The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “wisdom”

Losing Feathers

First published on October 25, 2015

aeg sky feathers

Ror

I could not point to any reason for my unhappiness. It was rather that because I was, by nature, unhappy, I found reason for unhappiness in everything.   It became worse as I got older. Perhaps it was hormonal or maybe it was simply that I was now on the downhill side of my life with narrowing opportunities or reasons for hope.

Gradually, I lost the taste for that which I once enjoyed. I ceased to care about the problems of others, both large and small. I stayed more to myself and found less tolerance for the petty interests of the general public.

I went through the motions of life without extracting any joy, making my last years sad and full of regret.


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Greater Than the Sum of the Parts

originally published August 22, 2014

Artist: Mobstr/location: London

Sa

Genius. My greatest sorrow and frustration in life was that I was able to recognize it; appreciate it when I saw it; easily discern between the very good, the great and the brilliant; and yet, I, myself, could not produce anything of such caliber.   I could see the tricks and techniques the masters used to imprint their work with their unique creative flair. I was able to read between the lines and marvel at a turn of phrase or an especially apt metaphor. I noticed the nuanced underpainting and the way it brought life to the subject. I could hear the subtle change of key that lodged a melody in the head. And yet was not able to reproduce any of it.

I did not begrudge them their success. They deserved it. I only wanted to whip aside the curtain to see how they did it. Was there a trick? A skill I could learn? Techniques I might master?   The answer, I found was yes to all those things, and yet, the whole was far greater than the sum of its parts. There was something inside those people, something I didn’t possess. No matter what I did, somebody else did it better.   More naturally. More easily.

Perhaps if I’d had no aesthetic sense; if I’d not be able to catch that flash of brilliance that separated the journeyman from the prodigy, it might not have pained me so much. But I was able to see it and each time I did, it reminded me that I lacked what came so easily to them.

I plugged away at what I did best. I was moderately successful. I was able to earn a living, but few outside my immediate circle sang praises to my talent.

They stood at the pinnacle and I was left to worship from below.

I suppose this was the main thread of my life: To envy what I could never be; to live in the disappointment of not being able to be better than I was.

______

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!

 

 

Artist: Mobstr/location: London

 

Sooner Than You Think

Originally published Sept 6, 2014

calendar pages turning

Ke

Well, tomorrow finally came, and here I am.

I put off almost everything I dreamed of doing until it would be more convenient; for when I’d have more time, more money, more bravery than I currently possessed. That I would eventually run out of time or energy or opportunity was such an abstract concept that it had virtually no meaning.

Equally abstract was the notion that I could ever actually have or do the things I’d always dreamed about having or doing.

My dreams existed only in the future.

“Someday” became tomorrow. Tomorrow became next week. Next week became next year, until one by one, the windows closed for me on all my dreams.

I never completely threw myself into any of those pursuits.  In my heart of hearts, I never believed the things I most wanted were possible. I didn’t think I was good enough to deserve them. I didn’t believe I was clever enough to grab them and hold on to them, even if they were within reach.  It was easier and safer to simply fantasize, and perhaps blame others, or circumstances, or even some completely unrelated flaw in myself for my unfulfilled dreams.

I never started my own business, which I’d always fantasized about. Instead, I stuck with my boring but reliable job until I finally retired.   It was the safe choice but of course, I have could have achieved my dream unless I’d been willing to take a risk. Which I was not.

I never traveled to all the exotic places I thought I wanted to go; never explored the world. Truth was, I barely ventured out of my comfort zone. I never went to places where I didn’t understand the language.   I worried that I wouldn’t be able to communicate; that the food would be too strange for me to eat; that I wouldn’t understand the money and end up being taken advantage of.

I always wanted to learn to play a music instrument. Maybe piano. Perhaps guitar. In my fantasies, I was quite good. I would entertain my friends at parties.   But in truth, I never took a lesson. Never stuck with anything long enough to even get past the most rudimentary familiarity with a chord or a scale.

Most problematic of all, I never really found love. None of those other things would have mattered if I’d given up those pursuits in exchange for another person’s happiness. But that was not the case.

