The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the tag “universal wisdom”

Decisions? Decisions! Decisions.

First published January 18, 2018 

Cel

I grew up in a small farming town with an older sister and two younger brothers.  My sister and I could not have been more different.  She was everything I was not but wished I could be.  She took risks whereas I was afraid of change. She did as she pleased, while I was afraid of disappointing others. She was outgoing and made friends easily, while I tended to trust only those I’d known all my life.

She left home as soon as she was old enough and headed to a big city, where she found rewarding work and moved in a large circle of interesting friends.  She had many admirers, and eventually married a successful man who loved her and treated her well. They traveled extensively and saw the most exotic corners of the world.  They had two children — my niece and a nephew — whom I only saw perhaps once a decade.

I stayed put, rarely venturing more than half a day’s journey from home. I envied her life, but I knew I could never follow in her path.  My brothers, rather than envy her, resented her for leaving them with a heavier load in the care of our parents.  They were happy to remain in our town; content with their lives. The difference between my brothers and me was that while I despised myself for my fears, they either did not have any or they pushed them down so thoroughly or disguised them to themselves, they were not aware of them.

There are many kinds of fear in the world, but I suffered from a particular brand of cowardice that permeates small towns. I was afraid of making a mistake with my life; of doing something unfortunate which could not be undone, so I let others make choices for me.  Before I committed to a suitor, I needed my family’s approval. I was afraid to venture into the unknown lest what I believed to be right be proven wrong.  I hesitated to make my own moral decisions for fear I’d end up in Hell, and so I followed the rules of the church.

In a small, closed community, politics is little more than institutionalized gossip, power struggles among the powerless, and petty vengeance. Those who are willing to speak most loudly are those who seize control. And so it was in our town.  No one attempted to topple the pecking order; it was simply accepted as the natural way of things. Our brand of cowardice preferred a strong, confident person telling us what was right and wrong, even if it wasn’t.

Gossip was a necessary evil which kept us obedient. The worry that our deepest personal secrets might be publicly revealed,  perhaps discussed at a church social or whispered about in the beauty salon as if we were a character in a tawdry novel, was enough to keep most of us on the straight and narrow.

Those who did not fear change, who were willing to speak truth to power, who embraced the unknown, who thrived on risk,  quickly came to the conclusion that if they didn’t leave, they would wither and die.  They, like my sister, made their escape and rarely returned.

I envied my sister for breaking away; for being brave enough to create her own version of happiness while I remained riveted to my unchallenged, uneventful life.

I did not have much trouble or sadness or conflict while I lived, so I assumed I was happy. I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.  I nurtured my children, obeyed my husband, did the requisite charity work, faithfully attended church.  Others made my decisions for me.

Because of all this, I missed many opportunities.

 

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 Engine of Progress

First published 11/9/16

hill-steam-engine-patent-drawing-from-1883-vintage-aged-pixel

Ipo

We want in every moment that which we do not have… a thing, an experience, a feeling. This need propels our lives forward. It is the engine of growth and progress. Yet it prevents us from the peace of being content in the present.

____

—-

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!
-Adrienne22

Each Grain of the Sand

First published Oct 31, 2016

 

 

praying-in-desert

 

Kem

My existence was not an easy one.  I, with my people,  lived in some of the harshest conditions on Earth,  with extremes of temperature and few natural resources. We were raised to battle others over what little there was. We fought fiercely out of necessity. We roamed the desert, living a way of life that our people had done for millennia,  herding,  trading,  traveling.

But despite the difficulties and uncertainty of such a life,  I remained  happy and peaceful.  My family thought I was simple in the head, and I suppose I was, but simple is not stupid.  Without bothering to contradict them,  I simply considered it a more intelligent way to live.

I reveled in every moment, every sensation. At prayer time,  I rolled out my rug to the east like the others, but unlike them, I did not say my prayers,  not aloud and not silently to myself. I did not occupy my mind with God, but rather cleared it of everything, making myself an empty vessel, allowing myself to be filled.

I smelled the air, infused with the scent of cooking fires and of the animals and of the other men,  sometimes of date palms and fresh water.  I felt the warmth of the rising sun or the heat of noon or chill of the wind after the dusk.  I noticed the shadows as they changed throughout the day and the colors of our shelters against the orange sand. I did not worry that God would punish me because I did not say the proscribed prayers.  I felt my own method was worship enough.

I loved the low humming of the sand when the wind passed over the dunes.  I was comforted by the familiar bellowing of the camels.  I listened for the skittering, hissing noise of the beetles in the quiet of the night.  I felt safe hearing the muffled conversations of women inside their tents.

Not every sensation was pleasant.  There was heat and thirst,  naturally,  but there was pain of an injury or insect bite.  There was illness and eventually the infirmities of age.  There was the terrifying, swirling, howling blackness of the sand storm.

There were many occasions to be afraid — of nature and of men — but I rarely felt fear.  I was prepared to accept whatever might be.  If it was my time to die, I was prepared for that as well.  I was at peace with myself and my maker.

 

___

—-

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

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

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: