The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the tag “karma”

Tools of the Trade

 

 

New!

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 comradery I had with his father, the 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.

—-

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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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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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The Merchant Marine

Originally posted 4/24/14

merchant marine poster

 Roah

I was 26 when my mother died. I felt at once bereft because there was nobody left in the world who really loved me. Yet at the same time, I felt liberated. I was no longer responsible for anyone’s needs or expectations. I was free to go anywhere, do anything without worrying that I would be a disappointment to the one person who counted on me.

I became a merchant mariner and got a job on a freighter that traveled between the Gulf of Oman and Marseilles.

Sometimes, I’d meet a woman in a port bar – either a prostitute or a lonely, desperate, over-the-hill drunk who just wanted to be held and made to feel desired for a few hours.

I never saw any of them again and that suited me fine. No bonds, no expectations, no one to answer to or disappoint. I was truly free.

It wasn’t until I retired at age 53, that I began to notice my loneliness. It wasn’t too easy for a grizzled old man like me to attract a decent woman. I had no idea how to be with a female more than a few hours at a time. I didn’t understand how their brains functioned; what made them tick. They confused and frightened me, these alien creatures. I kept my distance. And soon, I, too, became a pathetic, lonely old drunk whose entire social life was passed in the pub down the road from my tiny flat.

I’d watch the games on TV with the rest of the drunks. Some were married but came down to escape their wives and screaming kids for a few hours. There were a few widow and widowers, who missed the familiar companionship of their spouses and sought a cheap substitute in virtual strangers. There were quite a few divorced men. It was hard to know if they were divorced because they drank or if they drank because they were divorced.

The women tended to wear their desperation more openly, and I, for one, didn’t want to drown in their messy emotional vichyssoise. I preferred to pay a pro and have it be neat and uncomplicated. Better than having some drunken old broad clinging to me as she cried in her beer.

When I was 61, I started to lose my memory. At first, it was only small things, which I told myself was just normal forgetfulness for a man my age. Soon, however, it became obvious even to the others that something was seriously wrong, although I lived in denial for a long time. Of course, as my dementia progressed, it was nearly impossible for me to see for myself how bad it was. I was often confused.  Usually, after a night of drinking, one of the other men walked me home because I tended to get lost, even in the familiar streets I should have known so well.

One night, in the dead of winter, in the middle of the night, I went out for a walk in my underwear. I froze to death along the river in the spot where my mother had taken me on a picnic when I was seven years old.

—-

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

Freddy the Farmhand

Originally posted:  4/21/14

 

Freddy (I got his name, and I see him in overalls, farm work clothes.  I’m standing with him in the hayloft of a barn)

I was rather dim-witted then; functionally retarded you could say. This absolved me of having to think. I went through this life only feeling, without the wits to understand or analyze. My brain was a dull instrument, not sharp enough to dissect the motivations of others. I was never able to understand why others wanted to hurt me or treat me badly. Often, I mistook their mocking laughter for friendship and acceptance.

One afternoon, the younger boys were teasing me. One of them pushed me out of the hayloft into those large bales of hay down there. He didn’t mean to hurt me. He was just needling me. It should have been a soft landing, but I fell on a sharp piece of baling wire and it pierced my thigh.  I cleaned the wound with soap and water, and wrapped it in bandages I tore from an old work shirt. Of course, it needed more medical attention than that. It became infected and it hurt badly, but I hid it from everyone because I didn’t want to get the boys in trouble. I wanted them to like me. The boss or the doctor would have asked how it happened, and I would be compelled to tell them because I didn’t know how to lie.

I didn’t understand how serious the infection had become. Even when the pain became almost unbearable and I was raging with fever, I said nothing. And nobody paid enough attention to me to notice my condition.

Eventually the wound became septic and my illness could no longer be concealed. By the time I received proper medical attention, it was too late. I died a few weeks later. I was 26.

—-

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

Gen

Originally published  April 18, 2014

 Woke up this morning with a “story” in my head, demanding to get out. I “wasn’t allowed” to eat or get dressed or turn on my computer until I’d written this down, long-hand, in the notebook beside my bed.  I’m still not sure if I’m “writing” or “channeling” them. Either way, I have decided to keep a journal as they come to me.

