The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

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Dress Up

originally posted June 8, 2014

closet-photo-730x285

Pad

I can still smell the sweet, musty scent of old perfume clinging to her elegant clothes; the tickley feeling of her long fur coat brushing against my face;  the smooth skin of her fine, leather high-heel shoes lined up neatly in the shoe rack.

My mother’s closet. It was the place I hid when I needed to feel safe.

When I was very young, and my parents fought, downstairs, I would run up to their room and slip into my secret fortress, pulling the door closed behind me.  I kept a flashlight hidden in the back. Sometimes, I turned it on. Sometimes, I sat in the dark. When I was in grade school, and the kids at school bullied me or called me names, when I felt myself weird and disconnected, that’s where I ran.   It was my secure, perfect little world, where every color,  smell, and texture was familiar and reminded me of unconditional love.

It was a finite place yet it contained infinite peace. The sounds of the world outside were muffled by tightly packed garments of silk, linen and wool. If my parents were shouting, I couldn’t make out the words. If I fell asleep, when I woke up, I couldn’t tell if it was day or night. I might have been sleeping for an hour or for years, and this too seemed mystical and magical to me, because there was always the possibility that I’d been asleep so long that when I emerged, everything would be completely different.

When I got a bit older that pleasure was no longer available to me. It was OK for a small boy to hide in the closet, but not at all appropriate for a thirteen year old. Which is not to say I outgrew the need or desire for it. I was just more afraid of being humiliated, especially by my father.

In order to recreate that feeling as best I could, I would sneak one of my mother’s silk shirts or casual dresses — something with her scent on it — or perhaps a pair of her shoes, and I would keep them near my bed. At night, I would pull them beside me, and they helped me fall asleep.

One day, when I was about 14, I put on her shirt, just to feel it against my skin, and I become sexually aroused.   This confused me and made me feel ashamed and yet, it excited me in such a primal way.

As I said, I never outgrew the need for the closet so I found another way to hide in it: by wearing women’s clothing.

There was so much shame involved in this practice, it colored everything else I did in my life. I hid this deep, important part of myself from everyone, including my wife. I lived in fear that my humiliation would be discovered. The mocking voices of my childhood classmates accusing me of being strange never left my head. I had to admit to myself,  they were obviously right. I was weird.

I tried so hard to control my need, but the more I resisted the more obsessed and stressed I became. The more stressed I became, the more I needed it. It was a cycle I could never break.   And every time I went back to it, after being “good” for a while, I was filled both with relief and a deep-sense of self-loathing.

This was the core of my life. The rest of it doesn’t matter. Not my job nor my family nor any hobby or interest. They existed outside of me. I played my roles well and nobody ever suspected — I hid myself that perfectly.

My entire life was all about what and how and when I could do it again; about balancing my need with my terror at being unmasked as a pervert. My entire life was a lie. I hid the most important part of myself from everyone and in doing so, sacrificed any hope that anyone would love me for who I truly was.

My life was a never-ending cycle of self-loathing, fear, determination to change, failure, collapse.   I suppose the only way to have broken that cycle was to accept myself as I was, for who I was.   It didn’t matter if nobody else loved me; more important, I needed to accept myself as the imperfect being I was. This is something, I never managed to do. Perhaps if I’d been brave enough to share my secret, I might have found acceptance, but I could not. The shame was too deep. It was a part of my DNA.

It was a secret I took to my grave.

____

Buy the book!

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

Way to Go

first published Nov 12, 2016

 

Az

Sometimes, when you are hurting, you just want to be with someone who loves you. You don’t necessarily have to say or hear those words, because even unspoken they are understood. Sometimes, when you are sad and confused, flailing, near drowning, in a stormy ocean, you need an anchor, someone to keep you from drifting out to sea. You can put on a brave face to the world, but there are times when you just want someone to hold you when you are falling apart, away from judgment.

I had a lot of close acquaintances in my life — people I laughed with when times were good — but there were not too many who took my confession. I protected my fragility well.  I did not let many breach my walls.

