The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the tag “ghosts”

The Great Architect

earth from space

Ipo (yes, again!)

Ipo keeps coming back. He’s become my new “imaginary friend.” When I go off to meditate, my husband says, “Say hi to Ipo!” I would seriously worry about this except that my imaginary pal says such interesting things! I’ve heard about “spirit guides.”   Perhaps he is mine. This particular time, I found myself strolling through the forest with him. He was back on the subject of reality.

Absolute reality is an illusion. Reality is dependent upon position and perspective. Each human lives within his own version which differs, even if only slightly, from everyone else’s. Two people witnessing or experiencing the same event or relationship will each perceive it differently, each one believing their version is The Truth. In fact, no earthly being is high enough to have a completely clear perspective. Yet with distance, the emotion is lost, and so, that is not absolute reality either.

Human beings have many delusions about the universe but what they are most deluded about is themselves. Each human has an ego. The ego does not exist on the spiritual plane but it is necessary while alive to propel and pull them through the course they need to travel. Lessons learned along this course contribute to the development of the soul.

Living conscious humans can never completely separate themselves from their ego, regardless of how spiritually aware they may be. This is as it should be, for without ego, there is no motivation, no action, no movement, no goals, no emotion, no thought.  Yet  ego is the source of all delusion. Humans fabricate their own illusions in order to satisfy, to placate, to uplift, to defend, to justify, to support and even to deny the ego.

Ironically, the humans who are most deluded are the ones who appear to have the most control over the world around them; the kind of people other humans usually refer to as “great” – powerful rulers, captains of industry, leaders of armies.   They live under the delusion that they are the authors of their fate; that they are shaping the history of man.

In fact, they are merely tools of the Great Architect of the Universe.

The Architect alone designs and weaves the tapestry. Only the Architect sees the entire pattern — past, present and future – and spins the threads necessary to create the motifs, both large and small. The Architect knows when and where there must be shadow and light. Just as a human artist understands how a single point of white can bring alive a dark eye, so the Architect knows that goodness brings clarity to evil, and evil to goodness.   (From here on, for brevity’s sake, I shall refer to The Architect as TA. Pronouns, such as He or She imply human gender, which TA does not possess.) TA paints human history using a brush of enlightenment and darkness, war and peace, good and evil, tragedy and joy.

In so doing TA uses humans to affect these desired outcomes. Thus the conquered are as integral as the conqueror; the blind as important as the visionaries; the ignorant as important as the wise.

Ego is like an individual stitch believing itself to be the most important aspect of the tapestry.  To put aside the ego is to recognize, in humility, that we are each merely a single point in a larger design.  Only when taken together can there be a pattern.

 

 

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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
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Friendly Fire

First published January 8, 2014

cowboy2

Pon

From the earliest time I can recall, I hated my father.  He was a mean drunk who sometimes got physically abusive.  I remember him hitting my mother once or twice when I was very young,  but soon my older brother put himself between the two of them and voluntarily took the brunt of the blows upon himself.   I watched that sick theater from the sidelines, rarely finding myself in the middle of it, but hating him all the same.

When I was in my mid-teens, I quit school and started working as a ranch hand on local farms. Whenever possible, I’d sleep in the bunk house to avoid going home.

There were all sorts of men in there, mostly itinerant, rootless farmhands. Some were good men – kind, generous, funny; some were as miserable and ornery as my father. Many were from far away; some from other countries. It was the kind of life which made having a stable romantic relationship or family life impractical, unsustainable. And so, a subculture of homosexuality arose. These men were “homosexuals of convenience” not because of any innate proclivity. They wanted sexual satisfaction, and other men happened to be most proximate. Man-on-man sexual trysts were not discussed openly, but they were alluded to; joked about, judged as nonchalantly as masturbation.   This might have been what they did but it wasn’t who they were, or how they defined themselves.

For a young man my age, with few heterosexual outlets, this kind of easy sexual satisfaction had its appeal.  I felt no shame about it. I had no reason so. Within the limited micro-culture in which I existed, it was perfectly acceptable behavior.

Normalcy is always relative. What feels normal to us is simply what is familiar.  Whether one grows up in a family of straight-laced missionaries or a tribe of flesh-eating zombies,  with little outside reference, this is going to seem perfectly normal.  And so,  touching men and having them touch me felt completely natural.

