The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Reiki Update

An update Reiki:

Hubby and I have now finished Level 1 where, according to the teacher, we are only channeling 10% of what we will be able to channel by the end of the second level.

My jury is still out on whether Reiki something special unto itself or just a codified ritual of helpful techniques.  Does it help people feel better? I believe it does but I don’t believe it’s because of any mystical transference of energy (as I think many practitioners would have us believe.)

It’s a long-established fact that human touch is healing.  A long time ago, I read that if a person is going into shock, aside from getting them out of immediate danger (i.e. stemming blood loss), the best thing you can do is to touch them, to ground them.  This information has come in handy more than once.

The placebo effect is another proven phenomenon. If you believe you are being healed, either by yourself or by another, very often the body will heal itself.   Even just visualizing being healed or getting better has a strong positive effect.  I know this to be true from my own experience.  I have healed myself countless times.

A few years ago, I had a pain in my mid-back for several weeks. It made it impossible for me to sit at my desk and work for more than fifteen minutes at a time.  It was quite debilitating. I had a couple of appointments with my chiropractor, which did not help, until he figured out it was referred pain from a pinched nerve in my neck.  I made an appointment with a “real” doctor, and had an MRI, but the truth is,  as soon he told me the cause and the location of the problem,  I was able to heal myself.  I visualized the nerve as a strand of dental floss and the nerve sheath as a bubble-tea straw – plenty of room for the nerve, no compression at all.  Overnight, this month-long pain was gone. (But I had to know the SOURCE of the problem in order to visualize the cure.)

I’ve had other similar experiences – enough of them to believe with every fiber of my being that self-healing is possible, but it’s essential to believe that it’s possible. This belief is reinforced with each success.

So, there’s that aspect of Reiki as well.  If the practitioner and the client truly believe that it’s helping, it will help.

Another established medical truth is that stress can exacerbate existing physical symptoms and even cause new problems out of the blue. When we are tense, we clench our muscles.  When we constantly clench the same muscles in the same way, this often leads to other problems even in other parts of the body.   When we are stressed, our bodies produce cortisol and adrenaline, the so-called “fight or flight” hormones. These hormones have a negative effect on our immune system.  (This is a very simplified explanation.)  Ergo, DE-stressing can alleviate or mitigate symptoms.  That’s why yoga and meditation are so effective at boosting the immune system, among other things.

Stress can also cause an increase in stomach acid which ultimately has a negative effect on the gut biome, which regulates all kinds of things, including mood (so scientists now believe.)

So when another person,  who is calm, attentive, and confident focuses loving attention on us,  it brings down our stress levels and reduces cortisol and adrenaline in our system, and has other positive effects on our bodies.

These days, many hospitals have added Reiki departments because patients are asking for it, and it seems to work.  But I believe it works for all the reasons I stated above.  Imagine a person about to have a major surgery or recuperating from a serious illness.  They are likely scared, worried, stressed.  Their heart rate is elevated. Their cortisol and adrenaline levels are up.  They are not breathing as deeply as they could, and thus are not fully oxygenating their cells.   Doctors and nurses and orderlies rush all around them, rarely taking a lot of time with them.  But then a person (maybe a volunteer) comes to the bedside and offers fifteen, twenty minutes of healing touch founded in a deep desire to help the patient feel better.  You can easily imagine how calming that would be.

I am not one for praying but I imagine if someone (say a member of the clergy, or a member of one’s house of worship) came to a hospital bedside and with the same intentions, and prayed with the patient, it would work just as well.

The teacher says that studies have proven that Reiki (and in fact intentions) can change the molecular structure of our cells.  I have seen similar studies with water and formation of ice crystals but I am not sure they were done under the strictest scientific standards.

Don’t get me wrong… I WANT to believe, but I need to see evidence.

We shall see if either I or my husband find anything more substantial than this as we continue to learn, and if so, I will report back to you.  We begin Level II in two weeks.  (I am enjoying the class.  The teacher is terrific and I really like the other students.)

