The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “Spirituality”

Anchors Aweigh

First published July 29, 2016The_Royal_Navy_during_the_Second_World_War_A11482

 

Gle

I was just out of school, still mostly a boy,  when I joined the Navy. There was a big war going on, and I was eager to serve my country and see the world. In the early days, I had the exuberance of youth; the certainty of my invulnerability. I believed I would return home a hero, with interesting tales to tell for the rest of my life.

It wasn’t long before my fantasies collapsed and my mood (and most of the others’ around me) swung between a self-protective detachment and abject terror. These emotions often manifested at inappropriate moments. One afternoon,  our ship was strafed by enemy planes. I and my fellow gunners manned the positions,  immediately becoming primary targets for fire. Two of my companions died right on the deck beside me, but I had no time to mourn, no time for fear. I focused on my job.  My aim was true. I brought down two aircraft, watching with indifference as their pilots and their crews were swallowed by the vast ocean, unbroken ocean.

During that battle and in the hours that followed, I felt nothing. It was only much later that a thick fog of terror and panic rolled in,  enveloping and smothering me.

Weeks later, a bird fell from the sky, dead,  onto the deck and suddenly,  I felt awash in guilt for having taken the lives of those foreign flyers. They were not so different from me and my mates, all of us just doing our jobs.

Some nights after many days of relative calm, I’d wake up in a cold sweat.  The quiet felt like a bad omen.

Apropos of nothing, the hair would stand up on my neck.  My breath would grow short and my heart would beat, rat-tat-tat, like an artillery tattoo, in my chest.

But in action, I was distracted,  attentive,  too focused on what was happening in that very moment to worry about what might happen in the future, even the immediate future.

And so the months went,  a pendulum between action and tedium,  fear and fatalism.

Eventually,  it was my turn for leave.  We were heading for a friendly port, and once there, I would be flying home for a week or so to see my family and my girl.

I hung in my hammock,  wrapped like a cocoon so I wouldn’t fall out,  swinging to and fro in the rough seas.  When I first came to the ship,  I found this movement rather sickening, but eventually I grew used to it and felt it comforting, like being rocked to sleep in a cradle.   The sound of the other guys snoring and grunting gave me comfort, for we were brothers and took care of each other.  I was sleeping peacefully,  dreaming of home.

And then, suddenly I was wide awake, up to my face in quickly-rising salt water,  the smell of fuel thick in the air. The ship had been hit by a torpedo and we were sinking fast.  I could see others floating around me, already dead.   I had only a few moments of consciousness left before it was my turn to drown.  I said a quick prayer and then gave myself over to remembering the last time my girl and I kissed.  And then I was gone.


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!
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Beautiful Birds in a Cage

 

first published July  20, 2016

Schi

I was born into slavery ; I never knew any other life.  My mother was taken as a girl.  As I was the product of her body, so I was property as well.  My mother was concubine to the master and even though I was the offspring of that union,  I had no birthright.

We, and others like us, had to work because we were not wives.  We had no power, no rights, little privilege. We were at the beckoning of the master’s mother, who ruled us like a queen.

Those who were concubines went to the master or his guests when summoned. Otherwise, we worked in the house or in the court at jobs that best fit our skills and age. The concubines did not work in the fields,  lest we become unattractive and our usefulness diminished.

When I was young, I sewed tiny precious beads onto beautiful fabrics, in elaborate, intricate designs using the finest golden thread. These were later made into clothing for the family.  I did this until my fingers cramped and bled (I had to be careful not to stain the silk!) I did it until my eyes crossed and I was nearly blind. I did it until my neck and back ached even when I slept.

Still, my lot was better than the slaves who worked the fields and orchards. I thought myself lucky. I was fed regularly. My living quarters were clean and dry and warm in the winter. If I became very ill, my symptoms were tended to by the doctor. We were not beaten or whipped.

We were kept away from all men. Our bodies were not ours to give nor for any man but the master to take or share as he saw fit.  We belonged to him, to be used or lent at his (or his mother’s) whim.  I was never sent to the master because I was his own child but I was, from time to time,  offered to visiting dignitaries or officials.  These men were not gentle or kind,  but fortunately, as I was not particularly beautiful or adept in bed,  my charms were not in high demand.   Eventually, I was completely ignored for such things.

