The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Tibetan Book of the Dead

 

 

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Dear Readers,

I stumbled upon this the other day —  a documentary on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, narrated by Leonard Cohen.  (As regular readers know,  I have been a huge fan of his since I bought his first album in 1967. I played it on my crappy record player until it wore through to the other side. When I was in my early 20’s, I literally stalked him to Hydra, Greece,  where he was living with Marianne. I did manage to meet him. He was, as always, very gracious.)

His is the perfect voice for this.  As I’m sure many of you already know, he, himself, became a Buddhist monk later in his life. But enough about Leonard Cohen (at least  for the moment!)

This film explains the Tibetan religious view of what happens to the consciousness/soul after death.   It seems that most of what I’ve been channeling and posting in this blog is very much in keeping with this philosophy.  The only place we diverge in belief is how quickly people are reincarnated.  I feel that newly crossed souls sometimes have to wait for other spirits to arrive on the other side,  in order to be reincarnated with them.  But that’s just MY belief.  I’m sure not going to tell the Dalai Lama what to believe 🙂

Back in 1987, I traveled in Tibet and Nepal.  I fellow traveler and I were visiting a monastery, hanging out and chatting with the monks who were as interested in us as we were in them.   It soon became time for a daily prayer session with all the monks, led by the abbot.  While Tibetan pilgrims were allowed to stay in the room, Westerners are generally asked to leave. My companion, a very charming Spanish guy, finagled a way for us to stay and observe.  I feel extremely fortunate to have witnessed and heard this.

The abbot began with a deep sonorous OM, which resonated throughout the large, painted wooden room,  seemingly rising up from the depths of the earth.  It went on for longer than any breath I could hold.  I’d never heard anything like it before or since.   All the monks joined him in wave after wave of OM.  Afterwards, some young monks came around and offered pilgrims (and us) some tsampa (roasted barley mixed with salted yak butter). (I guess it’s an acquired taste. I found it inedible. But I was grateful for the offer.)

Many pilgrims make their way across the breadth of Tibet, prostrating themselves, every few steps.  It’s a grueling journey and may take months or even years.  They are fed by the monks at monasteries along the way.  I passed many of them in my travels. To witness such devotion is humbling.

Watching this video,  I can easily recall the scent rancid yak butter candles which burn everywhere.  It’s a smell that imbues everything in Tibet — every place and every person. It’s not immediately pleasant to the western nose, but it quickly grows on you, as it mingles with pleasant memories of happy, kind, generous, and devoted people.

 

Here are the  The Root Verses of the Six Betweens from The Tibetan Book of the Dead, translated by Robert Thurman, pp 115-116, Bantam Books, New York ©1994

These Root Verses summarize the six betweens, each verse formulating the insights and resolves that are keys to the successful redirection of each being away from the continuing life-cycle between, toward liberation and enlightenment.

Hey! Now when life between dawns upon me, I will abandon laziness, as life has no more time, Unwavering, enter the path of learning, thinking, and meditating, And taking perceptions and mind as path, I will realize the Three Bodies of enlightenment! This once that I have obtained the human body Is not the time to stay on the path of distractions.

Hey! Now when the dream between dawns upon me, I will give up corpselike sleeping in delusion, And mindfully enter unwavering, the experience of reality. Conscious of dreaming, I will enjoy the changes as clear light. Not sleeping mindlessly like an animal, I will cherish the practice merging sleep and realization!

Hey! Now when the meditation between dawns upon me, I will abandon the host of distracting errors, Focus in extreme-free experience, without releasing or controlling, And achieve stability in the creation and perfection stages! Giving up busyness, now one pointed in meditation, I won’t surrender to the power of erroneous addictions!

Hey! Now when the death-point between dawns upon me, I will give up the preoccupations of the all-desiring mind, Enter unwavering, the experience of the clarity of the precepts, And transmigrate into the birthless space of inner awareness; About to lose this created body of flesh and blood, I will realize it to be impermanent illusion!

Hey! Now when the reality between dawns upon me, I will let go of the hallucinations of instinctive terror, Enter the recognition of all objects as my mind’s own visions, And understand this as the pattern of perception in the between; Come to this moment, arrived at this most critical cessation, I will not fear my own visions of deities mild and fierce!