I had several long-term relationships, but the longest one lasted only about seven years. Never a lifetime commitment and all that entailed. Maybe I never met the right person. Maybe I was never ready for it. Maybe I was not open to it. Maybe it was simply not my destiny in that life. I still haven’t figured it out.

I thought I loved a few, but looking back, although some relationships were passionate, they were not really loving. I felt no deep commitment in any of them. I was content as long as things were going well, but as soon as things got rocky, I saw no point in sticking around. I’m not even sure that more of a commitment on my part would have made any difference. Let’s face it, sometimes, you just have to cut your losses. But then, sometimes, you have to see it out past the bad or inconvenient stuff and hope it turns a corner.   I was never good at knowing which was which, nor very patient at waiting to see how it would play out. Perhaps the right person might have inspired me to put it more of an effort. Perhaps I was the one who needed to be the inspiration.

I never had children either. I always thought that, too, would just happen. But it never did. Never the right time. Never the right person.

I lived a small life; didn’t learn as many lessons as I could have, should have.

The main thing I’ve come to understand is that fear is the enemy of everything good.

______

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!

 

Keen Observer

Originally posted August 31, 2014

Bread in Oven

Re

In the village where I lived my entire life, the roads were made of dirt and mud. Those people who could afford to, built their homes from brick or block, cement, and corrugated metal. Those who could not, build theirs of wood, metal scraps, and mud. Nobody had more than four sets of clothing: two for summer and two for winter. Many had only one.   Some people had shoes; others did not.

I suppose by some standards,  we lived in poverty, but since we had no idea how others lived, we had no basis of comparison, and so we never thought of ourselves as poor. Ultimately, it made no difference to the lives we lived, the lessons we learned, the love we shared, the pain we suffered. The human condition is the same everywhere.

Even among those who have so very little, there were the haves and the have-nots.   My family was in the middle. We went hungry from time to time, but mostly that was because of the weather, when the crops didn’t do well, or the animals starved. But then, most everyone suffered during those times, as well.

I never felt myself poor. We were not so different from most everyone we knew. I never longed for more. I was content.

From the time I was a young girl,  I enjoyed observing people,  watching how they behaved, how they socialized with others.  In my small village, everyone knew everyone. Keeping secrets was impossible. We knew who was happy in their circumstances and who was not, and why.  We knew who loved unrequitedly, who held a grudge, who envied whom. We knew who was stupid and who was wise,  who was selfish and who was magnanimous,  who could be relied on when you needed help and who you could count on to stick the knife in deeper.

From an early age, these personalities, these relationships, these behaviors fascinated me.

There was an old baker in the village who had built his brick oven himself,  long before I was born.  All the women brought their bread and larger meals to be cooked there. None of them could have built such a hot fire at home because it would have been impossible for a woman (even with the help her children) to collect that much wood. It was difficult enough to gather enough to keep a house warm in winter. A fire in the small stove might be enough only to heat a pot of water for tea or to boil an egg or to keep a pot of bits and scraps cooking until it became soup. Of course in the summer,  it was  too hot to keep a fire going inside.  And so we had a communal bakery.

Every morning,  the wives or their young daughters or sometimes a servant, brought their kneaded loaves or other ingredients to the baker, to be cooked together with everyone else’s.  The old baker, who everyone called Grandfather even though he had no children of his own, also sold his own bread and buns and some savories and sweets, which some villagers bought as well.

Grandfather was a nice man with a good soul.  Everybody liked him.  If a family could not pay, he would never shame them. He would tell them kindly to pay when they could, even when he knew he was likely to never be paid at all. It was not in his heart to let anyone starve if he could help it.

When I was about 8 years old, there was a young man in the village who worked for the baker. He was very full of his own worth,  full of important advice for everyone, always telling others the best way to run their businesses even though, he, himself, had no business of his own. He was always telling Grandfather how to improve things, but Grandfather had been in business since before this young man was born, and he did not appreciate the unsolicited advice.

Others advised the young man to mind his tongue and do his job,  for the old man would eventually pass away and then he could take over the business and do with it whatever he wanted.   But he could not wait.   So, he moved away to the city, which was very far. He worked there for a few years at something (nobody really knew) until he had saved enough money to start his own bakery in the village.