The nature of the stories is changing. Previously,  I was shown a scene and was imparted with information about how the person died.   Now, I am getting feelings and translating them into words.

Most of these “narrators” do not tell me their names, and I don’t ask.  I like the idea that they could have lived almost anywhere in the worldThis makes their stories more universal.  However,  going forward,  in order to be able to distinguish  one narrator from another,   I have given each a one or two syllable name.  I have made the names purposefully vague and cryptic so they do not imply any geography or ethnicity.   They are indicative of nothing.  Please do not read anything into them.

From time to time, however, I am given a name or other identifying information. In those cases,  I include that with their story.

*******

argueing couple

Gen 

I debated writing down my feelings when he finally left me and the boys, but by that point, I had no feelings left.

I suppose if I felt anything, it was relief. I was exhausted from trying to make it work. Years and years of forgiveness and sacrificing my own needs to the needs of the relationship. I knew it was going to be a long, hard slog, raising two young boys on my own, but at least we’d all be pulling as one unit, in the same direction,   instead of working against each other, draining each other of happiness, sucking each other dry.

In the long run, the boys would be happier, too.  Br was an angry and selfish man. The boys saw him in the clear pure way that children always see the obvious truth. Their dad was an insecure bully and though the kids had no respect for him, he was their father and he still had the power to hurt them. He wasn’t worthy of their respect, but they still wanted his. They thought, in their innocent way, that if he could just stop the anger in his head long enough to really see them for the terrific little people they were, he’d realize what he stood to lose. Then he’d change and everything would be OK.

Maybe I hoped for that, too.

Br  was very good with words. He was a real poet when it came to asking for forgiveness. An irresistible force. But no matter how many times he promised to do better for us, no matter how many times I reached deeper into my soul to find a little more love for him, he would invariably disappoint us and hurt us again.

It was better apart. He would no longer have to face, on a daily basis, what an utter failure he was as a husband, as a father, as a functional human being. He just didn’t have the energy any more to try and be someone better.  I thought my love, our love, would be enough to change him,  but none of it did any good.

The kindest, most loving thing he ever did was to leave us so we could forge the bonds of love, stronger, among the three of us.

And so we did. We were bound in a way that I suppose many single-parent families are.

I could now devote my full emotional attention to my boys. They’d always craved more of me. They were happy and relieved to finally have it. They healed me, they did, with their humor and insight and childlike wisdom that so often brought things into perspective when I felt as if I were spinning out of control.

When my youngest was in the second grade, I forgot to attend his school play.  I knew it was coming up, but forgot about it the day of.  I was overwhelmed at work. I’d been working 12 hr days for the past few weeks and had barely gotten to see the kids. My mom sometimes watched them. Some nights, they went home with friends. Sometimes I paid for a babysitter — a girl who lived down the street.

When I came home that evening and realized what I’d done, I was horrified, sick and full of shame. I could barely look at myself in the mirror.

The play was on a Friday afternoon. Saturday morning, I came down to breakfast, eyes swollen from crying at the mess I was making raising my kids; feeling sorry for myself because of all the pressure on me.

I sat my baby down with the intention of begging forgiveness, as his daddy had done of me so many times. It was a scene that my kids had witnessed too often in their short lives.

“I’m soooo sorry, baby…” I began.

And in the sweetest, most loving voice, that little boy said to me, “It’s OK, Mommy. I know you feel bad about my play. I know you are worried that I think you don’t love me, but I do know how much you love us because I can see how hard you work to take care of us. A school play is just one day but a job is every day.”

I can barely describe the relief and love I felt at that moment! Just seven years old and he already had more love, more understanding, more wisdom than most adults.

Maybe that’s a stereotype – kids of divorced parents growing up, emotionally, very quickly.  It’s a kind of Hollywood trope that such kids are preternaturally wise beyond their years. But it does seem to happen that way in real life quite a lot. Now I know the reason why.

They are literally old souls, or perhaps more accurately “more connected souls”,  born to people like me who need some spiritual guidance. They are the spiritual adult to their biological parent.

In those days, I had no time to think about spiritual matters. I was working long hours, topped off by parental responsibilities. In the very early days, there was the additional stress and nastiness of a messy divorce.

