The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the tag “mother child relationship”

Ruined Innocence

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Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国) Print: Night rape double-page illustration from volume 1 In Praise of Love in the Four Seasons (Shunka shūtō, Shiki no nagame – 春夏秋冬 – 色の詠)

Lir

I was still a child myself when I had a child of my own.

I was taken by a man – my father’s cousin – only a year after my first blood.

I knew, as I knew my own name, that he never thought of me again.  I was a convenient receptacle for his momentary arousal and release.  To him, I had no face, no name.  He was drunk, and I could see in his eyes that he was not anywhere near with me.   It was not gentle. It was not slow or kind.  He grabbed me, threw me down, pulled up my skirt and put his thing inside me.  I thought I was being torn apart. He made noise like an animal.  His hot yeasty breath filled my nostrils,  causing me to retch.  He didn’t notice.  He was finished quickly, wiping himself on my skirt.  The only words he said to me were to let me know that if I told anyone about what had just transpired, he would find me and murder me in my sleep.

When my belly started to grow full, and my mother understood that I was with child,  she beat me almost senseless.  How I had been made pregnant was not the issue.  All that mattered in that moment was that I was pregnant. It happened, and as a girl, it was my fault, my sin.

She demanded to know who. I dared not tell her the truth so I said it was the son of a farmer who had come to town for market day; that he kissed me, and I found him pleasing, and we lay together in a field.  (I knew enough about how babies were made to lie convincingly.)

Truth or lies, the outcome would be the same for me, I knew. There would be no justice.  My violator would never suffer any punishment.  To speak his name would only give me reason to fear.

The shame to the family was more than they could bear.  They sent me away to a place where I would not be known, and where my sins would not be reflected back on them, even though the fault lay not with me but with the very men who took their pleasures without responsibility or remorse.

I was sent to a sad and lonely place which kept fallen girls like me away from respectable citizens.

My father took me in the middle of one cold night, to a place far away, and left me at the gate of an imposing building. The old bricks struck in me both respect and fear.  I was pulled inside and before I could turn to wave goodbye, my father was gone.

 I waited, like the others, for the day of my labor to arrive.  The ones in charge kept us busy with as much work as our swollen bodies could bear.

A few months later, I had my child there, and she suckled at my breast when she needed to be fed, but other than that, she was kept away from me.  I knew they would some day take her away. They did not want me to love her too much;  to cry and protest when they pulled her from my arms for the last time.  I understood this and did not let myself love her.

While the other girls wore their guilt like a sack of stones slung around their necks, my own burden was anger.  I raged at the unfairness of it. Why should I have felt guilty when I had done nothing wrong? I was not a bad girl.  I did not offer my body to men for money or food or for shiny baubles, nor even for love. My maidenhood was stolen from me, violently and cruelly, despite my tears and shouts and pleading. Nobody else heard me. He made certain of that.   I had become a prisoner of my circumstances and of my own body.

In the meanwhile, I earned my keep cleaning and working in the kitchen,  as most of the other girls did.  I remained there until the child was weaned, and then I was sent out into the world with a few small coins to make my way as best I could.  I had no family, no friends.  There was nobody to watch out for me, no one to rock me when the sadness overtook me. This was supposed to be my punishment, but for what I never understood.  I was not the one who should have been punished, and yet, my life was a ruin because of that man.

I was far from my family and even if I had the means to return to their town again, they would not want me.  And I didn’t really want them.  I did not want to be with people who would treat me so unjustly,  who thought of me so ill.

I was fortunate to find some work in a respectable house as a scullery maid. I was grateful they have me work without a proper letter, and they did not treat me unkindly.  They paid me rarely, and only a few small coins, here and there.  Why did I need money?  They gave me food and shelter,  a uniform and some cast-off clothing.

After time, it became my job to go to the square on market day.  The kitchen maid knew exactly how much each item cost and only gave me just enough money for what we needed, but I was quite clever at bargaining, and was able to pocket a little bit here and there, and the maid was never the wiser.

Some days, I was told to hurry home. But other times, when she was feeling generous in spirit or if the family was away and there were no meals to prepare, I was allowed a few glorious hours for myself.  On such a day, especially when the weather was fine,  I felt truly alive.

One day, on my way to market, I picked some wildflowers and braided myself a beautiful floral crown.  A pretty young girl admired it.  After a quick negotiation,  I sold it to her for a few small coins.  Her friends, in turn,  admired it on her head.  Each week, from then on, I would make a few flower halos and sell them to those girls whose parents had given them a tiny allowance to spend on whatever they wished.