When he came back,  he built his own oven. In front, he built a low wall to create a kind of outdoor room. There he put some tables and chairs. It became a kind of spontaneous café for men to gather, to drink strong tea and eat a small cake or two, to smoke, to play cards, to discuss politics and religion.

The young man thought he was very clever because now he had both a bakery and a café, and was sure he could make twice as much money as Grandfather. The fact is, the bakery was where all the profit was. A café didn’t earn much. These men sat all day with one pot, always asking for more hot water.

In his foolishness and ignorance he expected the village women to flock to his bakery, which was larger and of course newer and offered some social activity. What he failed to consider, was that the women did not want to pass through a group of men, on their way to the oven. These women worked hard.  They gathered wood and carried water from the well. They minded the small animals. And the children, too, of course.  They worked like donkeys from sunrise until everyone in their families was safely asleep.  These women resented working hard while men sat idle. They did not want to be reminded of it.  It made them bitter.  And so,  they avoided the place.

Soon,  with no customers for his oven, the young man could not keep his business open. He lost everything. Ashamed , chastened, and once again poor,  he left the village for the city once more. I never saw him again but I thought about him a lot.

He had failed because he was a bad judge of human nature, including his own.

That was the first time I understood how tragic a human flaw it was not to understand others; how much more successful someone could be in life if they paid close attention to the needs and desires of both their friends and enemies.

And from then on, I made it a point to study others and to understand what they wanted most deeply.  I quickly learned this was rarely what it appeared to be on the surface.  A man might start an argument with someone of a higher status not because he was angry at the man but because he resented his own low standing. To win such an argument was to steal some of that man’s power. A woman might want a new piece of jewelry from her husband not because she needed more finery, but because it showed others that her husband valued her. She craved the status of that; not his actual love..  A girl might act aloof or tease a boy, not because she wants to hurt him or push him away, but because she likes him and doesn’t know how to express her own feelings.

Like everywhere, people desired the same things: love, power, status, freedom from pain and discomfort. And like everywhere, they often went about getting them the wrong way.

I observed these things closely all my life, and I thought about them as I went about my days. And the more I understood, the more things made sense to me.   I didn’t get upset when people behaved badly because I could see through it to the real reason, and I had compassion.

Many people came to me, asking for my advice. And from where I sit now, I still believe it was good advice.

______

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 al

 

 

photo: Roseman Creek Ranch

I Know What Girls Like…

first published August 25, 2014

Henry Darger from "In the Realms of the Unreal"

Pry

My life was just shame. The shame of who I was and of what I did.

The shame of who I was led me to do what I did. The shame of what I did led me further into the shame of who I was.

Where do I begin to explain? My sin is something few humans can comprehend. They can understand murder and rape, thuggery and genocide better than they can comprehend my particular crime. This is not to say they accept or sympathize with such crimes against humanity, but they can make sense of the perhaps irrational motivations – the need to destroy, the need for power, the need for money, the need for freedom or supremacy especially after a lifetime of repression. Perhaps even misguided religious fervor. The human mind can understand how such malignancies can develop because they can make sense of the root cause.

Not so for me.   Even here, looking back, I can’t say I totally understand it myself.  It was just a need, a drive I had. It was an attraction that I could not control. I suppose if I were different, stronger, I might have been able to control my behavior, but my feelings? No. Impossible.

The first time I felt it, I was still young, but old enough to recognize how wrong it was. This is when the shame began.

For most people, sexual and romantic attraction are age-appropriate.   A kindergartner might have a sweet first crush on another child in the class. A twelve-year old boy might try to steal a kiss from a another twelve year old.   Teenagers lust after other teenagers. And adults generally mate amongst themselves.  Certainly children develop crushes on teachers or older persons of authority, but most adults understand what the child has yet to learn:   any sexual relationship would be completely inappropriate and out of balance.

I, however, never grew out of my grade-school sexuality.   By the time I reached my teens, girls my own age frightened me. I felt too much a child, myself.   I sensed they could see right through me. I feared they could see things in me that I didn’t want them to see; things which needed to remain hidden but which I had no ability to conceal.  I suspected they would demand things of me – sexually, emotionally – which I knew I could not satisfy. I feared they would consume me whole or mock me.