All I knew about life beyond the walls was what some of the others,  including my mother, told me. For many, the outside world seemed more difficult,  full of poverty, back-breaking work, and starvation.  Almost all were young virgins when they were captured so they did not long for lost husbands or lovers or children.  Many were captives of war, and were grateful for the peace and plenty of their new circumstances.  But some were captured away from their families.  These girls found adjustment most difficult. They would weep and cry when they first arrived but in time they forgot their old lives and settled into the new. I was lucky because I had nothing to miss,  and because my mother was there to teach and protect me.

I did not consider my life bad or unfortunate.

When the weather turned warm, I enjoyed being outside in the courtyard with the others, working, gossiping.  Not all the women were embroiderers.  Some minded the children.  Some played instruments and sang. Some were dancers.  Some were ladies’ maids to the women of status.  Some of the favorite concubines  had only to keep themselves attractive. This was very important as it was her access to the master that gave her power.  Each of us had access to different parts of the household, and so each had different information.  By sharing what we knew, we could put together a bigger story.

Oh, the plots and rumors and intrigue that were discussed!

Some of the older women, longtime favorite concubines and lesser wives, those with more power and influence than I could ever hope for, were quite adept at grand manipulations. A carefully planted rumor, a well-told lie, a damning truth, whispered genially and sincerely in the right ear, all served to help accrue more power and influence.  Over the years, there was more intrigue and machinations than I can recount. There were poisonings and betrayals, false friendships and lies, all in the service of power and rank.  But my own ambition was never so great as some of the others.

When I was young, I was useless at that game but I observed and listened closely, and slowly, I learned the way it was played.

My first manipulation began accidentally when I befriended the youngest child of one of the lesser wives.  The nanny who minded her was dull and sullen and was too lazy to play with her. I could see that the child was bored so later, alone, I fashioned a small doll for her from scraps of blue silk, with eyes of fresh water pearls and tiny lapis beads, and a smile of garnets. This was not done with any specific plan in mind.  The girl seemed lonely and I felt sorry for her, so I made her a small gift using what I had at hand.  She was, after all, my sister (although this was not common knowledge among the other women.)

I gave it to her the next time I saw her.  She was delighted. And her nanny was pleased that someone else made an effort to entertain the child, relieving her of the burden of having to pay attention.

Several days later, when we were again all outside together, the girl came over to where I sat to watch me work.  She seemed fascinated by the idea of making designs with beads and thread.  As I worked, she listened raptly as I told her stories about fantastic creatures and faraway places, completely of my imagination.  I felt a kinship for her and although she did not know who I was,  she sensed the attachment.

Seeing us together, it occurred to the nanny that I was perhaps entertaining the child too well. She suspected that her position might be in jeopardy.  She called the child to come away from me but she was reluctant to go. In that brief moment, I sensed opportunity. I whispered to the girl to come see me again soon.  I’d have more stories for her.

Her nanny, by then, had become wary and prevented her from visiting with me. But the girl kept her eye on me.  I would smile and wave.  I would tell funny stories to the other girls my age to make them laugh, so the child would see this and feel she was missing the fun.

And one day, not long after, I was summoned by the girl’s mother and informed that I would now be her nanny.

And so, my rank among the women of the household increased.

The girl loved me because I devoted myself to her.  And I loved her, because, even though there was a great difference in status,  I knew we were blood. We shared many of the same features, and I brushed her long black hair and styled it like my own.

When she was grown enough to no longer need a nanny, she kept me close by making me her ladies’ maid. And so my rank increased again, as I was now privy to more important information, received firsthand, which made it more valuable.  Information was currency.  I could trade it for favors.

Eventually it came time for her to marry.  Her husband lived afar. Although she wanted me to come with her, I was still property of the household and her father would not give me to her. Both he and I understood that if I went with her,  her husband would be my new master,  and if he took me as his concubine,  as was his right,  it would cause her deep pain.

She did not see the danger of this new situation as I did.  I consoled her,  assuring her it was for the best.

