Trying Not to Be a Miserable Person

There are a lot of miserable people in the world, and though they claim to want to be happy, some seem to cultivate misery as if it were a spectacular hot house plant and others seem to cling to it as if it were a warm cloak that protects them from the winds of change.

There is something very compelling about misery — it makes you feel as if you are more than you are, because only someone very special can suffer so deeply. I felt that peculiar pull when I was going through grief. Grief seemed to give my life meaning, made it seem as if I were experiencing something profound, made it seem as if eternity were just around the next bend. Grief wasn’t my choice of course. It found me, and I followed where led, but still, beneath all the pain, I felt . . . significant.

As much as I hated feeling so miserable, when grief began to wane, I found myself grieving the loss of angelgrief. I no longer felt connected to something outside myself, something immense and immensely important. I was just me, and it didn’t seem enough.

Grief is not my constant companion any more, and when I feel its touch, sometimes I let myself cry for a moment or two, and then I get tired of it. I don’t want to be miserable. Don’t want to find importance in despondency. Don’t want to see gloom as a goal. Even if joy isn’t as compelling as misery for me and my readers, it’s still where I want to go. (My “joy” articles get a fraction of the views my grief articles do, which makes sense. When we are grieving, we look for help; when we are happy, we don’t need help.)

I recently read an article by Cloe Madanes — “The 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People,” which made me realize that one can choose to be miserable or one can choose to live a life of peace and joy. For the most part, I’m doing well at not being miserable. For example, I try not to cultivate boredom, worry about money, or give myself a negative identity. (I’m a dancer now, don’t you know!)

Occasionally I mistakenly attribute bad intentions to other people’s innocent (and not so innocent) remarks or actions, which sometimes leads to clashes. I don’t try to pick fights, though I do sometimes end up in conflicts with others when I express my disappointments or try to keep from being taken for granted. This has always been a hard line for me to walk. When does sticking up for yourself fall over the edge into negative behavior? I mean, we need to protect ourselves and keep others from demanding more than we can give, and yet those “others” often think the worst of us when we do, hence the conflicts. On the other hand, giving in to avoid conflict seems just as bad. Either way, misery results. Since the goal is to avoid such misery, I hope someday I’ll be able to figure this out.

I don’t do things simply for personal gain, though being paid for work is good. I’m certainly not glorifying or vilifying the past, since as far as I’m concerned, the past can stay in the past. And I try not to be critical of myself or others. (Apparently being critical is a great way to make yourself miserable.) I do ruminate, of course, and tend over think everything, but as a writer, I do have to think so I have things to say, don’t I? Still, I am learning just to be. (Dancing helps. It’s hard to ruminate when one is focused on the learning the steps.)

Most of all, I try to cultivate a sense of gratitude. I am very grateful for all the joys of my life, my friends, my dance classes, the days that lack any kind of misery.

It’s a start.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Is It True that Grief Has Limits Whereas Apprehension Has None?

“Grief has limits, where as apprehension has none. For we grieve only for what we know has happened, but we fear all that possibly may happen.” — Pliny the Younger, Roman judge and man of letters 61-113 A.D.

A friend left the above quote on my Facebook profile, and it has made me wonder if Pliny the Younger is right. (Also made me wonder if there is a Pliny the Elder, so I looked it up. Yes, there is, and he is Younger’s uncle. Both men were witnesses to the eruption to Vesuvius, though Elder did not survive the eruption. I knew that. Just forgot it.)

roadI wonder how much Younger grieved his uncle, or anyone, because grief doesn’t seem to have limits. It is true that even profound grief wanes, but the nature of such grief is that when something brings the deceased love one to mind years afterward, reminding us of our loss, our grief can be as raw as it was at the beginning.

Fear, on the other hand, does have limits. As Teach, one of the characters in Daughter Am I, says:

“Mob bosses ran their businesses like fiefdoms—they demanded total loyalty, but felt no need to treat their underlings fairly. They thought they could rule by fear, but when fear is around every corner, people lose their fear of the fear. They sometimes even lose their fear of the ones administering the fear.

