The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the tag “universal wisdom”

Not Right in the Head

First published Oct 22, 2016 mentalillness-450x300

Vil

There was a label affixed to me all my life: crazy.  I behaved in ways that were considered abnormal. I burst into tears in the midst of laughter, and laughed at inappropriate moments. I became angry at things that were imperceptible to others. I would sometimes overreact dramatically to  insignificant experiences.

I was difficult to live with. When I was around, there was no calm. I tried the patience of everyone, and except for my family who did their best to tolerate me, I had few relationships and no real friends.

Perhaps in a more tolerant place, in a more tolerant culture, I would have been accepted enough to have some kind of life, but I lived in lonely despair, on the outside of society.

My emotions were unrelated to reality. Those familiar with my strangeness kept their distance; they never knew what might spring the hair-trigger trap.   A glance that lingered too long might set me off screaming, hurling epithets, maybe even lashing out violently.  A word that seemed innocent to others might cause me to break down in tears or curl up into a fetal knot, rocking myself to whatever small measure of comfort I could manage.

I could feel the emotion building inside me — big, powerful, explosive emotion — and I had no control over it.

I was not stupid, but it was hard to focus on learning when every moment was a struggle to maintain equilibrium. If I relaxed my vigilance for even a second, I could easily fall apart. It was exhausting.

I did not work but I received money from my family and a small stipend from the state, and was able to live in a tiny room by myself. It was better for everyone that I lived alone.

Many odd little rituals helped keep my mood level — not all the time of course, but at least for hours, sometimes even weeks on end. I woke up at the same time every day, ate the exact same thing for breakfast, wore the same clothes the same on the same day of the week.

I did my best to steer clear of strangers and they instinctively steered clear of me, but sometimes interactions were unavoidable.  Maybe somebody pushed past me on the street or cut in front of me at the market.  In these situations, I’d try to leave as quickly as possible before the emotions erupted. But if it was a bad day, if I was stressed by other things, I might not make it.  I might react in ways that were inappropriate.  I once screamed and ranted at a small child because he rode too close to me on his bicycle, frightening him and causing him to cry.  In moments like these, I hated myself.

In those moments when I could not calm myself, I had no restraint, even knowing I’d pay for my actions — cursing at the grocer,  shoving a neighbor, throwing and breaking my own possessions.

To the surprise of my family,  I lived to be quite old,  with the responsibility for my care passing from my parents to my siblings to their children.

None of them mourned too much when I finally passed over, but they were finally able to find some compassion.

 

—-

Buy the book!

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

My Karma Ran Over My Dogma

NEW!

 

I was having a conversation with a friend recently about politics (which I talk and think about wayyyy too much for my psychological well-being).   She jokingly mentioned the ways karma might punish some of the most evil players.

I know a lot of people refer to karma as a form of cosmic punishment but there seems to be a gross misunderstanding about what it actually is.

Karma is not a punishment that one must suffer for doing bad things (not exactly, anyway.)  Rather we must each suffer the consequences of “bad” or unproductive behavior in order to understand how that behavior/attitude hinders our spiritual development, if not in our current lifetime then in the next.

For example, someone who is bigot may come back as a member of the oppressed group they hated, finding themselves now subjected to that same bigotry.  Simplistically, that might seem like a punishment.  But I would argue that it is rather an opportunity to learn the lesson they did not learn in previous lives, and which they must learn in order to advance karmically.

This is not to suggest that everyone who is a victim of ethnic, religious, or racial hatred was, themselves, a bigot in a previous lifetime.  That implies  karma as retribution or that the experiences of each lifetime are in direct correlation to the actions of previous lifetimes.

This is not necessarily so.  Or at least not in a way that many humans simplistically understand it.

I (and many others) believe that we choose the basic circumstances of our lifetimes — our parents, our social situation,  our position in society,  our physical attributes,  our intellect – while we are between lives. Our spirit reviews what lessons we have learned already and what lessons still need to be learned,  and we choose the life that will put us in the path to encounter those lessons. However, whether we actually learn them is up to us.

So, using that same example: someone who suffers racial discrimination in this lifetime, might have chosen such a path not because they needed to learn the lesson of bigotry as a victim, but perhaps what they needed for their personal growth was to be part of a community that is bound together by the prejudices of others.  Or maybe they need to find their voice and rise up against their oppressors.  Or perhaps they need to succeed in spite of the obstacles.  Or possibly the lesson comes via feelings of anger or helplessness. Or maybe they needed to work through specific issues that are intrinsic to a particular ethnic/culture/religious group. Or it might be any one of a million other reasons I can’t begin to imagine.

