The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Need Your Input

Hi all,

It occurred to me recently that to really excel at one’s chosen enterprise, whether creative,  emotional, professional, or even criminal,  it’s extremely helpful to understand people what makes people tick.  You need to be able to get inside the heads of others to  know their fears, their dreams, their fantasies, their insecurities, the person they imagine themselves to be,  the person they hope to become, the person they fear they are.  In this way, you can negotiate the best possible outcome for yourself.   The ability to put yourself in the shoes of others is an extremely useful life skill.

I believe that this blog (and the book) can help you think in those terms; to help you see others the way they see themselves, and thus to become better negotiators (ideally in win-win situations.)

I have been toying with the idea of using the blog/book as a jumping off point for a series of discussions on these, and other useful life skills.  For example, the notion that  our pain and disappointment is a result of being tethered too tightly to our egos.   Once you understand that,  a lot of the suffering evaporates.

I would be most interested in hearing from regular readers,  to know if you have learned anything from reading this blog — anything that can be shared and taught to others, with guidance — as I work up a curriculum of sorts.

Thanks!!

-Adrienne

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Jack of All Trades

originally posted June 11, 2014

jack of all trades

Ja

“How hard could it be?” was my motto through life. I figured if one person could do it, in theory any person was capable of doing it, including me. And so I tried many things, curious to see how far I could go;  to what heights I might reach.

I was not blind to the fact that much of what others accomplished was a result of years of training and practice and hard work. I didn’t expect that I could simply decide to tame lions or do surgery or win a world class boxing match against the reigning champ   The people who did those things devoted their lives to becoming experts. But my point is, I never looked at those people and thought, “Oh, I could never do that!”   Rather, I’d think, “If I really wanted to do that; if I were willing to put in the time, I could probably do the same.”

Of course, the reason you devote your life to such things is because you enjoy it and it interests you. Or because you’re good at ityou’re your own accomplishments bring you satisfaction. Or, sometimes because you have no other options. Or any combination of those.

I had zero interest in becoming a lion tamer or surgeon or boxer, but I did pursue many other interests, some to excellence, some to mere competence. Some I found I had no natural affinity for, and decided that I wasn’t willing to invest the energy it would take to become good. But I have to say honestly, I was far better at many things than most people are at one. I was a happy dabbler.

When I died, some people lamented that I’d never really done anything with my life; that I’d “wasted” my talents. I was never at the top of any career or profession. I’d never had much money. I wasn’t famous. I’d hadn’t won any awards. I was the kind of person they called a “Jack of all trades, master of none.”   They meant that as a bad thing, but I never took it like that.

If I’d settled on one path early in life, and worked at it until I was The Best (or at least one of the best) in my chosen field, I certainly would have been more successful in life by most human standards. But I would have had to sacrifice the constant joy of new discovery. I would not have had the time or freedom or mental energy to throw my whole heart into whatever caught my fancy. I would not have owned my possessions; my possessions would have owned me. There is a reason they are called the “trappings” of success.

Maybe another time, I will choose one thing and stay with it until full mastery, but I don’t think I have any regrets about not doing it this time. Others might have seen my life as wasted, but I see a life spent in freedom, following my own heart.

____

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

An Uphill Battle, One Step at a Time

First published Nov 18, 2016

rock-uphill

*

Ruf

We were the same age, but she was so much older than I was. She always seemed to to know what she wanted, and what was right for her, and even what was right for others.

She inspired me to be a better man. To do the right thing. To take the high road. To push my limits. To do the things that made me uncomfortable so I could get past my discomfort. She never asked me to do anything that she wouldn’t do, herself. She held herself to a high standard and expected me to hold myself to that same standard.

I knew she was right and for long time, I worked hard.  I wanted to become that man she wanted me to be because I knew it would be an expression of my best self. But I was lazy and fearful and I didn’t trust my own instincts.

Eventually, I had to acknowledge to myself that I was never going to get beyond my limitations.   I was never going to be the kind of man who was truly worthy of her.  Trying and not succeeding made me feel like a failure, although she, herself, never suggested such a thing. For her it was enough that I remained dedicated to trying.