One of these girls was the daughter of the mushroom seller.  We made each other laugh and so we became friends. I taught her how to braid flowers and she took me with her into the woods to search for mushrooms.  We were both surprised to discover I had an instinct for it.  I understood which fungi liked which conditions, and where we were likely to find such conditions.  I could sense where they hid.  There was not much time for me to search. Conditions had to be just so on a day when I was free, but whatever I found, I sold to my friend’s father, for him to sell to others.

And in these ways, in this way and that, slowly, over the years, I saved enough for what I had been dreaming about for more than a decade.

I bought a fine dress.  I rode back to the town of my birth, which was many hours away. I had in my possession a knife borrowed from the kitchen.

I knew where he lived.  I knew how to find him.   If anyone was going to be murdered in their sleep, it would not be me.

When I arrived, I immediately set out to locate him.

But he was not in his field. He was not in his home. He was in none of the places where men gather.  I had arrived driven with revenge but finally I was worn out from the traveling, from searching, from burning anger.  I wanted to do my worst and be done with the deed. I could wait no longer. I needed to act while I still had my courage. I asked somebody where I might find him.

“In the graveyard,” I was told.  Many years before, he had been hurt by his plow and died weeks later from a creeping black infection.

My feelings were all a-jumble.  Disappointment.  A different taste of anger, now that my revenge had been stolen from me.  Relief, because I wasn’t even sure I could have carried through on my plan, even having dreamed about it for so long.  A sadness at my wasted life. And under it all, a sense of freedom;  a new beginning.  His accident had saved me from committing a mortal sin. Perhaps this was God’s gift to me.

For the rest of my life, and still,  I sifted through all those emotions,  trying to make more sense of them;  trying to come to a conclusion about what it was all supposed to mean.

 

(note on the artwork:  I did not have the impression that this narrator was Japanese, but the act itself as depicted here is as it was shown to me.)

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The Wisdom of Failure

First published November 28, 2014

Mother-and-Child-reading

Ye

I died while giving birth to my second child. This was how we arranged it before any of us were born. They needed to experience life without a mother.

Previously, we had also been mother and children. In that lifetime, I was very controlling. I lived a long life so neither of them ever learned to be fully independent. By the time I died as an old woman, my children were old themselves, with children and grandchildren of their own.

By then, they were fearful of everything, full of self-doubt and lacking all natural instinct. I recognize now how deeply I crippled them but at the time, in that life, I was only pleased and made secure by their need of me.

It seemed to be accepted by us all that I alone, knew what was best for them. They deferred to me on almost all their life decisions, from who they married to what kind of work they did to what they believed about the world.

Of course I always had their best interests at heart and usually chose well for them, based on their personalities, their abilities and their nature. They understood this and so deferred to me on everything.   But in doing this, I never allowed them to find the way on their own

They brought me all their problems and ceded to my advice. They were usually satisfied with the results, if only because they were content and secure in knowing the best decisions had been made for them. They trusted that I would always direct them to the best possible outcome, given the circumstances.

They valued me for my wisdom, and it is true that I was wise in many ways. I did provide well-considered solutions to their problems. But in the most important way, I was not wise at all. I kept them passive and obedient, willing to accept the wisdom of another, never motivated to search for wisdom on their own.

This time, they have no choice.

 

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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 Rose Blossoms

First published November 12, 2015

child adult holding hands

Kif

I met her when she was very young, a perfect rose among the wilting asters. Even as a child she was poised and full of grace; wise beyond her years. Her natural talent was unmistakable, but it was more than that. She shone, as if a pure light passed through her, magnified.

Children such as this are gifts to the world. It is a rare privilege to teach one.

I did not normally take on students so young, but she needed to be trained properly. To be taught bad habits as a girl might destroy any hope of future perfection. She needed the best. I was the best. It was my duty.

Her parents recognized this. They considered it fortunate that their child had caught the attention of someone such as myself; someone both of deep knowledge and high influence. They believed she never would have been born with such remarkable abilities if they were not meant to be fully developed. And so, because they truly loved her and understood the needs of her soul, they abdicated their obligation and entrusted me to mold and shape her as I felt best.