And likewise, a life of privilege is not necessarily a reward for living a ‘good” life previously.  As we have learned through many of the narrators, very often lives of privilege have their own challenges. Wealth and power are rarely positives from a spiritual perspective.

It’s also possible that some souls choose come back to a life of suffering, whether physical, emotional, or psychological,  not because they need the lesson for themselves, but because those in their soul group need the lesson. For example, a sick child might have agreed to a short life full of pain and suffering not for their own spiritual development but for the benefit of their parents and/or siblings; for the lessons they could learn.  It was a karmic arrangement made in the in between.

Thus, karma is not a punishment but rather an opportunity.

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

Asch in Ashes

First published July 5, 2017

This week is the 109th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. March 25, 1911

 

Mir

I was thirteen, and my brother sixteen, when we left our family home and set out for the New World.   It was a great adventure – both exciting and terrifying – but as long as I had my brother to care for me, I felt safe.

He and my parents had been saving money to send us both together.  The plan was, they would continue to save and my brother would find work and send money home, until eventually they would join us.

My mother had a younger cousin who had been living in New York for several years. She was, by our standards, a “real American” already,  settled with a husband, an apartment, and a job.  They had agreed to sponsor us and take us in until we could make our own way.

My brother was a big strong boy, tall for his age.  He quickly found work ferrying packages from suppliers to manufacturers, from manufacturers to the showrooms and shops.  It had been agreed by all before we left that I was to continue my education for at least two years.  My parents wanted me to also become a “real American”. They made my brother promise to keep me in school.

Our cousins were very welcoming and kind.  They gave us a corner of their small apartment.  There was just one cot, and my brother and I took turns sleeping in it while the other slept on a pile of folded blankets on the floor.  I often let him have the bed, even when it was my turn because he worked so hard during the day and was so physically exhausted.  I didn’t have the heart to make him sleep on the hard wooden floor.  It was by the grace of his hard work that I was able to remain in school. Since I didn’t have money to contribute,  I made myself as helpful as possible – cleaning,  washing, cooking some simple meals,  doing marketing and errands, mending clothing as I’d been taught by my mother.

When I was 14, and my English passable, my cousin found me a job at a small restaurant owned by her friend and her husband.  The husband cooked and the friend waited tables, but they had a young daughter who needed attention after school while they prepared for the dinner customers.

It didn’t pay much but it was the perfect situation for me.  I started in the afternoon, so I didn’t miss any classes.  I would sit with the girl while she did her schoolwork, and my own English skills improved.  Sometimes if they needed extra hands, I cleared tables or swept the floor or even chopped vegetables.  Occasionally, they’d send me out for an errand.

They were good to me and I was determined to justify their faith in me.  I worked hard and they came to rely on me more and more.  For this, they raised my pay as much as they could afford. It wasn’t much, but it enabled me to contribute a bit to the rent and to my parents’ travel fund.

I had been working there for just over a year when we received terrible news.  My father had become ill and within a very short time had passed away.   My brother and I would not, could not, let my mother remain alone in the Old World.   My brother took on extra shifts and I found additional work minding other children in the evenings.  Within the year, there was enough in the fund to bring her to us.

In the days before her expected arrival, I was so excited I could barely eat or sleep. When we met her at the boat, we all burst into tears at the sight of each other, touching each others’ faces and stroking each other’s hair, reassuring ourselves that we were all real.

We went back the apartment and my mother and her cousin caught up on the family news, remembering old times, laughing and crying.

Later, the three of us squeezed into our corner, with my brother and I insisting my mother take the cot. It was obvious we could not remain in this situation for much longer.  Fortunately, my mother was an experienced tailor and seamstress, and she was able to find work quickly.  Within a couple of months we were able to move to our own small room on Hester Street.  It was tiny, and the bathroom, down the hall, was shared by others, but to us it felt like paradise, an unimaginable luxury to be living with just our own family in our own room.

I finished school in my sixteenth year, and my mother got me a job at the factory where she worked, making ladies’ blouses.  Initially I was thrilled to have a real job; to get a regular paycheck; to be an adult among other women like myself and my mother — new immigrants, filled with hopes and dreams for a better future – but the novelty wore off quickly.

