The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “shame”

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.

 

 

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Bully Bait

originally posted 5/6/14

prison cell block

Le

Life works in mysterious ways. At first, I couldn’t wait to marry her. At the end, I just wanted her dead. I wanted her mouth shut; her body rotting in the ground, where it belonged. I’d been helplessly in love with her and she had betrayed me; turned me into a cuckold; made me a fool; built huge, flashing arrows pointing to my weaknesses.

If anyone had asked me, I might have said I loved her, but I guess the hatred and resentment was always bubbling beneath the surface. I hated being in her power; hated myself for not being able to break free. She baited me all the time: Compared my “assets” to those of my best friend, who, I was often reminded, had a “much better set.”   Mocking me for every mistake, large and small. Belittling me just because she could.

Maybe I should have just left, but when she’d torment me, she would always say, “Look at you! You aren’t man enough to do anything about it!” and because I knew she was right – I wasn’t man enough – I obeyed and did nothing.

She was beautiful and a bit exotic.   When I met her, I couldn’t believe a woman like that would be interested in me. When I’d ask her why, she told me I was her “diamond in the rough.” She said she would teach me how to be a man, and I believed her.

In the beginning, she doted on me and built up my ego. I didn’t feel like merely a man; I felt like “The Man.” Ultimately, however, no matter how much she tried to polish me, no matter how nice a setting she put me in, I was always the same old hunk of worthless rock. Soon, she hated me for it. She believed, if I’d only loved her enough, I would change. My apparent inability to grow a spine was a slap in her face.

In our dynamic, every time she gave me a challenge and I failed to live up to her expectations, she was elevated in my esteem; and I was debased in hers. With each of my failures, the chasm between us grew.

It was a brutal transition between her believing in me and her no longer giving a damn. I ached for the early days. I still believed I loved her because I remembered how she used to make me feel.

She took so much pleasure in tormenting me, and I accepted it. I believed I deserved it. My thinking went: “At least she’s still here; at least I can satisfy her in some way.”

I was pathetic. I wasn’t even man enough to stand up for myself.

And then one day, I snapped.

My father had just passed away a few months before. I hadn’t had much contact with him since I’d left home years earlier. I had no use for him. From boyhood, he, too, belittled me. At the time, I would not have said I was deeply affected by his death.

It’s funny, but I can’t remember the exact words she said that set it all in motion, but it was something that cut me so deep, it opened up all the wounds from my youth.   Every last scab was ripped off and they were all stinging and bleeding again:  The existential fear of my own worthlessness.   The self-loathing because I didn’t have the confidence to stand up for myself.  The inability to trust my own judgment in any situation, thus deferring to anyone and everyone, and never having a voice of my own.

In that moment, I remembered the bullies who used to tease me, especially the day I came out of school to discover they’d set my brand new bicycle on fire. I remembered my father whispering to family members and friends, and them looking at me and laughing. I was never sure exactly what he was telling them, but I felt it had to do with my most recent failure at sports or at school, with the way I’d mishandled a chore or errand. Nothing – and I mean nothing in my entire life – had ever impressed him. Even when I got married to that beauty, he made sure I knew he didn’t believe she really loved me. She must be some kind of gold-digger, he suggested, then corrected himself. “Nah, you’re never going have enough money to make it worth any gold-digger’s time.”

“Maybe,” he then suggested, “she’s going to take out an insurance policy on your life and kill you for the money” (the subtext being, “because what else are you good for?”)

She and I were standing in the living room, next to the fireplace. She was on a rant, haranguing me with the entire catalog of my flaws and weaknesses.  After a while, I didn’t hear the individual words; I just felt the toxicity of their intent.   I couldn’t breathe. The poisonous cloud was enveloping me, choking me. I had to make it stop.

I picked up the heavy, metal mantle clock, and without thinking, hit her with it on the side of the head. She crumpled in a heap. Dead. Oh yes. Definitely dead.

Panicked, I ransacked the house to make it seem as if there had been an intruder, then I called the police and told them I’d found her this way.

It didn’t take them long to figure out the truth. She was dead and I was crying crocodile tears. I had motive and opportunity. It took about ten minutes at the station for me to confess the whole thing. I was actually relieved that it was over.

At least in jail, it would be free of her incessant emotional assault. In jail, I’d be a disappointment only to myself.

I forgot, though, about the bullies. Prisons were full of them.

