The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “unconditional love”

An Oyster, Ostracized

originally published oct 15, 2014

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

oyster with pearl

 Cha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was the lesson I was born to learn.

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

From irritants, an oyster can make a pearl.

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

______

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

 

 

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No Risk, No Love

First published Nov 3, 2015

Pra

Lies. Every sweet word out of my lover’s mouth was a lie. And once I recognized them as such, it all became clear. I saw how things really were.

I understood that every person tells the lies they must to get the things they want. The worst of them manipulate the feelings others so they may bask in the glow of being loved without the risks inherent to  loving in return.

Some lie without even realizing they are lying. They carve out their little corner of reality and abide in it. As long as they remain confined within this small place of reference, their truth is The Only Truth.

Some love only when the situation suits them, and easily withdraw their love to seek advantage elsewhere.

The more I paid attention, the more I recognized the patterns. I became a master of these observed manipulations, which made me wary and cynical. I felt proud and clever to have figured out how to protect myself. I would not give my love. I would trust no one.

Not that I didn’t suffer. It only saved me from the ignominy of publicly granting others the power to hurt me. I gave them no satisfaction. I licked my wounds in solitude.

This became the irony of my life. The more times I was hurt, the more wary I became. The more wary I became, the more I, myself, became the very nightmare I was trying to avoid

I never found the way out of that cycle.

From here, the route is clear.  This is the truth:  To love requires remaining vulnerable. Vulnerability inevitably, eventually results in pain.  Thus the quest for love guarantees pain.

With this understood, there are only three choices:

Avoid the pain by locking the gates to the heart.

Remain vulnerable in weakness, suffering every slight with no enlightenment.

Remain vulnerable in strength, accepting of whatever comes, marveling at the full range of the emotions of which we find ourselves capable, regarding each passion and sorrow as the first chapter of a lesson.

 

______

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

Love Me, Love Me Not

First published March 4, 2015

sad marble angel

Ag

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! 
-Adrienne

There For Each Other…Again

(Sorry, readers.  this month I accidentally published twice in one day two times!  I messed up the schedule! My bad! I’m republishing this on its correct day  to get things back on track.

I am coming to the end of the original posts (another month or so) and once I do,  I will be taking a hiatus in order to put the entire blog…original and new posts…into book form.

I think this will be a good format for easy reading, and will allow readers to bookmark and  reread the stories that most resonate for them. I think book form is also more intimate, immediate, and personal, which I why I am anxious to translate it into this format.  Even I, who already  knows these stories so well, would enjoy reading a few before bed each night as kind of a meditation. I think about several of these narrators often, and certainly I’ve learned so much from them,  Ipo in particular who has made me understand the human experience with much greater and deeper perspective.

I hope you will all order a copy for yourselves and for anyone you think will find meaning in them.  I expect to have the book ready in time for the holidays, so start thinking about who on your gift list would appreciate their very own copy!

–Adrienne

 

 

Where: Somewhere along the beach in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. When: August 2012. What: Three young men enjoying the sunset together. Camera info: Contax G1, 28mm Biogon, Kodak Portra 400.


 Maj

I was born into a family who lived on the outside.  We were not part of the main culture.  We did not follow their customs or traditions. We did not celebrate their holidays.  What was perfectly normal for us was an oddity to our neighbors.  Our family tried to be as unobtrusive as possible.  We made a special effort to be friendly, polite, law-abiding.  My brother and I were encouraged, cajoled, pressured,  to do well in school.   We did not know too many others like us except for extended family,  and they did not live very close. 

I was the only one like me in my class throughout my lower school years but late into secondary school,  I met a few other boys about my age. Had we met in a place where everyone was like us,  we probably wouldn’t have chosen each other.  Personality-wise,  we were nothing alike,  but by this shared odd circumstance,  being three of a kind in a sea of others, we became bonded.   

These boys remained my dear friends all through my life,  even after we discovered larger communities of our people, and tapped into its business network.  Ever after we didn’t need each other anymore.  Despite our differences,  we remained close. 

We forgave each other sins that would rend other relationships asunder.  We trusted each other with secrets nobody else in the world knew, not even our wives.  We were brothers.  It was understood that if something should happen to one of us, the others would take care of his family.   We were responsible for and to each other.  We shared a storied history.

We didn’t discuss or analyze the nature of our friendship.  We all understood it the same way.  There was nothing to discuss. We knew what had to be done.  We knew what had to be said.  And we knew when to do and say nothing.  

I sometimes I forgot how much they meant to me.  Sometimes,  I took them for  granted.  Sometimes I needed time away from one or the other one  because he exasperated me so.   Sometimes,  there was anger, and it seemed as if the friendship might be over, but none of us felt quite whole without the others, and so somebody would apologize. They would make the effort to reconcile.  They would recognize their own fault in it. They would take responsibility for it.  And in this way,  we grew as men.   

It was only after they were both gone that I truly understood how important they’d been to  my life.  I didn’t survive them by very long.  We were all old men when we died. But that short while of living without them was spent in the contemplation of their friendship, and its importance to all of us.   How blessed I felt to have known these simple men.