As I grew older, one by one, they began to die off, leaving a landscape pocked with gaping chasms of loneliness. Gone were those precious few humans whose souls resonated with mine; who knew where the shattered pieces fit.

Soon, there was nobody left who knew me; nobody left who could look me in the eye and see clear down to my soul. I was old and alone. I wasn’t sick, but at such an age, infirmity can overtake you in the blink of an eye – a bad fall; a cold that becomes pneumonia; a stroke; the wear and tear of time on the body and then the final straw that snaps the back. I lived in dread of that day coming upon me. I would end up alone in some awful place where they put old people to die, surrounded by strangers who would take care of my body while ignoring my heart.

I couldn’t let that happen to myself.

There was nobody left who cared enough to warrant a note or a goodbye. Most would just see a sad end to an old person who had nothing left to live for.

But that’s not really how it was. Not exactly.

I didn’t kill myself because I had nothing to live for. I killed myself because I wanted to leave before I lost control of my own story. I didn’t want to lose my autonomy. That would have been worse than death.

Once the death spiral began, there would be no pulling out. Worse, there would be nobody who would save me from the horrible end. There was nobody left who loved me enough to pull the plug, disconnect the tubes; nobody to slip me too much morphine so I could go in peace.   No, I’d have to ride it out, counting the minutes until it would all be over.

That is not a way to die. This is one of the greatest tragedies of modern man, but if you took a survey among the living, it wouldn’t even make the list.

Only a handful of people were at the funeral. Some relatives were there out of respect (respect for what, I have no idea). A couple of good-time pals from the old days (who weren’t looking too great, themselves) Someone hired religious figure, who’d never met me, to say a few blessings.

If I’d had pills, I would have used them, but in the end, I did it with gas. I wasn’t brave enough for violence. I just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up. I was serene and sure. In those last hours, and just until I lost consciousness, I really missed my dearest friends. But this time, it was tempered with the joy of knowing I would soon be with them all again.

 


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!
-Adrienne22

Use This Time Wisely

Hi Everyone,

I hope this finds you all self-isolating and in relative good health.  We’ve been in self-isolation for about a month.  We are taking every precaution — only venturing into public to go to the supermarket every ten days or so.  I’m washing my hands like Lady Macbeth and wearing a mask and protective wrap around glasses just to remind myself not to touch my face.

Although we are living in scary times,  we can also think of this year as transformative, and if we work at it,  it can actually be a net positive for mankind.  We can use this time at home for things like meditation, reading all those books we never seemed to have time for before, writing (keeping a journal for posterity is a great idea),  learning new skills (cooking, crafting, perfecting your dance moves),   taking up a yoga practice or other types of exercise (turn on the music and have a Zoom dance party with your friends).   It’s a time to contemplate how fragile society is, and to appreciate what we have.

The day after Christmas in 2004,  a massive earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia triggered the deadliest tsunami in history.   Two hundred thirty thousand (230.000) people died within hours of each other.   The world was shocked and most people helped in whatever way they could — sending money, supplies,  prayers.   But soon, those of us in the west forgot the suffering of those in the east. More than a million people have been killed or seriously wounded in the Middle East (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, etc) due to endless wars and strife since 9/11.  Most people in the west barely think about those people, except perhaps in an abstract philosophical way.

We in the west have been very fortunate over the past 70 years or so to have lived in relative safety, comfort, and security.   In general, we have become soft and spoiled and complacent and in large part, inured to the suffering of others.  This is a wake up call for us.

I am not downplaying the tragedy of so many deaths (and the deaths that will inevitably come) but I also acknowledge that death is part of life. In a hundred years (a mere blip on the timeline of human existence) I and all of you will be gone and forgotten, nothing more than nameless, faceless statistics.   Perhaps now is the time for us to consider that the world is one; that we are all in this together; that the string you pull here rings a bell over there.  Let’s regard this enforced solitude as a gift.  Please use it wisely so that when this is all over,  we will emerge as a better, more caring, more loving society. Use it as an opportunity to repair relationships, especially  with the people you live with (spouses, parents, children).   Check in with all those old friends you haven’t spoken to in years.  Apologize when necessary. Contemplate your mortality in a meaningful way, which is to say, not live in fear but consider the meaning of your life and your impact on others.