We bid our tearful farewells.  She was both a child and a sister to me.  She was the only person I ever missed.  I only saw her once again, many years later, when she returned for her father’s funeral.  It was a sweet reunion.

By then, I had spent many years as a ladies’ maid to increasingly important wives,  my circumstances improving and my status growing.

I was a slave , but as a life,  it was better than many who live free.

Humans are all and always slaves to someone or something.


Buy the book!

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 hooe

artwork: Kamil Aslanger  (I discovered this image a year after writing/channeling this post but it’s such a perfect image, one might think it was actually inspiration for this story. It was not.)

 

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

Your Path

Originally published March 9, 2015

a-path-in-the-woods-in-autumn

Fil

Maybe you see or experience or hear something when you’re young which seems insignificant at the time.  As you get older, however, realize it has shaped the whole of your thinking. Perhaps as you move through life, a casual word stirs an epiphany.  A minor encounter sets something large in motion.  A word of advice at the right moment changes you the way you see the world.

And there are relationships, circumstances, great successes and tragedies,  which feel important in the moment; feel at the time as if they are going to change everything.  But in the end, they have very little impact on your trajectory.  Looking back,  you can see that your life would have turned out essentially the same, regardless of these things. You would have ended up pretty much as you ended up, albeit by a slightly different route.

Your path is your path. You will become what you were meant to become. You will have the experiences you were meant to have.

What you take from them is your free choice.

——————

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

A Footprint; a Legacy

Originally published March 6, 2015

creative-head

Ga

When I was young, I was sure I would someday come to wide acclaim. I was certain my genius would be recognized by a great number of people. I imagined my work being discussed among the intelligentsia at cocktail parties in distant cities, long after I was dead.

I expected I would soon be able to earn a living through my own work and never have to trade my labor for a wage.   I wanted to be paid very generously, not because I needed to be rich, but as proof of how much others valued my talent.

I never doubted that this would eventually come to pass. My own self-worth was never in question.

For decades, I worked hard to make a name for myself. I honed my craft. I charmed and cajoled to get my work seen, produced, written about. Generally, I received excellent reviews. Sometimes, here and there, I made a big splash but it never turned into a tsunami.  I still had to work for others in order to support myself.

I watched others succeed in big ways. I cannot deny my resentment. Many rose to the top because of who they knew or because of family money or because of who they slept with. Fame requires a cleverness at selling oneself as a commodity; a willingness to do the bidding of those who can grant favors;  a strong inclination to push aside whoever and whatever stands in the way.

It was one thing to put myself out there, but I was unwilling, on principle, to whore myself. I believed my work deserved to stand on its own.

For decades, I felt myself to be on the cusp of being discovered, but eventually it became too much of an effort to chase elusive, ever-receding fame. This requires the unbridled optimism, energy and naiveté of youth.  There was already a second and third crop of hopefuls behind me. My window had closed.

I never stopped creating.  Until the end, I had a small group of admirers, many of whom were strangers to me, personally. I learned to be satisfied with this. My audiences grew smaller but I became more grateful for each and every one. Once in a while, I’d get a letter saying how much someone had enjoyed my work, or how it had influenced their own.

I suppose, in the end, that’s all an artist really wants. To leave a legacy. Our work is our contribution to greater human understanding.  We want our footprints to remain after we have moved on.

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! 

 

original artwork:  Adrienne Gusoff

Yoo-Hoo! Lou! ‘Zat you?

 

Update to my readers:

I’ve finally finished editing the book. Woo-hoo! Above is my first concept for a cover.  I rather like the vintage book look, to convey a little mystery but perhaps this isn’t the way to go.  Anyone have any other suggestions?  Ideas? Comments?  What about the description line, “Wisdom from the Other Side”?  Too hokey? Too woo? Maybe just “Stories from the Other Side”?   Input much appreciated!

The next steps are mostly about design (size, shape, font, etc.)  I’m hoping to have this ready for purchase by my birthday in June, my gift to me.