But even if it’s no more than this,  learning to “channel” calm, healing energy into oneself or another person is a good skill to have.

Show Me the Place

 

leonard

first published Sept 25, 2015

(My annual Yom Kippur post)

A post from me: 

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

LISTEN

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

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

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

        –Take This Longing  

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

     Lover, Lover, Lover.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

yom-kippur-prayer


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

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

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin

originally published April 3, 2015

 

(Although written several years ago,  the moral of this story is excruciatingly apt for what’s going on now.)

alexmankiewicz.com-ostrich2

 

Ha

The writing was on the wall, plain enough to see for anyone who looked. I saw it, myself, but I could not believe what was written. All the signs were there. Danger increased every day. Mistrust festered. Hatred boiled just below the surface. You couldn’t help but feel it, but many of us were hoping it would burn itself out.  We could not believe it would get worse. Surely people would come to their senses!   After all, we were living in modern times, in a civilized place. So we thought. But then, doesn’t everyone believe they are living in a civilized place in modern times?

The lucky ones, the smart ones, they left while they still could. The earlier they heeded the signs, the more they were able to salvage of their lives. Others, like me, simply couldn’t believe it could get bad enough to warrant picking up our entire lives and fleeing; leaving behind everyone and everything we knew. Leaving behind our homes, our businesses, our jobs, our schools, our places of worship, our sense of belonging.

By the time things became desperate, there was no escaping. The slaughter had begun and there was no one and nothing to protect us. In that time of fear, what was most terrifying of all was seeing how quickly men become animals; how uncivilized they can be the defense of their civilization.

It’s natural to look at violence and war and cruelty that takes place far away or happened long before we were born, and think, “That was a different time; those were different people. It can’t happen here. We are better than that.”

I learned in the most cruel way, it is always dangerous to underestimate the brutality of humans.

Too many are of them are voids, easily raised to ire and led to violence by those who can fill their hearts with meaning.

artwork: http://www.alexmankiewicz.com

_____
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 Demons Inside

First published Aug 7, 2016

voices in head

Dor

Even as a child, I could not bear the weight of my own emotions.  I bore the brunt of everything with maximum intensity. It was both a gift and a curse. My attachments were obsessive. My pain, unbearable.  But my soul went deep.

I’d be angry then sad then joyful then angry and sad again, sometimes in the course of an hour. I had no control, and nobody ever taught me how just be.

Over time, I developed my own coping skills. Not all of them proved successful in the long term.

For example, I discovered that if I hurt myself physically, I could temporarily relocate the pain outside my head to a place where I could attend to it. To me, that felt like control.

My feelings clanged against the bars of my internal prison. When I immersed myself in loud noise,  when I  filled my head with sound (sometimes it was my own screaming), it drowned the sound of my own noisy emotions.

By the time I became an adult, there were treatments. While they helped dull the clatter,  they offered their own problems. My choice was:  anguish and fear (which were feelings at least),  or numbness.

Initially, the numbness was welcome. Imagine being pulled from a crazy, loud, verbally abusive family and dropped solo on a deserted island.  Oh, to have peace and quiet in my own head for the first time!  But it became quickly clear that this was a bargain with the devil. I missed my own mind,  as damaged as it was. I felt isolated, even from myself.  All my life, because of how I was, I’d interacted with the world in a certain way, and from that experience I’d learned all my lessons.  And then I wasn’t that person anymore and none of my lessons applied. I had no idea how to be in the world,  how to exist inside my own body.

And so I ran away from the treatments and the doctors and good-intentioned family members who wanted the best for me, but also for themselves.  As myself,  I disrupted all their lives.  As not myself,  I had no life.

I suffered,  not because of the voices or the feelings,  but because I didn’t know how to co-exist with them.  I never learned to make peace with them. It took enormous energy, which I didn’t often have, not to let them dictate my mood.  I would command them to stop, and sometimes,  for a while, they would.  Eventually however, I lost the strength and will to fight them.

