The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the tag “actor monologue”

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

Who By Fire?

Originally published  5/15/14

Sati

Ra

I was nine when I was betrothed to him;  fifteen when we married. He was an old man to me at thirty-four; older even than my own mother. I went to live with his family – his brothers and their wives, and his proud and unkind mother. She was haughty and arrogant about being the mother to five children — all boys — who were obligated to take care of her. Their wives were just another set of servants required to cater her. She ruled the roost, not only at home, but in the village, too.   She acted as if having boys was all her doing; that she was somehow responsible for this stroke of fortune.

The first time he took me, I didn’t know anything about sexual relations. It hurt. There was no pleasure in it for me…not that time, and not ever. We didn’t even sleep in the same bed. I slept with the other wives, on mats on the floor in a small bungalow off the main house.

He called for me when he wanted me and I had to go.

I liked being pregnant because then he didn’t bother me too much. His mother made him leave me alone lest he hurt the child growing inside.  Although he had control over me, his mother had control over him. She could overrule any decision he made.

I was hoping for a boy, because then he could take care of me when I was old. I could make his wife a servant. But I had a girl. She was a disappointment to all.

My next child was a boy, but he was born sickly and weak and he died very young. I prayed so hard for him to get well, but when he didn’t, I just assumed it was because the gods didn’t listen to women like me. I was not important.

The next was also a girl and now my status was very low, indeed. She was a smart one, though. I could tell even when she was a tiny baby. The way she looked around and took in everything. She didn’t cry like normal babies. She just seemed to understand that nothing could be done about her discomfort. That was just the way it was.

I secretly hoped that she would break free somehow and not follow my path. One of the other wives knew how to read a little bit, and I begged her to teach my youngest the letters and words that would hopefully someday make her independent. She agreed, but as payment, I had to take her most unpleasant tasks. I didn’t mind. I was used to hard work. Every slop bucket I emptied, every floor I cleaned, gave me pleasure. I had no power in the world, but still I’d found a way to invest in my daughter’s future.

Normally, girls didn’t go to school but she was very curious. She was forever bothering her boy cousins with questions about what they’d learned in school. To their credit, they answered her, mostly because she was able to grasp it quickly and explain it back to them. She actually helped them with their schoolwork. She borrowed their books and would hide herself behind a tree or out in the field, and read them all.

When she was ten, I convinced my husband and mother-in-law to send her to school. My argument was that she was smart enough to someday get a real job, and bring money into the family. And so they did.  She did well, and wanted to continue her education.   There was no secondary school in our village, so she went far away and stayed there while classes were on. I missed her, but I knew she was happy. I wanted her to succeed.

Meanwhile, my oldest daughter was already married off; also sent to live with her husband’s family.  Her husband was closer to her own age and he seemed to love her. Fortunately her mother-in-law was a generous and pleasant woman. Her situation was already better than mine. It was the best I could have hoped for her.

When I was forty-two, my husband died. His mother, now very old and on the verge of death, herself, wanted me to commit sati. I did not want to die. I barely knew my husband as a full person; I obeyed him as was proper, but did not love him. I certainly wasn’t going to mourn him. The old witch knew this and it made her angry. In her mind, I should suffer from his death as she was suffering.

Truly, it is a mother’s greatest sorrow to bury her child. She didn’t seem to remember I, too, had buried a son.

Sati had long been outlawed, so I refused. Legally, she could not compel me. This was the first and only time I stood up to her and I was defiant. Better she should throw herself on his funeral pyre. She couldn’t have had more than a few years left, anyway. My defiance only angered her more. Who was I, a mere nothing, to refuse her command?

She seemed to back down, and I naively thought I’d won, but do you know what she did, that evil woman? She had me drugged! While my husband’s body was burning, I was led to the fire by her other sons, where I was half- hypnotized, half shoved into the flames.

She, herself, only lived a few months more.

 

—-

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

My Husband, My Jailer

Originally posted September 25, 2016

falling down stairs

Am

I didn’t know him when I married him.  I was a young woman and he was much older than I was. He had never been lucky with women, never been married. My family arranged for me to travel from my country to his to be his wife. They said my life would be better there.

I was taught that wives should behave in a subservient manner towards their husbands so I knew my place.  I was clever enough to know I should hide my cleverness. I was efficient.  Reliable. Pliable.  Not too demanding, at least not initially.

This was my appeal for him.  He was a sad, weak man who needed a weaker woman to make him feel strong.

