The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

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Who By Fire?

Originally published  5/15/14



I was 9 when I was betrothed to him; 15 when we married. He was an old man to me at 34; 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 fortunate roll of the genetic dice

The first time he took me, I didn’t know anything about sex. 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.



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A Break in the Action…

Dear loyal (and new) readers,

I’ve been working on this project for over two years now and it’s been incredibly rewarding.  I’ve learned so much from my “imaginary” friends.  I hope you have, too.

If you’ve been following from the beginning,  you know that initially,  I was posting new stories every three days.  After about a year,   I could no longer keep up with that schedule, so I started republishing those original stories, interspersed with new stories.  (Two old,  one new,  every three days.)

Now we’ve come to the end of those twice-published original stories and I have decided to step back from the blog and work on putting these narratives into book form.   I think they make a lot of sense that way   —  it’s good to have some inspirational reading on  the nightstand!  My goal is to finish it in time for the holidays so (hopefully!) my loyal readers will be able to give these stories to family and friends.  (hint: makes a nice little stocking stuffer!!)

In terms of the blog, I will start the cycle again,  however I will not be adding new stories as frequently as I have in the past. I hope to come back to writing new ones on a regular basis within a few months.

Another reason for this is,  on social media, I’ve been very actively blogging about the 2016 US Election. This has been taking up a lot of my time and psychic energy.  At this point, I feel that is a far more important use of my words and mental resources.

I think of this blog as a kind of guide to deeper spiritual understanding.  The narrators talk about self-awareness and the shedding of ego, about spiritual growth and compassion for others.  They talk about learning from their mistakes (even if it takes additional lifetimes to do so.)

Trump (who scares the bejeezus out of me)  offers none of that to the world. As Ipo has taught us,  ego is  the source of all our misery and most of the world’s evil,   yet Donald exists purely to satisfy his own ego.  Although I believe that ultimately what must be will be,  and that we humans have little control over the larger plan,  I nevertheless believe he is a force of darkness, and that it is our obligation to work to defeat him by the powers of light and love.  So,  I hope you will forgive me if I invest myself, for the next few months,  in that fight.

Again,  the blog will continue, but I will mainly be republishing the posts, in order,  from the past year (both the originals and newer stories) with the occasional brand new post  when I have one to share.

Of course, I will let you all know when the book is ready for purchase!  I hope you will buy a copy for yourself and a few extras to share with friends.

As always, I appreciate your feedback, comments, and support! It’s less important to me that I reach a lot of people with this project.  It’s more important that those I do reach are moved and changed by what they have read.

With love and appreciation,


Le Scandal

Originally published April 7, 2015




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.



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!

Love Me, Love Me Not

First published March 4, 2015

sad marble angel


I was a disaster at love. My relationships never lasted more than a few years. I fell in love with love and never saw my partners as they really were.  I was interested in others only as long as they allowed me to feel within a narrow spectrum of emotion; as long as they didn’t force me to consider my own responsibility too closely. When my feelings began to stray beyond those parameters,  I might become angry or demanding or hurt or fed up.

None of my behavior was consistent with truly loving someone. I was never willing to stick around to do the work.

I thought I was doing the work. I thought I was being the mature, sensible one. I believed that what I wanted was within reason, and within my right to ask.  I wanted them to behave in the way which I believed was the correct way to behave. I wanted them to reciprocate my feelings.  To feel as I did. Respond as I did. Desire as I did. Love as I did.

I had lofty concepts of love, which, to my great heartbreak, no one else seemed to share.

When they finally would not or could not live by my standards, they would either leave or gradually stop making any effort until I ceased asking; until I abandoned my feelings and went away. This process was not without drama, which was mainly my own doing. It was, ironically, the very drama they’d been trying to avoid. It was the behavior which always proved them right in the end.

I believed myself to be loving yet tragically unlovable when in fact, I was quite lovable but tragically unloving.

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! 


First published Feb 17, 2015

fetus in womb


As a small child and well into adulthood, I felt a part of me was missing. It was as if my soul existed both within me and without me, and I had no agency over the part outside myself.

I could not explain this sensation in any way that would allow another human to understand. To others, I seemed strange. My feelings were often bizarrely incongruent. For example, sometimes, when things were going badly, when I was hurt or deeply disappointed, when my heart was broken and by all rights I should be crying, I’d be filled with a strange sense of satisfaction or happiness.