Stay safe!!

Love,

Adrienne

Who By Fire?

Originally published  5/15/14

Sati

Ra

I was nine when I was betrothed to him;  fifteen when we married. He was an old man to me at thirty-four; older even than my own mother. I went to live with his family – his brothers and their wives, and his proud and unkind mother. She was haughty and arrogant about being the mother to five children — all boys — who were obligated to take care of her. Their wives were just another set of servants required to cater her. She ruled the roost, not only at home, but in the village, too.   She acted as if having boys was all her doing; that she was somehow responsible for this stroke of fortune.

The first time he took me, I didn’t know anything about sexual relations. It hurt. There was no pleasure in it for me…not that time, and not ever. We didn’t even sleep in the same bed. I slept with the other wives, on mats on the floor in a small bungalow off the main house.

He called for me when he wanted me and I had to go.

I liked being pregnant because then he didn’t bother me too much. His mother made him leave me alone lest he hurt the child growing inside.  Although he had control over me, his mother had control over him. She could overrule any decision he made.

I was hoping for a boy, because then he could take care of me when I was old. I could make his wife a servant. But I had a girl. She was a disappointment to all.

My next child was a boy, but he was born sickly and weak and he died very young. I prayed so hard for him to get well, but when he didn’t, I just assumed it was because the gods didn’t listen to women like me. I was not important.

The next was also a girl and now my status was very low, indeed. She was a smart one, though. I could tell even when she was a tiny baby. The way she looked around and took in everything. She didn’t cry like normal babies. She just seemed to understand that nothing could be done about her discomfort. That was just the way it was.

I secretly hoped that she would break free somehow and not follow my path. One of the other wives knew how to read a little bit, and I begged her to teach my youngest the letters and words that would hopefully someday make her independent. She agreed, but as payment, I had to take her most unpleasant tasks. I didn’t mind. I was used to hard work. Every slop bucket I emptied, every floor I cleaned, gave me pleasure. I had no power in the world, but still I’d found a way to invest in my daughter’s future.

Normally, girls didn’t go to school but she was very curious. She was forever bothering her boy cousins with questions about what they’d learned in school. To their credit, they answered her, mostly because she was able to grasp it quickly and explain it back to them. She actually helped them with their schoolwork. She borrowed their books and would hide herself behind a tree or out in the field, and read them all.

When she was ten, I convinced my husband and mother-in-law to send her to school. My argument was that she was smart enough to someday get a real job, and bring money into the family. And so they did.  She did well, and wanted to continue her education.   There was no secondary school in our village, so she went far away and stayed there while classes were on. I missed her, but I knew she was happy. I wanted her to succeed.

Meanwhile, my oldest daughter was already married off; also sent to live with her husband’s family.  Her husband was closer to her own age and he seemed to love her. Fortunately her mother-in-law was a generous and pleasant woman. Her situation was already better than mine. It was the best I could have hoped for her.

When I was forty-two, my husband died. His mother, now very old and on the verge of death, herself, wanted me to commit sati. I did not want to die. I barely knew my husband as a full person; I obeyed him as was proper, but did not love him. I certainly wasn’t going to mourn him. The old witch knew this and it made her angry. In her mind, I should suffer from his death as she was suffering.

Truly, it is a mother’s greatest sorrow to bury her child. She didn’t seem to remember I, too, had buried a son.

Sati had long been outlawed, so I refused. Legally, she could not compel me. This was the first and only time I stood up to her and I was defiant. Better she should throw herself on his funeral pyre. She couldn’t have had more than a few years left, anyway. My defiance only angered her more. Who was I, a mere nothing, to refuse her command?

She seemed to back down, and I naively thought I’d won, but do you know what she did, that evil woman? She had me drugged! While my husband’s body was burning, I was led to the fire by her other sons, where I was half- hypnotized, half shoved into the flames.

