The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the tag “the art of love”

Laugh, So You Don’t Cry

 

Originally posted October 24, 2014

comedytragedy masks

 

Jo

It’s a good thing parents are biologically programmed to love their children; to believe that even the strangest-looking baby is the most beautiful creature on earth. Otherwise I’m not sure I would have survived. I was not an attractive child. As a toddler, I had the nose of a 90 year old man. People kindly told my parents it was just an awkward phase; surely I’d outgrow it.

Unfortunately, my awkward phase lasted my entire life.

I learned early that being funny was the key to my emotional survival.   It was far better to have people laugh with me at myself, than to laugh at me.   If I made a self-deprecating remark, they were disarmed. If I could laugh with them laughing at me, I was protected from their barbs. If they repeated my observation as an insult, I was able to take it as a compliment. They were using my joke, after all, and that meant they thought I was funny. Or, if they insulted me but not as cleverly as I insulted myself, I won again! Say the worst about yourself and nobody can insult you!

Humor was the path I took to love. There are other paths, but that was mine.   When I made people laugh, they wanted me around. Instead of being ostracized, I was included in their social groups. I was popular, even. Playing the clown was how I negotiated my way through everything. All my life lessons came through this.

I may not have been much to look at, but what did beautiful people offer the world anyway? You have to be a decent human being to be truly beautiful. Still, I was never quite able to let go of the nagging sadness to not have been born lovely. I eventually learned that everyone hurts in their own way. Everyone carries the wounds of childhood well into old age. Maybe forever.

The funniest people (and I have known many) are always outsiders. Sometimes they’re on the outside because of their odd appearance. Or maybe they’re just quirky in some way. Usually, though, they it’s just because their observation post on the world is in an out-of-the-way place where others dare not go. From their unique viewpoint, they see the things in ways that most others cannot.

I’m not saying that it’s only funny people who have unique viewpoints, but if you can make people laugh while they consider your way of seeing things, they are more likely to remember and agree with you and see things as you do. “Speak softly and carry a big shtick.”

The funniest people are also very smart. They can pluck the seed of truth from chaos. They hone in on hypocrisy like heat-seeking missiles. Their lack of respect for authority makes them natural iconoclasts. They are natural empaths, too. They instinctively understand the deepest fears and insecurities of others; they clearly perceive the nature of the ego that drives them.   That’s why comedians make such great actors. They understand the most subtle nuances of emotion, something also absolutely crucial to delivering a good story. Looking at people, they see behind the veil of bluster and into the folds and shadows where self-doubt hides.   Once seen, it cannot be un-seen.

The great funny people are also often the most troubled, the most confused. We all secretly believe we don’t belong. There’s this over-reaching fear that if others saw us as we saw ourselves, they would look at us with the same pity and contempt they regard a sad, desperate, alcoholic clown at a three year old’s birthday party. “Get lost, Bozo! That red nose and big shoes aren’t fooling anyone!”

I developed a thick skin. I took the hits and stood back up again. I had no choice. I won’t say I wasn’t hurt when people said bad things about me – and they did, because I had a sharp tongue. I had no patience for the thin-skinned; for those who could dish it out but couldn’t take it; for those who pointed to the sins of others without considering their own. I pushed the edge, I know. Sometimes I went too far. I often made people cringe. I did try to limit myself to those who I believed could take it. But if they couldn’t? Well, that was their problem, not mine. I wasn’t responsible for the feelings of everyone in the world.  I’d taken my licks and learned my lessons. They had to take and learn theirs.

There were the haters. Lots of them.  I tried to ignore them but when they got under my skin, my salve was to surround myself with people who got me; who could laugh with me at the same stuff; who enjoyed the view from where I stood.   If I could make someone laugh – even one person —   really laugh from the deepest part of themselves; if I could get them to laugh at my truth, I was healed. The rejection of those who didn’t understand me no longer mattered.

To the question of whether a sense of humor is an innate talent or a learned skill, I say it’s a bit of both. Like any talent, most people pursue what they are good at. No normal person pursues a lifetime of failure and humiliation. And the longer you pursue, the better you get. Like an Olympic athlete. It’s natural talent, nurtured. I was the Nadia Comăneci of the Chuckles Olympics.

Being able to laugh at ourselves and at our tragedies takes the sting out of it. It puts things in perspective; helps us wrestle an unruly life back into our control. Laughing files the sharp edges off the pain.