“All the bodyguards and all those layers of insulation the bosses surrounded themselves with weren’t just to protect themselves from the law and from their rivals, but also from their own disgruntled employees.”

People have criticized my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire for my having the characters let go of their fear of both the red death and the quarantine, but the truth is, fear — and apprehension — get so exhausting, it loses its tension like overstretched elastic, and it just lets go of us. We human creatures also have a prodigious capacity to adjust to most circumstances, even fearful ones. Besides, there’s not much of a story if the characters simply hide from their fate. Some have to go meet their fear head on.

I haven’t had to deal with anything truly fearsome in my life, like an epidemic or torture or having hot lava rain down on me, but I am apprehensive at times when I think about having to leave my present situation taking care of my aged father. I don’t know where I am going to go, how I will live, or even where I will live. Still, whatever scenarios my apprehensive mind conjures, none of them can compare in any way to the pain of losing my life mate soul mate.

I am currently grieving the loss of a long time friend, a loss that has come not through death but misunderstanding and heartbreak, and that grief too is worse than any apprehension I might have, especially since I haven’t been able to sort through all that happened in order to make sense of the loss.

It’s possible I simply don’t have a strong enough imagination for apprehension to be greater than grief. Or maybe it’s that I’m learning to take life as it comes. Or perhaps it’s the knowledge that no matter what fearsome circumstances I will face, there I will be. A survivor.

***

Until November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Is It Fun Being You?

I watched a tape of an old “Boston Legal” show the other night. Although I don’t particularly like the series — it was mostly smugly rich lawyers in a large firm behaving badly — the byplay between William Shatner (Denny Crane) and James Spader (Alan Shore) was riveting. You don’t see many instances of male friendship in movies or on TV, which is compelling enough, but the two characters often talk about matters that are beyond the general fare of television. (Not that I would know — I seldom watch television, though I have a couple of series and a couple of partial series on tape for no other reason than that I have them.)

One such conversation occurred during the show I viewed. Denny, despite his growing Alzheimer’s, had just experienced a triumph over his ilness by having a significant impact on a trial, and afterward while decompressing with Shore on the balcony of Denny’s office, Denny says, “It’s fun being me.” Then he turns to Shore and asks, “Is it fun being you?”

Such a simple question, one I had never considered. Is it fun being me? Although I can’t get the question out of my mind, I truly have no answer to it. I have fun, of course, and while fun is not my raison d’etre, perhaps it should be. Life dumps plenty of sorrow and responsibility on me — I certainly don’t need to heap more problems on myself, and besides, having fun would help balance my life.

But that was not the question. Denny did not ask, “Are you having fun?” He asked, “Is it fun being you?” — which is something completely different.

I’m the one in glasses.

I’ve always taken life and myself too seriously to have fun being me. Oddly, Alan Shore once described me when I was young without knowing he was doing so. As he says to one of his female associates, “When I look at you, I see one of those little schoolgirls, running around in her plaid skirt, always to class on time, the first to raise her hand, the neatest of . . . penmanship.” Yup. That was me.

I’m trying not to take things so seriously, though it’s hard when I seem to be always in the middle of other people’s life and death situations. Still, I need a more lighthearted approach than simply not taking life so seriously. Since I will need to find a new focus for the next twenty or thirty years (assuming I live as long as my mother did) perhaps that focus should be not just being me as I’ve been trying to do, but having fun being me.