She, herself, only lived a few months more.

 

—-

Buy the book!

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

I’ve Been Workin’ On the Railroad…

NEW!

Tan

When I was a boy, our family lived in a small house on a hillside.  Down in the hollow below, which was partly natural, partly manmade, ran The Train. Although it was already there when I was born, its arrival to our area was within memory of most of the older adults. Few had actually ridden upon it but they were nevertheless in awe of it.   They knew how long it could take a person by carriage or even foot, to reach even just the next station. In their own lifetimes, they had seen the world shrink by half.

I absorbed their awe.

Each time the train passed through, with the echo of its whistle bouncing up and down the sides of the hills, I would try to imagine all the places such a powerful machine could take me — exotic places where the language and customs were unintelligible to me; where people wore brightly colored clothing and marvelous headdresses; where to sit at a dining table might mean eating unknown ingredients simmered in mysterious spices.  I loved books about foreign lands, especially those with pictures. I longed to find myself somewhere other than where I was.

While nobody I had ever met had ever gone more than a day’s journey by train (and for everyone, that was exciting enough!)  my own imagination was stoked once I understood that although this track might only lead to the nearest large city,  from there you could ride another train, and another train, and then another, and in turn,  you could go almost anywhere.

And thus began my fascination with the train.

When I was fourteen, I took myself to the local depot, which was perhaps an hour’s walk down the line, and presented myself to the station master.  I offered to do any kind of work he might have available.  He must have seen my enthusiasm (which is more than most workers have for their jobs) and gave me a chance.  I would sweep the floors, empty the dust bins,  haul coal to heat the office and waiting area.  I was barely paid more than volunteer work, but I was happy.  Whatever I made were contributed to family expenses.  It wasn’t much and I might have earned more doing different work, but my parents saw how happy the job made me, and I think they believed, as did I, that I had found my place.

I had the train schedule memorized,  reading it the way some folks pore over the Bible. I could tell a passenger exactly when the train would arrive without having to look. I loved seeing those who were lucky enough to ride, dressed in their traveling finery.

I always looked for opportunities to expand my service whether it meant carrying bags, assisting passengers up the steps, even loading and unloading mailbags and packages. I was always reliable, never complaining.  The Stationmaster appreciated my value, and would periodically give me small raises.

Eventually, one of the older gentlemen who worked in the back office retired and everybody else shifted up.  I was moved into the office where I was put in charge of what I considered to be important administrative and secretarial tasks. I am certain the Stationmaster had never encountered anyone so happy to do filing or counting or adding columns of numbers.

By now, I was able to save a little money from my salary in addition to giving most of it to my parents.  It was my travel fund.  Someday, I knew, I would get on that train as a passenger and not return for a very long time. Or ever.

It was around this time that I met a girl.  Her father owned a small shop in the depot down and he had enough money to occasionally take her into the city for an excursion.  Whenever she returned, I’d beg her to tell me all about it. She was happy to oblige. And so, we became friends. She told me of her adventures in the city, and I told her of my dreams of places far beyond.  She’d never much thought about what lay beyond, but now I’d stoked her imagine as well.

When I asked her to marry me, she happily said yes, and her family approved.  Perhaps I wasn’t as successful as some of her other suitors, but her father saw how she came alive when we were together, and he sensed that I would make it my priority to make her happy.  He was correct.

I went to the Stationmaster with my good news, asking for a better position with better pay.  He soon promoted me to the ticket window which was a position of great trust since I had to handle and count money.  I took my job very seriously and was careful to not make mistakes.

Now I had a reasonable income on which to support a wife, and perhaps eventually, a family.

We found a small house not far from the depot, at a rent that was within our budget.  She set about making it a home.

Before long, there were children. Four of them, whom I loved dearly and doted on. I gave them everything I could, but still managed to add a little bit, here and there, to my travel fund. My wife knew of this, and she, too, enjoyed the fantasy that someday, when the children were finally grown,  we would go somewhere exotic.  The fund didn’t have much,  but had I abandoned it,  I would have lost all hope of fulfilling my dream. With hope gone, I could not have remained so happily in my job. It was for this reason as well that she never asked to dip into that money. It was mine. It was sacrosanct.