I could have continued the treatments and lived what would have seemed,  from the outside, a normal life but I believed that was the cowardly way.  These were my demons to tame,  and if I lost the fight, at least I stood up to them.

In the end,  the demons did me in,  but I fought nobly and remained in possession of my soul to the end.


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

 

image: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/image/5117230-1×1-700×700.jpg

Heal! I say. Heal!

A word from me…

Hubby and I have started studying Reiki as our local community college.  So far, just one class but it was interesting and fun.  The teacher promises that it will increase psychic abilities and help concentration. For her, these are side benefits.  For me,  if I can accomplish JUST those two things, I will be satisfied.

I’m sure many of my readers know a lot more about Reiki than I do.  At this point, all I know is that it’s a way of moving energy,  for healing purposes.  It about turning oneself into a conduit for the healing energy of the universe, allowing it to flow through and be directed to whomever needs it.  HOW to do so remains to be learned.

Our homework was to place our hands in various positions on our body,  corresponding to our chakras, (which seems to me a mixed metaphor since Reiki is Japanese and chakras are Indian.  But I digress.)  While doing so,  we are to focus on channeling healing energy.   I visualize myself as a pure, hollow crystal tube.  Any conduit,  in order to transmit anything (electricity, water, oil), needs to be clear and free of impediments clinging to or blocking the inner walls.  Any blockage will change the course and perhaps the nature of whatever is flowing through.  Therefore,  one needs to put aside ego and one’s own issues to become a “pure, clean conduit.”  So, this is what I have been meditating on.

Many years ago,  just after college (i.e. when dinosaurs roamed the earth), I studied Silva Mind Control. (I don’t think they run that 2-weekend program any more,  at least not the same way, which is a pity.)  At the time, I found their claims interesting  while still being skeptical of them,  however they offered a money-back guarantee, so I figured I’d give it a try.  I did not like the teacher at all.  I found him creepy. I resisted him. And still,  every one of their promises was justified. (The course consisted of lectures and group hypnosis/visualization.  The hypnosis was read from a standard script — perhaps it was even a recording — so the teacher, himself, for that part of it, anyway, was moot.)

Even though I don’t actively use most of exercises these days,  I have incorporated most of the teachings into my world view and belief system because the truth of them have been proven to me.   One of the main things I have come to trust is the ability to heal oneself.  I have done this on myself, many times,  and it’s been proven in controlled studies. (Watch “Heal” on Netflix if you can.)

Another “truth” I took from Silva was the notion that everyone is psychic.  We can fine-tune that ability; learn our own signposts and symbols — if we are willing to pay attention and do the work. It’s a teachable skill. Obviously, some are more gifted than others, but anyone can perceive things clairvoyantly, clairsentiently, or via any of the other clairs (with the possibly exception of chocolate eclairs.)  We do all do it all the time, but we don’t realize we’re doing it because we are not paying close enough attention.

So,  I am willing to believe that there is value in Reiki because it pulls from the same general ideas BUT,  as with most such things,  I go in a skeptic — wanting to believe, doing the work,  but not willing to believe baselessly.

I will report back as we progress.

-a

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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

The Definition of Us

first published March 29, 2015


hands

Aya

Love is defined not only by the emotions we feel for others but by how others feel about us.

We each make our choices about who we want to be. Shall we be the kind of person whom others feel joy to keep close to their hearts, even after we long are out of their lives? Will we be entirely forgettable, leaving little impression on those whose lives we’ve crossed? Will we be the person who causes others anticipate the relief of no longer feeling anything for us?   Do we uplift those around us or prop ourselves up at the expense of others?

And it is from these basic choices that our actions flow.  And from these actions, grow our character.