Hey! Now when the existence between dawns upon me, I will hold my will with mind one-pointed, And increased forcefully the impulse of positive evolution; Blocking the womb door, I will remember to be revulsed. Now courage and positive perception are essential; I will give up and be, and contemplate all couples As my Spiritual Mentor, Father and Mother.

“With my mind it distracted and never thinking, ‘Death is coming,’ To slave away on the pointless business of mundane life, And then to come out empty—- it is a tragic error. Recognition of necessity is the holy teaching of the gods, So won’t you live this divine truth from now on?” These are the words of the great adepts. If you don’t put the Mentor’s precept in your mind, Won’t you be the one who deceives yourself?

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For more reading on this subject: http://www.abuddhistlibrary.com/Buddhism

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Buy my book!

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

Rarefied

First published May 28, 2016

mountaintop

Arj

Looking back, if I have anything to apologize for, it’s that never apologized for anything. I did what I wanted, what I had to. If people were hurt or inconvenienced by the way I lived, this was their problem to solve. I couldn’t be responsible for the feelings or well-being of others. Should I have pulled back on the reigns of my ambition for fear of stepping on the toes of those who did not want to win as badly as I? Should I have kept promises which no longer suited me, for fear of shattering someone else’s dreams? (Simply being able to shatter the dreams of others made me feel powerful!)   Should I have allowed myself be weak so as to give space to those who were not as strong?  To do any of those things would have compromised who I was and who I was determined to become.

Others hesitated for such sentimental reasons, and consequently lost ground. Greatness requires a monomaniacal fixation on the prize.   One misstep, one falsely placed trust, one momentary glance away from the path, and it might all crumble; the fractured shatters of ambition tramped upon indifferently, like long-neglected Roman ruins.

The best game is at the top. There you meet others who are as good and as determined as you are. Maybe more so.  Players are steeled for a fight to the death. Dying is better than achieving that height without finally taking the prize.   Each, willing to die for the glory of standing in the rarefied air at the top of the peak. Each, willing to kill for the privilege of being able to look down and survey the land below, knowing everything and everyone belongs to you.

It was in this struggle that I felt most alive.

The urge drove me like a ravenous, heartless beast.

Most humans don’t have the stomach for this game. They do their best to stay out of the way of people like me. Little fish, schooling together, believing that in numbers and anonymity, they will better their odds of surviving the inevitable shark attack.

Most, even those with a fair amount of ambition, are limited by their unwillingness to sacrifice everything else in order to play The Big Game. They are unwilling to take what they want. Only those who take, get.  They are unwilling to compromise their so-called morals.

I had only one moral: Win at any cost.

And so I did.

I lived for years at the top of the mountain, self-glorified and in absolute belief that I was deserving of my lofty place. I never fell from grace; I died of old age at the pinnacle.

Only then did I understand what I had missed by not living in the valley below.

 

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Buy the book!

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

He Carried a Torch

originally posted May 23, 2014

George_Rennie_Cupid_Rekindling_the_Torch_of_Hymen_at_the_V_and_A_2008

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Dim

I married her because she was the closest thing to the One Who Got Away, but she was not the same girl at all. I probably should have married someone who was the total opposite so there would be no temptation for comparison; so I would not be constantly reminded of what I was missing.

The reality, of course, was that I had no idea what I was missing, or even if I was missing anything important or worthwhile.

I idealized her insanely; nobody could reach that impossible standard.  I hid this truth from my wife but such feelings cannot be concealed.  They permeate every action, every thought, leaving a whiff of disappointment and regret on everything.  My heart was elsewhere; my desires lived in the past.

My wife deserved to see love in my eyes, but I never fully gave myself to her. I held back a large part of myself for a phantom. I refused to let go of this fantasy of a missed lifetime of perfect love based on a few hormonal months when I was seventeen.

My wife didn’t know any of this. She just thought there was a piece missing from my soul; that I was crippled and unable to trust. I let her believe it. She was patient and loved me anyway, always hoping that someday I would let it all go and that she would be there when the floodgates opened, that she would finally be washed in all the love I’d been holding back. During the occasional discussions about my inability to embrace intimacy, I let her believe that this was the issue. I never told her “the truth.”