We worked long hours, six long days a week in very unpleasant conditions. The supervisors treated us more like slaves than workers. But, with the three of us bringing home a salary each week, we were able to save money.  The dream was for my mother to buy a sewing machine and have her own tailor shop so we could get out of that awful factory which seemed to suck more life out of us every day.

And then,  one Saturday afternoon,  there was chaos!  A fire!  There were so many flammable scraps and pieces around that it didn’t take long for the fire to be raging.  The doors were locked as they always were.  There was no escape.

I pressed to the window with my mother and the other women, barely able to breathe, terrified of being burned alive and equally afraid of jumping onto the unforgiving pavement below.

In the end, I jumped.  My mother stayed.  It didn’t make a difference.  We, along with dozens of our friends and coworkers, all died that day.

My brother,  alone and lonely,  soon took a wife.  They named their children after me and my mother, so our story would not be lost – a story of two women with dreams, unfulfilled.

 

______

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

The Blowhard

first published 4/30/14

https://thelivesofthedead.wordpress.com

Ar

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

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

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

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

 

____

Buy the book!

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

A Note from Me…

In rereading the origins of this project,  it occurs to me that even years later, these stories and surroundings are as vivid to me as if I had experienced them myself and seen them with my own eyes.

I’ve been a writer pretty much all my life and I do not recall the details in my own stories as clearly as the details of these. In some cases, I might find something I wrote a while ago on my computer or in a pile of old papers,  and I barely recall having written it.   You might think that something from my own imagination would be MORE vivid.

My point is that these narratives feel much more real to me than something I’ve made up out of whole cloth.

Of course, this hardly proves that these tales are, indeed, from the Great Beyond,  but it seems relevant to mention how they feel to me,  how I perceive them, and how they come to me.  As I mentioned in a previous post,  if I try to steer a story in certain direction (as I might if I were writing it myself),  it strongly resists.  Occasionally, if I want more detail,  or if I think I know where it’s going, I might make suggestions.  When they are wrong, I definitely get push back;  I can FEEL when they’re not the narrator’s own words.

Certainly, as a writer, I could just create stories out of my own head.  It would provide a lot more regular content for the blog. I would never to that however, because a) it would be dishonest to my readers,  but b) it would be a betrayal to those on the other side who’ve entrusted me to share their stories.

Thus, I can only share with you what has been shared with me, and if it’s longer between new stories,  well,  so be it.  I hope you understand why…

-Adrienne


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

We’ve Come Full Circle Again…

Dear Readers,

For the moment, we’ve come to the end of the new and repeated stories,  and thus he next post will begin the cycle again.  I’m hoping to continue channeling more tales from the other side and those will be posted as they come to me, interspersed with the repeats,  as well as continuing reports on my Reiki studies,  and some fascinating scientific/philosophical studies in which physics give credence to spiritual concepts (and even to the  “woo-woo”).  In many cases science backs up, or at least offers possible explanations for what skeptics might think of as “New Age nonsense.”   So, please stay tuned.

If you joined this blog fairly recently,  I think/hope you will find the genesis of this project quite interesting.  (If you’ve read this before,  hang in there… it’ll only be few posts before I post new content.)

Thanks, as always, for your continued support.

-Adrienne

 

Buy the book!

The holidays are coming.  Maybe you know someone who’d enjoy this book? (hint, hint.)

 
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

A Gentle, Invisible Force

First published August 16, 2016

Vintage-Little-Girl

 

San

I first met her on my first day of school and she was there when I died, but I barely knew her.  Our lives crisscrossed each other like strands of DNA.  Though we rarely interacted in any deeply personal way,  we applied a kind of subtle gravitation force upon each other.

In school, she was the pretty one.  The smart one.  The one who never let her emotions get the better of her, even when, as puberty hit,  the rest of us were turning into mad witches.  She remained always cool and aloof.   Although popular with a select crowd, she was never mean or condescending to others.  She was naturally intimidating but she was never unkind.

I, for one, did not think of her as an individual.  To me, she was an icon.  The epitome of all I wanted to be, and which I knew I would never become.  I tried to emulate her style, her grace,  but she always did it better, easier.

When we were about nine, I developed a very secret crush on a boy in our class and carried a torch for him all through school.  I dared not share my feelings with anyone lest they laugh at me.  It was obvious he would never feel the same about me.  He barely noticed me.  I was beneath him in every way.

When we were 12,  they discovered each other and became inseparable. I wasn’t jealous.  It made sense that the perfect girl would end up with the perfect boy.  Rather than envy, I felt curiosity.  What would it be like to be that confident?  To be the kind of woman who could attract a fine man?

After graduation, we all went our separate ways and I didn’t think about her much, except still, perhaps as a standard by which to judge myself.

Many years later, coincidentally, our children went to school together.  We would nod a polite hello to each other, or perhaps converse casually about upcoming events. I hated to admit it to myself, but I was still intimidated by her.  I always felt bad about myself when I saw her.  She reminded me, through no fault of her own, that I was “less than.”  Still, I felt no animosity for her. It wasn’t her fault that I felt as I did. She wasn’t doing anything wrong. She was just living her life, being perfect.

Her house was nicer than ours.  Her children, better behaved.  Her husband, more successful.   But she never noticed the envy of others.  She did not act superior.  She simply was,  by any measure I could think of, superior

I never sought her friendship nor she, mine.

Eventually, our children moved to different schools and once again, she was out of my life.  Another decade passed,  and then we met again,  this time working for an organization.  She had all the right social connections and so rose quickly to the top.  I remained firmly in the middle.  We ran into each other from time to time, and as always,  chatted politely though never vapidly.  Short, intelligent conversations about current events or organizational issues.  I felt flattered that she took me as her equal.

After a few years,  I moved on from that organization, while she remained and rose higher still.  Meanwhile, I occupied myself with other things.

Many years later,  we met again at the home of some old school friends.  Her position in the organization had been terminated. Her husband had left her for a younger woman.  She was forced to sell her beautiful home.  She revealed these turns of event matter-of-factly, still hiding behind her impenetrable facade, emotionally aloof as always.

That night,  when I went home,  I looked at my life and I felt grateful.  I was happy and I was loved, and those were the most important things.  Why should I be jealous of her when I had everything I needed right here?

After that,  I removed her from her high pedestal and placed her on a lower shelf.  I no longer compared myself to her version of perfection.  I realized I was perfect in my own way, and I was OK with that.   We are all good at something.  I didn’t have to be good at her thing. I only had to be the best I could be at my own.  This was the beginning of my self-acceptance.

In and out,  again and again, over the years,  we would encounter each other in casual ways.  Never friends but eventually friendly enough by virtue of our long history, to catch up on the essentials of our lives –  for example, the deaths of our parents, the births of our grandchildren,  her eventual happy remarriage.

I came to know her better, although never well. I began to understand that the woman I thought she was had existed only in my imagination.  She wasn’t aloof.  She was painfully shy.  She cultivated her friends carefully and so didn’t have many. She curated her facade meticulously but she was far more fragile than she ever appeared.  With these realizations, I stopped judging my perceived faults and the perceived faults of others, by a false standard of perfection.  I began to notice what was right about people instead of what was wrong with them. These lessons informed my life and my relationships.

Many years passed without us crossing paths.  I hadn’t given her more than a fleeting thought in years.  But then, in our late years, we found ourselves in the same home for the aged, both widowed, both great-grandmothers. Only we, of all those others in that place, shared a history that went back to childhood. Only we, remembered all those places and people, long gone. And what we didn’t remember, the other often filled in.   And so we talked.  And talked.  And talked.  The separation that had always been between us fell away.  We were too old to care about hiding our feelings, protecting our faces to each other.

One day, I told her how I’d envious I’d been of her in school, and for many years after; how I’d judged myself against her, and finally, eventually,  I felt myself perfectly equal.  Better in some ways, worse in others.

And what she confessed to me made me rethink my entire life.

She told me she’d always been envious of me!  (Even in my dotage, I was shocked!)  She was envious that I did not live in fear of the judgment of others.  Even as children, she admired my ability to make friends easily.  She felt compelled to always behave in a certain way – quiet, dignified.  She admired my willingness to make a joke at my own expense. She felt constrained by having to pay attention to detail.  She admired my ability to roll with the waves, make the best of whatever came along.  Her shyness was crippling. She recognized that many took this for aloofness, but still, she could never overcome it.   She admired my ability to easily engage others in conversation.  She rarely felt as if people saw her as she was.  She did not feel known.  She wished she could be casual and easy with people, let down her guard, and not be afraid to let them see her.  She thought I was brave, not caring about perfection.