Our dynamics were complex. One part parent-child, another part ego. Some of it was about legacy. A certain a measure was about need. One share was about wiping clean a tablet full of regrets. We had a mutual fear of abandonment and also shared the fear of being too needy. In this churning stew of high emotion, there was jealousy and suspicion of betrayal; there was anger and frustration; envy and longing. Sometimes, the teacher became the student. We fell in and out of love with each other but never mutually at the same time, and never for the right reasons.

Such a relationship offered many opportunities for furthering my spiritual wisdom and deepening my self-knowledge – if I’d only looked deep enough. But even a dedicated seeker of Truth cannot possibly understand the lessons whilst in the thick of it. The emotions come spilling out in a jumble, too confused and fleeting to analyze.

From here, I am no longer lost in the minutia. From this height, I can see the broad strokes, the course of our individual paths on a map that was drawn before we were born.   They ran parallel, then diverged, crossed and forked, rose and fell, once again ran parallel only to diverge yet again.

It will take me a long time to understand this journey.

 

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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!

 

Eternal Infant

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Gai

For many years before I was born,  my parents prayed for a baby.   They went to church. They lit candles.  They visited shrines.  And then,  just as they had given up hope and were acquiesced to living their lives childless,  my  mother conceived.  They were overjoyed.

It was obvious at my birth that something was very wrong with me.  In another time or place, I would have been left to die.  I would not have been nurtured or fed and would not have lived more than a day, if at all.  Perhaps I might have been allowed to take only a few breaths before I was suffocated and buried without a ceremony, so no one except the mother and the midwife would have seen such an abomination.

But my parents did not live in those times.  They had waited too many years to be blessed with a child and they were too old to have another, so they cared for me with love.  They accepted me as God’s gift; as a test of their faith and devotion.

Their prayers were answered quite literally.   I was barely a person.  I remained an infant my entire life.   I was aware only of the pleasure of being held and fed by my parents; of being rocked and bathed and fed and caressed.   I could not walk, nor speak, nor feed myself.  Still, I was happy, cooing to the sound of my mother singing or laughing at my father’s tickling.  My parents did not expect me to live very long, and were dedicated to making whatever time I had on the earth as happy and comfortable as possible.

When other children my age were learning to walk, I remained gurgling in my crib.  When the others were starting school, I rolled around on some blankets my mother laid out in the middle of the floor.

For many years, I was small enough for them to carry,  but to both their joy and dismay, I did not die young but rather grew in size as a normal human, without ever maturing at all mentally.  This presented many logistical problems for them as it became more difficult for them to attend to me. As they got older, they had trouble lifting and carrying me.  It was a challenge and heartache to bathe and dress me, to change my soiled diapers.  I often hit them hard with my flailing arms and legs, leaving bruises on their face and bodies.   Even leaving the house was a daunting task. They did not have much of a life, not my mother especially since she was home with me most of the time.   They had created a prison for themselves, with me as their jailer.

I do not know if they had regrets about their decision to keep me with them.  I don’t think anyone would have judged them harshly had they put me in a place where others could care for me, or if they had been less attentive to my medical care and allowed infection or disease to take me.  But in their actions, they were committed to me.  It was the path they had chosen and in this life, I was merely an instrument of their learning.

When I was in my forty-first year, my father became sick and infirm.  He could no longer help in my care and in fact needed care of his own.  My mother was old and weak herself from years stress and physical strain and lack of sleep and inability to attend to her own needs.  She did not have the strength to care for both me and my father.   But the pain of giving me to the care of strangers was more than they could bear.

And so,  one night,  they fed me medicine that made me sleep and never awaken.  And when they were sure I was peacefully gone, they took the same.

 

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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 bun

 

photo:  © James Whitlow Delano/Redux

Great Expectations

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Kor

My parents  did not have much formal education but they possessed a natural intellect and curiosity.  They read voraciously – books, several daily newspapers, news and educational magazines.  Our shelves were filled with literature and second hand books on politics, history, art, science.  I was encouraged to explore them all.

I was an only child by choice.  They both held civil service jobs which, while it provided steady income, their salaries were not high. They decided when they married that it was better to devote all their available resources to one child rather than spread the money thin over a larger brood.   I was the sole beneficiary of their time, their attention, and their assets.  My mother wore the same out-of-date cloth coat for a decade so there was enough money for me to take violin lessons.   When I was born, my father gave up cigarettes and drink to save for my higher education.  They did without restaurant dinners so I could go on class trips.  They took me to museums and free concerts and lectures by powerful speakers and to political rallies. Every week,  my mother took me to the library where we both chose a pile of books.