As for my astral experimentations,  I think I’m finally getting somewhere. Maybe literally. While I still don’t feel as if I’m leaving my body and walking around outside of it , there are some new developments.  First, when I go into my meditative state, I’m feeling a sensation that I would describe as a  slight shift of my energy which sort of “flickers” away from me and then snaps back. It’s like one of those lenticular “winky” pictures that you’d get in a box of Cracker Jack. Or that slight difference in perspective when you put your glasses on, then take them off, then put them on, then take them off.  I guess you could call it a vibration in that it’s cyclical energy, but it’s not the tingly feeling along my nerves which I’ve experienced before. It’s less a physical sensation than a perceptive one.

Also, the vivid hypnogogic images are coming almost as soon as I close my eyes, and they keep coming fast as long they remain closed. The other night, I was finding it difficult to fall asleep because they were so intense and frequent. As always, they are not particular interesting by themselves. For example, the other Saturday evening after yoga, during my shavasana, I saw clearly a stand of high and bushy grasses with white feathery tops in a narrow patch along the side of a road. They were being sprayed,  possibly with water so it would the area would not be dry and flammable, or maybe with insecticide or herbicide.  I could not see who or what was doing the spraying.  If I were going to imagine something,  it sure wouldn’t have been that.  Yet it was as if I were standing right there, looking at it.

So I wonder,  are these some kind of “brain regurgitation” or is it distance viewing?  I have no idea.

Also,  the other evening, while in this state, I saw flashes of light with my eyes closed.  It wasn’t actual light (i.e. not lightning or a car outside) but rather a kind of explosion of light in my head.  Very intense. Very brief.

I am just reporting my experiences.  I am truly not sure if they are “woo” or if there is a physiological explanation.

If I am, indeed, distant viewing, I have no control over what I’m looking at so once again, as superpowers go, it’s a lame one.  (I seem to be the Queen of Lame Superpowers.)

But here’s a nifty little thing that happened on Mother’s Day:  somebody I follow on Twitter mentioned that he set his music system on random and asked for a message via music from his mother. The song that came on had specific meaning for him. I mentioned that I think Lou Reed spoke to me in the same way,  and i posted the link to the story.  The moment I posted it,  Lou’s New York Conversation immediately came on MY randomized music system!  “I am calling, yes I’m calling, just to speak to you…”  That’s twice.  I suppose it could be a coincidence but hey, maybe Lou IS trying to communicate with me, if only because I am open to listening.  Perhaps I should talk back?  (Now I have this image of Maureen Stapleton in the original movie version of  Bye-Bye Birdie trying to communicate with her dead husband, Lou, by shouting at the ceiling.  “Ya hear me, Lou?”)

I suppose it’s also possible that I’m losing my mind.  But given our current political situation,  it’s not so bad to let go of reality for a couple of hours now and then. It might, in fact, be the only thing that’s keeping me sane.

 

 

The Measure of a Man

first published July 2, 2016michelangelo_david

Ke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 —

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

Living in Limbo

First published March 2, 2015


swings-111925_640

Wir

The turning point of my life came when I was thirty one. Until then,  most of my moderate expectations had been met.  I fell in love, got married,  gave birth to a beautiful, clever little girl we both adored.   We were financially comfortable and happy together. My mind was uncluttered by much introspective thought or intense emotion.

When my daughter was 7, she disappeared. She’d been playing in the park with friends, and then, they called for her and she wasn’t there. Nobody had noticed anyone or anything. She’d simply vanished.

The police looked for her. My husband and I, our friends and family, we all looked for her. But we didn’t find her. Not alive. Not dead.

And so I lived the rest of my days in a limbo.   I was filled with the kind of intense emotions I’d never felt before, and did not know how to process. I cycled through grief, despair, guilt, anger, sorrow and the occasional scintilla of hope, which was always quickly extinguished and replaced by fresh grief.

Sometimes I heard stories of children returning to their parents after many years.   Somehow, they’d remembered and found their way back.  Naturally,  I hoped for such an outcome,  but after a time, I would have been relieved to know for certain that she was dead. If I could have given her a proper funeral, I might have been able to move on.  If I knew what had happened to her, I might have been able to forgive.   As it was, however, I never could settle on a single emotion, and so this was the cycle which spun the wheel which turned my life.