After a couple of years, we had a child.   I devoted myself to motherhood which gave me far more pleasure than my marriage.  I did not have too many friends.  My social circle was very small.  For the most part, I was limited to the wives of his friends, of which he had very few.  Some of the wives were also foreign-born, married sight unseen like me, but they were not from my country.  The language barriers made it difficult to share our experiences although I assumed their stories were similar to mine. I would have loved to have had a friend to talk to about my marriage,  but it seemed my own husband was not the only one who preferred to keep me from getting to close with others.

Initially, he was kind to me.  He sometimes lost his temper but he went through the motions of apology.  He pretended that we were a happy couple in love.  But we were not.  Soon he made less of an effort to control his temper.  He was an unhappy man and nothing I could do could change that, although I worked hard to be a good wife and give him what he needed.

I eventually realized that any intimacy we had at the beginning was purely fantasy. In reality, we had nothing in common. When I first came to him, I respected him. He seemed to me smart and successful and knowledgeable about the world, but of course this was only in comparison to the men I knew from my village.  When I got to know him, however, I recognized that he was not worthy of even my insignificant respect.  I tried to hide my growing contempt for him, but such things show on the face,  in the tone of voice, in the  lack of genuine interest in pleasing him.

He took out his anger at the world on me. I could do nothing right. I was useless.  He was going to send me back and keep our son. No man would ever want me again.  Even my own family would reject me because I was such a terrible wife.  I would go back to my village and live out my days sweeping the streets, an outcast, a pariah.

I believed that he could do this.  Worse, I believed that he would do this.  I tried harder to put on a good face for him; to be obedient and of service.  I made myself small and invisible when I was not fulfilling his present needs.

And then, one day in the market, I saw a woman who had a face typical of the women who came from my country.  I said something to her in my language to see if she would respond.  To my delight, she did!  We became fast friends.

She had come over as a young woman and found work as domestic help.  The family she worked for was kind, and even allowed her to take some evening classes in school to improve her language skills.  This was something I dared not even ask my husband about. I already knew the answer.  I’d be punished in one way or another just for suggesting that I wanted to become more independent.

We met once or twice a week, me with my son and her with her charges.  We would do our shopping then steal a few minutes for ourselves in the park, while the children played. We chatted in our mother tongue,and for the first the first time since I’d arrived, I felt that I had a friend of my own, someone who understood me.

Even though, as a married woman, I had more status than she did, I was envious of her position.  She knew things about this new land that I never would have imagined and never would have discovered on my own. She was a window into the culture.  She might not have had much that was her own, but at least she was free (so it seemed to me, anyway.)

Eventually, I confided in her how unhappy I was. I felt like a prisoner in my marriage, with escape being worse than captivity. I didn’t want to stay but I had nowhere to do. I had very little of my own money – just the little bit that I managed to hide away from my household budget.  It wouldn’t get me and my son anywhere. I had no skills and could not support us.  In any case, my husband would not rest until he had hunted me down.

I felt like a trapped animal.  The isolation of my marriage was unbearable.  If it weren’t for my son, I might even have killed myself but I would not leave him alone to be raised by that man.

In the early years, when I was merely unhappy, I used to pray for more kindness and understanding from my husband, more patience for myself.  Eventually, however, my prayers were not so noble.  I began to pray for his death.  I knew this was a sin, but it was the only path I could see to my salvation.  With him gone, I would be free and have the house and his money.

These wishes soon became manifest in my actions.  At first, I was defiant in small, secret ways.  For example, I would not wash all his clothes but rather fold them and put them back as if they had been laundered.  One afternoon, as I began to prepare dinner, I noticed the meat had gone bad.  I fed it to him anyway.  Slowly, I became emboldened.  Sometimes, I would pull plants from the side of the road and add them to his food, hoping that they were poisonous.  One day, after he beat me, I was so angry, I picked up some dog feces in the street and added it to his soup.

I would “accidentally” leave small objects, such as toys or shoes, near door and along the hallway, hoping that he would trip while drunk and break open his head.

I didn’t have the nerve to actually murder him, but I tried to give Fate a helping hand.  But none of these efforts,  not any of my prayers, seemed to have any effect on him.  How could a man so evil be so lucky?

I never told my friend about my prayers or small sabotages. I didn’t want her to feel responsible if I succeeded.  Maybe I was afraid she would encourage me to do worse to him, and that I would allow myself to be led.

Finally, one day, after many such miserable years, he was drinking in the local bar and simply fell over, clutching his chest.  I pretended to others to be sad – I had become quite good at pretending – but I was relieved that he was finally dead, and that I was not responsible for his death. (I didn’t figure my prayers had killed him because I’d been praying for a long time with no results.)