 

(I know who this is, but we agreed that it would be best if I didn’t say.  😀  Nevertheless, we had a couple of very deep yet funny “conversations.”  I was given some personal messages for others, two of which I was able to deliver. The general message for all is “Be kind to others. Make sure the people you love know it. Do the right thing, follow your conscience, be true to yourself, and if they don’t like you,  f&^% ‘em! That’s their problem!”)

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The Lessons in Everything

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Nal

My grandfather’s hand held firm on my rudder throughout my life, even after he was long gone.

My earliest memory of a lesson that stayed with me throughout my life was at age 4 or 5.  We had planned a day at the beach, just the two of us.  I had him all to myself (and he, me.)  Before we got on the train,  he took me into a small shop that sold children’s clothing and toys, and let me pick out something special for the day.  I chose a colorful pail and shovel, imprinted with my favorite cartoon character.  I was as happy as a child could be.

We set out a spot on the sand.  He took me into the water and held me while we dove through the waves, me clinging to him tightly while laughing and giggling in pure joy.

Back on our blanket, he showed me how to make sand castles.

On the next blanket, there was a boy about my age, who did not seem very happy.  His mother was kissing and touching a man who I learned later was not his father, but his mother’s new boyfriend. They were secretly drinking beer even though it was not allowed on the beach.  They were in their own world and mostly ignored him, except to yell at him for some small infraction.  His older brother, maybe about nine or ten, entertained himself by harassing his younger sibling.

The boy seemed lonely so I invited to join me, building castles.  He was a fun and willing playmate, running down to the water’s edge again and again to fill the bucket to wet our pile of sand.  My grandfather had brought some lunch along, and I offered him half of my sandwich, which he ate hungrily. Even in my child’s mind, I had the impression he wasn’t very well-fed.

When it was time for us to go,  my instinct was to let him keep the bucket.  I recognized, in my childlike way, that I had so much more than he did.  I had many toys at home and he probably had none.  I had parents and grandparents who loved me and paid attention to me.  His mother treated him like an annoyance.    But the pail had been a gift from my grandfather.  I wasn’t sure how he would feel if I were to give it away.

I asked him.

“It is yours to do with as you please.  You have to ask yourself if it is better to keep it  or if it’s better to use what you have to make other people happy.  I have found that sharing with others makes me much happier than keeping things all to myself.  I am proud that you feel the same way.”

And so, I gave the boy my special toy.

My grandfather could have replaced it for me but he didn’t.  This was a good thing.  If he’d bought me another, I would not have remembered the lesson.  Missing it reminded me of the pleasure of sharing, the joy of making another happy.

A few years later, I was in the small grocery store my grandfather owned.  A boy, about thirteen or fourteen, came in and took some cans of food and hid them in his clothes.  Grandfather caught him.  I expected him to be outraged; to give him a lecture and call the police.  But instead, he recognized that the boy was poor; that he had stolen only to eat.  So instead, he offered him a job.  It didn’t pay much but it was enough to keep him from stealing.  Grandfather often gave him food to take home to his family.  The boy worked for him for many years, until he left to join the army.  From this, I learned that believing in someone can change their life.

When the school bully started harassing me, Grandfather explained to me that bullies puff themselves up so nobody will see how weak they really are.  They were not to be feared, but rather to be pitied.  And so, I learned to show compassion in the face of fear.

Even after Grandfather died, his lessons remained with me, guiding me in my judgment and   in my relationships with others.  He was then, and remains even here, my spiritual teacher.  We have been together in other lives previous, and will be together in the next life coming.  Not always as grandfather and child, but always as teacher and student.

 

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The Pleasure in the Pain

first published Nov 30, 2015

 

crying eye

Ri

Life became so much easier once I learned to feel the pleasure in the pain. I do not speak of the passion of physical pain, which is not pain at all; I speak, rather, of emotional pain.

This is not to say I sought it out, but life is full enough of pain that there is no avoiding it. My life became easier when I no longer numbed myself to the inevitable. I stopped running from it wherever it found me. After time, I didn’t even bother to step out of its way.

I stopped fearing it. What a release to enjoy the beauty in sorrow! To savor the taste of my own tears. To climb down deeper into understanding on the rope of my pain.