My brother remained at home,  standing guard over my mother.  By the time he was 22, however, he’d had enough.   He joined the army. It was a time of relative national peace and it provided an easy and expedient remedy for his unhappy and stifling situation. Before he left, he sat me down and told me that I would now have to sleep at home every night and take over the responsibility for my mother’s protection.

I did this with mixed feelings.  Certainly, I wanted my mother protected from my father’s drunken furies. Since she refused to leave him,  the duty fell to me.  By then,  I was big and strong; my physical presence was enough of a deterrent.   He knew he raised his hand to me at his own peril.  I wasn’t worried that I’d ever have to fight him.  I just didn’t want to live under the same roof as him; didn’t want to breath the same air;  didn’t want to be subject to his angry tirades or sullen moods.

I’d been living at home for a year or so, hating every minute, when we got the news. My brother had been killed in a training exercise. We didn’t get many details but it didn’t much matter. He was gone and never coming back.

My mother was inconsolable.   She blamed herself for not standing up to my father,  thus forcing my brother to take the only option he felt he had available to him.  She blamed herself for not having chosen a better father for her children.  She was consumed with grief and guilt and pain until it literally ate her up inside.  She died of cancer within the year.

I stuck around until after the funeral, but had little reason to remain anywhere near my home town. I drifted for a while,  working on ranches, here and there.  It was a comfortable way of life for me.  I was good at what I did and I enjoyed the work and the camaraderie.

Eventually, however, the smallness of my world became claustrophobic. The wide open spaces closed in. I became fascinated with the notion of getting lost in a crowd; of becoming anonymous in a human crush; of leaving my baggage behind and reinventing myself.

I took a bus to the big city, ready to start a new life.

I hadn’t considered that I had no idea how to survive in this alien environment, nor did I know anyone there who could teach me.   I was such an outsider, it was impossible for me to blend in, to vanish inconspicuously into a crowd. I didn’t understand the pace,  the lingo,  the urban mentality. I had a limited education and no practical business skills. I was a naïf in place that chewed up people like me and spit them out.

I had only one marketable skill: I knew how to give a man sexual pleasure.

Fortunately (so it seemed at the time), there were plenty of men who were willing to pay for this and I quickly I learned where to find them.  For many, an authentic cowboy held a certain appeal. My skill with a rope was in demand and offered an introduction to a more discriminating and higher- paying crowd.

I had arrived just in time for the heyday of gay nightlife. Discos and bathhouses were teeming with horny men.  There was a never-ending supply of drugs which kept us up all night or melted our muscles or enhanced our orgasms or cured the diseases we passed back and forth to each other.

I cultivated some wealthy men friends who were happy to pay for my skill set but I never deluded myself into thinking I was anything more than a toy to them.  They were educated and refined. They read books,  went to the theater,  discussed politics,  understood the nuances of business.  They felt comfortable in expensive restaurants and knew how to order fine wine. They knew where to shop and how to dress.  I did pick up some refinement from them but mostly, these things remained foreign to me.

I didn’t care. I was in it for the fun. For the freedom. For the money. I was grateful to be half a continent away from my father, and having a great time of it, too!

Although I traveled with that crowd, I never thought of myself as gay.  I didn’t love men.  I didn’t have any feelings for them.  I never looked at a man with sexual desire.  To me,  they were merely a means of making a living. If a woman wanted to have sex with me, I was OK with that too.   They would suffice if I were drunk or stoned enough,  but women never wanted to pay for sex (at least not the ones I met)  so ultimately, they were of no use to me. The few times I did sleep with a woman,  things always got complicated in ways I didn’t understand. They weren’t like men.  I could have sex with ten men in a night without knowing any of their names, never see any of them again, and none of them would care.  I preferred it that way.

I suppose eventually I would have found emptiness in this lifestyle too but before then, the sickness came.  At first,  it was mysterious, disturbing. But soon it became terrifying in the way it spread, in its quickness and mercilessness. Friends and acquaintances became ill and died. If I didn’t run into someone for a while, I always suspected the worst and was often right. There was a pall on the scene. The bathhouses were closed.  We were shunned.  People said horrible things about us and perhaps some of them were even a bit true.  For the older men, this was far worse than the early years when they had to live in secret.