Looking back, it’s obvious that she was right the whole time. I was the one who didn’t understand the issue.

I never cheated. I was good and kind to her. I treated her well. I genuinely liked her and didn’t want to hurt her. She loved me and was good to me; she believed in me and was there for me whenever I needed her. And I really did appreciate all that. But still, I refused to give her my heart.

After she died, when I was in my late seventies,  I made a serious effort to find my lost love, as if it were my last chance to finally have what I’d been missing my entire life.

I never found her. (I know now that she died in her 20s. Oh, the irony of that!)

I lived my entire life chasing some imagined love out there when all the while, all I had to do was turn to my wife and look at her and really see her. If I had done that just once, everything after that might have been different.

I thought I was worshiping love, keeping it holy, when in fact I was avoiding it.

Perhaps it’s the same thing.

There are a lot of kinds of love, and one type is not necessarily better or worse than another. Most people are lucky to have even one kind of love in their life. To have more than one is to be truly blessed.

I was blessed, but I didn’t know it.

I should have trusted her with my heart. She would have taken gentle and good care of it.

Note:  We just saw a film on Netflix called Tigertail whose story line has many similarities to this story.  If you have Netflix, check it out.

 

Buy the book!

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

The Game of Life

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This week,   John Horton Conway, a world-renown mathematician,  (Oxford University, Princeton) passed away of Covid19.  His obituary prompted me to check his Wikipedia page, and from there I went down the rabbit hole, reading about  his “Game of Life”.   Rather than being  what we normally think of as a game with players and  winners and losers,  it’s more a mathematical construct.  I doubt the title was mean to infer anything spiritual;  rather it demonstrates that a random group of “seed cells” will self-organize and create a sort of “living” program. However, to me,  it seems to be a perfect metaphor for a theory of my own.  Stick with me, here…

I don’t pretend to understand the entire concept,  but this is what I understand, in a nutshell:  The “game” begins with random filled/unfilled pixels on a computer grid.  These cells, depending on whether they are filled in or blank, are considered either “alive” or “dead” [or “populated” or “unpopulated”].  There are certain rules to this zero player game (as it’s called) and these rules affect the way the cells interact with the adjacent cells,  and that in turn governs the way they behave and self-organize from that point on.

From Wikipedia:

The universe of the Game of Life is an infinite, two-dimensional orthogonal grid of square cells, each of which is in one of two possible states, alive or dead, (or populated and unpopulated, respectively). Every cell interacts with its eight neighbors, which are the cells that are horizontally, vertically, or diagonally adjacent. At each step in time, the following transitions occur:

    1. Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbors dies, as if by underpopulation.
    2. Any live cell with two or three live neighbors lives on to the next generation.
    3. Any live cell with more than three live neighbors dies, as if by overpopulation.
    4. Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbors becomes a live cell, as if by reproduction.

These rules, which compare the behavior of the automaton to real life, can be condensed into the following:

    1. Any live cell with two or three live neighbors survives.
    2. Any dead cell with three live neighbors becomes a live cell.
    3. All other live cells die in the next generation. Similarly, all other dead cells stay dead.

The initial pattern constitutes the seed of the system. The first generation is created by applying the above rules simultaneously to every cell in the seed; births and deaths occur simultaneously, and the discrete moment at which this happens is sometimes called a tick. Each generation is a pure function of the preceding one. The rules continue to be applied repeatedly to create further generations.

I’ve been thinking/talking/writing about the following notion for many years.  Initially, I saw it as fractals patterns — and there certainly is quite a bit of that in this idea.   But as soon as I read about the Game of Life,  I realized what a far better analogy it is.  There are those who say it “God is in mathematics, and I’m beginning to understand why.

We are each born into a specific set of conditions which define us:  physical and mental attributes, talents, tragic flaws, our family (its social status, educational level, religion, our pecking order among siblings), our community, our culture, the zeitgeist, and so on.   To a large degree, these conditions constrain and define us as we encounter obstacles and take the advantages offered to us.  These conditions, taken as a whole,  cause us to think and behave in a certain way, which in turn shapes our path in life.