Great emotion – both joy and pain – is opening. The heart is rent wide, laid bare without defense. No walls. No ego.   Only in this state — without ego — is it possible to connect to the universe.

I learned not to waste that state of grace.

 

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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.

 

No Risk, No Love

First published Nov 3, 2015

Pra

Lies. Every sweet word out of my lover’s mouth was a lie. And once I recognized them as such, it all became clear. I saw how things really were.

I understood that every person tells the lies they must to get the things they want. The worst of them manipulate the feelings others so they may bask in the glow of being loved without the risks inherent to  loving in return.

Some lie without even realizing they are lying. They carve out their little corner of reality and abide in it. As long as they remain confined within this small place of reference, their truth is The Only Truth.

Some love only when the situation suits them, and easily withdraw their love to seek advantage elsewhere.

The more I paid attention, the more I recognized the patterns. I became a master of these observed manipulations, which made me wary and cynical. I felt proud and clever to have figured out how to protect myself. I would not give my love. I would trust no one.

Not that I didn’t suffer. It only saved me from the ignominy of publicly granting others the power to hurt me. I gave them no satisfaction. I licked my wounds in solitude.

This became the irony of my life. The more times I was hurt, the more wary I became. The more wary I became, the more I, myself, became the very nightmare I was trying to avoid

I never found the way out of that cycle.

From here, the route is clear.  This is the truth:  To love requires remaining vulnerable. Vulnerability inevitably, eventually results in pain.  Thus the quest for love guarantees pain.

With this understood, there are only three choices:

Avoid the pain by locking the gates to the heart.

Remain vulnerable in weakness, suffering every slight with no enlightenment.

Remain vulnerable in strength, accepting of whatever comes, marveling at the full range of the emotions of which we find ourselves capable, regarding each passion and sorrow as the first chapter of a lesson.

 

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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 bunch of hooey!

In a Flash

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Ure

I never had much luck in love.   Most relationships barely got started before they were over.  I accepted this as my destiny and made a life without romance.  And then, when I was in my late 40’s, I met my soulmate.  We were quickly inseparable. We’d found each other and we weren’t letting go.  Finally, I understood viscerally what poets and writers and lyricists wrote about.

It felt miraculous.  It felt destined.  It felt absolutely right.   At last, there was somebody who understood me; someone who wanted my happiness more than they wanted their own.  I became a new human being.  I blossomed.  I felt things I’d never felt before. I saw other human beings through a different lens, viewed the world from a different perspective.   I was joyful. I was happy.

And then, tragedy., insanity. A robbery.  A shooting.  Death.  And suddenly,  I was alone again,  my happiness shattered.  It had taken so long for us to find each other, and we were so uniquely suited.  How could I hope to ever find that again?   I could not return to my old life, being happily content without love.  I missed it like a brutally sawn-off leg.

That phantom limb pained and grieved me to the end of my days.

 

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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!

digital collage by yours truly

Lay That Burden Down

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Len

If you’d asked me if I was a good friend, a caring and generous person, I would have said, unequivocally, yes. In many important ways I was all those things, but I was also deluded about myself and about how others saw me.

I was happy to give my time and my energy and my money to others, and I could always be depended on for a favor.  Even though I rarely asked for anything in return, truth was, I did expect something very big in return.  But what I wanted could not be bought with time or energy or money not matter how much I gave.

What I wanted more than anything  was to be loved exactly the way I wanted to be loved, completely as myself with no need to fit myself to another.  I wanted my every flaw to be overlooked.   I wanted to be seen as perfect. And in this I was most needy.

Oh, what heartache I suffered when the ones I loved (or wanted to love)  did not love me, even after all I’d done for them.  When my expectations were not met, I grew resentful.  In my resentment, I became angry.  Angry people are difficult to love.  This anger was a heavy burden which I bore without ever truly understanding how the weight of it bent and crippled me.

I understand now that people don’t always love you the way you want to be loved.   To be loved, you must allow others to love you in whatever ways they do,  in whatever ways they can.

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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

Sloppy, Painful, Glorious

 

First published Sept 1, 2015

messy-heart

Ge

For some, love is theoretical. All the action takes place in the head. Emotions are based on fantasy which  is within control,  and thus cannot disappoint. These people cannot bear to be soiled by love’s sloppiness and unpredictability.  They play at love, but never truly engage.