The years passed and I eventually became the stationmaster.  In this official capacity, I was able to ride the train for free, but except for going back and forth between termini, there was not much point to it.  Once, when they were young, we took our children the city but with the hotel and restaurants, it was quite expensive and we never did it again.

The children grew and started families of their own. I was adding as much as I could to the travel fund so when I stopped working, we could really see the world.  It was a constant discussion – how long should we wait?  The longer I held my job, the more money we’d have to travel.  But the older we got, the more difficult travel would be.

And then one day, the decision was made for us.  My beautiful wife became ill. At first, the doctors thought she would quickly recover, but her condition worsened by the week.  Soon she grew too weak to leave her bed.  And in just a few months, she was gone.

I was inconsolable.

The allure of traveling vanished overnight. Without her, what was the point?  I bought her the most expensive, elaborate gravestone I could afford with whatever money was in my fund.

I was still working, but my heart wasn’t in it.  I went from home to the station, from the station to home.  One night,  less than a year after she died,  I was waking home from work,  lost in my own sad thoughts, not paying attention to anything but my own feelings.  I didn’t hear or see the train coming around the curve. And in an instant, I, too, was gone.

In its way, the train did take me to my final destination.

—-

Buy the book!

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

Annual Holiday Break

Dear Readers,

I’m taking my annual December hiatus, not so much because I’m busy this year but because I assume everyone else is!  I’m sure you’re all bustling about,  going to parties,  shopping for gifts. traveling to be with family.  Rather than have the blog get lost in the shuffle,  I’ll pick up again in January, with some new stories.

Have a wonderful and safe holiday season.  Pray for peace.  We could all use some!

And hey, if you need to buy someone a gift,  please consider my book.  There must be SOMEONE on your list who’d enjoy it! (hint, hint!)

-Adrienne

—-

Buy the book!

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

The Weirdness Continues

First published April 12, 2018

My husband, M, is already awake and having breakfast.  As usual, I’ve lingered in bed, drifting in and out of dreams.  But this is not a dream. Or, if it is, it’s an extremely lucid one. It feels more like “imagining” and “seeing” than dreaming.

I am in the very musty attic of an old house somewhere in northern Europe; maybe Bruges or Antwerp or Groningen. A small window under the eaves looks out onto the street. I can make out the other houses across the way, looking as I imagine they have for hundreds of years.

The footprint of the room is fairly large but without a lot of usable space. The roof is low and steeply canted; parts of it are even too low for a small child to be able to stand up.   There is a strong smell of mildew and rot. It is quite dark inside  — the only light is coming from that tiny window. Still, I can just make out some kind of old broken discarded wooden equipment off to the side – perhaps a  spinning wheel or loom.  I can’t tell.

The room is not only unused but hasn’t been entered in a very long time. Decades at least. Maybe much longer. The people who now occupy the house below don’t seem know this room exists, but I don’t understand how that can be. The small window should be clearly visible from the street.  Most of the other houses are built roughly to the same plan,. They all must have attics. Wouldn’t the current owners assume this house has one, too?

I sense that at some time in the past, access has been sealed off and the doorway plastered over, in a very purposeful way. Still, with real estate everywhere being at such a premium, I find it strange that none of owners since, were curious enough to do some exploring. I cycle though possible logical explanations why that might be, but none make sense.

And then I start to get a story about this room. It pops into my head as fully-formed knowledge.

A long time ago a servant girl lived up here.  She was very young when she same to work, maybe 8 or 9.  She slept in a corner, on a mattress made of ratty ticking which had been taken from an old bed downstairs. It was stuffed with leaves, rags, old horsehair from discarded family mattresses – anything she could find or they would spare. It barely kept her tiny body off the cold floor. The roof leaked and her bedding was damp, smelly, moldy and very lumpy.