I do not believe this set of conditions is random.  I believe that in the time between lives,  our higher self assesses our previous lifetimes, and ascertains what we need to learn/overcome in the next lifetime in order to ascend to higher levels of consciousness.   But sending our soul/consciousness into a new physical body is a bit like Moses’ mother sending him off in a basket down the Nile.   Our higher self can only aim us in the right direction and hope for the best, because once we enter a new human body, it no longer has control.  Very few people remember their past lives or the time between lives.  (Often one CAN remember while undergoing past life regression hypnosis,  but most people do not recall past lives spontaneously, without assistance.)

How can our higher self be assured that when it sends our consciousness into a new body, that this human will encounter/interact with the necessary challenges which need to be addressed to attain greater understanding?  The best our higher self can do is to inject our soul into a situation that will best present us with the experiences we need to have, allow us to meet the people (or types of people) we need to meet,  come face to face with the problems we need to overcome, confront the kind of suffering we need to go through.  Our higher selves can only hope that once we are human again, we learn the spiritual lessons and ultimately figure out how to finally break the cycle of reincarnation.

Thus, it’s important to select just the right “vehicle” (body). The higher self will wait for the right set of parents, the right type of family, the right birth order, the right genetics (intellect, appearance, health, talents and abilities, even brain chemistry), before injecting itself back into a human life.  (Personally, I’ve always felt there was a reason I was born the oldest daughter of an oldest daughter of an oldest daughter of an oldest daughter, all of whom were also the oldest child, who came of age during the women’s rights movement.)

And so, each of these qualities – both genetic and the environmental – are the starting cells for the real game of life.

These different elements create the patterns and dictate how we evolve as human beings: the things we embrace and the things we avoid;  the things we excel at and the things that we simply cannot wrap our brains around; the way we interact with the world around us – where we feel comfortable and where we do not; what we feel we are entitled to and what we feel is beyond our grasp.

And as we get older and move through life, the same patterns tend to repeat themselves (hence, the fractal analogy). Maybe we always choose the same type of wrong partner.  Maybe whenever things are going well for us, we self-sabotage.  Maybe our insecurity or fear or anger destroys relationship after relationship. Maybe we just can’t separate from our ego and make all the mistakes inherent in that.  Maybe we lack the confidence to succeed.  Or maybe we can’t get past our anger or resentment.

Hopefully,  eventually, we recognize and overcome those patterns that keep us from personal growth.  And in learning about ourselves, we learn about others, and about the the human condition, and about our own spiritual journey.

Or not.  Maybe we learn  nothing and have to do it all over again. And again. And again.  Until we figure it out.

I think if we look back at our lives,  we will see that the seeds of who we become are planted before we were born.

-aeg

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Buy the book!

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

I Am A Reiki Mastahhhh!

 

My Reiki Master training is complete!   My teacher/sensei, Lorry Salluzzi, led us through the final initiations via Zoom, which worked incredibly well, to all our amazement — even hers. (She will be taking us through the final initiation again, in person, once this nightmare of a pandemic is over.)

Most of the others worked with another student who was miles away (two in another states and one in another country.)  Fortunately, I’m locked inside for the duration of our isolation with my husband (who got his “masters” from Lorry in January) so I was able to use him as my subject.  During one meditation/healing session, Lorry instructed the senders to visualize taking in energy through our crown chakra and sending it out to our partner.  She didn’t specify what shape or color the energy should be, nor to what body part it should be sent, or how it should manifest.  “Wherever you feel the other person needs it.”

After this exercise, we compared notes.

Amazingly, each of us was able to not just feel the sent energy,  but we could identify where we felt it,  if it had a color or shape, etc.   One woman described a feeling of her hair being played with; her sender had visualized comfortingly stroking her head.  Some described specific colors — one duo sent/received an indigo blue cloud to the crown chakra.   When I sat across from M,  I visualized a kind of horizontal rainbow emanating from all of my chakras, flowing across to his,  imbuing them with energy and healing.  When asked what he’d felt,  he described exactly what I had sent.  This wasn’t just a nebulous imagined warm feeling of, “Yeah, I felt energy” — we each felt exactly what the other one was sending.