My husband and I stayed together, but it was never the same. We both felt a similar range of emotions, but our moods were infrequently aligned. We rarely connected, except on her birthday when we both seemed to feel the same.  For many years, we’d get a small cake with a single candle. We’d bring out the old photo albums. But then it became too awful. It made us feel helpless and hopeless.   We each tried to make our way through our pain in our own way, but neither of us had much success. Compounding our pain was that we were of no comfort to each other.  Even after many years, we both suffered alone.

Her being ripped from our lives so cruelly was for a reason; for the lessons on tragedy and mourning. At the time, however, it didn’t feel like any useful lesson. If anyone had suggested to me that it was part of a greater plan, I would have lost all control and attacked them ferociously. The pain was wrapped around me too tightly to loose its bonds. What mother can ever make sense of such a thing? To come to terms with it would have be tantamount to abandoning her; to losing her again.  She remained alive in my sorrow.

Now, however, I am afforded greater perspective. The unrelenting pain of that life is finally healed. She and I are together again, awaiting a next time.

 

——————

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

 

Satiated

Originally published June 23, 2016

stew

Ki

I was born in the time of famine. The crops had withered and died, and soon the animals followed.  We might have left to seek better circumstances but we were trapped geographically, surrounded by water and inhospitable terrain on three sides, On the fourth, in the distance, were soldiers stationed at the edge of a war.

As I child, I knew nothing but deprivation. There was barely water or food to survive. Starvation —  along with all its related miseries — were a permanent condition.  Few lived to see full adulthood.

Such a life doesn’t offer many opportunities for spiritual lessons.  To think about anything except the next scrap of food or the next drop of water was more effort than I or anyone else could spare. Philosophy was a luxury we could not afford.  There was no time to contemplate life; not a moment to wonder if one was on the right path; no opportunity to weigh one’s options.   The choice was to blindly follow the trail of others  one step at a time, or lay down and die. But in my short life, I found another way,  all because of one day,  which I recall, even now, with that same amazement, longing, and wonder.

We lived in a remote place which rarely saw outsiders.  One day, some foreign workers passed through our village. They saw how we were starving and took pity on us.  They gave us whatever food they could spare.  It wasn’t much and we had to share among all of us.  The women cooked it all into a weak soup to make it go further.   It did not have much flavor but it had more nutritional value than anything I had ever eaten.  It was the first time in my entire life that I was able to eat until satisfied. It was I feeling that I could never forget.

If I considered the outside world at all, it was to wonder if there were people who filled their bellies every day.  Were there some, like those strangers,  who never went hungry?  After the visitors,  I began to have a sort of recurring dream.  There was always a big welcoming pot of soup on the fire.  I’d lean in to smell and taste,  and I could see all kinds of wondrous things floating in the broth.  The imagined meats and vegetables were completely fantastical because I had never seen much of either in reality, and had no point of reference.  Mostly, they were just larger and more interesting versions of the few foods I’d actually encountered.  A thick stew overflowing with beans and roots.  Once, I dreamed a hawk dropped a goat into the pot from the sky.

I knew nothing of the world outside my village.  My people were too poor and weak to travel; too close to death every day to worry about what was happening elsewhere.

Finally,  driven by the fantasy that there existed a place where people ate until sated,  I set out from my village in the only direction I could – towards the war.  If I died on the way, or if they ultimately killed me,  it would hardly be a fate worse that the one I had in store  remaining where I was.    But perhaps they would feed me! Perhaps I could experience that wonderful feeling of satisfaction again.

So I walked, surviving the route much the same way I survived in my village –foraging, digging, perhaps catching a small animal or bird.

Arriving at the encampment,  I collapsed at the gate in utter depletion of all my physical and mental resources. In that condition, I was no danger to them; that much was obvious.  They nursed me back to some strength, and when I was able, I worked for them doing small tasks to earn my keep.  I would do the jobs that nobody else wanted to do,  just to be fed.

Despite their kindness, I didn’t live very much longer.  All those years of deprivation had exacted their toll on my body.  But I died with my belly full,  and so I died happy.

 —-

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

Skin Deep

First published February 20, 2015

vintageglam

Gai

I was a great beauty. All my life, I was grateful for this. It opened many doors which never would have opened to me if I’d been born plain.