And I’ve already taken the first step. Dance class is teaching me many things besides dancing: to be accepting of (and maybe even celebrating) imperfections in me and everyone else; to be committed to something life changing outside my normal purview; to find joy in movement, especially synced movement; to be happy in the moment; and most of all, to enjoy being someone who enjoys dancing.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Standing on an Unbuilt Bridge to the Future

It’s not often a picture speaks to me. I’m not particularly visual, which is why I write and dance rather than paint. Still, I keep thinking of the Three of Wands tarot image painted by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. The picture is of a woman accompanied only by a cat, standing on the end of an uncompleted bridge arcing out over a river far below. The meaning of the card is about seeking what is uncharted, expanding one’s horizons, taking a long view, moving fearlessly into new areas, trusting that the bridge will form beneath our feet as we tread beyond what we know. (The symbolism of the cat wasn’t explained, but traditionally, cats tend to give us messages of change, flexibility, adaptability, beckoning us to realize that when we turn within to our own hearts, minds and souls, and trust in ourselves, we will always be shown the truth of matters.)

I’ve been researching various other interpretations of the Three of Wands card, and though there is some difference of opinion, generally the card means, besides just expanding one’s horizons, looking away from the past to an unknown future, dreaming beyond current limitations, trusting in oneself (when there is no one else to help, we can always look to ourselves and never be let down), and new opportunities for financial success. This card often is about traveling to actual places, but it also refers to other travels such as fresh starts, new insights, and even dance. (Bruce Chatwin wrote: “To dance is to go on pilgrimage.”)

This was the first tarot card I ever drew for myself (actually, I didn’t draw it, it fell out of the deck when I was shuffling the cards), and it will probably be the last because I wouldn’t want to dilute its power. The card hints at a visionary and creative future for me, and gives me a image of myself that I’d like to believe — strong and fearless, embracing the unknown, willing to go beyond the ordinary even if I have to go alone.

Perhaps that image of me isn’t true now, but as I continue to change, continue to be open to whatever happens, continue to believe that something awesome (in the sense of causing both fear and wonder) lies ahead, then the world will lie open at my feet.

Now that I think about it, isn’t this true of all of us? We’re standing on an unbuilt bridge to the future, the past behind us, the bridge growing beneath our feet when we walk. There’s nothing really to be gained by looking back, especially since looking back could cause us to lose our balance. So, like the woman in Stephanie Pui-Mun Law’s lovely painting, we go forward, trusting, hoping, believing . . .

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

As If Somehow It Were Meant to Be

Some people believe everything happens for a reason. Although I’m not one of those people, I had a strange experience today that made me wonder if for some unknown reason (unknown to me that is) I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

It all started three and a half years ago on my birthday. I was sitting in a Mexican restaurant with friends from my grief support group. They gave me cards and gifts, and even sang “happy birthday” to me over candlelit flan. I remember thinking how far I’d come from the life I’d lived with my life mate/soul mate, and how a year previously, when he was dying, I could never have ever imagined such a felicitous occasion.

On that very same day, a lovely and still youthful woman was murdered, and an older man died an agonizing death.

A week or two later, the woman’s mother and the man’s wife began attending the same grief support group I did, and we eventually became friends, though the friendship is often rocky — you could not find three people more disparate than we are.

The mother has been staunch in her fight to get her daughter’s murderer behind bars, and finally, just the other day, he was arrested. Today was the arraignment.

speedI wasn’t aware of the arraignment, but when our friend, the wife, called me on a different matter and mentioned she was on her way to the courthouse, I was but a block away. And so I joined the other two women at the arraignment.

Courthouse officials told us the wrong courtroom (and there was no docket anywhere that we could check), so we sat through the arraignment of dozens of people we had no interest in. (As it turns out, the mother didn’t miss anything. The accused put in an appearance, but we talked to a lawyer who had been in the right courtroom, and he told us the “alleged” murder’s family said they’d get a lawyer, and so the arraignment was postponed until tomorrow.)

But I did learn something. The courtroom we were in looked like courtrooms you see in movies — all lovely oak (or faux oak), with a bench extending across the entire front of the room, a long table in front of the bench with a placard on each side designating plaintiff or defendant, a railing, and then the seating gallery behind the railing. But that was where the similarity ended. Except for the bailiff and a few onlookers, there were no people visible. Since the arraignments took place via television, all we could see was the orange-garbed defendant on a screen angled our way. We could hear the judge’s bored voice as he droned the charges and what he was going to go about them, but the judge, the clerk, and the court reporter, though physically present, were all completely hidden behind computer screens.