I kept my distance.   I spent a lot of time alone. I eventually learned how to fit in. I wasn’t stupid, just emotionally immature with a tragic lack of impulse control.

At first, I’d just fantasize. There were times when my loving gaze fell too long on a beautiful little girl. The accompanying parent would quickly hustle the child out of my sight, while casting back a warning glare over his or her shoulder.

I learned to be more discreet. Not to leer or stare.

I used to masturbate to catalogs of children’s clothing, filled with adorable models. Even as I did it, I recognized how pathetic I was. I went to a couple of those junior beauty pageants, but they were too creepy even for me.   I recognized in the audience, other men with the same feelings as mine and it frightened me. I saw my future, older and just like them. I didn’t want to end up like that, even though I feared I would.

One day, when I was in my late twenties, a new family moved into my apartment complex. They had a beautiful little daughter, maybe 10 or 11. I fell instantly in love with her. I was obsessed.

I bought a puppy to attract her attention, which was the perfect ruse. She would come over to pet him. I’d give her little snacks to feed him. Then, I got her to help me teach him tricks. That gave me an opportunity to be around her longer, with her feeling happy and relaxed.

Her pure joy! Her unsullied innocence! Her translucent skin that allowed her inner light to shine through! The way she looked at me with those huge blue eyes when she asked me a question, and awaited my response as if having an audience with the Buddha! Truly, I was in love. It was as real and deep and meaningful to me as any kind of love is to anyone.

It did not feel shameful. It felt pure. I felt that if she could love me too, it would redeem me.

I was as nervous and afraid as any inexperienced young man might be about approaching a girl he likes. I didn’t want to frighten her. I wanted her to understand things as I did.

I complemented her. Told her how pretty, how smart, how good with animals she was. I gave her small gifts.  I invited her in for snacks. (Her single mother worked, and she was mostly on her own in the afternoons.)   We’d watch TV on the sofa, and eventually, we cuddled.

For her, it was no different than it might have been cuddling with her own father, who had all but abandoned her and whose male attention she obviously missed. But for me, it was absolutely romantic. I was in heaven, just to have her near me, just to smell her hair, to hear her laugh.

And then, one day, we got on the subject of boys. She wanted to know certain things about the facts of life, about male anatomy.   From where I am now, I recognize that she was just a normally curious kid. Her father was absent and her mother was barely there. I was a trusted adult. Who else would she ask?

I understood it as a seduction.  A black curtain inside of me blocked out all normal human emotional logic.  In my immaturity, I imagined that she wanted me, as I wanted her. I believed that this was her way of making the first move. It meant she loved me!

I started so slowly and gently, just touching and telling her how beautiful she was, and how sexy, and how much I liked her and how she could drive a man mad. And she liked it. She did. But she liked it because she was just a child and she had nobody else to tell her these things that she desperately wanted to hear. In her own way, she was as needy and lost in the world as I was.

Of course, she was just a child and I was the adult;  I should have known better. But it didn’t feel that way to me at the time. Emotionally, we were the same age. In fact, to me, she felt older. She seemed confident but in fact, she was just trusting and naïve, and was thus not nervous. She had no reason to be.

Eventually, we had sex. At the time, in my delusional state, it seemed she desired me as much as I desired her. I realize now that I forced myself too quickly on her. She was not ready — not physically and not emotionally. Even if I’d gone more slowly, she still wouldn’t have understood.

For a young girl who is just beginning to recognize her potential as a woman, to sense she has power over an older man, is a heady feeling,.  but is emotion that a ten year old mind cannot process in its full scope. She could not have understood all the ramifications. For her, it was a game: to have a man do whatever she asked; give her whatever she wanted. That was as far as she thought about it. She might well have played this power game with her own father against her mother if he’d been around more.   It was not a sexual thing. She was just a child, only just beginning to understand her power as a female. She was testing her wings.

She didn’t even understand, really, what sex was. She didn’t comprehend the brutality of it on her small body. She didn’t anticipate the pain. Or the terror of having a grown man upon her, essentially holding her prisoner.

When I imagine her face now, I know she was terrified. But I didn’t stop. I couldn’t. I was oblivious to her panic.