From the time I was a small child, I understood that I was expected to go to university.  It was my obligation to excel in life; to grab opportunities which had not been available to my parents in their youth. I was grateful to have such supportive parents.  Every part of my extra-curricular education was provided with the expectation that I would rise to the top both at school and in any endeavor I attempted.

Mostly, I fulfilled that expectation.  I was at the head of all my classes, and was accepted into a handful of well-respected universities, each of them offering a scholarship.

Nearly two decades of investment into my future was finally paying off.  I was gratified that I could make them proud.

One summer evening,  the month before I was set to go off to college,  I went out to meet some friends.    Down on the corner, there was a fight among some tough kids.  I knew them to be trouble and always gave them a wide berth.  I crossed the street to steer clear and set off in the other direction.  Behind me, the fight escalated and one of them pulled out a gun. Shots were fired and though I was some distance away, I was fatally hit.  I was gone before the ambulance even arrived.

My parents were inconsolable.

I am still trying to understand the point of my end.   Even to me, here, it seems like a tragic waste.  But I accept that this is how it was meant to be. I chose this going in, so there must be reason.  I’m beginning to consider that the lesson was not about achieving success, itself, but my giving myself over to the preparation for it. Or perhaps it was to teach me that no matter how well we prepare, no matter how much we devote ourselves to a goal, ultimately life is never within our control.

 

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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 Perfect Life

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Gra

I had a perfect life. That’s what everyone told me.  I was blessed.  Lucky.   Other women envied me, wishing even for a slice of my life. They envied my handsome successful husband,  my three beautiful children,   my large home in the best neighborhood. I was quite attractive and always dressed in the latest styles.  I never had to go to work. I was free to enjoy the kinds of activities women of leisure enjoy.

I should have been happy.   I had what everyone else wanted; what everyone else was sure would make them happy.  I felt there was something deeply wrong with me because even though I had all this, I was profoundly dissatisfied.

I was happy enough when my babies were small, until the youngest started school.  Suddenly, my days were unfilled.   I didn’t quite know what to do with my time.  My husband traveled frequently on business and was often gone for days, weeks at a time.  I didn’t particularly miss him, but it did leave me lonely for adult company.

I joined a club and met some other women who also needed to fill their days.  We gossiped, complained, and bragged over cards, over lunch, in the pool.  I needed a challenge so I took tennis lessons, and risibly fell victim to that utterly predicable and clichéd story line:  attractive but bored, unhappy housewife has affair with handsome, raffish instructor.

I craved emotional diversion.  I was desperate for my blood to run with passion again, to feel that yearning in the heart and loins.  I rejoiced to feel alive and desired. I hungered for it like a drug.  He began to appear frequently in my dreams and always in my fantasies.  I touched myself, imagining it was his hands on me. Everything reminded me of him. I lived for our weekly trysts.  He became the main focus of my thoughts and attention. I needed him like oxygen.

The weight of my need was more than he was willing to bear. I was too attached, too needy.  I became demanding and weepy.  I wanted things from him that were ridiculous to expect from such an ultimately meaningless relationship. I became undignified.  And so he broke it off.

I was devastated.

I could not go back to the club.  I could not bear to see him with other women.  I could not even bear to be out in public, so raw and so vulnerable.

In the beginning, I would have a drink or two in the morning – enough to help me tolerate the empty hours, but early enough in the day so that I would be relatively sober and put together by the time the children came home from school in the afternoon.

After a while, I’d drink just until the moment the first one walked in the door.  I thought they were too young to notice.  (I was wrong.)   Eventually, I didn’t even care enough to hide my drinking — not from the children who seemed not to need me, not from the housekeeper who was smart enough to do her work and mind her business, and not from my husband when he was around.  He didn’t seem to notice me much anymore anyway.  Other than civil dinners lacking all intimacy, we mostly stayed to ourselves,  him in his part of the house and me in mine.

The drinking transformed from something I did to numb my sorrow and loneliness to a genuine addiction.  Early on, when necessary, I was capable of functioning out in the world  —  go to the market, the shops,  bank, the hair salon.  I’d have just a quick one before setting out and I could tolerate it for a few hours. I didn’t think anyone knew my secret. (I was wrong.)

Over time, it became more important to me to be able to drink at will than to be able to hold myself together for the sake of others.  I was aware enough to recognize that in my usual condition. I was too sloppy to be in polite company.  When drunk, I was prone to doing embarrassing things. I did not want to bring that humiliation on my family.  So I stayed at home.  Besides, daylight and other humans had begun to bother me.