I started to resent her moral and spiritual superiority. I resented her certainty in always knowing right from wrong. I resented the way she was always sure of herself. It made me feel less certain of who I was and who I should be. I felt I was losing myself in her image of who she thought I could be. And so I stopped trying to live in the world as she saw it. That was her world. I needed to live in mine. I didn’t want to have to think about things so deeply. I lost my drive to see how good I could be. I simply wanted to be left alone, unchallenged. And so, eventually she obliged me.

Four years of marriage ended in acrimony. It took me many, many years to understand that love.

We had no children to hold us together and so we went our separate ways. Eventually we both married other people. I heard from mutual acquaintances that she married happily, to a man who saw life as she did. I married a woman who was easy and kind, undemanding and simple in her outlook. She didn’t require much more than casual kindness and some basic respect, which is as much as I gave her. I appreciated her but there was no deep love.  Her most endearing quality was that she let me be.

In the end, that was no good for me, either.  I reverted to my lazy ways; no longer pushed myself uphill.   Instead I remained down at the bottom where no effort was required, surrounded by those who were as lazy as I was.

In my life, I never accomplished anything without being challenged by someone else, yet when challenged, I grew resentful, angry; I backed away so as not to drown in the secret humiliation of inevitable failure.

I understand now that my first wife was right.  She wasn’t pushing so much as encouraging me to create my own challenges.  Positive changes are positive changes, even if they are small and incremental.    It’s the not size of the change but the direction.

____

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
*Artist: Janusz Kapusta

Annual December Hiatus, Y’all

 

Dear Readers,

Once again,  I am taking the month of December off to focus on business (my busiest month) and also to settle in to our new place.

It’s going to take me a month to recover from the move!  As regular readers know,  we just moved.  It’s been a nightmare from beginning to end!  Things were delayed on the front end (NYC move) which made the move out of our weekend home a big rush.

It took nearly ten  hours to move out of our apartment in NYC, during a miserable ice and snowstorm that basically shut down the greater NYC area.  It took  seven hours of white knuckle driving to get to our hotel,  (normally would have taken two)  arriving at 4am!  Then, we had to wake up at six a.m. to meet the home seller to get the keys.  The movers were originally supposed to meet us at the house in the morning, but they, too, got caught in the storm so the move-in was delayed for 24 hours which was fine with us!  Gave us a day to rest up!

Then,  a week later, we had to move out of the weekend house where my husband also had a wood shop and an art studio.  So much stuff!!!   The unpaved hill was so icy and the turn into our driveway so sharp,  the mover couldn’t get his big truck up to the house.  This necessitated THREE smaller truckloads,  three trips.  over three days.  When it was finally over, we were so exhausted, we could barely walk, move, think.

And now the work of unpacking, painting, etc etc, begins.

So,  I’m really going to need at least a month to recuperate!   I will return in January,  hopefully with some new stories.

Until then, I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season.  Don’t forget,  the book makes a great gift! (hint, hint!)

With much love and in complete exhaustion,

-Adrienne

____

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

Way to Go

first published Nov 12, 2016

 

Az

Sometimes, when you are hurting, you just want to be with someone who loves you. You don’t necessarily have to say or hear those words, because even unspoken; it’s understood. Sometimes, when you are sad and confused; flailing, near drowning, in a stormy ocean, you need an anchor; someone to keep you from drifting out to sea. You can put on a brave face to the world, but sometimes it’s nice to have someone to hold you when you fall apart, away from judgment.

I had a lot of close acquaintances in my life — people I laughed with when times were good — but there were not too many who took my confession. I protected my fragility well. Not too many breached my walls.

I grew older, one by one, they started to die, leaving a landscape pocked with gaping chasms of loneliness. Gone were those precious few humans whose souls resonated with mine; who knew where the shattered pieces fit.

Soon, there was nobody left who knew me; nobody left who could look me in the eye and see clear down to my soul. I was old and alone. I wasn’t sick, but at such an age, infirmity can overtake you in the blink of an eye – a bad fall; a cold that becomes pneumonia; a stroke; the wear and tear of time on the body and then the final straw that snaps the back. I lived in dread of that day coming upon me. I would end up alone in some awful place where they put old people to die, surrounded by strangers who would take care of my body while ignoring my heart.

I couldn’t let that happen to myself.

There was nobody left who cared enough to warrant a note or a goodbye. Most would just see a sad end to an old person who had nothing left to live for.

But that’s not really how it was. Not exactly.

I didn’t kill myself because I had nothing to live for. I killed myself because I wanted to leave before I lost control of my own story. I didn’t want to lose my autonomy. That would have been worse than death.