You’d think that by the time a person becomes a Master, they already be well convinced of Reiki power but you guys know I’m a skeptic; an eye-roller at woo-woo nonsense.  Still, even I have to admit, that was some pretty strong evidence that the transfer of energy is real.

I have been sending Reiki energy to anyone I hear about who is sick — and Dog knows, these days, a LOT of people are ill.   Several friends who have been sick recently told me that receiving that energy was the turning point in their recovery.  I’d be happy to send you or your loved ones some healing energy if you/they are ill. Just message me. (I need a first and last name and a location) I will be happy to include them in my daily meditation.

Below, I’m including below short hypnotic audio I made to help with relaxation and overall physical & mental well-being.  (It give it to clients for use after/between sessions. )  It runs about 17 minutes, so if you’re feeling stressed, or if you’d just like a little relaxing interlude during the day, or need to chill out before bed,  get comfortable and have a listen.  I hope you will give it a try and let me know if it helped.

(music by David C. Wilborn)

-Adrienne

P.S.  Happy 420 day!

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Buy the book!

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

 

 

 

 

A Mere Babe in the Woods

First published April 10, 2016

deep woods

                                                                       have a listen…

Gre

I was still just a girl when he took me as his bride.   It was just a few months shy of my sixteenth birthday when parents arranged for me to marry him.  He, at twenty-three, seemed ancient to me.

He was a hunter and trapper and lived deep in the woods, far from town, where we had both grown up.  Although he had some money from his enterprise, he was somewhat coarse and lacking manners, having lived alone for many years.   He was big and tall with a long thick black beard and wild black hair.  He towered over my tiny frame. Although his size was intimidating, he did not seem unkind. I was not afraid of him.

He had done well in his trade over the previous years, and felt it was time to take a bride; to start a family.  He came to town to seek not a beauty or a spoiled rich girl.  He needed a wife to do the woman’s work,  to mother his children.  He knew he could not live alone forever.  It would drive him mad, like some of the old woodsmen he’d met.

In the village, the daughters of wealthier fathers had better choices. I was a plain girl,  from a poor family.  I felt lucky that my parents were able to find me a husband at all.  To not have a husband and children was a cause of great shame. It was the worst kind of failure, a bad reflection on the girl herself, and her family. Nothing good became of such women.

I was not asked if I wanted to marry him. It was not my decision.  In any case, it was not a question I would have thought to ask even myself.  As most young girls, I’d often wondered what kind of man my future husband would be but it never crossed my mind that I would have any choice in the matter. I could only hope my parents chose well.

Our marriage was a practical transaction. He was in need of a wife and I was in need of a dependable husband with whom to make babies. He’d heard of me though some family of his who still lived in town.  He sought out my parents and made the arrangements. We were married in a quick service the next day. Afterward,  we rode back to his small house, in the forest,  far from any neighbors.

He was solitary by nature; not comfortable around people. A more social man never would have taken up that line of work.  Whether he preferred being alone because he was not good with people, or whether he was not good with people because he spent so much time alone, I really don’t know. I always suspected he never had much use for other humans.

In the beginning, living there was torture.  When he was home, he barely spoke at all,  and there was no one else to talk to.  I would often have imaginary conversations with myself, in my head when he was there,  or aloud when I was alone.  Every few weeks, we went to town for supplies and to visit my family;  more often in the nice weather,  less in the winter. Although the trip was arduous and took the better part of a day,   I always looked forward to it.

My family might not have had much money,  but I was trained to be a good, efficient, frugal wife.  I saw what needed to be done around the house and I did it without grumbling.  This was my lot in life, same as my mother’s, and her mother’s, and her mother’s before her.  Without choice, I had no cause for complaint. I did my best and learned to find satisfaction in my own accomplishments.

In bed,  he took me when he wanted me, not cruelly and not forcefully,  but neither without any passion or recognition of me as a person.

Eventually, there were children.  Five. Three boys and two girls.   The boys followed in their father’s trade, and the girls married better than I and lived in town.

After all those years of marriage, even without speaking,  we learned to communicate. We took care of each other, watched out for each other, even worried about each other.  We became kinder, more thoughtful.  We slowly pushed the boundaries of our trust.  We respected each other’s differences and gave each other plenty of room.  I don’t know if I would call it love,  exactly.  It was two people making the best of their circumstances.

He died at an old age, and by then, I was old myself.  It was too difficult for me to be alone in the house,  so I moved back into the town  to be closer to my children and grandchildren.

You might think, after all those years,  after all we’d been through together,  I would have missed him. But no. What I missed was the quiet solitude of the woods.

Buy the book!

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

Love at 67

originally posted May 18, 2014

 

In February 2004, San Francisco began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Del Martin, 83, and Phyllis Lyon, 79, a couple that had been together for 51-years were the first to be married.

In February 2004, San Francisco began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Del Martin, 83, and Phyllis Lyon, 79, a couple that had been together for 51-years were the first to be married.

Ce

I married because it was what was done. I had children and I loved them but I can’t say there was a lot of love in my marriage. I did my wifely duties, and my husband did what was expected of him, but still, I suffered from the most profound loneliness.

In the beginning at least, there was a kind of friendship and a domestic comradery which made things tolerable. The thing is, I never cared much for sex. I never felt any passion for him, or for anyone. I just assumed this was how it was.   For a long time, when I saw ostensibly happy, loving couples, I thought they were just putting on a show for the sake of appearances. Or that they were lying to themselves and after a while, they would no longer be able to sustain the charade.

I had a good job as a supervisor in a large hospital so I was always financially independent. This was important to me in case I ever decided to leave.   I’m not really sure why I didn’t. I guess I was secretly afraid of what I’d discover about myself out there.

My children grew up, got married, and had children of their own. I loved my grandchildren and was happy to live so close, so we could be an important part of each others’ lives.

By this time in my life, I’d come to the realization that some couples really are happy. I was pleased to see that my children were among them. But this was a bittersweet feeling because it always made me wonder what was wrong with me. It made me realize what I had missed.

When I was 63, my husband was killed in a work-related accident. I should have been sad, but I felt nothing. For years, he’d merely been a presence in my life – neither positive or negative.   We both went about our business and never included the other in any interests or plans. The only time we appeared in public as a couple was at family functions and at holiday time, and even then, we didn’t relate much.

I often wondered if he kept a girlfriend on the side, but I wouldn’t have cared much if he did. His private life was of no concern to me.

After he was gone, I became more social. I joined clubs and organizations and even some citizen action groups.   I tried dating, at the insistence of my children, but no one ever interested me and it just wasn’t worth the effort.

When I was 67, I met a woman in one of my groups, who made me feel something I’d never felt for a man. For the first time in my life, another human being gave me butterflies. She was a few years younger than I was and a recent “widow”… (I later learned, from a long term relationship with a woman.)

I didn’t understand my own fascination at first. To be honest, it disgusted me. I disgusted myself. What kind of freak was I? I’d been married for nearly forty years. I had kids and grandkids. I wasn’t like that!

I convinced myself that I just enjoyed her friendship. I’d never met anyone before her with whom I was so compatible. We laughed at the same things. We’d read the same books,  had seen the same movies, and loved and hated them in the same measure and for the same reasons. We liked the same music. Had the same values. It was easy being with her. I felt I could tell her anything. We quickly became almost inseparable, but if my feelings drifted into the realm of romantic love, I quickly pushed them aside.

It went like this for over a year until finally she suggested we go on vacation together. I was happy to have someone to travel with – I’d always wanted to, but was afraid to go alone. To save money, we shared a room. It made perfect sense.   It didn’t occur to me that anything would happen. Looking back, I was in deep denial.

The second day, we walked for hours. That evening, she offered to rub my feet, and one thing led to another, and soon I was kissing her with complete abandon; with more passion than I’d ever felt in my life!

I am ashamed to say, I wasn’t very nice to her for the rest of our trip. I was scared and confused. But she understood and give me enough time and space to find my way back to her. And so I did.