Another servant — an older female — was put in charge of her training, and taught her the basics of housework; instructed her in low-level chores such as cleaning, fetching firewood and coal, washing dishes.   The younger girl almost never interacted with the family. They left the managing of the girl to the older maid, who abused her charge.

This girl was terribly lonely. She had no friends, no family. The only person she came into contact with on a regular basis was the abusive maid. She hadn’t had much love in her own home, but this was so much worse; never a kind word or comforting gesture. She was too numb to cry. What was the point, anyway? Nobody was going to help her. This was her life now.

She was fed once a day, a paltry meal of negligible sustenance. Sometimes, she managed to grab a scrap or two before it went to the dogs. In the summer, the attic was brutally hot and stuffy, and when the autumn came, it was cold and raw. There was a small stove in the corner of her room, but she was barely allowed any wood or coal. By the winter, the attic was freezing. Her breath plumed out in grayish puffs.

She died before spring came, from a disease which could have been easily prevented or cured if she’d been fed properly and kept warm through the brutal northern February.

***

Had I made the whole story up or had I been channeling something from The Great Beyond?  I honestly did/do not know.  I can only say that it did not feel like a normal daydream, nor was it anything like the process of creating a written story.   I felt, I saw, I  smelled that room.  I can still see it clearly in my head.

As a writer, I am happy to take inspiration from wherever it comes, so I wrote it down, then went to eat breakfast.  I assumed it was just a one-time experience.  Boy, was I wrong!

—-

Buy the book!

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

Le Scandal

Originally published April 7, 2015

 

frenchscandals

Pila

I was on a trajectory to a perfectly normal life. I was mostly good, though sometimes a bit naughty. There were times I was full of certainty and promise and other times I was crippled by misgivings and frozen by doubt.   Sometimes, I felt myself to be invincible; other times, I felt vulnerable and bare. In other words, I was perfectly normal.

And then the scandal.  I was only a peripheral player. There was no reason for me to have been brought into it at all, but the silver ball of fate landed in my number. I was in the right place at the wrong time.

Soon, everyone had an opinion about me, most of them bad. Any why? I’d done nothing so different that many others did before and after me. Except others don’t get caught in such a spectacular way.

After that, my life was never the same. The press hounded me.  When that finally abated,  many still whispered about me. My name was synonymous with my shame, and I would never be free of the taint.

I tried my best to rise above it; to develop a philosophical attitude. I managed a fair degree of success in no longer caring what the strangers thought or said about me, but I never was able to get over that initial punch in the solar plexus when I’d be recognized in a social setting and the murmur  of whispers and surreptitious glances would begin afresh.

I went on with my life. What else could I do?  I would not hide. Pourquoi? I was not a criminal! More than one person suggested I change my name. I refused, on principle. None of those who threw hypothetical stones at me were without plenty of sins of their own.

I lived a much smaller life than I had before. My friends and family closed ranks and kept me sheltered from the gossip and petty ill will of others.

Eventually, the public forgot. My transgression was too far in the past for anyone to care about it. There were far more intriguing sinners to star in the morality plays of the self-righteous.

And slowly, I started to live again.  But those were decades I would never get back.

I won’t say those years were wasted but it took me a long time to appreciate all I learned from the derailing of my life.   I am learning, still.

 

_____
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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

Show Me the Place

 

leonard

first published Sept 25, 2015

(My annual Yom Kippur post)

A post from me: 

Today is  Yom Kippur. Although it’s been many decades since I observed the Day of Atonement in any traditional sense,  this year I spent all day listening  Leonard Cohen, who is, after all, a great rabbi.  Actually,  I listened to one song in particular  again…and again…and again, each time hearing it anew. The song, “Show Me The Place” is from the Old Ideas album.   I found myself moved more deeply than  any synagogue service or rabbi ever could.

LISTEN

The song addresses the struggle shared by so many of us; of trying to remain “in the light” while dealing with the necessary mundanities of real life – earning a living, having to interact with those who test our ability to forgive, to curb our anger at life’s indignities and injustices.