Br had started drinking again, in earnest now and without brakes. When we were together, he would fall off the wagon from time to time, and that was bad enough, but now he wasn’t even trying to stay sober. On several occasions, he didn’t make it to the lawyer’s office for meetings. When he did, he was usually at least partly drunk or hung over.

Whereas in the past, I might have tried to reach in and “save” him or at least make the effort to understand the psychic pain he was trying to self-medicate away, I no longer felt him as a part of me. He wasn’t my emotional responsibility anymore. If he drank himself to an early grave, I wasn’t even sure I’d feel sorry.  I simply had no emotional energy left for him. He’d frittered away all my concern and love for him.  If and when he ever needed it again, there would be nothing left in reserve.

Ironically, when I died years later, he was still alive, albeit not so well. The boys were already grown. My oldest was married with a new baby girl, who I was so happy to get to meet before I left.

My husband came to my funeral and sat in the back. He was sober then, but years of alcoholism had taken their toll. He looked 87 not 57.

Our youngest child was the first to speak to him.  He was moved by his father’s genuine tears.

“Your mother was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he told him. “but I wasn’t good enough for her. I had to leave, otherwise I would have destroyed all of you.”

He was right of course, and I was glad that he understood it.   My boy nodded and gave his dad a hug, because he knew it, too.

 

Buy the book!

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

The Demons Inside

First published Aug 7, 2016

voices in head

Dor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Buy the book!

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

 

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

The Eagle Has Landed!!!

 

Yippeeeee!!  The book is live on Amazon!!!  (click link to purchase)

I was hoping to keep the price down but It’s nearly 400 pages so printing is expensive. Sorry!!! Nevertheless,  I’m quite pleased with the way it came out.  What I particular love about the book format is that you can randomly open to any story, and depending on your mood and where you are in your life at that moment,  you may find different meaning in it each time.

Positive feed back on Amazon would be MOST appreciated!!!  (hint, hint!)

It would thrill me no end if small groups of people got together regularly (like a book club) to discuss some of the stories as jumping off points to their own deeper understanding of themselves and of life.  I’d love it if teachers assigned the book to students, then asked the students to write their own life story in a similar format. Therapy patients could benefit from a similar exercise.  I invite actors to use the stories as monologues and writers to use them as jumping off points for books, plays, or movies.  Truly, I hope this book finds some life outside the blog. I’d be most appreciative for any help you might offer in spreading the word/work.

Thank you ALL for your loyal support and feedback.  Gail, you see I took your advice re the cover. And Lino,  I took your advice about arranging the stories in a way so that each one informs on the one before and after it, (unlike the blog, where they are published as they come to me.) Both excellent suggestions!

Much love,

Adrienne

Your Path

Originally published March 9, 2015

a-path-in-the-woods-in-autumn

Fil

Maybe you see or experience or hear something when you’re young which seems insignificant at the time.  As you get older, however, realize it has shaped the whole of your thinking. Perhaps as you move through life, a casual word stirs an epiphany.  A minor encounter sets something large in motion.  A word of advice at the right moment changes you the way you see the world.

And there are relationships, circumstances, great successes and tragedies,  which feel important in the moment; feel at the time as if they are going to change everything.  But in the end, they have very little impact on your trajectory.  Looking back,  you can see that your life would have turned out essentially the same, regardless of these things. You would have ended up pretty much as you ended up, albeit by a slightly different route.

Your path is your path. You will become what you were meant to become. You will have the experiences you were meant to have.

What you take from them is your free choice.

——————

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  Think of others who might enjoy it too,  and 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 Harshing of the Mellow…

first published June 5, 2016

cassandra

Cas

I fancied myself a tragic Cassandra, my warnings to the world ignored and unheeded. I could recognize the birth of a killing wave long before even a ripple fluttered beneath the water. I paid attention when the stone was dropped,  and could accurately calculate how long it would take before those waves engulfed  the shore, There, the revelers and the workers plowed on,  willfully oblivious to impending disaster.