So why was I there at the courthouse today? I don’t know. It just seems odd that I was nudged in that direction, especially since the arraignment didn’t happen. Even odder, though we were all born far from this dusty desert town, our three lives converged on that very moment in the courthouse, as if somehow it were meant to be.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Life As A Matter Of Punctuated Equilibrium

I’m still cleaning out my past — spent a few hours this afternoon going through boxes after dance class and lunch with friends.

It’s amazing that in the presence of another person (in this case my sister), it’s harder to justify keeping things that have lain unused for decades, so I got rid of more than I might have done if I were alone.

In my misspent youth, I managed a fabric store for a national chain, and I still had boxes of fabric left over from that time. Those are the boxes we went through today. Luckily, a friend agreed to take the fabric off my hands, so now even more of my past is gone. It feels good. Things are a responsibility and that responsibility weighs heavily on me. It will be nice to journey into my unknown future feeling so much lighter.

Odd about that future. I’ve been assuming it will be wonderful since I’ve been paying karmic debts or dues or some such with all the epic traumas I’ve dealt with the past four and a half years, yet someone made a comment today that makes me wonder if perhaps I’m being uncharacteristically optimistic.

He said, “There’s a dramatic tension in your journey, Pat. I’m not sure if the universe will eventually smile on you, and I have this nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach, but we’re rooting for you to achieve a harmonic convergence. You may have a destiny as our guru and guide. You’re certainly paying a price for the upcoming payoff. Is it a bloody hammer of God or a bouquet?”

Eek.

Perhaps the courage to deal with traumas makes them possible. Perhaps ever-increasing traumas prepare the way for even greater traumas, and I am in for a “bloody hammer of God” sort of future. It seems impossible there could be more traumas waiting for me, but then, I couldn’t have imagined the soul-deep traumas I’ve had to deal with during the past few years, such as grieving the death of my life mate/soul mate, dealing with my dysfunctional brother, and taking care of my father during his final years. Nor could I have ever imagined my reaction to such traumas — the shocking and breath-stealing agony of my grief, the horrific journey taking my brother back to Colorado and the 1000 miles of tears afterward, the continued frustrations over my father’s struggle to maintain his parental authority while expecting me to baby him.

sunflowerI suppose it’s just as well we can’t envision our futures. It would probably be terrifying to know what was in store for us. Even knowing that blazing joy rather than epic sorrow is waiting would be terrifying because it would be so alien. And even if we weren’t terrified of awesome bliss, there would be the fear of it never happening or if it did occur, that we wouldn’t believe we deserved it.

Besides, the person who has to deal with that future is not the person of today. Life is a matter of punctuated equilibrium. Nothing happens, and then everything happens. We change little by little, and then something big happens, and we change a lot, though sometimes — maybe most times — we don’t feel the changes. But they are there. (I doubt the subjects of evolution feel the changes, either. Species go about their daily business until the equilibrium of their lives and ecosystems are punctuated by change, and then you find alterations in the fossil record showing what seems to be the truth.) It’s that changed person (as well as the changed species) who has deal with what will come.

Whatever happens in the future — a bloody hammer of God or bouquets — I had a good day today. No one can ask for more than that.

Can you tell I’m smiling as I write this?  It really was good day, but then, any day that includes dancing and friends is good.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Cleaning up the Past

Many people I know seem to be suddenly delving into their past — getting DNA results to see their ancestry, trying to trace their family trees, or even doing past life regressions.

At one time I was interested in my roots, even kept a few notes from conversations with my parents, but now, I don’t really care. Since I know who my parents were to a small extent, where they came from, what their medical history is, I realize I have the luxury of not caring. Those who don’t know their parents, such as adoptees, lack that luxury.

My non-caring is more than simply indulging in such luxury, though. It’s about being who I am, not who I am in relation to who I used to be or in relation to everyone around me, but who I am right now. Today. This minute. Once I was a newborn, a child, an adolescent, a young adult, a part of a couple. Today . . . none of that matters. None of those permutations seem to have anything to do with me, as if somewhere, light years behind me, each of those people still has some sort of existence separate from me.

I started shredding my past yesterday, and continued with the exercise today. Things that once were important no longer seem to have any meaning at all. I have a hunch it’s because whoever I was in that past is gone. I am changed beyond anything that erstwhile “I” would recognize.

This disconnect with the past began when my life mate/soul mate died. (He was only 63. Seems so very young!) And somehow taking my dysfunctional brother back to Colorado finished the disconnect. For the past four years I’ve felt as if somehow I was born anew. Back then, I was born into the world of grief, but now? Maybe I’m becoming who I was always meant to be. Whatever that is.

I will keep a lot of stuff, of course. Someday I will have to settle down, and it will be good to have essentials such as pots and pans and towels, perhaps even some fripperies to remind me of my past. Or not. Without a special someone to love, without something to hang on to, I might just be blowing in the wind.

For whatever reason, it feels good to be getting rid of things. Very cleansing. Periodically, I consider getting rid of everything I own, and maybe someday I will do so. But not today.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Life’s Little Lessons

If one is aware of one’s surroundings, life lessons abound.

A long time ago, I used to be sort of a Kelly girl. (I was actually a Welley girl — the independent temp agency was run by the Welley’s, a husband and wife team.) In those days, the economy was such that I could work one or two weeks a month at a few cents above minimum wage, pay all my bills for my own apartment and car and have money left over for fun. (Or for saving.) Those days, of course, are long gone — you can’t have much of a life if you make only slightly above minimum wage — but the lessons I learned are still with me.

jugglingFor example, one time I started a temporary job the same time a newly hired employee began a permanent job. She was nice, attractive, competent, but people didn’t particular cotton to her because she tried to fit in. Makes sense — that was going to be her life, and she wanted to make friends, and they weren’t ready for changes to the status quo. On the other hand, I had no stake in the job. I put in my time, was pleasant to everyone, but didn’t try to be friends with anyone. After a month or so, she was not accepted (wouldn’t be accepted for another few weeks), but amoeba-like, the group had absorbed me, the non-threatening one. Ever since, when joining a new group, I don’t try to insinuate myself into the group, but simply be there, be pleasant, and enjoy whatever fellowship comes my way.

I’ve been taking dance classes occasionally with a more advanced group at the studio, one that has been together a long time. I expected a bit of resistance when I was first invited to practice the dances I knew with them, but it didn’t happen. I never tried to be more than I was — a neophyte delighted to be dancing with more advanced students — and they seemed to accept me as such without even a hint of unwelcome. I’m sure if I had tried to push my weight around, things would have been different, but since all I want to do is dance, we’re doing fine.

The same thing happened with group I go walking with. I walked with different people at different times, sometimes talked, sometimes asked questions, listened, and somehow I ended up making a lot of friends.

Other lessons are harder to learn. I’ve always been a bit of a worrier. This tendency might be a genetic pre-disposition since my parents were both worriers and fidgeters, it might be learned behavior, or it might simply be . . . whatever. I’m trying to overcome that tendency to worry, though I will always be aware of potential snags in order to avoid them if possible, but I no longer wish to waste time fretting.

People worry about me and my future, which I appreciate, but I’m not too concerned. I’ll find a way to make money, or maybe money will find a way to me. More importantly, I’m preparing the best I can by learning not to worry. I see how my 97-year-old father frets about the most trivial things, and I don’t want to be like that when I get old. Don’t want to be like that now!

For example, last night he rang his emergency bell, and both my sister and I went running to see what the problem was. The emergency? He had two bottles of Ensure by his bed, one for 1:00 am and one for 7:00 am, but he didn’t have the one he would need sixteen hours later at l:00 pm. Apparently, he’d been lying awake stewing about it, and so in his mind, it became an emergency.