My mother had been a great beauty herself as a girl, and was still beautiful as I became a young woman. She’d been divorced from my father since I was small. For my entire childhood, she was obsessed about finding a second, wealthy husband. She studied, calculated, plotted. She was singular in this goal.

She was not above telling men that I was her baby sister; that she was raising me alone after our mother died. This, she believed, made her seem saintly and nurturing without the taint of “used merchandise.”   She dated a lot of men, but to her great heartbreak, promise seemed to vanish just as she was feeling most hopeful about permanence.

To the outside world, she remained gay and carefree, but alone at night, while doing her evening beauty regimen, she’d examine herself in the mirror and fret that her looks would run out before she found a suitable man. She had no means of supporting herself. Her only skill was to convince a man to take care of her. If she lost that advantage, she’d have nothing.

She taught me everything she knew. She showed me how to use a coy glance to bring a man to my side. She taught me how to tease a man with promises of his own imagination.  She taught me the trick of giving just enough to make him want more, but not so much as to ever satisfy him. She dressed me to accentuate my natural assets (which were considerable.) She showed me the secrets of maquillage, which, when used skillfully can make a woman appear to be more or less than what she actually is.

When I was sixteen, I fell in love with a sweet young man. We talked about running away together. Mother quickly broke us apart and forbade me to see him again. I was devastated.   A woman’s status, she explained, was completely dependent upon the status of the men in her life. She had great hopes for me. I would use my beauty to marry somebody powerful and wealthy. She would not let me throw myself away on a common boy who would never go very far.  There would be more suitors, she promised, of far higher caliber.

And so there were. Mother made sure of that. She pushed and preened and schooled me; she insinuated me into the right circles. She invented a story for me to tell about myself. I met rich, handsome men. Captains of industry and their sons. Famous entertainers. Influential politicians. Mother married me off to the best prospect. I was elated. I had won the prize! My life was exactly as it was meant to me.

But soon I was no longer happy. We had both conquered each other and no longer had need of each other. An unhappy wife makes an unhappy husband. And vice versa. We ended in divorce, but not before I had acquired property and position. I did not want to make the same mistake my mother had made.

I was a divorcee but I was moving in more rarefied circles. I leapfrogged from one man to the next, each more powerful and wealthy than the last. I accumulated status and money. All that was important to me was to rise as high as possible above my standing at birth. I swore I would not end up like my mother.

Over the years, Mother’s fret gave way to worry. The worry eventually blossomed into full panic. By the time she was in her late forties, she was finding it difficult to hold her desperation in check, even though she knew she must — nothing sends a lover fleeing faster than the fetor of desperation.

Eventually, she found a much older man to marry. To my mind, he was a soft and ugly beast, but he was well-off and kind to her,  and she was grateful for him.

I did not want to become a woman who waited for men to choose her. I vowed to always be the one to chose. Even as I got older, I carried myself with confidence. I was an aging beauty but a beauty nonetheless. When I wanted to, I could still be quite charming. But I was selfish; I was vain; I was spoiled (as beautiful woman often are.)   I was perfectly willing to use anyone who could be helpful without a single thought to the consequences for them.   I was very practiced at extracting what I wanted from others,  as quickly as possible, with as little emotional investment as possible.

I married three times. I had two children both of whom met tragic ends, ravaged by the plague of a selfish, vain, spoiled mother. I can’t say I mourned very deeply at the time. We’d never been particularly close.

Few, if any, of my ex-lovers or husbands had much good to say about me. Once my spell on them was broken, all my ugliness became apparent. I made no effort to hide it. I didn’t try to be polite or kind. It mattered not what they thought of me; they were of no use to me any longer.

One evening, when I was in my late 70s, I came home from a gala, went to sleep and never woke up. Some acquaintances might have shed a polite tear or two, but there was nobody to truly mourn me. I’d only grazed the surface of the lives of others.

My mother had convinced me that my beauty was a key that would open doors for me. I understand now that it was not a key at all. It was the padlock. It kept me a prisoner of shallow intentions.

 

——————

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

 

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