first posted Sept 13, 2015

drowning hand

On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the end, we all have to save ourselves.

 

—————–

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

Lay That Burden Down

NEW!

 

Len

If you’d asked me if I was a good friend, a caring and generous person, I would have said, unequivocally, yes. In many important ways I was all those things, but I was also deluded about myself and about how others saw me.

I was happy to give my time and my energy and my money to others, and I could always be depended on for a favor.  Even though I rarely asked for anything in return, truth was, I did expect something very big in return.  But what I wanted could not be bought with time or energy or money not matter how much I gave.

What I wanted more than anything  was to be loved exactly the way I wanted to be loved, completely as myself with no need to fit myself to another.  I wanted my every flaw to be overlooked.   I wanted to be seen as perfect. And in this I was most needy.

Oh, what heartache I suffered when the ones I loved (or wanted to love)  did not love me, even after all I’d done for them.  When my expectations were not met, I grew resentful.  In my resentment, I became angry.  Angry people are difficult to love.  This anger was a heavy burden which I bore without ever truly understanding how the weight of it bent and crippled me.

I understand now that people don’t always love you the way you want to be loved.   To be loved, you must allow others to love you in whatever ways they do,  in whatever ways they can.

—————–

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

The Greatest Sin

NEW!in-shell

 

Pau

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

—————–

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!

Couple of Hours, Max

 

balloon-pin

 

NEW!

Jul

I was not an average kind of person but I absolutely was of a specific known type: a depressive, nihilistic, pessimistic, angry, neurotic intellectual.   I was thoroughly convinced of my own genius to the point of condescension towards those who were not as sharp as I.  At the same time, I also harbored a  profound self-loathing which sprung from deep insecurity and crippling self-doubt.

I was quick-witted, extremely well-read, with a sardonic sense of humor.  I could, when it suited me, be quite charming.  Although few people dared stray too close to me emotionally,  I was often invited to parties and social gatherings.  I stirred the pot in the controlled way a host likes. It makes for interesting conversation.

One on one, I was off putting; tolerable only in limited doses.  I could find the negative in everything; suck the joy out of any occasion.  I was rain at a picnic.  The pin in the balloon.

Not surprisingly, I did not have any long-lasting intimate relationships. My longest affair  was four years. The only reason she stuck around as long as she did was because she had nowhere else to go.  I knew she was trapped;  I knew why she was with me, and I tortured her for it. She was weak; she was desperate; I resented her need and detested her for it.

Eventually, even the notion of being penniless out on the street was preferable to living with me.

In a strange way, I missed her for a while. She had been, for all her flaws, human company. I craved it while simultaneously being repelled by it, and by my own need for it.

As I got older,  the vague paranoia that had plagued me since childhood began to consume me.  I imagined conspiracies everywhere — by the government, by my landlord, by my neighbors, by whatever family members still had anything to do with me. I picked fights over imagined slights.  If I misplaced or lost something, I accused other of stealing. Eventually even those who had tolerated me and my trunkful of quirks had enough.

My final years were spent alone, mumbling to myself, angry at the world that it did not recognize my genius. I read voraciously and wrote manifestos to newspapers, to authors,  to people in the government.

My observations about the world, about humans and the way they are, were not insane.  In fact, it was the truth of them that nearly drove me mad.

 

—————–

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!

No Philosophy, No Mechanism

First published 8/16/15

candle smoke

 

Pa

From the time she left me until the end of her life, all I wished for was that she would finally comprehend what I’d always been trying to make her understand.   Even after the years passed, I always held out hope that one day she would have an epiphany and all would become clear; that she would finally see her own truth from a new perspective, one which afforded her safe distance from her pain. I prayed that one day she would see in herself all the beauty that I saw. I willed that she would understand that believing something is either good or bad fortune is simply a matter of perspective.

She was too unhappy, too caught up in her own pain, to make sense of any of it. I tried with all the love and forgiveness I could muster to keep at her my side, though she fought me as if I were a demon.   She lashed out at everything – good and bad –equally. She had no philosophy, no mechanism by which to extract any value from her suffering.

A tragic life is one in which suffering is in vain. Where pain brings no growth; no advancement in understanding; no deeper empathy for others. No breaking of walls. No ability to be vulnerable. No opening of the mind and spirit. No conquest of fear.

Fear shades the light which illuminates the Truth.

 


 

As I was writing this, my first impression was that it was a man speaking of his lover, but after a while I had the sense it was a parent speaking of their deeply unhappy, emotionally-challenged child. There was  pain because the child predeceased the parent (by suicide, perhaps.)

—–

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!
 

One Hand Clapping

New!

sad-couple

Car

For many years — far longer than it should have — it mattered to me if he loved me. I gave a lot of thought and put much effort into pleasing him, into being a good and caring wife.  I believed my own success was measured by how happy I could make my husband.

It was difficult to know if he was happy.  He was not much for casual conversation. He hoarded his words the way a miser hoards his silver.  I looked for signs that he was satisfied. When other women complained that their husbands criticized or tried to control them,  I felt lucky to be married to a man who let me be; who never said harsh words or pointed out my faults.   However,  he never praised me, either.  He did not recoil from my touch, but neither did he seek it out.

When my father passed,  it was a time to take stock of my life, of my marriage.  I stopped acting out of habit and paid close attention to any change in our dynamic. I suppose I always suspected the truth, but it was at this time that I finally came to terms with it:  I was in our marriage alone.    He was physically present but emotionally absent.

He was never purposely cruel, but neither was he particularly loving, and there was a kind of cruelty in that.  He made few demands of me, but neither did he notice or appreciate my efforts for him.  Whether I made him his favorite dinner or let him fend for himself, it mattered to him not at all. He could be just as happy eating something small and simple, just enough to satisfy his hunger, as to eat a meal that took me hours to prepare.

If I attended to the small things for his comfort and convenience or if I was lazy and selfish, he cared not one whit.  If I made our home nice and cozy, or did not bother to clean or neaten up for days, he didn’t seem to notice. If he wanted to sit and read but there was something on his chair, he wordlessly moved it.  He asked for nothing and did not complain when he didn’t get it.  Sometimes, he’d say or do something to please me because it seemed expected of him.  Initially, I took these small scraps as appreciation but I came to understand he was simply making the minimum effort he felt he could get away with. We coexisted civilly, politely, but without intimacy.

In the early years, my duties as a wife and homemaker defined me, gave my life focus and purpose.  I played my role, day after day, putting one foot in front of the other, not paying much attention to where I was going. Or why.

But eventually I realized that he neither saw or understood my feelings, and that any effort on my part in that direction were for naught.  He moved through life without engaging.  He was quite happy to exist inside his own head.  Emotionally, I was superfluous.

It was then I began to consider if there weren’t more fulfilling ways to spend my life.

And that was the beginning of learning to love myself.

____

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

The Measure of a Man

New!michelangelo_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 or indulgence of 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 many, 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! 

The Cure for Unhappiness

First published February 8 2016

zen bound

Ipo  (yes, him again!)

Wherever you find unhappiness in your life, seek the place where the spirit is shackled to the ego, then sunder the bond.

The spirit’s sole purpose is to ascend. The ego is ballast holding it earthbound. Loose the ties. The perspective broadens as you rise. What confounds and hurts when standing in the midst makes beautiful sense from a distance.

Humans pursue happiness in various ways but there can be no true peace until these knots are severed.

First, however, the knots must be acknowledged.

The ego manifests in our desires, our expectations, in our sense of entitlement from the rest of the world.   It manifests in our need to be loved and acknowledged. It manifests in the way the world is reflected back at us through the eyes of others.

But you are not these things. You are not your possessions or your job, not your social status or physical entity.

When you feel the pain of the ego, ask yourself “What does this represent?” “Why do I want this so much that not to have it will cause me pain?” And, most importantly, “Who am I without it?”

 ______
 
 me: This came to me the night before we hosted a big holiday party. I’d been cooking, baking, cleaning, setting up for days. I’d been on my feet for ten hours. My back was screaming. Finally, at 2am, thoroughly exhausted, I collapsed into bed, so happy to finally be able to rest. And then, IPO! (he’s so insistent!) Wouldn’t let me sleep until I wrote it down!
But as soon as it came into my head, I realized this was something important.
I’m generally happy and positive with very few things that nag at me, so this is not the kind of subject that normally occupies my mind. It literally popped into my head apropos of nothing. And not only that, but when I was so exhausted, I could barely formulate my own thoughts.
Since then, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about this.   When I consider the things which have made (or make) me unhappy in life – incidents or phases or interactions with others which made feel hurt, frustrated, angry, depressed — in every case, this unhappiness was/is indeed a result of my ego. Of course, even knowing this, it’s not so easy to let go but at least it puts me on the right path to solving the problem, and puts the responsibility firmly in my own court.
I know this for sure: the more in touch we are with our spiritual essence,  the less we need to possess or achieve in order to feel whole.

______

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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