The day my father died, I was weeping and mourning with my family, feeling all the pain any adult child might feel at the loss of a beloved parent. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by a deep sense of joy and peace. I stopped crying and sat wordless, smiling beatifically. In an instant, I no longer felt like grieving.

By then, people were used to my strange moods.   They shook their heads and reminded each other in whispers that I’d always been odd.

Sometimes, too, in the middle of a happy time, when it seemed everything was going my way, I would be stricken by a sadness that sucked all the joy out of me. On my wedding day, I could not stop crying. I loved my husband.  He was the right man for me. I was thrilled to be marrying him. I had no doubts. And yet, I was filled with inexplicable sadness. They made no sense, not even to me.

Eventually, my husband and I moved to the city.   One day, a friend became angry at me because she said I had snubbed her in public. I had no such recollection. “You looked right at me, smiled back at me, and kept walking.”

Then it happened again. And again.

Sometime, strangers would approach me, greeting me familiarly, calling me by a different name. When I denied I was who they thought I was, most did not believe me. Some thought I was joking or playing a game. One or two became angry or insulted.

I began to seriously question my sanity. I was used to my unexpected emotions but I would never ignore my friends. I was not rude. I worried that the issues which had plagued me all my life were now progressing into a serious mental disorder. Was I losing touch with reality? Was I losing hours without knowing it? Was I losing my ability to recognize familiar people?

I did not share my fears with my husband so as not to worry him.

It went like that for perhaps a year.

Then, one day, I was in a café, reading a newspaper, having a my lunch. Out of the corner of my eye, I perceived what I believed, in that first tenth of a second, was my own reflection. In the next tenth of a second, I realized this was not so. We were not moving in tandem. We were not dressed alike.

I looked again, this time, more carefully. She hadn’t noticed me yet.

I could not stop myself from staring. Finally, I stood up and walked over to her table, and sat down in front of her.   She picked her face up from her book, first in annoyance at being disturbed, and then, her jaw dropped in incredulity.

We were not merely two people who looked similar. We were identical. Even to a mole on high on our right cheek.

We sat there for what felt like a long time, just staring at each other.   She too, had had a lifetime of disconsonant emotion. Her recent encounters with strangers and the upset of friends at having been snubbed had also made her question her sanity.

But now, the logic was beginning to dawn.

“Birthday?” I asked. Just one word. She immediately understood the importance.

It was the same as mine.


When we were little more than a cluster of cells, we split in two. “I” became “we” inside our mother’s womb. There, we shared one soul. When our forms became more distinct, our soul also split in two. One soul, one set of DNA, two separate people.

We came into the world minutes apart, and clung to each other in our first hours. Others saw us as two, but we still felt as one.

Our mother was sick and poor and alone, not able to care for us. And so we were given away to those who could. No one would take us both. Those with the power over our lives decided it was best for us each  to have a loving home, rather than to remain together in an orphanage. Cleaved yet again, both from mother and each other.

We were too young to remember any of this. Even our adoptive parents did not know we were twins.


That was the first time in our lives we both felt whole and that our feelings made sense.

We each had places to go, obligations to keep. It was painful to take leave of each other but we arranged to meet later that evening, in the same cafe. We talked until the place closed down. We then went back to her apartment which was closer than mine. Her husband and son were already sleeping, but she insisted I peek into the boy’s room to see him. My nephew! Flesh and blood, twice in one day!

From that day on, we were as inseparable as two separate people can be. Our families became one. Our children played as cousins. Our husbands became as brothers.

We still felt each other’s feelings, but they were no longer a mystery.

We both lived to be quite old, and died within months of each other. And here we are, together, waiting to be born again. Perhaps as one, perhaps as two.



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! 




The Devolution of Man

first posted Jan 22, 2015

shamed angel


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. )


The Hero of the Story



We met when we were children and I loved him the minute I laid eyes on him.

It was in the play yard of my first school. The Bully, who tormented us all in one way or another, was picking on a much younger boy. He was boxing at his ears, tugging the collar of his jacket as if to pull it off, stopping short of hurting him but tormenting him nevertheless. It was his idea of fun, puffing himself up at the little one’s expense.

I was on the swings, pumping my legs furiously, taking myself as high as possible, not paying much attention to that bit of mischief. Suddenly a boy with dark curly hair, way on the other side of the yard, noticed the altercation and made a beeline across the playground. His direct path, fierce determination and brisk pace made him pop out against the random chaos of recess. He caught my interest even from way up in the air.

It was clear to me he was going to interfere, but what would he do? The Bully was bigger than everyone. And yet, this hero seemed fully confident, full of righteous indignation. I scraped the heels of my white shoes on the dirt to bring myself to a full stop, and followed him with my eyes.

The Bully was backed up by his friends, as bullies often are. Simply humiliating another human being is never enough. They need an audience; someone to remind them that, at least for the moment, they are in control.

The hero walked right up to them, stepped between the troublemakers and the little boy, and nudged the child aside, to safety. The boy ran away, frightened but relieved. Then, the hero leaned over and whispered something to the Bully so that none of his friends could hear.   It was as if he had stuck a pin in a balloon, that’s how quickly the Bully deflated. He slunk away, his head hung in shame. The hero never even took his hands out of his pockets.

I knew right then, in that playground, I would marry him someday.

And so I did. And I spent my life striving to become worthy of such a man’s love. He made me a better person, and that was only one of the reasons I loved him.

We married young, raised three children, and had a good and happy life together. We had our challenges, but we never let anything or anyone come between us.   He was my hero, always and forever.

And then he got sick.

It started slowly, the descent into infirmity. We weren’t very old. Our youngest child had just gotten married. It was right after the wedding when the weakness started. The disease progressed slowly. In the beginning, we were able to joke about it. We accommodated his limitations. We took things more slowly, spent more time at home.   As long as we were together, we could manage everything.

Eventually, as he deteriorated , it was hard to maintain our sense of humor. We saw doctors more often than we saw our children or grandchildren.   He became dependent upon me for everything. I was happy that I was there to help but this kind of constant care takes its toll on the caretaker. I dreaded the time when I could no longer do for him what he needed. I knew I could not carry or lift him,   even as frail as he had become.

I don’t deny that I sometimes felt put upon and angry and frustrated by our, by my, circumstances, but I resisted self-pity and did everything I could to keep him at home. My children begged me to put him in a place where he could have full time care. I was not so young myself, anymore, and it was wearing on me. But I couldn’t do that to us. His body was gone but his mind was intact. Our love was intact. I would not be the one to abandon it.

The time came, however, when I could not care for him alone. His mind was starting to go. The end, while not imminent, was not far away.

One day, when I was cuddled in bed with him (as we still often did), he asked me for the biggest favor he’d ever asked of me. He wanted me to help him die, there at home, in our bed, with my arms around him. He did not want to die in a hospital, hooked up to tubes, unconscious or unaware of his surroundings, being poked and stuck with needles and monitors.  We both knew there wasn’t much time before that would be inevitable.

I was terrified, both of living without him and of being the cause of his end, but he knew what he wanted and I was the only one who could give it to him. I cried for days when he asked me, but we both knew I would not refuse him.  It was time for me to be a hero to my hero.

I found a method that was painless and undetectable.   I held him in my arms, stroking his head, as his breathing slowed and eventually stopped.

I lived for many years more, alone, missing him every minute of every day. When my time came, he was here waiting for me. I flew to him in joy.


  image: Getty



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. )


Who You Callin’ Primitive?

Originally published Oct 12, 2014



…Continued from Dec 9)

[note: When I go into my trance the next night, I look for Ipo again. This time, he shows me around his old forest home. We are sitting on the ground, under some trees, talking. I ask him what his prized possession was.]

That’s easy. My bow. It took me many, many days to make it; to find just the right materials and to shape it just so. It was a very good instrument and others admired the fine workmanship.

“And what is your favorite possession?” he asks in return.

 I couldn’t think of an answer, which I suppose is good. I guess it means I’m not that attached to material things. I thought about it for a long time afterward, and now I would say it’s my collection of journals, dating back to college.

 As we are sitting and talking, I am feeling a bit nervous. As beautiful as it is in this place which feels so alive, I recognize that it is also full of unseen dangers. Ipo reminds me that there is no danger to us here. We are merely astral forms.

With that, Ipo casually and reflexively grabs his slingshot, and in a single motion, loads a stone into it and brings down a snake inches from my head.

 “I thought you said there was no danger!?” I said, frightened and a bit annoyed.

“There isn’t,” he replied.

I just wanted to demonstrate something to you. Even if we were not in our astral bodies, but were in human form, you still would not have been in any danger. I would have seen that snake long before you were even aware of it; and it would have been dead before you’d even registered danger.

Notice, however, that when you realized what had just happened, what a close call you’d just had, you were terrified after the fact. If that had happened in your real life, that fear memory would have remained with you for a long, long time. Perhaps the rest of your life.   Even though the danger was only conceptual.