And when it was over, she cried. I tried to comfort her but she wanted no part of me. I will never forget the look in her eyes: they screamed “Betrayal!”   Her innocence was gone and it was all my fault. I had totally misjudged the situation (because truly, there was some part of me that was missing, and this rendered me incapable of understanding any of the dynamic in what had just transpired.)

She left and never came back.

I understood after the fact that I’d hurt her but I didn’t understand how I had so badly misjudged. Maybe I was also angry because I felt we were in it together, that our feelings for each other were mutual, that we both wanted it, and it wasn’t fair that she blamed me after she changed her mind. But again, this was a result of my immature thinking.

And in the weeks following, whenever I’d see her around, she would quickly walk the other way. There was a complete change in her demeanor. She had closed in on herself. She was no longer that open, trusting, carefree little girl. The joy had gone out of her eyes, replaced by shock, sadness, fear, mistrust. I’d selfishly stolen her innocence.

I was consumed by guilt.   I knew I’d done a horrific thing. I knew I had destroyed something in her, and that she would not get over it for a long time, if ever. And yet, I could not stop my desire. The worse I felt about myself, the more I needed the love of an innocent to justify my feelings, to restore my sense of self-worth.

It was not logical. I don’t expect anyone else to make sense of it.

She never said anything to anyone, at least not that I ever knew. Her shame and guilt were as great as mine.

I couldn’t bear to see her. I couldn’t bear to have her look at me like that.   I moved far away, to another city. Eventually, I went through something similar with another girl, age twelve. It, too, ended badly. And she also never told. I moved away, again.

The third time, the girl told her parents. I ended up in jail.

This was the right place for me. I fully felt I deserved it. It was a relief not have to worry about further temptation, because I knew if I were still out there, it would only happen again. There was something broken in me, but I couldn’t change it and I couldn’t stop it and with my limited emotional depth, I couldn’t even understand it.

Being in jail for this kind of crime is probably one of the most difficult sentences a man can serve. Even other prisoners are repulsed by such urges.   I did not last long in there, which was for the best. I was long out of choices.

 

______

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!
!

Henry Darger

artwork: Henry Darger from “In the Realms of the Unreal”

Rational Fear

first published Sept 3, 2015Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Ru

I was born in an unfortunate time. As a very young child, I was taught to walk quickly, keep my head down, never look strangers in the eye and certainly never to speak to them. I learned to blend into the background and make myself invisible. I was too small to completely understand what was going on, but I sensed enough to understand that the adults were deeply fearful. As things got worse and as I began to become more aware of what was happening around us, the fear took hold of me, too, like tentacles. It did not let go. I felt the panic everywhere; it emanated from everyone. I could smell it in their sweat. I could sense it in the darting eyes, the furtive glances, and the hushed, secretive conversations which ended abruptly the moment they became aware I was in the room.

Over time, I could feel it getting worse. Grownups started to disappear.   Some neighbors – a father and son – went off to work in the morning and never came home. People said they saw them being taken away. My school friend’s mother went off alone to the market, never to return.

At first, nobody could believe the truth because it was too terrible to comprehend. They could not believe that such a thing could happen to them, in modern times, in a modern country. This was not the middle ages!

Soldiers shot an old man in the middle of the street and kicked him as he lay bleeding to death. They laughed. This news sent chills, waves of nausea, horror, terror through the community.

They started to search the apartments so we created hiding places, where we ran the instant we heard the first boot on the stairs. Mine was behind the stove.

One night, the soldiers came to our building. We heard them calling in the street and ran to our places. They weren’t afraid of our hiding. They were on to our game. I could hear them, banging on doors, kicking them in, shooting off their guns. I heard screaming of people I knew. “Why!? Why are you doing this?” they asked. “We’ve done nothing wrong!” they cried. It was like a mouse trying to reason with a hungry cat.

I knew what was happening. I’d seen it a few nights before, when they went to the building across the street. Shivering, terrified people in their pajamas stood outside in the cold, guarded by other soldiers with guns. But this night, I was in my place, huddled in a ball, trying not to sob or make any noise, though I was sure they could hear my heart pounding even in the street.