Eventually, we moved in together. We called ourselves “roommates” and claimed it made the most efficient use of our limited budgets, but I’m not sure how many we actually fooled. Of those we didn’t,  I doubt any of them even cared. I always assumed my kids had figured it out, but they never actually said anything. They simply accepted us as a unit.

We were happy like that for many years, until at 85, she passed away in her sleep. At our age, it was inevitable that one of us would leave the other. I should have been prepared, but I was inconsolable. I, myself, was also gone within the year.

I know now that we’ve been together before, and that we will be together again. I just hope that next time, it doesn’t take so long for us to find each other. Maybe the lesson here is, it’s best to be true to yourself from the very beginning

 

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have 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

Use This Time Wisely

Hi Everyone,

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe!!

Love,

Adrienne

Asch in Ashes

First published July 5, 2017

This week is the 109th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. March 25, 1911

 

Mir

I was thirteen, and my brother sixteen, when we left our family home and set out for the New World.   It was a great adventure – both exciting and terrifying – but as long as I had my brother to care for me, I felt safe.

He and my parents had been saving money to send us both together.  The plan was, they would continue to save and my brother would find work and send money home, until eventually they would join us.

My mother had a younger cousin who had been living in New York for several years. She was, by our standards, a “real American” already,  settled with a husband, an apartment, and a job.  They had agreed to sponsor us and take us in until we could make our own way.

My brother was a big strong boy, tall for his age.  He quickly found work ferrying packages from suppliers to manufacturers, from manufacturers to the showrooms and shops.  It had been agreed by all before we left that I was to continue my education for at least two years.  My parents wanted me to also become a “real American”. They made my brother promise to keep me in school.

Our cousins were very welcoming and kind.  They gave us a corner of their small apartment.  There was just one cot, and my brother and I took turns sleeping in it while the other slept on a pile of folded blankets on the floor.  I often let him have the bed, even when it was my turn because he worked so hard during the day and was so physically exhausted.  I didn’t have the heart to make him sleep on the hard wooden floor.  It was by the grace of his hard work that I was able to remain in school. Since I didn’t have money to contribute,  I made myself as helpful as possible – cleaning,  washing, cooking some simple meals,  doing marketing and errands, mending clothing as I’d been taught by my mother.

When I was 14, and my English passable, my cousin found me a job at a small restaurant owned by her friend and her husband.  The husband cooked and the friend waited tables, but they had a young daughter who needed attention after school while they prepared for the dinner customers.

It didn’t pay much but it was the perfect situation for me.  I started in the afternoon, so I didn’t miss any classes.  I would sit with the girl while she did her schoolwork, and my own English skills improved.  Sometimes if they needed extra hands, I cleared tables or swept the floor or even chopped vegetables.  Occasionally, they’d send me out for an errand.

They were good to me and I was determined to justify their faith in me.  I worked hard and they came to rely on me more and more.  For this, they raised my pay as much as they could afford. It wasn’t much, but it enabled me to contribute a bit to the rent and to my parents’ travel fund.

I had been working there for just over a year when we received terrible news.  My father had become ill and within a very short time had passed away.   My brother and I would not, could not, let my mother remain alone in the Old World.   My brother took on extra shifts and I found additional work minding other children in the evenings.  Within the year, there was enough in the fund to bring her to us.

In the days before her expected arrival, I was so excited I could barely eat or sleep. When we met her at the boat, we all burst into tears at the sight of each other, touching each others’ faces and stroking each other’s hair, reassuring ourselves that we were all real.

We went back the apartment and my mother and her cousin caught up on the family news, remembering old times, laughing and crying.

Later, the three of us squeezed into our corner, with my brother and I insisting my mother take the cot. It was obvious we could not remain in this situation for much longer.  Fortunately, my mother was an experienced tailor and seamstress, and she was able to find work quickly.  Within a couple of months we were able to move to our own small room on Hester Street.  It was tiny, and the bathroom, down the hall, was shared by others, but to us it felt like paradise, an unimaginable luxury to be living with just our own family in our own room.

I finished school in my sixteenth year, and my mother got me a job at the factory where she worked, making ladies’ blouses.  Initially I was thrilled to have a real job; to get a regular paycheck; to be an adult among other women like myself and my mother — new immigrants, filled with hopes and dreams for a better future – but the novelty wore off quickly.