Once the death spiral began, there would be no pulling out. Worse, there would be nobody who would save me from the horrible end. There was nobody left who loved me enough to pull the plug, disconnect the tubes; nobody to slip me too much morphine so I could go in peace.   No, I’d have to ride it out, counting the minutes until it would all be over.

That is not a way to die. This is one of the greatest tragedies of modern man, but if you took a survey among the living, it wouldn’t even make the list.

Only a handful of people were at the funeral. Some relatives were there out of respect (respect for what, I have no idea). A couple of good-time pals from the old days (who weren’t looking too great, themselves) Some hired religious figure, who’d never met me, to say a few blessings.

If I’d had pills, I would have used them, but in the end, I did it with gas. I wasn’t brave enough for violence. I just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up. I was serene and sure. In those last hours, and just until I lost consciousness, I really missed my dearest friends. But this time, it was tempered with the joy of knowing I would soon be with them all again.

____

—-

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!
-Adrienne22

The Universe Has Its Own Plans

The Ashokan reservoir on a wet fall day

 

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the move has been delayed for at least a week so I beg your indulgence a bit longer.  Either the Universe (or our buyers’ mortgage company) has other plans for us.

Initially I was livid but I’ve mellowed out considerably, literally trusting that what is meant to be, will be.

Meanwhile, I can feel the narrators “nibbling” at the edges of my consciousness.  They want to tell their stories but I’m too scattered and distracted by other things, both personal and political, to give them my full attention.

I’ll lie in bed before dozing off, and I’ll get an image or the first line of a story, and then suddenly my mind will shift to the pages-long checklist of all the things I have to do before and after the move.

So unless these narrators can lift boxes and move furniture, they’re going to have to wait.  But, it’s not as if they’re in a rush…they ARE in the eternal afterlife, after all.

Once we’re settled in, I promise to be much more mellow, and hopefully I’ll soon have a bunch of new stories to share with you going forward.  (We’re moving to the Woodstock, NY area which is Mellow Central. Even the wild animals are laid back. The bears will give you a “Namaste” before mauling you.)

Thanks again for your patience.

-Adrienne

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Day!

Hey All,

Please be patient with me for a couple of weeks! We’re moving on Monday and as you might imagine, I’m a bit scattered and stressed out!  (Sometimes I WISH I could live in an alternate reality!)

If you can spare some positive energy, please send it my way.

Back atcha as soon as I can breathe again!

Love to all!

-Adrienne

The Engine of Progress

First published 11/9/16

hill-steam-engine-patent-drawing-from-1883-vintage-aged-pixel

Ipo

We want in every moment that which we do not have… a thing, an experience, a feeling. This need propels our lives forward. It is the engine of growth and progress. Yet it prevents us from the peace of being content in the present.

____

—-

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!
-Adrienne22

Mountain Mom

Originally published June 3, 2014

mountains - Carpathians

 

Fi

I lived in the mountains all my life, and they were cold. The only time I remember being warm was in the afternoons of summer. Lying on the grass, basking in the sun for an hour or so,   feeling the warmth of its rays bake into the bones, was a pleasure I can barely express. The nights were always chilly enough to make me shiver to the bone.

Life was hard there. We gathered wood for fires and hauled water from the well. We had only what we could grow or find ourselves, or trade, or, on rare occasion, buy.

But I was always happy. I loved being among my family, who told stories and sang songs. We laughed together, teased each other, told jokes. Even when I got married, and had to move from that house, I was happy. My husband was my friend and he always did small things to please me, as I did for him. Life was hard but we were good to each other, and that made all the difference.

We had five children. From the time my middle boy was a was a child, we could already see that the village was too small for him. When he was older, he wanted to pursue his education. That meant moving alone to the city, several hours away. We knew we would miss him but we all encouraged him. He was smart and resourceful. He did well. He got his education and he found good job and sent money home so the rest of us could have the basic necessities and even treat ourselves to a small luxury now and then.

My boy eventually married a girl from the city. They had children and lived in a nice place with all the things he didn’t have growing up in the mountains. We went to visit a few times, and to be honest, as much as I was impressed with all the modern conveniences, the whole place scared me. I much preferred the tempo and familiarity of our small town.