Once, while in the middle of figuring that out,  I picked up my youngest son and some of his friends at an after-school event.  I was quite drunk.  The teachers must have noticed my condition, but they dared not stop me from driving. Although it would have been the reasonable thing to do,  it was not their place.  On the way home, I swerved off the road on a sharp S-curve and came perilously close to a fatal accident.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but the children were terrified and I was deeply shaken.

To my credit, I learned from this incident never to drive in that condition.  And since I was almost always in that condition, it was easier to remain inside, curtains drawn.

As my appearance deteriorated, so did my health.  I grew soft and sloppy.  My face puffed and my muscles sagged.  I looked years older than my chronological age.  I had gone from the envy of all to the person everyone pitied, including myself.

Towards the end, when my condition was too awful for my family to continue to ignore, they tried to get me some help, but I was already beyond the point of salvation.  I didn’t want to stop.  I didn’t want to change. I just wanted to remain numb until I died, which I expected would not take long.  I knew it would kill me.  I hoped it did so quickly.

My children cried because I loved the bottle more than I loved them.  My husband felt guilty for not having gotten me help earlier, when possibly I might have been saved.

But it was not the drink, itself,  that did me in. That was a symptom. What destroyed me was my guilt over not being happy despite all that God had given me. According to everyone else, I had everything a woman could desire to achieve maximum satisfaction.   If I was unhappy with all this, clearly there was something wrong with me; there was nothing that could make me happy. I was too damaged and undeserving of happiness. If I could have assuaged my guilt by giving those slices of my life to whoever could take benefit from them, I would have.  Such advantages were wasted on me.

I had made the grotesque mistake of believing what everyone else did: that money and possessions and status and appearances were the source of happiness.  I could have been happy in that my situation, just as anyone can be happy in any situation, if I had simply placed the greatest value on the smallest things.

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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 Late Lesson

old-woman-with-cane

NEW!

Zor

We were a love match.  School sweethearts. We married young and within a few years, together we opened a men’s haberdashery.  We worked hard and slowly made a success of it.  A few years later, we had a son.  He was a clever boy.  We put him to work in the shop when he was old enough to wait on customers and handle money.   You could say he grew up there.    My husband expected him to take over the business.   Our son had other ideas. The store was stifling for him.  He had no interest.

Eventually, he went off on his own,  pursuing a line of work more suitable to his talents.

We had a falling out.  It was mostly with his father, but since he regarded us as an indivisible unit,  he stopped talking to me, too.  He moved far away.  We never repaired our relationship. We were not close. I barely knew his wife or his children — my own grandchildren.

My husband didn’t seem to mind this loss too much.   If his son had no use for the business, he interpreted it to mean he had no use for him, either.  The business was his baby.  Over the years, he nurtured it, dedicating many hours to making it thrive.  I was always at his side, doing whatever I could do to help.  But the vision was his.  He knew where he wanted the business to go, and he was good at finding ways for it to get there.   I did not resent that my own dreams never had the opportunity to manifest because, to be honest,  I did not have any big dreams.  I was content being a mother (until I wasn’t any longer), and being my husband’s helpmeet.  This provided me all the satisfaction I needed in life. The business grew into a successful enterprise which allowed us to live an agreeable and secure life.

We grew old together,  still working side by side in the shop.  We continued to live, as we always had, in a comfortable apartment above the store.  Over time,  the world changed and it was harder to keep up.

Business had not been good for a few years already when my husband suddenly died.

I was completely lost.   I had little idea how to run the store — what to stock,  how to negotiate with suppliers,  how to balance the books.    We had almost nothing in savings – every last coin had been spent trying to remain afloat.  My husband had been good at treading water.  I began to drown immediately. It did not take long for the store to fail completely.  Without any source of income, I soon lost the apartment, too.

At 83 years old, I was alone,  without a home.  I reached out to my son who was kind enough to send me a pittance, just enough to pay for a roof over my head, but not much more. I was grateful not to have to sleep on the street but in all other things, I was completely at the mercy of strangers. Most were not very merciful.  I was sick and frail.  I was consumed by the pain of loneliness.  I’d worked hard my entire life.  I’d been the good and faithful wife of a good and faithful husband. I’d lived in relative security and comfort.  I did not understand how all this misfortune had befallen me so quickly.  I resented the world for taking everything away from me.   I became increasingly forgetful. Confused.   It was easier to let go of reality which had become simply too painful to bear.