Now, imagine me as primitive man visiting you in New York. Our situation is reversed. My surroundings are completely unfamiliar and terrifying to me. There are unknown, unseen dangers all around. We are standing on the street corner, waiting to cross. I am about to step into the street without looking or thinking. You, however, are subconsciously aware of the traffic light and the flow of the cars. Before I can step off the curb, you instinctively put your arm out across my chest to prevent me from moving forward. At that very moment, a bus whooshes right past me.

To you, the act of reaching out and stopping me would be pure instinct, honed from your years of living in the city. It is a non-event for you. It’s the kind of thing you would forget almost immediately after it happened. I, on the other hand, would be terrified by what had almost happened to me. And that fear would likely remain with me for a long, long time. Perhaps the rest of my life. Even though the danger was only conceptual.

My point is that all danger is conceptual, and thus, so is fear.

We fear what we believe we cannot control.

But we cannot overcome fear by controlling everything, because that is impossible. If that is the goal, it can never be achieved, and thus fear can never be conquered.

Fear can only be overcome by relinquishing the need to control; by understanding that life is going to unspool in exactly the way it was wound up – by you, when you were here, before you breathed into life.

What do you have to fear? All obstacles have been put in your path by your very self, to help you understand and ascend. Vanquish fear by searching for the lessons in the very situations which you, yourself, have provided to yourself. Use the unknown to learn something new – about yourself, about others, about the universe – and fear evaporates. Accept that it will be as it should be.

People with understanding and faith in this truth are peaceful.

But blind faith can be worse than no faith at all.

You must work, always, for your own enlightenment. You must not accept facile answers. Everything you need to know is within you, if you look deep enough.

And if you go down far enough into your soul, you will find a door. That door opens into the universe.


[There is much more from Ipo. He’s quite the philosophical and chatty fellow! And I’m finding him very interesting.  But in the interest of the blog,  to keep it from becoming too “one note”,  I’ll be posting some narratives by others who’ve come to me during the same period.   I will get back to Ipo’s wisdom and insights soon enough.

I find it difficult to understand his concepts sometimes — it’s a lot to process — so I imagine it would be even more difficult for many readers.  I think we can all use some time to digest.)


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   If you know anyone who would enjoy or relate to this,  please forward and/or share on Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks!

Sorry about the double posting…

Sorry about that.  I accidentally scheduled both for the same day, before I went on hiatus.  “Gravitas”  should be read first.   “Playing Chicken” follows.   Next post on Jan 10.

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!  Now it’s back to work! (Ugh!)

Warm regards,


A Bottle In Front of Me

originally published September 21, 2014



I had my first drink when I was around ten. My parents were having a party and I sneaked out of my room and watched them through the bannister on the upstairs landing. The adults all seemed so much more sophisticated than they did when I saw them during the day.  The women, in their little black dresses and high-heeled shoes. The bursts of laughter from various corners as people told jokes or funny stories or made a clever remark. I watched a neighbor slip a kiss to a man who wasn’t her husband. There was music playing, and the sound of ice clinking in glasses. People danced and snuggled on the couch. They were happy. I couldn’t wait to grow up and be part of that sophisticated world.

It was late when the last guest left. My parents ignored the mess and went up to bed, leaving the cleanup for morning. Once they were in their room, I tiptoed downstairs. I could still smell the mingle of perfume, cigarette smoke and human pheromones.

I picked up a glass that had an inch or so of some kind of liquor – I’m not sure what it was. I sat on a high stool near the small bar in the corner of the living room and in my pajamas,  imagined having a conversation with several sophisticated people at once. I imagined them all laughing at something witty I’d just said. I picked up the glass and had a sip.

The taste was awful but at the same time, it was as if a key had slipped into a lock and opened something inside my head. A rush of chemistry surged through my blood. I felt complete in a way I’d never felt before. It was as if I’d been missing this but only now just knew it.

This was a secret the adults were trying to keep from us kids! It was a rite of passage, an invitation into adulthood, to finally be legally old enough to drink sometime in my late teens.

I wasn’t going to wait nearly a decade to be able to feel that way again. I didn’t want to live without it.

From that point on, to drink was both an act of pleasure and of defiance. I wanted it and I was not going to let any  rules get in the way of my having it.  I wondered what other secrets the grownups were keeping from me.

It was around then that I stopped trusting what others told me about “good” and “bad.” Who decided which was which? Why did I have to go along with the rest of the world, anyway?