I heard them come into our apartment. It was empty, or so it seemed. Maybe on spite for not finding anyone, or for fun, or out of pure evil or because they were too lazy to really look for us, they shot up our apartment.    They laughed and fired bullets everywhere, as if they never had to worry about a lack of them.

Finally, they left.   I waited a long time to be sure before I pushed aside the panel and crawled out.

I found only my mother still alive. The soldiers’ bullets had penetrated the other hiding places and had killed my father, my brother and my grandmother. My mother wouldn’t let me look but I remember the blood dripping from my brother’s secret spot.

That night, my mother packed up a small bag with some clothing, photos, whatever small valuables she had, and a enough food to take us only until the next day. She said a few prayers – it was the best we could do, because we could not bury our family properly — and we left. I had no idea where we were going. I don’t think she did either, but we both understood in our own way that remaining there was impossible. I remember walking for a long time.

The next year or so was a blur to me. We moved all the time. We lived in hiding, like fugitives, like animals. Some people were kind. They gave us food and shelter, at great danger to themselves, but we were afraid to trust or endanger anyone too much.

My mother learned about some people who might provide false documents for us, and we traveled to see them. It was a far and dangerous journey but we had no choice. We were among the lucky ones.   We got the papers and my mother found a way for us to leave the country. I don’t know how she did it. She never spoke of it. When I brought up the subject, she closed down completely, overcome with such obvious sadness and pain, I quickly learned never to ask.  It was a secret she took to her grave. I always suspected she gave herself to a man in exchange for this favor, and could not bear to think about the shame she felt at betraying my father. She did it for me. This I know. She would not have done it for herself, alone.

We went on a boat, across the sea. And later, another boat, across an ocean. We started a new life in a new land. We assimilated as best we could, and had, by outside appearances, a normal life.

My mother never remarried. She lived to 91. The sorrow and fear never left her eyes.   I think, until the day she died, she always expected them to come for her and her family again.

I married and had children and tried my best not to transfer my lingering mistrust of strangers to them, my mistrust of life in general, nor my paranoia nor my deep sense of loss of the life I might have lived had my world not been turned upside down. I’m not sure I succeeded very well. I think it was all well-embedded in my genes.

Here is what I know: There is no such thing as permanence. The life you think you are living can be pulled out from under you at any time. You comfort yourself with the belief that although such atrocities might have happened in the past,  they could never happen again.   Humans can be so bitterly cruel to each other, it’s hard to comprehend they are of the same species. Without vigilance, life quickly becomes tragedy.

—————–

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!

 

 

 

photo: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

The Perfect Life

NEW!

Gra

I had a perfect life. That’s what everyone told me.  I was blessed.  Lucky.   Other women envied me, wishing even for a slice of my life. They envied my handsome successful husband,  my three beautiful children,   my large home in the best neighborhood. I was quite attractive and always dressed in the latest styles.  I never had to go to work. I was free to enjoy the kinds of activities women of leisure enjoy.

I should have been happy.   I had what everyone else wanted; what everyone else was sure would make them happy.  I felt there was something deeply wrong with me because even though I had all this, I was profoundly dissatisfied.

I was happy enough when my babies were small, until the youngest started school.  Suddenly, my days were unfilled.   I didn’t quite know what to do with my time.  My husband traveled frequently on business and was often gone for days, weeks at a time.  I didn’t particularly miss him, but it did leave me lonely for adult company.

I joined a club and met some other women who also needed to fill their days.  We gossiped, complained, and bragged over cards, over lunch, in the pool.  I needed a challenge so I took tennis lessons, and risibly fell victim to that utterly predicable and clichéd story line:  attractive but bored, unhappy housewife has affair with handsome, raffish instructor.

I craved emotional diversion.  I was desperate for my blood to run with passion again, to feel that yearning in the heart and loins.  I rejoiced to feel alive and desired. I hungered for it like a drug.  He began to appear frequently in my dreams and always in my fantasies.  I touched myself, imagining it was his hands on me. Everything reminded me of him. I lived for our weekly trysts.  He became the main focus of my thoughts and attention. I needed him like oxygen.

The weight of my need was more than he was willing to bear. I was too attached, too needy.  I became demanding and weepy.  I wanted things from him that were ridiculous to expect from such an ultimately meaningless relationship. I became undignified.  And so he broke it off.