Oh, the irony of that!

She sat at my bedside the day I died.  I’d been unconscious for nearly a week, and she sat with me every afternoon for a few hours after lunch, in silence, just thinking about all the things that had happened to both of us over the years; how our lives had been so different. Yet here we were at the end,  in the same place, in the same situation.

I understand now that there are people who remain on the periphery of our lives, but who nevertheless affect us deeply, and whom we affect in return, often unawares.  They may meet us upon our journey as merely a pebble in the shoe or a jug of water when we are thirsty.  They might be the shade of the trees overhead, which we barely consider until we walk must through a desert with the sun beating down upon our head. They may be a vulture in that desert. They may be an oasis.  Or they may be the shepherd dog who nudges us back onto the path. They may be the fruit of wisdom, which we come upon at the moment of peak ripeness.

—-

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

Anchors Aweigh

First published July 29, 2016The_Royal_Navy_during_the_Second_World_War_A11482

 

Gle

I was just out of school, still mostly a boy,  when I joined the Navy. There was a big war going on, and I was eager to serve my country and see the world. In the early days, I had the exuberance of youth; the certainty of my invulnerability. I believed I would return home a hero, with interesting tales to tell for the rest of my life.

It wasn’t long before my fantasies collapsed and my mood (and most of the others’ around me) swung between a self-protective detachment and abject terror. These emotions often manifested at inappropriate moments. One afternoon,  our ship was strafed by enemy planes. I and my fellow gunners manned the positions,  immediately becoming primary targets for fire. Two of my companions died right on the deck beside me, but I had no time to mourn, no time for fear. I focused on my job.  My aim was true. I brought down two aircraft, watching with indifference as their pilots and their crews were swallowed by the vast, unbroken ocean.

During that battle and in the hours that followed, I felt nothing. It was only much later that a thick fog of terror and panic rolled in,  enveloping and smothering me.

Weeks later, a bird fell from the sky, dead,  onto the deck and suddenly,  I felt awash in guilt for having taken the lives of those foreign flyers. They were not so different from me and my mates, all of us just doing our jobs.

Some nights after many days of relative calm, I’d wake up in a cold sweat.  The quiet felt like a bad omen.

Apropos of nothing, the hair would stand up on my neck.  My breath would grow short and my heart would beat, rat-tat-tat, like an artillery tattoo, in my chest.

But in action, I was distracted,  attentive,  too focused on what was happening in that very moment to worry about what might happen in the future, even the immediate future.

And so the months went,  a pendulum between action and tedium,  fear and fatalism.

Eventually,  it was my turn for leave.  We were heading for a friendly port, and once there, I would be flying home for a week or so to see my family and my girl.

I hung in my hammock,  wrapped like a cocoon so I wouldn’t fall out,  swinging to and fro in the rough seas.  When I first came to the ship,  I found this movement rather sickening, but eventually I grew used to it and felt it comforting, like being rocked to sleep in a cradle.   The sound of the other guys snoring and grunting gave me comfort, for we were brothers and took care of each other.  I was sleeping peacefully,  dreaming of home.

And then, suddenly I was wide awake, up to my face in quickly-rising salt water,  the smell of fuel thick in the air. The ship had been hit by a torpedo and we were sinking fast.  I could see others floating around me, already dead.   I had only a few moments of consciousness left before it was my turn to drown.  I said a quick prayer and then gave myself over to remembering the last time my girl and I kissed.  And then I was gone.


——————

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 Measure of a Man

first published July 2, 2016michelangelo_david

Ke

I was the youngest of four brothers. My father had been a great athlete in his youth and he expected all of us to travel the same path. From the time we were old enough to walk, we were encouraged to run and swim and climb and throw and fight and do all the things that strong, powerful, masculine men do.  There was no sympathy for or indulgence in weakness of any kind.

We were raised to carry on his legend by becoming  the kind of men other men admired. As children,  we were expected to be braver, smarter, and more well-liked than other boys. It was impressed upon us from the time we were very young we must never do anything to tarnish our family name or reputation. There must never be even a whiff of controversy or disagreeability about us. We were raised to be kind to those weaker than ourselves. We defended injustice when we saw it.  We were helpful to those in need.  We were generally peaceful but strong and able enough to win a fight should someone else throw the first punch. We were raised to be real men, good men, admirable men.