The whole Ensure thing is ridiculous anyway. There is no reason for him to be drinking so much Ensure at night, though he refuses to listen to my sister and me when we tell him that those extra hundreds of sugar calories are what’s keeping him awake. Still, since he is insistent on following his self-imposed schedule, I solved the problem. I now store all his Ensure in his room instead of in the pantry. (He can walk to the pantry, just refuses to do so.) He can set as many bottles as he wants by the side of his bed, and if by chance a bottle is not by his bed when he wants it, he only needs to walk across the room to get it. But it will be by the side of his bed. He will “ensure” that.

When I find myself fretting, I stop and take a deep breath. My worries are for the future, not this minute. And this very minute, I have nothing to fret about.

Lesson learned, perhaps.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Invoking the Spirits

There is a restless spirit in my father’s house, where my sister and I are staying to care for him.

We think this spirit is my father’s. He doesn’t seem to have any interest in living, doesn’t particularly want to die. He is very agitated, doesn’t much want to do anything except sleep and drink Ensure, though he does get out of bed occasionally when a good golf game is on television.

This spirit could be our own spent spirits — taking care of someone who neither wants to live or die is exhausting, especially since he won’t do anything for himself, even though he is stronger than he thinks.

This spirit could even be my mother’s. My sister sometimes senses mother’s spirit here along with another ghost, though she doesn’t know who that other spirit is, perhaps someone from my father’s past. She wonders if the spirits are gathering in anticipation of my father’s end. Since I am not convinced anything conscious remains after we die, I don’t know what to think.

Still, tonight my sister and I did an invocation of the spirits — ours and our mother’s. Since she loved Bailey’s Irish Cream, we got a bottle in her honor, raised our glasses to her and asked her help in settling my father’s spirit.

(We only poured a little for her, but we told her if she drank it, we’d give her more.)

And if  this invocation doesn’t work, well, we have the rest of the bottle of Irish spirits to imbibe to bring peace of a sort to ourselves. I’m not much of a drinker, have had perhaps one drink in the past four or five years, but since this is a spiritual quest, I will do my part in finishing the bottle.

So, if you have any Bailey’s Irish Cream on hand (or if you need an excuse to buy a small bottle), please raise a glass in my parents’ honor.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Current and Recurrent Trends

My life is so chaotic right now, I have a hard time figuring out where I am and what I’m doing. Cultural reference points aren’t helping, either. Yesterday I saw someone in a huge Afro. Something in my mind slid sideways, and for a second, I felt as if I were back in the 1970s. I didn’t find out until today that Afros are back in style. (As you can see, I don’t exactly keep up with current and recurrent trends.)

massesAt the grocery store today, the guy standing in front of me was wearing his pants down below his buttocks. So not an attractive look! I never expected the droopy drawers trend to last so many decades, but there he was. Even worse, he was very tall, his waist about my eye level. He alternated hitching his pants up and pulling them down so that they were always binding his legs together. He was wearing a heavy coat that ended at his thighs (despite it being 100 degrees today) and I thanked my lucky stars that he never raised his arms.

The guy behind me had Ubangi ears. (I’m sorry if this is a racial slur. I don’t intend it as such, but my only experience with earlobes that hang down to one’s shoulders is from National Geographic magazines that were already old when I was young.) I can’t even begin to connect such a trend to a decade, though I have periodically seen such “decorations” during the past ten years.

I drove back to the house with my car full of groceries for other people (somehow I forget to buy stuff for me. It’s a wonder I’m not wasting away, but I am far from being Twiggy-esque). I could see that the couple in the decades-old car in front of me was smoking, their arms snaking out of the windows at frequent intervals, their fingers flicking like forked tongues.

It would be interesting to think that all these people have slipped into our current time, visiting, perhaps, or simply taking in the sights. But more probably the problem is me. I’m out of step and getting very crotchety.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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