Most of Leonard Cohen’s work deals with his own quest for peace through love and spirituality; his struggle to overcome the depression, self-loathing, fear, cowardice, shame and sense of unworthiness which have plagued his entire life. His songs have always been filled with imagery of submission and slavery and supplication.

“Oh, take this longing from my tongue; whatever useless things these hands have done.”

        –Take This Longing  

I asked my father I said, ‘Father change my name’. The one I’m using now it’s covered up with fear and filth and cowardice and shame.”

     Lover, Lover, Lover.

In the 90s, he spent five years in a Buddhist monastery, where he eventually became an ordained monk. He credits this time of study and the Buddhist philosophy as having helped him greatly to understand his own pain and to ameliorate some of his emotional suffering.

By the late 90s, he was in a good place.  Then in his 60s, he had ample income from his music, and was able to devote his time to writing and recording, living a peaceful life of meditation and introspection,  writing about the things that moved him without financial worry, insulated from many real world distractions.

In 2004, he discovered that his long-time manager, a trusted family friend, had embezzled millions of dollars, draining even his retirement account. There were lawsuits and counter-suits aplenty. One  can imagine his state of mind at this time. Ripped from a life of relative peace,   and thrust into nasty legal battles and heavy financial obligations to others. He had to go back on tour; back to working for others, relinquishing his well-deserved freedom.  (“There were chains, so I hastened to behave.”)   It’s easy to imagine him overcome with very un-Buddhist-like feelings of anger, betrayal, frustration, even hatred which must have been difficult to assuage. He may well have lost the ability to keep his depression at bay.

All those years of living in the light, of letting go of ego,  and suddenly, all the lessons feel lost to him. He tries to hold on as best he can, but can only salvage a shred of light – “a particle, a wave.”

In this song of supplication, he is entreating God to tell him where to stand so he can regain the old perspective, so he may once again live in a state of grace.

It is a song of supreme sadness and pain. It put me in a tender, weepy state. Nevertheless, I’ve been listening to it on repeat for two days straight.

For me (and I know many of you readers), it’s a constant struggle to forgive those who need forgiveness most; to open my heart to those who hate or who have hurt me. I work every day to separate the needs of my ego from the path of my higher self.   Although I would be most content spending my days in spiritual contemplation, I must work to make a living, often forced to deal with people who fill me with some very UN-spiritual thoughts.

This song is a hymn to that struggle in all of us – to hold on to the Light in the face of darkness;  to truly live in the light and not just pay it lip service. I don’t always win that battle, and the losses are always filled with pain.

Show me the place, where you want your slave to go
Show me the place, I’ve forgotten I don’t know
Show me the place where my head is bending low
Show me the place, where you want your slave to go

Show me the place, help me roll away the stone
Show me the place, I can’t move this thing alone
Show me the place where the word became a man
Show me the place where the suffering began

The troubles came I saved what I could save
A shred of light, a particle a wave
But there were chains so I hastened to behave
There were chains so I loved you like a slave

Show me the place, where you want your slave to go
Show me the place, I’ve forgotten I don’t know
Show me the place, where my head is bending low
Show me the place, where you want your slave to go

The troubles came I saved what I could save
A shred of light, a particle a wave
But there were chains so I hastened to behave
There were chains so I loved you like a slave

Show me the place
Show me the place
Show me the place

Show me the place, help me roll away the stone
Show me the place, I can’t move this thing alone
Show me the place where the word became a man
Show me the place where the suffering began

 

yom-kippur-prayer


FYI,  Leonard has a new album out next week.  Click to order.

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!

 

 

—-

Buy the book!

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

Accidental Two-fer

Bah!  I messed up the scheduling and posted two yesterday.  So,  there will be a break til next week to put us back on schedule.  Sorry!!

In the meanwhile, enjoy the summer. Stay cool!  Wear sunscreen and a hat.  Clean up after yourself at the beach and in the park.  Watch out for sharks and bears and riptides.    Enjoy the bounties of your garden, if you have one.

That is all.  Carry on.

-Adrienne

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