For me love was real and big and sloppy and painful and glorious. I wanted to be in it elbows deep, mucking about the unknown. I wanted to roll around in its stink; smelling everything and everyone who preceded me.

It was never going to be perfect. I knew I’d be lucky if it was merely good. But I relished the mess; the challenge of unwinding a knotted ball of yarn;  the stains and scars standing as witnesses.   This is living! To jump first and learn to swim as you’re drowning!

In the end, complex, challenging, emotionally-muddled love affairs cause far less heartbreak than those which never get started.

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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 Greatest Sin

NEW!in-shell

 

Pau

Of all the sins and injustices ever perpetrated against me, the second cruelest was being told “I love you” when it was known to be lie.

I lived for years believing it was true, when all the while I was nothing more than a convenience, a stepping stone, someone to be mollified until something better came along.

The reality of the lie shook me to my foundation.   It was more than a betrayal by a lover. It made me doubt myself to my core.  How was I not able to differentiate truth from lie? How could I have been so naive? Was I really that gullible, that desperate to believe?  How did I  miss the signs, which in retrospect seemed obvious. What did all that say about me, about who I was? About who I thought I was?

I never did get over it.  I could never bring myself to trust anyone again because I was no longer able to trust myself. I crawled down deep inside myself and let nothing and no one pull me out.  It was lonely but it was safe.

The cruelest sin of my life, the one that did the most damage, was the one I perpetrated upon myself.

What I could have learned, what I should have learned, is that there is no love without risk. The very nature of love requires flying without a net.

 

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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!

One Hand Clapping

New!

sad-couple

Car

For many years — far longer than it should have — it mattered to me if he loved me. I gave a lot of thought and put much effort into pleasing him, into being a good and caring wife.  I believed my own success was measured by how happy I could make my husband.

It was difficult to know if he was happy.  He was not much for casual conversation. He hoarded his words the way a miser hoards his silver.  I looked for signs that he was satisfied. When other women complained that their husbands criticized or tried to control them,  I felt lucky to be married to a man who let me be; who never said harsh words or pointed out my faults.   However,  he never praised me, either.  He did not recoil from my touch, but neither did he seek it out.

When my father passed,  it was a time to take stock of my life, of my marriage.  I stopped acting out of habit and paid close attention to any change in our dynamic. I suppose I always suspected the truth, but it was at this time that I finally came to terms with it:  I was in our marriage alone.    He was physically present but emotionally absent.

He was never purposely cruel, but neither was he particularly loving, and there was a kind of cruelty in that.  He made few demands of me, but neither did he notice or appreciate my efforts for him.  Whether I made him his favorite dinner or let him fend for himself, it mattered to him not at all. He could be just as happy eating something small and simple, just enough to satisfy his hunger, as to eat a meal that took me hours to prepare.

If I attended to the small things for his comfort and convenience or if I was lazy and selfish, he cared not one whit.  If I made our home nice and cozy, or did not bother to clean or neaten up for days, he didn’t seem to notice. If he wanted to sit and read but there was something on his chair, he wordlessly moved it.  He asked for nothing and did not complain when he didn’t get it.  Sometimes, he’d say or do something to please me because it seemed expected of him.  Initially, I took these small scraps as appreciation but I came to understand he was simply making the minimum effort he felt he could get away with. We coexisted civilly, politely, but without intimacy.

In the early years, my duties as a wife and homemaker defined me, gave my life focus and purpose.  I played my role, day after day, putting one foot in front of the other, not paying much attention to where I was going. Or why.

But eventually I realized that he neither saw or understood my feelings, and that any effort on my part in that direction were for naught.  He moved through life without engaging.  He was quite happy to exist inside his own head.  Emotionally, I was superfluous.

It was then I began to consider if there weren’t more fulfilling ways to spend my life.

And that was the beginning of learning to love myself.

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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 Definition of Us

first published March 29, 2015


hands

Aya

Love is defined not only by the emotions we feel for others but by how others feel about us.

We each make our choices about who we want to be. Shall we be the kind of person whom others feel joy to keep close to their hearts, even after we long are out of their lives? Will we be entirely forgettable, leaving little impression on those whose lives we’ve crossed? Will we be the person who causes others anticipate the relief of no longer feeling anything for us?   Do we uplift those around us or prop ourselves up at the expense of others?

And it is from these basic choices that our actions flow.  And from these actions, grows our character.

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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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