We worked long hours, six long days a week in very unpleasant conditions. The supervisors treated us more like slaves than workers. But, with the three of us bringing home a salary each week, we were able to save money.  The dream was for my mother to buy a sewing machine and have her own tailor shop so we could get out of that awful factory which seemed to suck more life out of us every day.

And then,  one Saturday afternoon,  there was chaos!  A fire!  There were so many flammable scraps and pieces around that it didn’t take long for the fire to be raging.  The doors were locked as they always were.  There was no escape.

I pressed to the window with my mother and the other women, barely able to breathe, terrified of being burned alive and equally afraid of jumping onto the unforgiving pavement below.

In the end, I jumped.  My mother stayed.  It didn’t make a difference.  We, along with dozens of our friends and coworkers, all died that day.

My brother,  alone and lonely,  soon took a wife.  They named their children after me and my mother, so our story would not be lost – a story of two women with dreams, unfulfilled.

 

______

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!

Q and A with Davoo

Originally posted May 12, 2014

davoo

Davoo
(this is just a name I created for this entity, not a game given to me.) S/he is clearly different from the others thus far in that s/he is answering my mental questions.

What are my regrets, you want to know? So many, I don’t know where to begin. On the other hand, I know that no one can do it all in one body.  We break off bits of human experience and take them one life at a time. I did what I could do, to the best of my ability. And if my ability was limited, that was as it should have been — for the lessons, of course.

I had more regrets at the end of my life than I do now, because now I can see the bigger picture. Then, dying for two years, I had plenty of time to think about all the things I did wrong and all the things I should have done that I didn’t. I regretted not appreciating my parents more when they were alive. I regretted not savouring the childhoods of my kids to a greater degree. They grew up so fast!  And because we weren’t close, they moved far away and I didn’t get to see my grandkids more than a couple of times a year. I regretted not expressing to those I loved how I felt about them.

You want to know if I was a man or a woman. Does it matter? Here, there is no gender. I barely can remember through whose eyes I saw the world in which lifetime. I am still trying to figure out how I need to come back the next time.

You want to know how many lives. Honestly, I don’t remember. At least ten. It’s hard to remember further back than that. As I said, they all kind of blend together.  I’ve often been with the same souls, so I get confused sometimes if, in any particular life, I was the husband or wife, the mother or the child. It’s as if we’re a troupe of actors who often work together, always performing different plays.

How long between? Depends. Sometimes we have to figure things out first; contemplate and answer our own questions. Sometimes we have to wait for others to die, so we can be together again. But here, there is no time, so what does it matter? A month of earth time or a hundred years. It’s all the same.

Do I feel emotional pain? When I first came back I did. I was still somewhat attached to the regrets of my last body. I had to work though my guilt.   But sooner or later, I got the necessary perspective. Now when I feel anything, it’s compassion.

How? Compassion in that I understand that everyone is on their own journey. We are all doing what we need to do, and our worldly goals often conflict with others’.   Up close, we butt up against each other. We are constricted by our lack of understanding; by our base human emotions and instincts.   It is difficult to find compassion among the living.  But here, we are so removed from the pain of everyday life, we are able to see things objectively. We can watch dispassionately yet with more understanding. We can see the how the small players influence the main stage. Mostly I guess, it’s because nobody’s doing anything to us anymore so it’s easy to be generous with our love.

How does that love manifest? As I said, mostly as compassion. Sometimes, we try to whisper and nudge humans in the right direction. To them, it sounds like an inner voice. Unfortunately, most of them don’t listen. I guess we show our love in that we keep trying to make them hear us, even when they ignore us.

Do some listen better than others? Oh, some are marvelous listeners! Everybody recognizes them, too. They always seem peaceful and sure of themselves. And never afraid. Humans admire those qualities in others, but most of them don’t understand how those qualities develop. They don’t recognize that they could be the same if they only listened to those internal voices that either urged them forward or warned them away.

***

I hope to hear more from this entity.  My impression was, it had a lot more to tell me, and that it would, at some other time.   I look forward to our next “chat.”

 

—-

Buy the book!

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

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