I was in my own private hell. It was as if every torment in my life had been distilled to its very essence and applied here. There were no lessons to be learned, only pain to be avoided.

After about four years, with another 20 before I was even up for parole, I wanted to die. Ironically, in prison, they do their best to keep you from killing yourself.   They prefer you alive so they can take their retribution one cut at a time.

So I committed suicide by bully.

I knew what to do to provoke them, and they did me a favor of literally beating the life  out of me.

Next time, I would like the confidence to stand up for myself. I would be interested to see where that might lead.

____

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 Veteran

Originally posted May 3, 2014
http://www.stripes.com/news/latest-va-estimate-of-veteran-suicides-comes-from-limited-data-1.206614

image:  stripes.com

Matt (I have an impression of a big, buff guy)

I knew it was going to be over soon when I started getting the night terrors. Everything spooked me…every creak of a floorboard; a branch blowing against a window. When a plane flew low over the neighborhood, I’d start shaking and sometimes couldn’t stop for hours.

During the day, I went to the Center, where there were other guys like me. We joked around, played cards, told jokes. Smoked a lot of cigarettes. We held it together in front of the others with the one gram of pride we had left. But when I went home alone to my small room over an old lady’s garage, that’s when the fear started to come back. Too jumpy to sit still, sometimes I’d work out until I dropped from exhaustion.

In the beginning, with a little luck and a pill, I could sleep through the night. Towards the end, nothing helped me stay asleep. Through it all, I was terrorized by memories of the things I’d seen and the things I’d done.

I always had more questions for myself, but no matter how many I asked and answered, I never came to a satisfactory enough conclusion that allowed me to resolve things and make peace with myself. My thoughts were haunted by a million “what ifs”, all of them unalterably in the past.

Regret, guilt and terror. These were all I was capable of feeling.  When I first returned,  I thought my emotions would eventually normalize and I’d go back to the way I used to be. But I was permanently damaged. Eventually I came to understand that some things change us so cataclysmically that the core is literally ripped from our soul. Reunification comes only with death.

This dawned upon me slowly. For a long time, I was in denial. I told myself I would get better — I’d just have to work harder. Ultimately, though, I recognized there would never be healing for me. This was my only option. Eventually, I would have to do it.

I walked around like an oozing sore, pustulating with malignancy and anger, infecting those around me. I was angry that killing myself was my only choice. I was angry that at 24, it had come to this. I should have had a long, happy life ahead of me; a wife and kids. Instead, I was just a husk of a human being. Killing myself wasn’t really going to destroy anything that wasn’t already completely destroyed.

After I realized that this would be my inevitable end, I still managed to hang on for nearly another year. In that time, I turned over every rock in my soul,   looking for progress, looking for a reason to hope. Under everything there was nothing but dust.

There are those who say suicide is the coward’s way out, but that one act took more courage than anything I’d ever done before in my life.

I thought about it seriously for a few weeks, wondering how I would go about it. I didn’t want to leave a mess upstairs for the old lady. She’d been nice to me. It didn’t want her to be traumatized by finding my body. I didn’t want anyone to have to find my body or clean up after me. I just wanted to be gone, quickly, quietly, painlessly and with the least amount of fuss.

One night, I packed up my things in a bag, left out whatever money I had on the bed for the landlady to find, and walked out to a place I knew would work. I threw the bag off the bridge first, then followed it into the dark icy water below.  Nobody saw me fall. The current was swift. I was out to sea before anyone missed me.

I didn’t leave a note. No one would bother to look for me. They’d all assume I’d just left town.  If anyone did eventually figure out what happened, they would know the reason why.

 

____

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 Devolution of Man

first posted Jan 22, 2015

shamed angel

Wa

I did things I was not proud of; things I lived long to regret. I still bear their weight upon my soul.

Before the war,  I thought of myself as a civilized, rational, intellectually sophisticated  human being.  It was shocking to me how quickly starvation and deprivation sucked the civility right out of me. With the Angel of Death as my constant companion, it was easy to lose track of my humanity.  With a landscape of nothing but cruelty, it was impossible to hold tight to my values.

Some people did inhuman things and made inhuman sacrifices to save the ones they loved.   I cared only about saving myself.  I put my own life, which wasn’t worth much,  above those of others who might have done some real good.  I gave aid and information to the enemy in exchange for another day.  I betrayed my friends, my leaders, my beliefs, so that I would not suffer.

Before the war,  I thought I knew which side I was on; which side others were on.  In the throes of the nightmare, however, the only side that mattered was my own.

And so I lived and ate and stayed warm while better ones than I died for their cause; for their families; for their love of country.  Had they lived, they might have changed the course of history.  My only goal was to stay out of its way.

When it was over, I created a history of how I survived. I painted myself as an innocent,  a victim.   I told it so often, to so many people, I too believed it occasionally.  I worked to delude myself into believing I did only what was natural; something any human would do:  I saved my own life.  But I had seen too many examples of selfless sacrifice not to feel  reproached by them.

And so I lived the rest of my life shackled to shame and guilt,   knowing I had betrayed those far better than myself.

I am still bound by those chains.

 

 

 

——————

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  Also,  I have also started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.   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. )

 

Too Clever For His Own Good

NEW!Wenceslas_Hollar_-_The_sword_of_Damocles

Lig

Mine was a sad story, an old story, a story that’s been repeated a million times.  I saw the opportunity for easy illicit gain, and believed myself too clever to get found out.

This miscalculation was my ruin, all my youthful potential wasted.  With one ill-conceived plan, I blocked every path I might have taken to a normal happy life.  There was no undoing any of it yet not a day went by without me willing myself back in time to warn my younger self against this colossal mistake. For me, there would be no forgiveness…not by anyone else, but certainly not by me of myself. This compounded the tragedy and deformed my life into one of adversity.

If I’d been able to forgive myself for throwing away my life, for wasting my talents and intellect, for hurting and disappointing and bringing shame upon the people I loved and who loved me, I might have found a measure of contentment in whatever I could make of things. But I didn’t feel as if I deserved any respite from my guilt and my shame, because my guilt and my shame told me I wasn’t worthy of respite. And thus, the unbreakable, inescapable circle. I punished myself far more harshly than society could have.

I’d started out with such promise, so clever and ambitious. Everyone thought I would be a great success. But eventually it occurred to me that I might not have what was necessary to fulfill these expectations. It took more than just cleverness and ambition.  To win, you had to play the game by their rules. But I’d always bristled at rules. I choked on the bit of authority. I would not follow when clearly I was smarter than all of them.

I would show them!  I would beat them at their own game! I would write my own rules!   They might try to keep me out, but they would be underestimating me.

And when I couldn’t break through, I decided to take what I felt was my due. I’d show those smug bastards!

In the beginning, none of them had any idea. I lived the kind of comfortable life from which they thought they’d successfully excluded me.

But my situation was untenable. I lived in denial for a while but it hung over me like the Sword of Damocles. I could not hide my malfeasance forever.

When discovery was imminent, I ran away with whatever I could salvage and lived the rest of my life in hiding, abandoning everyone and everything I’d ever known or cared about. I would not bring anyone else into my sinking ship. My life options had narrowed 1000-fold.

I never married. Never let myself get too comfortable in any once place, with any one person. Never dropped my guard. Never used my real name again.  Never let anyone get too close for fear of giving it all away or dragging them down with me. Never stayed in any one place too long. Never again held job worthy of my talents.  I died sad and alone, never again feeling the touch of someone I trusted, which I took as my penance.

___

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An Oyster, Ostracized

originally published oct 15, 2014

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.

****

Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. New posts every three days, and they are getting more and more interesting. I promise! Comments are welcome here or at https://www.facebook.com/livesofthedead.   If you know anyone who would enjoy or relate to this,  please forward and/or share on Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks!

 

Bully Bait

originally posted 5/6/14

prison cell block

Life works in mysterious ways. At first, I couldn’t wait to marry her. At the end, I just wanted her dead. I wanted her mouth shut; her body rotting in the ground, where it belonged. I’d been helplessly in love with her and she had betrayed me; turned me into a cuckold; made me a fool; built huge, flashing arrows pointing to my weaknesses.

If anyone had asked me, I might have said I loved her, but I guess the hatred and resentment was always bubbling beneath the surface. I hated being in her power; hated myself for not being able to break free. She baited me all the time: Compared my “assets” to those of my best friend, who, I was often reminded, had a “much better set.”   Mocking me for every mistake, large and small. Belittling me just because she could.

Maybe I should have just left, but when she’d torment me, she would always say, “Look at you! You aren’t man enough to do anything about it!” and because I knew she was right – I wasn’t man enough – I obeyed and did nothing.

She was beautiful and a bit exotic.   When I met her, I couldn’t believe a woman like that would be interested in me. When I’d ask her why, she told me I was her “diamond in the rough.” She would teach me how to be a man, and I believed her.

In the beginning, she doted on me and built up my ego. I didn’t feel like merely a man; I felt like “The Man.” Ultimately, however, no matter how much she tried to polish me, no matter how nice a setting she put me in, I was always the same old hunk of worthless rock. Soon, she hated me for it. She believed, if I’d only loved her enough, I would change. My apparent inability to grow a spine was a slap in her face.

In our dynamic, every time she gave me a challenge and I failed to live up to her expectations, she was elevated in my esteem; and I was debased in hers. With each of my failures, the chasm between us grew.

It was a brutal transition between her believing in me and her no longer giving a damn. I ached for the early days. I still believed I loved her because I remembered how she used to make me feel.

She took so much pleasure in tormenting me, and I accepted it. I believed I deserved it. My thinking went: “At least she’s still here; at least I can satisfy her in some way.”

I was pathetic. I wasn’t even man enough to stand up for myself.

And then one day, I snapped.

My father had just passed away a few months before. I hadn’t had much contact with him since I’d left home years earlier. I had no use for him. From boyhood, he, too, belittled me. At the time, I would not have said I was deeply affected by his death.

It’s funny, but I can’t remember the exact words she said that set it all in motion, but it was something that cut me so deep, it opened up all the wounds from my youth.   Every last scab had been ripped off and they were all stinging and bleeding again:  The existential fear of my own worthlessness.   The self-loathing because I didn’t have the confidence to stand up for myself.  The inability to trust my own judgment in any situation, thus deferring to anyone and everyone, and never having a voice of my own.

In that moment, I remembered the bullies who used to tease me, especially the day I came out of school to discover they’d set my brand new bicycle on fire. I remembered my father whispering to family members and friends, and them looking at me and laughing. I was never sure exactly what he was telling them, but I felt it had to do with my most recent failure at sports or at school, with the way I’d mishandled a chore or errand. Nothing – and I mean nothing in my entire life – had ever impressed him. Even when I got married to that beauty, he made sure I knew he didn’t believe she really loved me. She must be some kind of gold-digger, he suggested, then corrected himself. “Nah, you’re never going have enough money to make it worth any gold-digger’s time.”

“Maybe,” he then suggested, “she’s going to take out an insurance policy on your life and kill you for the money” (the subtext being, “because what else are you good for?”)

She and I were standing in the living room, next to the fireplace. She was on a rant, haranguing me with the entire catalog of my flaws and weaknesses.  After a while, I didn’t hear the individual words; I just felt the toxicity of their intent.   I couldn’t breathe. The poisonous cloud was enveloping me, choking me. I had to make it stop.

I picked up the heavy, metal mantle clock, and without thinking, hit her with it on the side of the head. She crumpled in a heap. Dead. Oh yes. Definitely dead.

Panicked, I ransacked the house to make it seem as if there had been an intruder, then I called the police and told them I’d found her this way.

It didn’t take them long to figure out the truth. She was dead and I was crying crocodile tears. I had motive and opportunity. It took about ten minutes at the station for me to confess the whole thing. I was actually relieved that it was over.

At least in jail, it would be free of her incessant emotional assault. In jail, I’d be a disappointment only to myself.

I forgot, though, about the bullies. Prisons were full of them.

I was in my own private hell. It was as if every torment in my life had been distilled to its very essence and applied here. There were no lessons to be learned, only pain to be avoided.

After about four years, with another 20 before I was even up for parole, I wanted to die. Ironically, in prison, they do their best to keep you from killing yourself.   They prefer you alive so they can take their retribution one cut at a time.

So I committed suicide by bully.

I knew what to do to provoke them, and they did me a favor of literally beating the living daylight out of me.

Next time, I would like the confidence to stand up for myself. I would be interested to see where that might lead.

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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,  please 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. )  
And, as always, your comments and support are welcome!
-Adrienne

The Veteran

Originally posted May 3, 2014
http://www.stripes.com/news/latest-va-estimate-of-veteran-suicides-comes-from-limited-data-1.206614

image:  stripes.com

Matt (I have an impression of a big, buff guy)

I knew it was going to be over soon when I started getting the night terrors. Everything spooked me…every creak of a floorboard; a branch blowing against a window. When a plane flew low over the neighborhood, I’d start shaking and sometimes couldn’t stop for hours.