There wasn’t a lot of money, even after everything was sold,  but it was enough to let me start over somewhere else.  I took my son and my friend, and we went far away, and made a new life for ourselves. It was sometimes a struggle, but at least we were free.

—-

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 me  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

Control Freak Marie

Originally posted 5/9/15

control freak https://thelivesofthedead.wordpress.com

 

Marie  (I got names on this one)

Margaret called me to tell me the news. I’d been expecting it for months; always on pins and needles waiting for the call to say that Mum was finally gone. She’d been deteriorating for a couple of years, but since the previous winter, when she’d taken a nasty spill on the icy sidewalk in front of her house, she hadn’t been herself.   She was mentally closed in. She didn’t care about anything any more. She’d lost her appetite for baking, for her favorite TV shows, for Bingo – for any of the small things that had previously brought her joy.

I’d tried to plan my life around her inevitable and impending passing. I knew when the time came, I’d have to go back home for a few weeks to help Margie sort things out, sell the house, settle the estate. I never committed myself firmly to any social plans that I couldn’t back out of at the last minute. I made sure to carefully document everything I was doing at work, so anyone else could step in and pick up where I’d left off.   I didn’t leave anything for the last minute, but instead made sure I was ready to go at a moment’s notice. I even had a packed bag stowed in the hall closet.

I liked having everything under control. People thought I was uptight and anal, but I found a kind of comfort in having no loose ends, planning for every possible contingency.  I had no patience for those who were caught unaware because they hadn’t thought things through. That was just sloppy living, as far as I was concerned.

I lived conservatively, saving as much as I could so I’d have a nice nest egg when I retired…in 30-something years.   I kept my resume up to date and made sure I was current on all the newest industry news and technology, just in case my employment situation changed. When I took a vacation, every hotel, every activity, every transportation connection, every moment, was planned.   I was not a spontaneous kind of girl.

So, when the Margie’s call came, I called the airline (I’d already done the research on bereavement airfares) and made my reservation.   I told my boss that the time was finally here. (She already knew I’d be gone for a few weeks, and knew how to retrieve my updated files and worksheets.) When I got home, I called the funeral home to set into motion arrangements which had already been made. I booked a car service to take me to the airport for my 10 a.m. flight. I called my neighbor who had my key and had already agreed to water my plants.   At 6:30 a.m. I pulled my bag from the closet and threw in a few last minute items. The car arrived at 7:00 and off we went. It was only a twenty-minute drive to the airport, but I wanted to be sure I left myself plenty of time, just in case there was traffic.

In the back of the taxi, I was sad but calm. Everything was under control.

I was searching through my handbag, mentally calculating how many people we could expect at the house after the services, when I caught some movement ahead. I looked up, curious, to see the side of a huge tractor-trailer coming at us at 50 miles an hour.   In actual fact, the truck had jack-knifed and wasn’t moving at all. We were the ones going 50mph.

The next thing I knew, I was here. Like this. Looking back.

I realize from this perspective how much of my life I wasted on planning. I should have taken more chances. I thought I was protecting myself from risk, but in fact, I was just boxing myself off from growth. Perhaps it’s just as well that I died young. I’m sure I never would have changed, and it would have been another fifty, sixty years of mere existence, and what’s the point of that?   At least now I have the opportunity to start 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!
-Adrienne

Bully Bait

originally posted 5/6/14

prison cell block

Le

Life works in mysterious ways. At first, I couldn’t wait to marry her. At the end, I just wanted her dead. I wanted her mouth shut; her body rotting in the ground, where it belonged. I’d been helplessly in love with her and she had betrayed me; turned me into a cuckold; made me a fool; built huge, flashing arrows pointing to my weaknesses.

If anyone had asked me, I might have said I loved her, but I guess the hatred and resentment was always bubbling beneath the surface. I hated being in her power; hated myself for not being able to break free. She baited me all the time: Compared my “assets” to those of my best friend, who, I was often reminded, had a “much better set.”   Mocking me for every mistake, large and small. Belittling me just because she could.

Maybe I should have just left, but when she’d torment me, she would always say, “Look at you! You aren’t man enough to do anything about it!” and because I knew she was right – I wasn’t man enough – I obeyed and did nothing.

She was beautiful and a bit exotic.   When I met her, I couldn’t believe a woman like that would be interested in me. When I’d ask her why, she told me I was her “diamond in the rough.” She said she would teach me how to be a man, and I believed her.

In the beginning, she doted on me and built up my ego. I didn’t feel like merely a man; I felt like “The Man.” Ultimately, however, no matter how much she tried to polish me, no matter how nice a setting she put me in, I was always the same old hunk of worthless rock. Soon, she hated me for it. She believed, if I’d only loved her enough, I would change. My apparent inability to grow a spine was a slap in her face.