And then it was my turn.  When the night sweats started, I knew what was coming.  I’d seen it all too often.

I had no one.  Those older rich men — the ones who were still healthy — wanted no part of someone like me.  I had never been their friend and now I was a pariah.  The sick ones, rich and poor, had their own problems.  I had nobody, no place to go, no money, no way to make a living.

And so,  because I didn’t want to die on the street,  I did the only thing I could.

I went home.

In the years since I’d left, my father had found God.  He’d stopped drinking and, to his credit,  had developed compassion.  He wanted to make amends, to pay penance for the deaths of my brother and mother.  He accepted responsibility for the broken mess my family had become.  He felt it was his duty to take care of me during my final months.

The irony wasn’t lost on me.  I’d come full circle.   In the end,  the most significant relationship I had, the only  person I’d ever shown any vulnerability to, was the one person I spent my whole life avoiding.  I couldn’t get far enough away from and yet, in the end, I traveled halfway across a continent to die in his arms.

 

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

 

To the Bone

first published Jan 5, 2015

 

i.dailymail.co.uk-article-2440732-00329A4100000190-682_634x385.jpgarticle-2440732-00329A4100000190-682_634x385

Se

I had  lived through many a freezing winter but none of them prepared me for the killing cold of that place. It sucked the heat from every cell causing the body to shiver and give up precious energy.  It was a place which, by all reason, should have been uninhabitable by humans.

And yet,  there we were.  Sent far from home for dubious crimes against the state.  I had made a joke to the wrong person.  My off-hand remark was reported.  No trial. No words of defense.  Just a guilty verdict and a train ride to hell.

They are wrong who say hell is an inferno. My hell was a frozen wasteland.

Escape was impossible. In the winter,  nothing but blinding whiteness for a thousand miles. Even in the all-too-brief summer, when the snow bled back into the earth and the yellow moss peaked through, we were hemmed in by dense confounding forests, impassable mountains, rapid rivers rushing with melt, and mosquitoes which attacked in thick, monstrous clouds. The guards, who were not much better off than we were, barely made an effort to keep us from running.  Why waste any more of their precious energy chasing us? Where could we go?   To stay was almost surely to die, but to escape guaranteed it.

From where I am now and from where you sit reading,  the wretched conditions seem abstract,  but in that place,  in that time, they were as real a misery as any human being can suffer.

We were forced to work, sometimes on so little food and so little sleep,  we were little more than walking dead, our souls tethered to our bodies by the most tenuous of threads.  We swung our pick axes at rock and frozen ground,  barely marring the surface, yet forced to keep on. We were left to sleep a few hours,  then awakened to do it again.

We lived in huts made of wood, which did little to keep out the bitter, bone-biting wind.   We huddled in tight clusters, taking comfort in the body heat generated by others,  inured to the stench of other filthy unwashed men,  all of us decaying from the inside out.

Food was as scarce as warmth.  We suffered from all the plagues of starvation.  Our teeth fell out,  which made eating difficult, compounding our malnourishment.  A downward spiral of organ failure.

Our pleasures were few.  Some made vodka from potatoes,  or wine from anything that would ferment. We drank to forget,  but in the long term,  it made everything worse. It destroyed our health,  our resistance,  and the harmony among fellow prisoners.

Death was not mourned. Clothes, shoes, coats were immediately stripped from corpses, grabbed as additional layers for personal use.  An old professor, whose only crime had been telling the truth,  didn’t last there more than a month.  He reminded me of my grandfather. I sat beside him as he died.  His cashmere scarf was already around my own neck as his soul left his body.

Some could not wait for their natural ends. They committed suicide by escape.  They wandered out into a frozen landscape, where the snow-covered tundra was indistinguishable from the silver sky.  A colorless, disorienting,  horizonless void.  But at least they died in freedom, a choice to be admired.

I did my time of eight years.  I was 24 when I went in.  I was 124 when I came out;  sick,  half-toothless,  mostly crippled and in constant pain from a broken leg which was not attended to properly and healed badly.   There was nobody waiting for me when I returned to the world.  My situation was not much better at home. I was dead within the year  but at least I saw one more springtime.