_____

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

It’s Just the Voices In My Head…

 

 

A note from me

I’ve been trying to devote more time to channeling, but for some reason,  the stories aren’t coming with the speed or ease they used to.  However,  I’ve been experiencing a strange new phenomenon.  I’ve been hearing “voices” in my head.  I can’t make out what they’re saying, exactly  — it’s as if I’m listening to conversations through a thick wall; as if people are conversing in the next hotel room.  Although the words are indistinct,  I can make out accents or know what language they are speaking other than English.  I can tell if they are arguing,  pontificating, speaking lovingly/romantically., etc.   So,  I might have a sense that it’s a Russian couple having a fight,  but I have no idea what they are saying.  Every once in a while, I might catch a word, but since I often don’t speak the language,  it means nothing to me.  This happens only when I blank my mind and go into that state where previously dead people gave me their stories.

Before any of you suggest I write down what I’m hearing, I should say that there’s nothing solid enough for me to grab on to.  If I try really hard to listen or make sense of it,  it recedes.  If I try to pin it down,  it disappears.

Sometimes, I hear fully orchestrated music (that goes back to childhood.)   I suppose if I were a musician and could transcribe what I was hearing, I could  write it down and “compose” music.  Alas, it melts away as soon as I engage my fully conscious mind,  in the same way the voices do.

I have no idea what this is about.  Maybe there’s something psychic or clairaudient about it,  or perhaps it’s just my mind playing tricks.  Or perhaps I’m just nucking futz!!!

Anyone else ever experience something like this?

Equilibrium and the Bell Curve

First published March 23, 2014

bigstock__d_gold_balance_the_scales_of_61236361

Mok

As a child, I never had much use for school. Perhaps I lacked the interest or the attention span. Or maybe I just wasn’t smart enough. Or maybe a little of each. I dropped out of school before high school and felt like a big, important man because I worked and had spending money, while my friends still suffered in class.

When I was older, those same friends became more successful than I was because they had more resources, more knowledge, more information. But I had my own small business and earned a good living – enough to support my family in a comfortable way. To be sure, I did some things that weren’t one hundred percent legal in order to stay above water, but I was smart enough never to get caught.

I would never admit it to anyone – I couldn’t even acknowledge it to myself — but I was insecure about my lack of education. Rather than consider myself less than those who had degrees, I mocked them – to myself and to others. I took the position that highly educated people had no idea about real life; that all their knowledge was theoretical. Their so-called facts had no relation to my world. The academics in government made policy based on statistics and theory. I, however, had real-life experience. My opinions were at least as valuable as their facts and theories; maybe more so. I had no use for them.

I resisted change. My position was that the old way was good enough. It wasn’t so much that changes in the world did not benefit me (although they generally did not) but rather I did not have the ability, knowledge or flexibility to evolve with the times. I couldn’t keep up with technology. I didn’t have the intellectual capacity to read about or comprehend new concepts. I didn’t have the energy or focus to navigate cultural shifts. Society grows ever more complicated, and I preferred the comfortable familiarity of what I already knew. I simply wasn’t up to the challenge of constant change. I voted for people who thought as I did, even though they were as unqualified as I was to run the country.

The older I got, the more conservative I became in my thinking. I became bitter and angry that the world was moving forward without me, regardless of how much I kicked and screamed. By the time I died, I was so fed up with the world and how (I believed) it had changed for the worse, I wasn’t sorry to leave it behind.

Human culture is continuum of those who remain grounded in the past and those who are willing to leap off a cliff into the unknown. Sometimes a leap into unknown produces great advances forward. Sometimes, it brings disaster. Those who resist change function as an anchor. They assure that when those who jump off the cliffs leave a big stain, someone is left to run things. On the other hand, if nobody is willing to take the leap, there is no progress; humankind would stagnate and die. Those at the extremes balance each other, keeping the equilibrium.

 

_____
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 Rule of Anarchy

Originally published March 26, 2015

Kha

In the time and place when I last lived it was impossible to tell the righteous from the evil.  Sometimes,  your enemy could be kind or generous or offer you aid in your time of need; and sometimes your own friends and family betrayed you.  Trust was a luxury in which no one dared indulge, not even in love.  Allegiances fluttered like leaves on the trees; showing first one face and then suddenly, with a slight change in the wind,  exposing their pale, veined undersides to the sun.