I was devastated.

I could not go back to the club.  I could not bear to see him with other women.  I could not even bear to be out in public, so raw and so vulnerable.

In the beginning, I would have a drink or two in the morning – enough to help me tolerate the empty hours, but early enough in the day so that I would be relatively sober and put together by the time the children came home from school in the afternoon.

After a while, I’d drink just until the moment the first one walked in the door.  I thought they were too young to notice.  (I was wrong.)   Eventually, I didn’t even care enough to hide my drinking — not from the children who seemed not to need me, not from the housekeeper who was smart enough to do her work and mind her business, and not from my husband when he was around.  He didn’t seem to notice me much anymore anyway.  Other than civil dinners lacking all intimacy, we mostly stayed to ourselves,  him in his part of the house and me in mine.

The drinking transformed from something I did to numb my sorrow and loneliness to a genuine addiction.  Early on, when necessary, I was capable of functioning out in the world  —  go to the market, the shops,  bank, the hair salon.  I’d have just a quick one before setting out and I could tolerate it for a few hours. I didn’t think anyone knew my secret. (I was wrong.)

Over time, it became more important to me to be able to drink at will than to be able to hold myself together for the sake of others.  I was aware enough to recognize that in my usual condition. I was too sloppy to be in polite company.  When drunk, I was prone to doing embarrassing things. I did not want to bring that humiliation on my family.  So I stayed at home.  Besides, daylight and other humans had begun to bother me.

Once, while in the middle of figuring that out,  I picked up my youngest son and some of his friends at an after-school event.  I was quite drunk.  The teachers must have noticed my condition, but they dared not stop me from driving. Although it would have been the reasonable thing to do,  it was not their place.  On the way home, I swerved off the road on a sharp S-curve and came perilously close to a fatal accident.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but the children were terrified and I was deeply shaken.

To my credit, I learned from this incident never to drive in that condition.  And since I was almost always in that condition, it was easier to remain inside, curtains drawn.

As my appearance deteriorated, so did my health.  I grew soft and sloppy.  My face puffed and my muscles sagged.  I looked years older than my chronological age.  I had gone from the envy of all to the person everyone pitied, including myself.

Towards the end, when my condition was too awful for my family to continue to ignore, they tried to get me some help, but I was already beyond the point of salvation.  I didn’t want to stop.  I didn’t want to change. I just wanted to remain numb until I died, which I expected would not take long.  I knew it would kill me.  I hoped it did so quickly.

My children cried because I loved the bottle more than I loved them.  My husband felt guilty for not having gotten me help earlier, when possibly I might have been saved.

But it was not the drink, itself,  that did me in. That was a symptom. What destroyed me was my guilt over not being happy despite all that God had given me. According to everyone else, I had everything a woman could desire to achieve maximum satisfaction.   If I was unhappy with all this, clearly there was something wrong with me; there was nothing that could make me happy. I was too damaged and undeserving of happiness. If I could have assuaged my guilt by giving those slices of my life to whoever could take benefit from them, I would have.  Such advantages were wasted on me.

I had made the grotesque mistake of believing what everyone else did: that money and possessions and status and appearances were the source of happiness.  I could have been happy in that my situation, just as anyone can be happy in any situation, if I had simply placed the greatest value on the smallest things.

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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 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!

Belonging

first published Oct 1, 2015

pitchforks-mob

 

Ger

When I was young, I didn’t have a lot of friends. I was not well-versed in the social graces and did not get much respect. I felt odd and apart from others.

In my twenties, I volunteered to do some work for an organization. They were happy to have another body and brain to help the cause.   We were all working towards the same goal, and there was a real sense of community.   For the first time, I felt I belonged and was a part of something.   It pleased me and so I devoted more time.

I quickly and mostly unconsciously assessed the group dynamic, even the more subtle, low-level hierarchy. The closer I moved to those in power, the more I emulated them. The more like them I became, the more respect and higher status I attained within the group.

I devoted myself to making myself as helpful as I could be to those at the top.   I made sure they knew they could trust me and count on me, which they increasingly did. I was always there, ready to do what needed to be done, all in order to make myself indispensable.