I was dead within two years. Two years which seemed to stretch out to an eternity. Two years which, looking back,  defined my life more than the eighty three years lived before it.

Sometimes,  life lulls you into a stupor and doesn’t give you the lesson until the very end.

 

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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!

I, Golem

New!

bridge-to-nowhere

Riv

I was just eighteen when I married.  My first child,  a boy, arrived ten months later. Another child came quickly after that and by twenty-three, I was the mother of four. My husband offered little support or help raising them. They were all left to me, these young, hungry, screaming, clamoring, curious, mischievous, needy children.

I’d led a sheltered life within a religious family in a like-minded community.  I had not had much sense of myself to begin with.  I was raised for one purpose: to become a wife and a mother.  Once I was both, I had even less idea who I was except breasts to feed and lips to scold and arms to carry and hands to cook and legs that itched to just run and keep running until I was somewhere completely different, and all alone.

I felt no love for my children, no love for anyone or anything.  I knew this was wrong, that I was deeply flawed. It was one of the greatest sins for a mother not to love her children.  Love is what makes humans human. If I was not capable of love, then I was no better than a golem, an automaton. I was less than human.

But, in fact, I was not less than human.  I was painfully, achingly, tragically human.  I was simply numb to my own pain. I was too exhausted to live; too completely without ego to care about anything.

Perhaps, then, it is not love, but ego that makes us human. Without ego, there is no point to human life.  Nothing to drive us forward along our path.  Nothing to give us purpose.  No pain or joy to teach us lessons.

I was, therefore, nothing.

It followed, then, that my children were also nothing.  I regarded them as merely attachments to my appendages. If I had been capable of regarding them as individual, unique human beings, I would have had to also conclude that I, too, was human.  After all, a golem cannot create human babies.  But since I was certain that I was a golem, it followed by my logic, that my children must also be made of mud and clay. Empty. Hollow. Unable to feel.  Unhuman.

Given this line of logic, I did the only thing that made sense to me.

When my husband was off to work, I gathered my children for a trip. Only the oldest was curious about where we were going, but I quieted him by telling him we were going on a secret adventure.

I drove around for a while, in growing outward spiral, circling further and further from home.  I drove rarely; I’d only been allowed to learn when my husband had medical problems a few years before, and it was my obligation to take him to his various doctors.  I was not confident but I knew where I was going, what had to be done, but I needed to approach it obliquely, to work up my courage.

And finally,  the children fell asleep just as I found myself where I was heading all along.

I drove to the big bridge.  Halfway across, I turned the wheel sharply and stepped on the accelerator. In an instant, we were over the edge and into the river.

It was where we needed to be. There, we would dissolve and return to what we were: just mud and clay.

 

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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! 

Pain is Inevitable; Suffering is Optional

First published July 11, 2015
suffering

Ipo  (it’s been a while!)

Every living thing — human beings, animals, plants — does what it must to avoid deprivation, injury and pain. This is their biological imperative.

When pain cannot be avoided, it must be numbed or ameliorated as best as possible, with whatever means available. This too, is a biological imperative.

Since there is no life without pain, part of each human journey is to develop one’s own methods for avoiding as much of it as possible. This defines life’s path.

Even those humans who harm themselves or invite others to inflict physical pain, do it to supplant/ protect themselves against/ distract themselves from an even deeper, psychic pain.

If the pain, whether physical or psychic, is ongoing and considerable and cannot be avoided,  the method used to numb that pain becomes an addiction.

Some quiet their pain with excessive drink or inebriates. Perhaps they court danger by taking unnecessary risks.  Perhaps they lie naked, too often, with strangers. Or attempt dominion over everything around them. They may eat or starve themselves until they lose their health; or acquire too many things they do not need; or alter their physical form in the hope their monster will not recognize them.

But these methods merely mask the pain; they do not destroy it.   Until it is vanquished, there can be no release from addiction.

Much pain can be eliminated once the source is found. In order to find it, however,  one must stop running from it. It must be allowed to manifest itself completely in order to ascertain its full shape and size. It must be studied so its weaknesses are revealed. Confronting such a formidable enemy demands extraordinary bravery; it requires cutting a new path across uncharted territory.

Depression and anger are side effects of the belief that one is powerless against the pain.


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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!

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 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-mother 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.

 

 

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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!

 

-Adrienne

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