I worked hard to avoid aligning myself with either camp, but this proved nearly impossible. I pretended to be feeble-minded so they would not demand too much of me; so they would not press me too often into service for their cause. If I could not be relied upon to do their bidding, I would not be asked. Or, if I were asked and I failed, I would not be thought a traitor.

But what was a traitor? A traitor to what? What was left to betray? Nothing was black or white, up or down, right or wrong. Everything was a muddy dun-colored pile of string. You could not tell from looking if it was comprised of one long one strand or a hundred short ones. But it did not matter if it was it was all connected or not. In the beginning,  it had all been of one piece. Chopping it apart did not make the parts manifestly different from each other.

They all liked to believe they stood for something unique but there was no difference. People ostensibly chose sides but in reality, loyalties were too easily bought and sold for sides to have any real meaning. People stood with whomever could best provide what they needed most at that moment…food,  protection, shelter, weapons.

There was no law…not of government, not of God, and not even most natural laws of man. Society did not exist, only quotidian anarchy.

This was all I ever knew in that life.  My ruse of playing the fool worked to keep my out of any political tug of war and away from accusations, but it could not save me from random violence. I was killed by a bomb, along with the guilty, the innocent and the undecided.

——————

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
original artwork:  Adrienne Gusoff

Anchors Aweigh

First published July 29, 2016The_Royal_Navy_during_the_Second_World_War_A11482

 

Gle

I was just out of school, still mostly a boy,  when I joined the Navy. There was a big war going on, and I was eager to serve my country and see the world. In the early days, I had the exuberance of youth; the certainty of my invulnerability. I believed I would return home a hero, with interesting tales to tell for the rest of my life.

It wasn’t long before my fantasies collapsed and my mood (and most of the others’ around me) swung between a self-protective detachment and abject terror. These emotions often manifested at inappropriate moments. One afternoon,  our ship was strafed by enemy planes. I and my fellow gunners manned the positions,  immediately becoming primary targets for fire. Two of my companions died right on the deck beside me, but I had no time to mourn, no time for fear. I focused on my job.  My aim was true. I brought down two aircraft, watching with indifference as their pilots and their crews were swallowed by the vast, unbroken ocean.

During that battle and in the hours that followed, I felt nothing. It was only much later that a thick fog of terror and panic rolled in,  enveloping and smothering me.

Weeks later, a bird fell from the sky, dead,  onto the deck and suddenly,  I felt awash in guilt for having taken the lives of those foreign flyers. They were not so different from me and my mates, all of us just doing our jobs.

Some nights after many days of relative calm, I’d wake up in a cold sweat.  The quiet felt like a bad omen.

Apropos of nothing, the hair would stand up on my neck.  My breath would grow short and my heart would beat, rat-tat-tat, like an artillery tattoo, in my chest.

But in action, I was distracted,  attentive,  too focused on what was happening in that very moment to worry about what might happen in the future, even the immediate future.

And so the months went,  a pendulum between action and tedium,  fear and fatalism.

Eventually,  it was my turn for leave.  We were heading for a friendly port, and once there, I would be flying home for a week or so to see my family and my girl.

I hung in my hammock,  wrapped like a cocoon so I wouldn’t fall out,  swinging to and fro in the rough seas.  When I first came to the ship,  I found this movement rather sickening, but eventually I grew used to it and felt it comforting, like being rocked to sleep in a cradle.   The sound of the other guys snoring and grunting gave me comfort, for we were brothers and took care of each other.  I was sleeping peacefully,  dreaming of home.

And then, suddenly I was wide awake, up to my face in quickly-rising salt water,  the smell of fuel thick in the air. The ship had been hit by a torpedo and we were sinking fast.  I could see others floating around me, already dead.   I had only a few moments of consciousness left before it was my turn to drown.  I said a quick prayer and then gave myself over to remembering the last time my girl and I kissed.  And then I was gone.


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-Adrienne

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