Now we are together again and always will be, in some form or another.

——————

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

 

photo credit: Simon Garnier    http://www.simongarnier.org/three-friends/

 

The Long Mistake

Originally published February 11, 2015

To

I made a big mistake which took me a long time to recognize. And as my life went on, I compounded that mistake until there was no going back.

When it began, it was just for fun. I wasn’t looking for anything more than a temporary distraction. But she was not the kind of girl one trifled with. She made me laugh and she made me think. Each time I thought I had come to the end of her, she pulled me in deeper.

And before I knew it, I loved her. And she loved me.

We were bound. We both knew it. But she alone tended the tie that held us connected.   She kept the line in good repair so we would not drift apart. I paid it no mind because I assumed she would always take care of it. Often, I would drift away from her until we were out of sight of each other. This hurt her, I know. She wanted to let go, but could not. All I had to do was tug the line, and there she would be at my side, loving me again. In my selfish, childish heart, I believed it would ever be so. She was mine forever and nothing would ever break us apart.

Eventually, she stopped minding the rope. For her, there was nothing much at the other end except me with all my faults and lies and disrespect and silences and selfishness and carelessness of her feelings. The line began to fray with neglect but I did not notice until one day, I pulled and came back empty.

She had finally moved on and was lost to me forever. The knowledge of it made me sick.

Losing her was my first mistake.

My second mistake was living the next decades as if it didn’t matter. Everything I did was just another form of running away from my feelings, from relationships, from the fear of my own vulnerability.

As I got older and felt the end coming near, I realized I needed to make amends, not just to her, but to all the people I’d hurt and disappointed. She was gracious and listened to my feelings, out of habit no doubt, because she was kind. But she was not moved. My words changed nothing. Apologies are meaningless unless one sincerely intends to stop the very actions one is apologizing for. My bad behavior was already too deeply engrained. It was too late to change and part of me that would have made any difference. She had no reason to forgive me; no reason to trust me. She didn’t need my love. She didn’t need my friendship. I didn’t even understand what was required. I had nothing to offer her or anyone else.

The pain of the loss hit me anew. Finally, I was beginning to understand just how much I had wasted. She had been my moral compass. From her, I always heard the truth. I should have held her close. Instead, I let her go and spent my life adrift. If we’d stayed together, I thought, I might have been happy. I might have lived a peaceful life. She would have kept me righteous. She could have stopped the self-destructive cyclone my life had become.

And so I regretted not just the loss of her but what my life had become without her. And I died choking on that regret.

All the currents of my life had pulled me away from her. I was destined to travel no other route than the one I traveled. It was not for her to keep me on course. That was my own duty. Certainly I could have kept her if I had loved her more than I hated myself, but if I had been able to do that,, I would have had to have known then what I only understand now.

The tragedy of my life was not that I lost her. The tragedy of my life was that I’d missed the opportunity to learn how to  love.

 

——————

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

 

Short but Deeply Meaningful

NEW

 

my-locked-heart

Aya

(as usual,  Aya is short and to the point, but there is a lot to unpack here.)

Here is the pain in love:  to feel compelled to protect yourself from another.

——
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

 

(artist unknown. If you know the artist, please let me know. I will happily post a link to his or her page.)

Til Death Do Us Part

NEW!old-couple-holding-hands

Sa

I know he loved me, in his detached way. He showed me by the things he did for me. He was a wonderful father, and by almost any measure, he was a good husband, faithful and a good provider. He watched out for me; he took care of my feelings; it made him happy to make me happy. What more could a woman want?

That’s what I told myself for our first two decades as man and wife. There was a quiet voice in the back of my heart whispering, “I want more” but there was too much going on in my life, commanding too much of my attention to allow me the luxury of dissatisfaction.

When the children got older and were more independent, I had the time to indulge my sexual and emotional fantasies, of which my husband was usually the object. I longed for him to look me in the eyes and really see me. I ached for him to hold me and feel my heart beating for him. I wanted to shiver at his touch.

I became more assertive about putting more romance in our relationship, but he resisted. Emotional intimacy wasn’t in his nature.

And so, my dissatisfaction and resentment began to grow. I was angry that he couldn’t let go enough to show me his love in the way I needed to be shown. I wanted to feel it viscerally, not just believe it intellectually.

He sensed my resentment; felt me pulling away. And even knowing the reason, felt helpless and frustrated in the face of it. It was a dark time in our marriage.

I took a lover. I have no guilt about that. I needed to feel those feelings. I needed to held and seen that way by someone.

But such illicit affairs are usually short-lived. Passion fades and then the practicalities set in. The clandestine trysts, the hurried phone calls, the fear of getting caught. One or the other wants more while the other fears to upset their entire life. We went back and forth like that for a while, crying and fighting and making up, until eventually, we mutually agreed to part ways amicably.

To leave my marriage would have devastated my husband. He was a good man. He deserved better from me.  The problem was mine.

But that little interlude gave me new perspectives.