I was not well-liked. Few wanted to be reminded that their own greed and selfishness and laziness and ignorance were contributing to an inevitable crisis.  Nobody wants to be lectured by someone who is in no better a position to stop the juggernaut than they are. The best way to get through life with any measure of happiness is to ignore the sword that hangs over all our heads.  But I could not let anyone forget.  I would not allow them the luxury of denial or ignorance.  They mocked me, condescended to me, ignored me because I could see what they refused to consider.

It didn’t matter that my predictions generally played out as I claimed they would. I was not sought for my advice.  Instead, I spent my life on the edge of panic, without hope, certain every moment that the end was imminent.

But of course the end is always imminent for everyone. This is the human condition. Each generation eventually dies. Society, technology, mores…they are always changing,  sometimes unrecognizably in a short time. What is calamitous to the parent is perfectly normal to the child. As the older generation loses its ability to adapt,  the young easily inhabit the new conditions, having known nothing else.  The human race is resilient, after all.

In the end, the pattern unspools as it was always meant to.  All the millions of moving parts conspire to weave the future in the only way possible.  My dire warnings and fears were for naught.  What did it matter that I could see further than most? There was nothing any of us could have done to have made things turn out differently.  There was nothing to do but wait for another tide.

—–

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  Think of others who might enjoy it too,  and 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

Satiated

Originally published June 23, 2016

stew

Ki

I was born in the time of famine. The crops had withered and died, and soon the animals followed.  We might have left to seek better circumstances but we were trapped geographically, surrounded by water and inhospitable terrain on three sides, On the fourth, in the distance, were soldiers stationed at the edge of a war.

As I child, I knew nothing but deprivation. There was barely water or food to survive. Starvation —  along with all its related miseries — were a permanent condition.  Few lived to see full adulthood.

Such a life doesn’t offer many opportunities for spiritual lessons.  To think about anything except the next scrap of food or the next drop of water was more effort than I or anyone else could spare. Philosophy was a luxury we could not afford.  There was no time to contemplate life; not a moment to wonder if one was on the right path; no opportunity to weigh one’s options.   The choice was to blindly follow the trail of others  one step at a time, or lay down and die. But in my short life, I found another way,  all because of one day,  which I recall, even now, with that same amazement, longing, and wonder.

We lived in a remote place which rarely saw outsiders.  One day, some foreign workers passed through our village. They saw how we were starving and took pity on us.  They gave us whatever food they could spare.  It wasn’t much and we had to share among all of us.  The women cooked it all into a weak soup to make it go further.   It did not have much flavor but it had more nutritional value than anything I had ever eaten.  It was the first time in my entire life that I was able to eat until satisfied. It was I feeling that I could never forget.

If I considered the outside world at all, it was to wonder if there were people who filled their bellies every day.  Were there some, like those strangers,  who never went hungry?  After the visitors,  I began to have a sort of recurring dream.  There was always a big welcoming pot of soup on the fire.  I’d lean in to smell and taste,  and I could see all kinds of wondrous things floating in the broth.  The imagined meats and vegetables were completely fantastical because I had never seen much of either in reality, and had no point of reference.  Mostly, they were just larger and more interesting versions of the few foods I’d actually encountered.  A thick stew overflowing with beans and roots.  Once, I dreamed a hawk dropped a goat into the pot from the sky.

I knew nothing of the world outside my village.  My people were too poor and weak to travel; too close to death every day to worry about what was happening elsewhere.

Finally,  driven by the fantasy that there existed a place where people ate until sated,  I set out from my village in the only direction I could – towards the war.  If I died on the way, or if they ultimately killed me,  it would hardly be a fate worse that the one I had in store  remaining where I was.    But perhaps they would feed me! Perhaps I could experience that wonderful feeling of satisfaction again.

So I walked, surviving the route much the same way I survived in my village –foraging, digging, perhaps catching a small animal or bird.

Arriving at the encampment,  I collapsed at the gate in utter depletion of all my physical and mental resources. In that condition, I was no danger to them; that much was obvious.  They nursed me back to some strength, and when I was able, I worked for them doing small tasks to earn my keep.  I would do the jobs that nobody else wanted to do,  just to be fed.

Despite their kindness, I didn’t live very much longer.  All those years of deprivation had exacted their toll on my body.  But I died with my belly full,  and so I died happy.

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-Adrienne

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