After about a dozen years, they became unhappy. She moved far away with the children. He was sad and lonely, alone in the big city. He was far too citified by then to come home, and besides, what kind of job could he do? He had no country skills.

My heart ached for him, because he had become a man without a home; living between here and there, in the place where there is nothing in between.

But it made me realize that happiness comes not from what you have or where you are, but who you are with.   and on all those cold nights, having fallen bone tired into bed, wrapped up safe in my husband’s arms, I counted my blessings.

____

—-

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!
-Adrienne22

The Philanderer

originally published May 31, 2014

The Philanderer - GB Shaw

Abe (I think this was his actual name)

I was always a sexual person. I lost my virginity when I was 13 to an older girl who lived on my block. From that point on, I never stopped trying to get more. I certainly played the field, even after I married. My wife looked the other way. She understood that sex was sex, and love was love. And I did love her, she knew that. So she let me have my fun. She knew it made me feel confident, young, virile and that’s how she wanted me. She wasn’t jealous. She understood that to fill this particular need, quantity trumped quality.

Years after the fact, I learned that many of her friends had informed her of my affairs. They were shocked and offended by my behavior. A philandering man in their camp was too much of a threat to their own marriages. If an upstanding family man and loving husband such as myself could cheat, how could they possibly trust their own husbands? They reassured themselves that they would never be as naive as she was. They would raise a fuss! She should raise a fuss, they insisted (just to teach their husbands a lesson!)

She brushed off every accusation until finally, when they got no rise of indignation out of her, they stopped telling her. They just pitied her behind her back. She never confronted me about any of my affairs, despite some of her friends’ insistence, because that would have forced us to discuss things neither of wanted to discuss. So, she looked the other way. Again and again and again.

Make no mistake – she did that out of the deepest love for me; and I knew it.   She understood what I got from my dalliances. I suspected she was envious of them because I’m sure she would have liked some of that feeling for herself once in a while.

Each new affair filled me with passion and lust and the sense of being a kid again. But eventually – in a few months or perhaps as long as a year – they would burn themselves out. These women entered into relationships with me because they all assumed they could lure me away from my wife. They always ended when it became apparent to them that this was never going to happen.   (I never lied to any of them,   but I admit to letting them believe whatever they wanted. Their fantasies of our future were useful to me.)

There was inevitably a lot of drama, which was stressful, and which I just wanted to leave behind as quickly as possible.   This was not always possible as some of these women did not want to let go without a fight. It was sometimes a challenge to keep this drama from spilling into my home.

These were the times I devoted myself to being the best husband ever. And when we reconnected during these periods, we felt each other as if we were new.   You might say we rediscovered each other and fell in love again. And in this way, she did have some of what I was getting out there.

We both understood that this embrace-and-release was our special rhythm. We had grown comfortable in it.

She always could sense where I was in my cycles:   New suit, new haircut, watching my weight. This was the courting stage.   When I developed a glow; when I reached for her at night, when I started to exercise – this indicated the affair had begun.   The excuses for disappearing for hours in the evenings? That was when the feelings were in full blossom (and when I ignored her most).   When I inevitably figured out a way to take a weekend with my new paramour, oh, that meant the girl was getting serious and I was allowing myself to be carried along in her fantasy. From this point, it wouldn’t be long before the ultimatums started. She would then realize the truth and it would be over. A lot of whispered phone calls and guilty, sleepless nights: this was the end.   I would be both relieved and disappointed, even though I always knew, going in, that it would eventually come to this.

When each one ended, she was especially kind to me. She held me and petted me and told me I was still her handsome boy. She knew, but she never said a word. She just stepped in to fill the void as best she could.

I knew that she knew and she knew that I knew but neither wanted to know. Neither of us expressed our needs to each other, either because we didn’t have the words or because we were afraid, I really couldn’t say.   Maybe love is just paying close enough attention to someone so you understand them without words, and give them what they need without them having to ask.

Eventually, even though I chased the ladies like an old dog, I was too old to catch anything. During these years, she was most loving and supportive of all, and I came to realize how lucky I’d been. When she became sick, I told her all these things — what I’d learned about me, about her, about us. I told her how much I appreciated her, even though I didn’t always show it. I was happy that I finally had the chance to express my love to her. I wanted to be sure she knew there was nobody else who ever came close to her.

When she died, I lost interest in women altogether. No amount of quantity could ever make up for such a loss in quality.

 
—-

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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