That was when I first began to truly love my husband, to accept him as he was; with all his limitations.   My heart had been opened to love, and I liked the feeling. I was determined to keep it open to him, even if he had difficulty keeping his wide open for me. Instead of finding fault in what I wasn’t getting, I focused instead on the ways he showed his love. His way wasn’t my way; he wasn’t expressive; he wasn’t passionate; but I came to understand that neither way was right or wrong. It was just a matter of style.

And once I loved him without expecting him to reciprocate in the same way, he began to open up, loving me more in the way I wanted to be loved. He did not become a romantic but he made more of an effort. I appreciated how difficult that was for him, and it made me love him more. I learned to read between the lines, and there was a lot written there.

As we grew older, we stopped resisting each other. Instead of growing apart, we grew together. For fifty two years we were married, and I was grateful I did not leave him. I never told him about my affair but I always believed he knew. By unspoken mutual consent, we agreed never to mention it. That was part of accepting each other as we were.

 

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. )
 

Birds, Horses and Unconditional Love

first published January 5, 2014

hands heart aeg sky

Aya (again)

You don’t hate the horse because it cannot fly,  nor the bird because it cannot pull.

The sea and the sky,  the dawn and the sunset, they each have their unique charms. We admire and treasure their beauty without needing to possess them.

And so it is with those we love unconditionally.

To love unconditionally is to love someone’s higher self. To see their pure spiritual being.

Of course, humans are rife with frailties: anger, insecurity, confusion, mistrust, spite, fear, greed, pride, jealousy, a need to control. From these, arise behaviors which may be difficult to tolerate. Thus, it is possible to love someone unconditionally yet not be able to live with them or to remain close to them.   Often, too, we find our lives hopelessly entwined with those whom we cannot love.

Do not suffer, thinking one implies or obligates the other.

 

Me:
In other words, true love is unconditional but in relationships there are always conditions.  It’s a useful and important distinction.

 

——————

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

An Oyster, Ostracized

originally published oct 15, 2014

oyster with pearl

 Cha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was the lesson I was born to learn.

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

From irritants, an oyster can make a pearl.

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

****

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

 

The Wisdom of the Shepherd

first published Sept 27, 2014

 

Ib

[While I was channeling The Liar, (the previous post), a different fellow came into my head as a clear and powerful a picture. (Most often, stories come to me in words or as feelings).   He is an adult man, a poor shepherd in ragged clothes, tending his flock. He sits on a rock, with his rifle close at hand. The terrain is bleak and mountainous. I know we are in the foothills of the Hindu Kush… Afghanistan or Pakistan perhaps.]

“I grew up with it,” he said, showing me his gun. “It was an extension of myself. It never left my side.  I learned to shoot as a child and so I was an excellent marksman. When I was out with my herd, I was always scanning the horizon and the skies for predators – wolves, jackals. Even a hawk could take away a small lamb.”

“I also watched the narrow paths leading into our valley, keeping my rifle trained on anyone I didn’t recognize until it was known whether they were friend or enemy. In this way, I, like everyone else, helped guard the safety of our village.”

All well and good, I thought “aloud” to him, but this is not really a story. It’s just an image, and I might just be remembering that image from a photograph.   I need more.

He then “showed” me his small house – a typical low mud and brick hut. He told me he had four children, two boys and two girls. The girls were married and living with their husbands’ families.

Sorry, but this is still not particularly interesting. Yet he was coming to me so strongly,  I felt he must have more to say.

Don’t you have a story, I asked. A lesson?

And then he started to wax philosophical…

===

Living in such a small, isolated village, it is impossible to comprehend the life of a person who works in an office in a big city in another country. And the person who lives and works in a big modern city cannot fully imagine the life of a person who lives in a small village.

It is difficult enough to understand the feelings and the suffering and the pain and even the joy of your own neighbor; sometimes, not even your own family member. Each human being is at the center of his or her own universe. The reality of others is completely abstract. You might as well be on completely different planets.

When the feelings and hopes and dreams and pain of others are abstract, and when their needs and desires conflict with your own, it becomes easy to vilify and hate.

To push aside your own limitations in order to see beyond the limitations of others is the path to compassion. But this takes a tremendous amount of work and energy, more than most humans are willing or able to expend.

It takes far less energy to hate.

Humans like to believe they are compassionate but they make so many exceptions, that they are not compassionate at all.   There are always others — a group or a class or an ethnicity or a nation — for whom they make exceptions.   “Yes,” they say, “compassion is good BUT those people….” are this way or do that.  They are somehow unworthy of compassion.

And how many humans can feel compassion for their enemy, especially if they are trying to kill them? But without compassion enemies are always plentiful.

People claim to want peace in the world as if it is the responsibility of nations or governments. But peace begins with compassion within ourselves. Each time we vilify others, even a neighbor or an old friend or a family member – even if we feel justified because they have done us grievous harm — we move the world one step further from peace.

====

Addendum:  Well, I have to admit, by these standards,  I’m not very compassionate at all!  Guess I have something to work on!

****

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!

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