I started the way many alcoholics do:  I raided my parents’ liquor cabinet. I started at the back, with the weirder stuff that they rarely touched. By the time they got around to it,   they would never remember how much had been left in the bottle. So it was crème de menthe, peach schnapps. Pretty awful stuff, especially straight up.

From there, I moved up to the gin and vodka which I replaced by volume with water. If they noticed, I never found out. I was careful not to replace too much.

I did the same with my friends’ parents’ liquor cabinets. Some of them had bottles I’d never seen before in my parents’ bar. Foreign, unpronounceable names. Years and numbers, as if they were something special. They seemed exotic.

I had a French teacher when I was 15.  By the end of the first week, I knew she was an alcoholic.   I recognized the signs.   I’d see her around in the morning and she’d seem normal, but by the time I sat in her class in the afternoon,  she was already a bit drunk.  She’d slur her words;  lose track of her thoughts;  bob and weave a bit when she walked.   I quickly figured out this meant she kept a bottle close at hand.

I watched her classroom, and when it was empty, I crept in in and searched her desk.  There it was,  in the lower left hand drawer — a small bottle of vodka.

I took it. I had no fear of being caught.  I knew she would never, could never, report it stolen.  Anyway, she was an adult. At worst, for her a missing bottle was an inconvenience and the loss of a some pocket money.  I told myself I was doing a service to my fellow students — she’d be sober for at least one afternoon’s classes.

I knew she’d replace it; I knew she couldn’t be without.   Several days later, I stole it again.   It took her a week or so to realize someone was taking her desk bottle; that she hadn’t just misplaced it or finished it and forgotten to buy more.  When I went to look for it the next time, it wasn’t there.  I figured she’d hidden it somewhere else.  She needed a few shots to get through the afternoon, and she needed easy access to it.  It took me a couple of days to locate the new hiding place, and that was only because I didn’t have much time to search.

It became a game.  She would find a new spot, and I would look until I found it. (It rarely took me more than a week.)  I drank and entertained myself for the entire school year playing cat and mouse with that one teacher.

As I got older, I  became more creative about finding ways to drink.   I also started to know more people who were above legal drinking age. I was able to exchange favors – sexual and otherwise – for a bottle or two.

Beer would do in a pinch, but I’d developed a preference for vodka which had the benefit of not really smelling on the breath. I realized this was why my French teacher preferred it.

By the time I was of drinking age myself, I’d learned quite a few tricks about how to drink for free. Mainly, it helped to be funny and charming, to know a lot of good stories and jokes. That’s how one got invited to all the parties.  And when you’re entertaining, people always want to ply you with liquor.

I was The Drunk at every party. Sometimes, I was the only drunk guest. But I never got sappy or obnoxious. Even in my alcoholic haze, I never lost control. I was still able to be funny. Sure, I slurred my words and occasionally knocked things over, but I never vomited on anyone’s rug (or in anyone’s bathroom, either, for that matter.) I never said or did anything that was hurtful. I would often get very affectionate. Liquor made me happy; it made me love the world and myself and all of mankind. Sometimes, I’d lose track of others’ conversation and became confused about what they were talking about. I’d make a comment about what I thought they were discussing when in fact I had missed the point entirely.  In turn, they were confused by my remarks because to them they made no sense.  Of course they made sense to me, based on what I believed they were talking about.   I developed a reputation for saying these crazy, off-topic things.   But they made people laugh, so they kept me around.

This was how I lived my life.

I had a decent career which enabled me to support myself.  Ultimately, however,  it was always about the next drink. I never loved anyone or anything as much as I loved the feeling I got from liquor.

I only dated other alcoholics because the sober ones always pushed me to quit.  Yes, I was an alcoholic, but quite a functional one.  I saw no need to stop something that gave me so much pleasure.

But just because my life was relatively functional, didn’t mean there wasn’t damage – to my body, to my brain to my resistance. I got old, fast.   The best thing that could have happened to me would have been a small car accident or a crazy drunken tirade in the wrong company or an arrest for some inebriated infraction.   Any one of those might have served as a wake-up call.

Instead I managed to live in the no-man’s land of functional alcoholism. I never fully acknowledged to myself how my craving for liquor was stronger than anything else inside me.   My entire life,  I chased chemical spirituality. I was beneath any true understanding or enlightenment.  And that was the tragedy of my life.


 addendum:  I should add that I, myself, do not drink nor have I ever.  None of the people I knew growing up were like this.  None of my adult friends are like this.   This is definitely not coming from me!!!



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