I never doubted that my father’s values were well-placed. His moral compass was infallible.  I understood his reasoning in everything.  I lived to make him proud of me. And he was proud of me.  I was handsome, popular, smart, a champion athlete. I didn’t have to be coerced to adopt his values. I did not stay the course merely to please my father.  It was obvious to me that this was the right and proper way to be.  I felt fortunate to have his guidance knowing that others floundered with no beacon to light the way.

When I was about 13 or 14, an uncomfortable stirring began to nag at the back of my mind.  Other boys my age were thinking about girls.  In fact, that’s all they thought about. I kept waiting for that same fascination to arise in me. I expected to wake up one morning and find myself as lust-driven as my classmates. I worried that I did not share this irresistible biological urge. I told myself I was just a late bloomer. Or maybe my glands were afflicted in some way and not producing enough hormones. Perhaps I needed to eat more masculine foods. (I began a diet heavy in red meat, certain that would solve the problem.)

Meanwhile, I kept a low profile. It was not in my nature to lie, so instead I was reticent and shy. I didn’t want anyone to examine me too closely, to ask too many questions. My athletic skills were valuable to the various teams I played on, but I rarely socialized with the boys outside of practice.

When I was 17, I started dating a girl in my class.  This was done for the sake of appearances; to stave off the inevitable questions.  I did not want to have to explain why I didn’t have a girlfriend.  The answer was too complex and I didn’t even understand it, myself.  The girl was also shy and from a religious family. Our relationship was respectful and chaste, which was ideal as neither of us were interested in anything sexual, each for our own reasons.

When my friends started bragging about their conquests, I held my tongue. Even if I had been having sex, I still would not have shared my exploits. Such behavior was unseemly. They grudgingly admired me because I didn’t kiss and tell.

Eventually, I went off to university, far from home, away from the inquisitive eyes of anyone who had any preconceived notions about me, where I could start again with no preconceived notions about myself.

I had long harbored suspicions about myself, and they haunted me.  Such thoughts were terrifying and when my mind alighted upon them, I quickly changed the mental subject.  Eventually, however, the feelings, the desires, the need,  were too big to deny.  They screamed and barked and howled.  They would not stop, would not be silenced. They could no longer be ignored.

Here was my dilemma: if I could not face the truth about myself, I was a coward, and that I could not abide.  But if my suspicions were correct, my life was a ruin.

But the truth could no longer be denied, and so it was there that I discovered what I was.

This knowledge ripped my sense of self right out from under me. It went against everything I’d ever believed I was, everything I’d spent my life preparing to be. I’d become that thing that brings shame on the family; that thing that can never be accepted; that thing that made a mockery of my father’s fine lessons in manhood.

I could not be my true self and remain part of my own family. They would never accept me as now knew I was. And now that I knew, I could not pretend to them to be otherwise. By deceit, I already put myself apart from them, even if they didn’t know.

And so, I was cast adrift with no moral anchor. What did it matter if I was brave and strong and true? I was still a mockery of a man.

But then, who could I be? I needed a new identity, a new way of being, a new skin. I tried on quite a few, but nothing felt comfortable. No matter who I tried to be, it all felt like a costume, a pretense, a role that wasn’t at all natural. I had been taught to be a certain kind of man, and now all those lessons were pointless.  What was left?  Who was I?  What was I?  I spent several wasted years adrift, searching but not finding the answers. I did things that, had they known, would have disgraced my family.  I was not always honest nor brave nor true.  Even crying filled me with shame.

I couldn’t be myself anymore and I couldn’t be anyone else, either.  I was nothing.  Nobody.  Nothing about me was true or real. There was no reason for me to exist.

And so, at 24, I hanged myself.  I did not leave a note. I did not reveal my secret. The act of suicide, itself, I knew, would be shameful enough.

The pain was ultimately intolerable but from this side I can appreciate the understanding that has followed from it. This loss of identity, the complete denial of ego, and the accompanying torment provided the most valuable lessons I have ever been shown in any lifetime.

There needs to be a balance between feeling the importance of the self and realizing how unimportant we really are.

——————

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 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 said 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 so in a very 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.

——————

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

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: