It's a little known fact, but parents are like superheroes. With just a few magic words they can make you feel ten feet tall and bulletproof, they can slay the dragons of doubt and worry, they can make your problems disappear. But of course they can only do this as long as you're a child. When you've become an adult, become the master of your own universe, they're not as powerful as they once were. Maybe that's why so many of us take our time growing up.
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Others of us are lost. We're forever seeking. We torture ourselves with philosophies and ache to see the world. We question everything, even our own existence. We ask a lifetime of questions and are never satisfied with the answers because we don't recognize anyone as an authority to give them. We see life and the world as an enormous puzzle that we might never understand, that our questions might go unanswered until the day we die, almost never occurs to us. And when it does, it fills us with dread.
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Parenthood wasn't about blood or biology, he found; it was about a joyful willingness to give yourself over, to subordinate your own needs for someone else's. When you loved your kids, you'd give up everything to keep them safe and make them happy, and you didn't care about the other things, the ones that went away.
Depression is not dramatic, but it is total. It's sneaky - you almost don't notice it at first. Like a cat burglar, it comes in through an open window while you're sleeping. It takes little things at first; your appetite, your desire to return phone calls. Then it comes back for the big stuff, like your will to live. Then next thing you know, your legs are filled with sand. The thought of brushing your teeth fills you with dread, it seems like such an impossible task. Suddenly you're living your life in black and white - nothing is bright, nothing is pretty anymore. Music sounds tinny and distant. Things you found funny seem dull and off-key.
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When you start to really know someone, all his physical characteristics start to disappear. You begin to dwell in his energy, recognize the scent of his skin. You see only the essence of the person, not the shell. That's why you can't fall in love with beauty. You can lust after it, be infatuated by it, want to own it. You can love it with your eyes and body but not your heart. And that's why, when you really connect with a person's inner self, any physical imperfections disappear, become irrelevant.
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I think most people are just trying to be happy, and that most of their actions, however misguided, are in line with that goal. Most people just want to feel they belong somewhere, want to be loved, and want to feel they're important to someone. If you really examine all the wrongheaded and messed-up things they do, they can most often be traced back to that basic desire. The abusers, the addicted, the cruel and unpleasant, the manipulators -these are just people who started this quest for happiness in the basement of their lives. Someone communicated to them through word or deed that they were undeserving, so they think they have to claw their way there over the backs of others, leaving scars and creating damage. Of course, they only create more misery for themselves and others.
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They don't find peace. It's pure bullshit. When something unspeakable happens, or when you do something unspeakable, it changes you. It takes you apart and reassembles you. You are a Frankenstein of circumstance, and the parts never fit back quite right and the life you live is a stolen one. You don't deserve to walk among the living, and you know it.
It was a strange lightness, a drifting feeling. Zero gravity. I understood that everything that once seemed solid and immovable might just float away. And that this was a truth of life, not an illusion in the grieving mind of a child. Everything that is hard and heavy in your world is made up of billions of molecules in constant motion offering the illusion of permanence. But it all tends toward breaking down and falling away. Some things just go more quickly, more surprisingly, than others.
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A child who's been injured by a parent waits her whole life for some acknowledgment of the wrong that's been done, some validation from him that her pain is real, that he's sorry and will make amends. The child will wait forever, unable to move forward, unable to forgive, without someone to acknowledge the past. In that powerlessness comes a terrible rage.
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My uncle Max was a mountain, a shooting star, a big bear of a man, a piggyback ride waiting to happen, his pockets full of candy and, later money, or whatever the particular currency of our ages happened to be. He was rock concerts, baseball games, he was yes when my parents were no, he was a consolation for every disappointment.
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I don't believe in mistakes. Never have. I believe that there are a multitude of paths before us and it's just a matter of which way we walk home. I don't believe in regret. If you regret things about your life, than I'll bet that you're not paying attention. Regret is just imagining that you know what would have happened if you took that job in California or married your high-school sweetheart or just looked one more time before you stepped out into the street ... or didn't. But you don't know; you can't possibly know.
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And we stood like that. The joining of hands is highly underrated in the acts of intimacy. You kiss acquaintances or colleagues, casually to say hello or good-bye. You might even kiss a close friend chastely on the lips. You might quickly hug anyone you knew. You might even meet someone at a party, take him home and sleep with him, never to see him or hear from him again. But to join hands and stand holding each other that way, with the electricity of possibilities flowing between you? The tenderness of it, the promise of it, is only something you share with a few people in your life.
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How many people can you claim truly care about you? I mean, not just the people in your life who are fun to hang out with, not just the people who you love and trust. But people who feel good when you are happy and successful, feel bad when you are hurt or going through a hard time, people who would walk away from their lives for a little while to help you with yours?
When you start to really know someone, all his physical characteristics start to disappear. You begin to dwell in his energy, recognize the scent of his skin. You see only the essence of the person,not the shell. That's why you can't fall in love with beauty. You can lust after it, be infatuated by it, want to own it. You can love it with your eyes and body but not your heart. And that's why, when you really connect with a person's inner self, any physical imperfections disappear, become irrelevant.
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Michael Koryta is that rare author who is at once a compelling story teller and a fantastic writer. From the first sentence of THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD, you'll be under his spell. His characters are living, breathing people you'll care about; his setting is a place you'll visit and stay-long after you've decided to leave because you're scared. You can't leave; you're trapped. There are too many nerve-jangling, beautifully written, razor sharp moments and you won't want to miss a single one. This is an absolute sizzler.
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