In my final hour, I sat on a bench in a park,  so tired,  so hungry, in so much pain, knowing I wouldn’t last much longer,  But I did not mind any of that. I was at peace; content to feel the warmth of the sun on my face; to smell the living green of the grass and the budding flowers; to see the girls with their hair loose and free.

And I was free, too.

 photo: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/10/01/article-2440732-00329A4100000190-682_634x385.jpg

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

 

 

Stranger in a Strange Land

Originally published November 11, 2014

indiginous

Je

I was born among my people on land we had lived upon since the beginning of time. I was bound to that land through my soul.  I lived many, many lives there.

I knew all the trees by name. The paths through the woods had been worn deeper into the earth by my feet, over thousands of years.

I knew the place in the river where it curves around a sharp bend.  The fish got trapped there.  They were easy to catch. I knew the warrens of the rabbits  — the entrance hidden between the roots of a large tree or under a large, moss-covered rock. I knew where to set my traps. I never went hungry.  I knew every plant, nut and berry and which of them were edible, medicinal, intoxicating.

I knew every landmark; the way the silhouette of the hills cleaved the sky from every angle. I always knew how far I was from home.  I could walk for days and never get lost.

Everything I had ever seen or tasted or touched or heard or smelled had been of that land.   My parents were born there.  My grandparents were both there,  and theirs, and theirs, and theirs.   I was married there.  I had children there.  And everything they had ever seen or tasted or touched or heard or smelled had been of that land.

It was not a paradise.  Life was hard.  But it was our life.  We were characters in the same story as the land.  Inseparable.  Our histories, intertwined. To take one from the other would be to destroy both.

And then, eventually,  the Strangers came.  I was a grown child before I ever saw one with my own eyes.  But slowly,  like stalking a deer,  they drew closer in increments so small we barely noticed.

Soon there were borders which were not allowed to cross; where we were not allowed to hunt.   They would not bother us as long as we stayed on our side.  But they kept pressing forward,  encircling us,  drawing the noose tighter.  We were being strangled but we were too small a group to put up much of a fight.

Eventually,   they took us all to a place far, far away. There were many different people there, speaking languages I did not understand.  It seemed there were many who did not understand each other.

I did not understand this land.  It was dry and dusty.  There were no forests.  There were no streams or rivers anywhere.  There were no hills.   Just ugly, flat, colorless dust for as far as my eyes could see. I hated it instantly.  I was resentful and angry.  I had been forcibly removed from my past.  I no longer felt whole. I knew as long as I lived there I never would.

Some tried to live outside our forced settlement,  but it was nearly impossible to survive.  It was a world so different, so strange from the ones we had known. We had no skills; did not understand their customs or their ways.   At least within the settlement,  we were with others in the same predicament.  For the benefit of all, each People tried to put aside their ancestral differences with others,  so we might all work as one.

The elders knew immediately this would be the end of all of us.  In order to survive, it would be necessary to give up some of our past identity and forge a new identity.   If we were unwilling to do that, if we insisted on clinging to the old ways,  if we wasted our energy to getting back to the old lands which no longer existed as we once knew them, we would have been too divided and too weak to survive in the face of the Strangers.  We needed a single, strong, united voice.

Positions of power went to those from warrior Peoples.  My People were small in number and not known for their bravery against the Strangers. It was natural that we all put our faith in the mightiest warriors of all.

But,  in the end,  none of it did any good. Our weapons and tactics were ultimately useless against them.

The old ways are gone.  Some rituals and stories remain of course, but now, disconnected from the land, they no longer make sense. The food and methods of cooking are lost, because we could not find what we needed in our new land.  We lost our cures, our intoxicants, our aphrodisiacs.

We survived, but we did not thrive.

It had always been the duty of all elders to teach the young ones their People’s history, traditions, language,  culture and skills.   But now,  what did it matter?  Many elders realized this knowledge was not useful for the new world.  We needed to learn a common language so we could communicate with other People.  We needed to learn new skills for new land with new rules. What was the point of passing on valuable information such as the best place in the river to catch fish,  or the best place to set a trap for rabbit,  when that river and that mossy rock were half a continent away? (Nobody knew exactly how far,  but certainly a walk of many moons.)

There was no going back.  The elders were without hope.  Most,  like myself, who remembered the land eventually died lost and heartbroken,  with wounds to our souls that never healed.

The younger ones took to changes more readily,  more willingly.  For them, it was an adventure.  They didn’t have such long memories.

They had fewer psychic wounds but they also grew up without traditions and stories that bound them to their spiritual past, without the reassuring knowledge that they stood upon the land upon which they were born and to which they belonged.

They had no ambition for anything for what could they aspire to?

Some took on the ways of the Strangers.  I did not blame them.  They needed something to fill the huge gaping voids inside themselves.

If the old stories don’t work, find new ones.  So they discovered Jesus. They learned to read and write and count many things.  They learned the ways of the Strangers so they could interact with them and perhaps find some advantage.

But even with this, they were not accepted outside.

And so, all the Peoples are not really People at all anymore. They are the children of People and Strangers. It is impossible to be anything else.   They live in two worlds and will never again be whole.

I am grateful that many still have pride in who they are, in who we were.  It is good to know that the People still endure.

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

 

A Selfish Cad

First published October 18, 2014

selfish

 

Na

I was not a good person in my lifetime. I cheated and took advantage of people. I always chose was what best for myself and never fully chose for anyone else. Even when I behaved in an apparently magnanimous way, it was only because it furthered my own needs.   This was true even in my marriage, even with my own children.

But these were not my worst sins. The tragedy of my life was that I was completely oblivious to what a selfish, unenlightened human being, in fact, I was.  I never had a moment’s doubt that my behavior wasn’t righteous and justified.   After all, if I didn’t choose in favor of myself, who would? Others could not be trusted to watch out for my best interests.

There is absolute truth in that. It’s an important lesson; something I’d learned before and brought with me to this last life. But that is only half the lesson. Without the corollary, the real lesson has not been learned.

There is no question that the point of life is to learn to love. All goodness and enlightenment of the spirit spring from accepting this as the absolute truth.   All routes to all lessons pass through love – not only by understanding how best to achieve it, but by confronting all the reasons we run from it; and by examining the ways we comfort ourselves when we don’t have it.

But one cannot love if one cannot trust. Those who cannot trust themselves, cannot love themselves. Of all the kinds of human love, self-love is most important. Without self-love, it is impossible to accept love from others. Without this, one cannot love.

The more we truly love and accept ourselves exactly as we are, the more we are able to love and accept others exactly as they are, and thus, the more loveable we become.

Always behave in ways that foster self-respect. Take the high road not for the sake of others, but for your own benefit.  Release anger and forgive. Expect the best of others thus giving them the opportunity to live up to those expectations still recognizing that if they do not, that is their burden to carry. The misdeeds of others taint us and attach to us only when we respond in kind.

I only know this now, too late to have benefitted anyone in my past life. My punishment, if you want to call it that, for being such a shallow, selfish cad, is to know how much I hurt the ones closest to me, and how much better it would have been for all of us, if I’d be able to see then what I see now.

 

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

 

A Bottle In Front of Me

originally published September 21, 2014

Pel

I had my first drink when I was around ten. My parents were having a party and I sneaked out of my room and watched them through the banister on the upstairs landing. The adults all seemed so much more sophisticated than they did during the day.  The women, in their little black dresses and high-heeled shoes. The bursts of laughter from various corners as people told jokes or funny stories or made a clever remark. I watched a neighbor slip a kiss to a man who wasn’t her husband. There was music playing, and the sound of ice clinking in glasses. People danced and snuggled on the couch. They were happy. I couldn’t wait to grow up and be part of that sophisticated world.

It was late when the last guest left. My parents ignored the mess and went up to bed, leaving the cleanup for morning. Once they were in their room, I tiptoed downstairs. I could still smell the mingle of perfume, cigarette smoke and human pheromones.

I picked up a glass that had an inch or so of some kind of liquor – I’m not sure what it was. I sat on a high stool near the small bar in the corner of the living room and in my pajamas,  imagined having a conversation with several sophisticated people at once. I imagined them all laughing at something witty I’d just said. I picked up the glass and had a sip.

The taste was awful but at the same time, it was as if a key had slipped into a lock and opened something inside my head. A rush of chemistry surged through my blood. I felt complete in a way I’d never felt before. It was as if I’d been missing this but only now just knew it.

This was a secret the adults were trying to keep from us kids! It was a rite of passage, an invitation into adulthood, to finally be legally old enough to drink sometime in my late teens.

I wasn’t going to wait nearly a decade to be able to feel that way again. I didn’t want to live without it.

From that point on, to drink was both an act of pleasure and of defiance. I wanted it and I was not going to let any  rules get in the way of my having it.  I wondered what other secrets the grownups were keeping from me.

It was around then that I stopped trusting what others told me about “good” and “bad.” Who decided which was which? Why did I have to go along with the rest of the world, anyway?

I started the way many alcoholics do:  I raided my parents’ liquor cabinet. I started at the back, with the weirder stuff that they rarely touched. By the time they got around to it,   they would never remember how much had been left in the bottle. So it was crème de menthe, peach schnapps. Pretty awful stuff, especially straight up.

From there, I moved up to the gin and vodka which I replaced by volume with water. If they noticed, I never found out. I was careful not to replace too much.

I did the same with my friends’ parents’ liquor cabinets. Some of them had bottles I’d never seen before in my parents’ bar. Foreign, unpronounceable names. Years and numbers, as if they were something special. They seemed exotic.

I had a French teacher when I was 15.  By the end of the first week, I knew she was an alcoholic.   I recognized the signs.   I’d see her around in the morning and she’d seem normal, but by the time I sat in her class in the afternoon,  she was already a bit drunk.  She’d slur her words;  lose track of her thoughts;  bob and weave a bit when she walked.   This meant she kept a bottle close at hand.

I watched her classroom, and when it was empty, I crept in in and searched her desk.  There it was,  in the lower left hand drawer — a small bottle of vodka.

I took it. I had no fear of being caught.  I knew she would never, could never, report it stolen.  Anyway, she was an adult. At worst, for her a missing bottle was an inconvenience and the loss of a some pocket money.  I told myself I was doing a service to my fellow students — she’d be sober for at least one afternoon class.

I knew she’d replace it; I knew she couldn’t be without.   Several days later, I stole it again.   It took her a week or so to realize someone was taking her desk bottle; that she hadn’t just misplaced it or finished it and forgotten to buy more.  When I went to look for it the next time, it wasn’t there.  I figured she’d hidden it somewhere else.  She needed a few shots to get through the afternoon, and she needed easy access to it.  It took me a couple of days to locate the new hiding place, and that was only because I didn’t have much time to search.

It became a game.  She would find a new spot, and I would look until I found it. (It rarely took me more than a week.)  I drank and entertained myself for the entire school year playing cat and mouse with that one teacher.

As I got older, I  became more creative about finding ways to drink.   I also started to know more people who were above legal drinking age. I was able to exchange favors – sexual and otherwise – for a bottle or two.

Beer would do in a pinch, but I’d developed a preference for vodka which had the benefit of not really smelling on the breath. I realized this was why my French teacher preferred it.

By the time I was of drinking age myself, I’d learned quite a few tricks about how to drink for free. Mainly, it helped to be funny and charming, to know a lot of good stories and jokes. That’s how one got invited to all the parties.  And when you’re the entertaining sort, people always want to ply you with liquor.

I was The Drunk at every party. Sometimes, I was the only drunk guest. But I never got sappy or obnoxious. Even in my alcoholic haze, I never lost control. I was still able to be funny. Sure, I slurred my words and occasionally knocked things over, but I never vomited on anyone’s rug (or in anyone’s bathroom, either, for that matter.) I never said or did anything that was hurtful. I would often get very affectionate. Liquor made me happy; it made me love the world and myself and all of mankind. Sometimes, I’d lose track of others’ conversation and became confused about what they were talking about. I’d make a comment about what I thought they were discussing when in fact I had missed the point entirely.  In turn, they were confused by my remarks because to them they made no sense.  Of course they made sense to me, based on what I believed they were talking about.   I developed a reputation for saying these crazy, off-topic things.   But they made people laugh, so they kept me around.

This was how I lived my life.

I had a decent career which enabled me to support myself.  Ultimately, however,  it was always about the next drink. I never loved anyone or anything as much as I loved the feeling I got from liquor.

I only dated other alcoholics because the sober ones always pushed me to quit.  Yes, I was an alcoholic, but quite a functional one.  I saw no need to stop something that gave me so much pleasure.

But just because my life was relatively functional, didn’t mean there wasn’t damage – to my body, to my brain to my resistance. I got old, fast.   The best thing that could have happened to me would have been a small car accident or a crazy drunken tirade in the wrong company or an arrest for some inebriated infraction.   Any one of those might have served as a wake-up call.

Instead I managed to live in the no-man’s land of functional alcoholism. I never fully acknowledged to myself how my craving for liquor was stronger than anything else inside me.   My entire life,  I chased chemical spirituality. I was beneath any true understanding or enlightenment.  And that was the tragedy of my life.

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 addendum:  I should add that I, myself, do not drink nor have I ever.  None of the people I knew growing up were like this.  None of my adult friends are like this.   This is definitely not coming from me!!!

***

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

 

The Perfectionist

first published September 15, 2014

Perfektionist | Metapher

Win

I was a precocious child, adorable and smart as a whip. Things came easily to me. I mastered whatever was put before me quickly and perfectly. I could not understand why others struggled with things that came to me so naturally. I always aimed for perfection (and usually achieved it) because I loved being praised for my cleverness. It made me feel special and more important than everyone else.

As I grew up, I become more and more accomplished at various things. I could do more in a day than anyone else I knew. I looked down upon those who could not complete tasks which to me were simple; or solve problems when the solutions seemed obvious to me. I felt pity and contempt for the lazy, the ineffectual, those who did not have the capacity to do what needed to be done. I assumed that anyone who claimed not to be capable of these things was just being lazy or purposely obtuse. I had no patience or compassion for those who struggled with what (to my mind at least) should have been straight-forward tasks and easy-to-attain goals.

I entered the business world and was extremely successful. It never occurred to me that I would be otherwise.   I went over and above what others expected of me, always working hard to top what I’d done before. I was driven, but the rewards were great.

That was the upside.

The downside was that I pushed others relentlessly.   I expected them to value perfection as I did. If I asked someone to do something and the result did not meet my high standards, I would get angry or dismissive or even cruel. I had no use for imperfect people. Those who wanted to work with me and for me, knew what was expected of them. Failure, laziness, mistakes, miscalculations were not options.

I was not well-liked.

There was no place for laziness in a relationship. How difficult was it to get things right? All they had to do was pay close attention, watch how I did it, and learn the right way. Wasn’t it better to do things the correctly than to make mistakes? Wasn’t it better to be industrious than to be lazy? My motto was “Properly not sloppily.”

How convinced I was about this! How sure I was right; that my way was the best and only way. I worked myself relentlessly towards perfection in everything.

Ironically, this was my greatest flaw.

I had no respect for the journeys of others. No compassion for their challenges. No empathy. No understanding of different values. And worst, no ability to feel or give unconditional love.

I was successful in life, but in death I see I was an utter failure as a human being

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Sooner Than You Think

Originally published Sept 6, 2014

calendar pages turning

Ke

Well, tomorrow finally came, and here I am.

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

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

My dreams existed only in the future.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Voices in the Calm

NEW!

 

Cla

When I grew old, I spoke to the dead and they spoke to me.  I heard them, clear as if they were standing in the room with me.  They told me their stories, just as I tell mine to you.  I answered them, and asked them questions.  My neighbors could hear me chatting through the door and the walls, apparently to no one.  They thought me odd but I was harmless,   so they left me alone. They whispered that I’d gone mad after my husband died, and my son a year later.  Some said I talked to the dead in my imagination because I couldn’t stand to be alone.  Others believed I imagined the dead to be alive because I was afraid to die.  If the dead were alive, then I need not be afraid of death.  Most assumed the dementia of old age had set in and I was just imagining things.

But they were wrong about everything.

I also spoke to the dead when I was young.  But then life got busy and I no longer had the time for them.  But the main reason was that the noise of the world, the noise of my own questions and worries inside my head, crowded out any other voices.  I could no more hear them than I could perceive a hushed whisper across a noisy, bustling train station.   I could not stop the noise, nor did I think to do so.   Whatever was inside my head was me, and that took up all my mental energy and attention.

But then, eventually, I found myself old and alone.  I had lived long enough to be philosophical about life. I no longer worried or questioned.  I simply accepted.   And finally, once again, it was quiet enough to listen.

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

 

 

Note:  this one’s kinda meta, isn’t it?

Rational Fear

first published Sept 3, 2015Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Ru

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

photo: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

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