Over time, I became a part of the larger inner circle. … not the core group, but close enough so those below me on the ladder thought I was more important than I actually was.

This group came to define me. They were my family, my support team, the only ones who accepted me fully, even though none of us ever really shared our personal feelings with the others.

And then, after a many years, the momentum of the group shifted. They wanted to do things which I did not condone, acts which would cause material and/or psychic harm to others.

I was in a quandary.

If I contradicted their mission, if I protested, if I suggested that as a group we reconsider our actions, I would have been ostracized. I couldn’t bear to go back to the days of having no status, no friends, no acceptance.

I felt it was wrong to follow them, but I was too much of a coward to say no.

Initially, I regretted the harm I did to others but I soon convinced myself that our actions were just. In any case, I did not bear this guilt alone. The ones above me, certainly, but also the ones below. Their belief and compliance allowed those at the top to achieve their goals. It was easy to deny my own complicity when I felt myself to be a cog in a machine that was moving forward with or without me.

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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 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!

When the Whip Comes Down

originally posted 8/19/15http://www.westernwhips.com/

Kv

My desires were not normal to others, but they felt perfectly natural to me.  If people had known what I was, what I did, what I liked to have done to me, they surely would have shunned me

I loved pain. I needed to be beaten and whipped, kicked and abused. This gave me not just pleasure but comfort, a feeling that life was in balance.

Being tied and flogged was a strange form of intimacy. This satisfaction of my needs was a sharing of a deep secret which so few knew.

The physical pain masked my psychic pain. In the throes of a beating, nothing else existed except the whip. Lost in the welts and the blood was the guilt I felt for being who I was.

Bound, I was tied to the moment, experiencing only that. The sting was my penance, my punishment for not being someone more worthwhile.

In those hours of total submission, I could lose myself in someone else’s control. I was no longer responsible for my life. The snap of leather on my skin kept me in the here and now. There were no other thoughts, no other feelings except that sharp bite. This pain was real, tangible. There were marks on my flesh to prove it.   This was not some nebulous, esoteric angst which was impossible to identify.

In those moments, I could almost hear my father’s voice. “You want something to cry about!?” the lash mocked. “I’ll give you something to cry about!” It brought all my focus to my screaming nerve endings, and away from my head. It was a trade-off — one kind of pain for another. But physical pain could be healed, comforted, lovingly attended to. This is what grounded me and kept me in the moment.

It would take a thousand lifetimes to understand all the ways we hide from our true pain.

 

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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 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!
photo: http://www.westernwhips.com/

 

 

The King, Inviolate

Originally published August 16, 2014

medieval-castle

Do

I spent my life in avoidance. Avoidance of pain, certainly,   but also avoidance of risk of trust, avoidance of change, avoidance of the unfamiliar, avoidance of allowing myself to be open to anyone.

I was adept at sabotage, setting things up so nothing appeared to be my fault, and yet, I understand now how everything was on me.

A few women loved me but with each I played games until I’d made her cry and doubt herself, grow so emotionally brittle that she’d crumble. This made them easy to leave.

In many ways, I felt myself superior to others yet in fundamental ways, feared I was not as superior as I imagined myself to be. It was necessary not to let anyone too close, lest we all find out the truth of me.

I kept my children close by keeping them dependent. They were deeply damaged and this, too, was my doing.

By all appearances, I was a success but all the money and accolades never convinced me of my worth. Nothing external can ever assuage self-doubt.

I was very good at appearances. My ornate façade was solidly built of bricks and mortar. Traps were set everywhere. It was so impressive, even to myself, I often failed to notice the vulnerability I still felt within. In masking it so well to others, I masked it to myself.  In any case, I had no need to face my own weakness — that’s how thick my walls were.   Nobody got in.

I was so arrogant at my ability to play this game better than anyone else. I was proud of my fortress. While others inevitably showed their flaws and fears, I remained inviolate; the victorious king in his impenetrable castle.

But in the end, what did I gain by avoiding all the lessons I might have learned if I’d taken the risks? If I’d let someone in? If I ventured out?  I learned  that self-protection is not the same as emotional bravery. And very often,  by winning, you lose.

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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 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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