In our dynamic, every time she gave me a challenge and I failed to live up to her expectations, she was elevated in my esteem; and I was debased in hers. With each of my failures, the chasm between us grew.

It was a brutal transition between her believing in me and her no longer giving a damn. I ached for the early days. I still believed I loved her because I remembered how she used to make me feel.

She took so much pleasure in tormenting me, and I accepted it. I believed I deserved it. My thinking went: “At least she’s still here; at least I can satisfy her in some way.”

I was pathetic. I wasn’t even man enough to stand up for myself.

And then one day, I snapped.

My father had just passed away a few months before. I hadn’t had much contact with him since I’d left home years earlier. I had no use for him. From boyhood, he, too, belittled me. At the time, I would not have said I was deeply affected by his death.

It’s funny, but I can’t remember the exact words she said that set it all in motion, but it was something that cut me so deep, it opened up all the wounds from my youth.   Every last scab was ripped off and they were all stinging and bleeding again:  The existential fear of my own worthlessness.   The self-loathing because I didn’t have the confidence to stand up for myself.  The inability to trust my own judgment in any situation, thus deferring to anyone and everyone, and never having a voice of my own.

In that moment, I remembered the bullies who used to tease me, especially the day I came out of school to discover they’d set my brand new bicycle on fire. I remembered my father whispering to family members and friends, and them looking at me and laughing. I was never sure exactly what he was telling them, but I felt it had to do with my most recent failure at sports or at school, with the way I’d mishandled a chore or errand. Nothing – and I mean nothing in my entire life – had ever impressed him. Even when I got married to that beauty, he made sure I knew he didn’t believe she really loved me. She must be some kind of gold-digger, he suggested, then corrected himself. “Nah, you’re never going have enough money to make it worth any gold-digger’s time.”

“Maybe,” he then suggested, “she’s going to take out an insurance policy on your life and kill you for the money” (the subtext being, “because what else are you good for?”)

She and I were standing in the living room, next to the fireplace. She was on a rant, haranguing me with the entire catalog of my flaws and weaknesses.  After a while, I didn’t hear the individual words; I just felt the toxicity of their intent.   I couldn’t breathe. The poisonous cloud was enveloping me, choking me. I had to make it stop.

I picked up the heavy, metal mantle clock, and without thinking, hit her with it on the side of the head. She crumpled in a heap. Dead. Oh yes. Definitely dead.

Panicked, I ransacked the house to make it seem as if there had been an intruder, then I called the police and told them I’d found her this way.

It didn’t take them long to figure out the truth. She was dead and I was crying crocodile tears. I had motive and opportunity. It took about ten minutes at the station for me to confess the whole thing. I was actually relieved that it was over.

At least in jail, it would be free of her incessant emotional assault. In jail, I’d be a disappointment only to myself.

I forgot, though, about the bullies. Prisons were full of them.

I was in my own private hell. It was as if every torment in my life had been distilled to its very essence and applied here. There were no lessons to be learned, only pain to be avoided.

After about four years, with another 20 before I was even up for parole, I wanted to die. Ironically, in prison, they do their best to keep you from killing yourself.   They prefer you alive so they can take their retribution one cut at a time.

So I committed suicide by bully.

I knew what to do to provoke them, and they did me a favor of literally beating the life  out of me.

Next time, I would like the confidence to stand up for myself. I would be interested to see where that might lead.

—-

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 Blowhard

first published 4/30/14

https://thelivesofthedead.wordpress.com

Ar

I used to think I knew everything. I was a famous man, and people listened to what I had to say, as if I were a credible conveyor of All Truth. In my defense, I have to say I did know quite a lot. I had a very sharp intellect and piercing wit. People paid to hear me speak and I expounded freely. How I loved having an audience! I believed I was better, smarter and understood more truth than anyone else.

I had no respect for anyone who didn’t agree with me. They were either blind or stupid.

Only now do I understand how little I actually knew. Here, I can see the absolute vastness of all I do not know or understand. Perhaps my soul never will.

I hope I’m not so insufferable the next time.

 

____

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

Tools of the Trade

 

 

first published August 6, 2018

Lepo

I went to work as a carpenter’s apprentice when I was twelve years old.  My master was a man of considerable talent and I felt fortunate to learn my trade at his side.  He was generous with his knowledge.  He taught me to understand the properties and nuances of each type of wood – which was best for what purpose. I learned the intricacies of carving and joining, how to bend and shape the wood, how to work with expensive veneers, how to make glues and mix paints and prepare varnish.

My master had a son, who was just a small child when I first came to work in the shop.  Although his father hoped he, too, would learn the trade, as he got older, the boy showed little interest in, and even less skill at, woodworking.  In truth, he had few skills in anything.  He was a lazy child, spoiled by his mother.

Although this was a disappointment to his father, I had become a kind of surrogate son to him. It was clear the boy resented the close relationship and camaraderie I had with his father, our mutual respect, the easy way we communicated. I tried my best to stay out of his way so as not to antagonize the situation.

As time went by and I became a fine craftsman myself, my master and I became more like business partners than teacher and student. I dare say, I might even have taught him a few things now and then. We worked well together, each focusing on what we were best at.  Our furniture was in high demand and fetched a good price, making us both financially comfortable.

We worked this way, in harmony, for many decades.

When my master eventually died, his son inherited the building in which the shop was located.  He took a certain glee in turning me out, forcing me to find other circumstances where I could ply my trade.

Before I left, however, I did something which weighed on me for the rest of my life. It put me in a state of perpetual spiritual doubt.

When I packed my box to leave, I added my master’s fine tools to my own – his augurs and braces and chisels, imbued with the sweat and oil of his capable hands. I knew they were his son’s birthright but I also knew he would not put them to good purpose. In his possession, the would molder and rust in a damp corner until they were no longer useful whereas I could use them to create beautiful things and to earn a living for my family.

I took them and I went far away, to a place where he would not find me.  It might have been more convenient for me to remain close by as I already had a reputation as a fine furniture maker, but I did not want the inevitable trouble from the son, which I certainly would have had, even without the theft of the tools.

I found work easily, and soon had my own shop. I used those tools to create some splendid and artful pieces, and my family lived comfortably.

There were times, over the years, when I felt remorse for having based my fortune, as it was, on a sin.  Who was I to decide that my use of the tools was more important than his desire for them?   But always, the feeling passed.  I told myself it would have been a greater sin for those beautiful instruments to remain unused, unappreciated, unloved.  If the son was angry or resentful that I had taken them it was not because he had any sentimental feelings for them (as I most certainly did) but rather that he was upset that I took, yet one more thing that he believed he deserved to be his.

My own son had a natural instinct for wood and eventually he inherited those tools. As did his son after him.

I still wonder if I did the right thing.

—-

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 Aging Heiress

originally posted 4/27/14

glamorous vintage woman

Lael

I was vain, it is true. And my vanity caused many others to suffer. I was vain about things I had no right to claim as my own – my looks, my status (which was inherited, and then enhanced by marriage.)

In my 20’s, I was known as a great beauty. I was invited to all the right parties. Men desired me.

As I got older, I took care of myself as best I could, to maintain the illusion of youth as long as possible. After a certain number of years, however, age just catches up. A woman loses her sexual power over men. If this is all she has, if she’s put all her eggs in this particular basket, she ends up with nothing.

I had four husbands and excellent lawyers, but even money doesn’t fill that void, although I worked hard to prove that statement incorrect. Still, it was better to have money than not.

At 79, I was still elegant; still invited to all the right parties. My last companion was 53.  It was obvious to everyone except me that he was playing me. I wanted to believe that I still had enough wit, charm, and charisma to attract such a witty, charming, charismatic man.

When I died, he and my children (with whom I was never particularly close), got into a protracted legal suit over my estate. From where I was, I didn’t care who won. I could see how utterly pointless their battle was. The loser, in the end, was the real winner, although it took a while for that understanding to sink in.

 

***

note:

Today I was out for a walk and ran into two women I haven’t spoken to in over a year.  The first woman is a neighbor, and though we usually have a quick hello when we see each other on the street,  today we ended up yakking for an hour. Mostly, she talked a lot about her late mother, who had passed the previous year.  There was nothing unusual in that.  It made perfect sense in the context of the conversation we were having, although it was the longest conversation we’ve had, probably in two or three years.

From there, I went to the supermarket.  Right on front of me in line,  was someone who’d worked for me very briefly over a year ago.  We have not been in touch.  I asked her how she was doing, making light conversation.  She told me her mother had just passed away. While waiting to check out, she started telling me all about her mom,  her history, her days as an organizer.

I didn’t think anything odd about either of these encounters at the time. Later, however, I wondered if there wasn’t something a bit more than coincidence here.   They hadn’t simply informed that their mothers had recently passed. That’s  normal “news” you might share under such circumstances.  It was that they both spontaneously told me their mother’s story,  as if it were important for me to know.  In neither case was it at all in keeping with the very casual kind of relationship we had.

—-

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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