During the day, I went to the Center, where there were other guys like me. We joked around, played cards, told jokes. Smoked a lot of cigarettes. We held it together in front of the others with the one gram of pride we had left. But when I went home alone to my small room over an old lady’s garage, that’s when the fear started to come back. Too jumpy to sit still, sometimes I’d work out until I dropped from exhaustion.

In the beginning, with a little luck and a pill, I could sleep through the night. Towards the end, nothing helped me stay asleep. Through it all, I was terrorized by memories of the things I’d seen and the things I’d done.

I always had more questions for myself, but no matter how many I asked and answered, I never came to a satisfactory enough conclusion that allowed me to resolve things and make peace with myself. My thoughts were haunted by a million “what ifs”, all of them unalterably in the past.

Regret, guilt and terror. These were all I was capable of feeling.  When I first returned,  I thought my emotions would eventually normalize and I’d go back to the way I used to be. But I was permanently damaged. Eventually I came to understand that some things change us so cataclysmically that the core is literally ripped from our soul. Reunification comes only with death.

This dawned upon me slowly. For a long time, I was in denial. I told myself I would get better — I’d just have to work harder. Ultimately, though, I recognized there would never be healing for me. This was my only option. Eventually, I would have to do it.

I walked around like an oozing sore, pustulating with malignancy and anger, infecting those around me. I was angry that killing myself was my only choice. I was angry that at 24, it had come to this. I should have had a long, happy life ahead of me; a wife and kids. Instead, I was just a husk of a human being. Killing myself wasn’t really going to destroy anything that wasn’t already completely destroyed.

After I realized that this would be my inevitable end, I still managed to hang on for nearly another year. In that time, I turned over every rock in my soul,   looking for progress, looking for a reason to hope. Under everything there was nothing but dust.

There are those who say suicide is the coward’s way out, but that one act took more courage than anything I’d ever done before in my life.

I thought about it seriously for a few weeks, wondering how I would go about it. I didn’t want to leave a mess upstairs for the old lady. She’d been nice to me. It didn’t want her to be traumatized by finding my body. I didn’t want anyone to have to find my body or clean up after me. I just wanted to be gone, quickly, quietly, painlessly and with the least amount of fuss.

One night, I packed up my things in a bag, left out whatever money I had on the bed for the landlady to find, and walked out to a place I knew would work. I threw the bag off the bridge first, then followed it into the dark icy water below.  Nobody saw me fall. The current was swift. I was out to sea before anyone missed me.

I didn’t leave a note. No one would bother to look for me. They’d all assume I’d just left town.  If anyone did eventually figure out what happened, they would know the reason why.

 

____

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,  please 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. )  
And, as always, your comments are welcome!
-Adrienne

The Devolution of Man

shamed angel

I did things I was not proud of; things I lived long to regret, and still do.

Before the war,  I thought of myself as a civilized, rational, intellectually sophisticated  human being.  It was shocking to me how quickly starvation and deprivation sucked the civility right out of me. With the Angel of Death as my constant companion, it was easy to lose track of my humanity.  With a landscape of nothing but cruelty, it was impossible to hold tight to my values.

Some people did inhuman things and made inhuman sacrifices to save the ones they loved.   I cared only about saving myself.  I put my own life, which wasn’t worth much,  above those of others who might have done some real good.  I gave aid and information to the enemy in exchange for another day.  I betrayed my friends, my leaders, my beliefs, so that I would not suffer.

Before the war,  I thought I knew which side I was on; which side others were on.  In the throes of the nightmare, however, the only side that mattered was my own.

And so I lived and ate and stayed warm while better ones than I died for their cause; for their families; for their love of country.  Had they lived, they might have changed the course of history.  My only goal was to stay out of its way.

When it was over, I created a history of how I survived. I painted myself as an innocent,  a victim.   I told it so often, to so many people, I too believed it occasionally.  I worked to delude myself into believing I did only what was natural; something any human would do:  I saved my own life.  But I had seen too many examples of selfless sacrifice not to feel  reproached by them.

And so I lived the rest of my life shackled to shame and guilt,   knowing I had betrayed those far better than myself.

I am still bound by those chains.

 

 

 

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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

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