Inviting Myself to Dream, Explore, Believe

Yesterday I moved energy around. Today I moved two carloads of stuff around. Took the things to a friend who has a use for them. At least I hope she does, otherwise I’ve just used her as a dump. Of course, she’s also free to move the stuff around. It’s hers now.

Someone used me as a means of moving energy/stuff around — she gave me her tarot cards and the book to help me interpret the meanings of my readings. I’m not really into tarot or any sort of divination for that matter. If we can change the future, then it doesn’t matter what the predicted future is, and if we can’t change it, it doesn’t matter either.

Still, out of curiosity, I did a one-card tarot reading where you ask a question and the cards give you some sort of answer.

Right before Jeff died, he told me things would come together for me. And recently, my publisher said he has a strong feeling things will work out for me. Of course, I’d like to know how they will work out. I mean, personal and financial successes are ways of things working out, but so is death. (That is how things work out for all of us in the end.) But I gave the cards a break and simply asked if things will come together for me.

I dealt myself a fantastic card, the Three of Wands, painted by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. The picture is of a woman accompanied only by a cat, standing on the end of a bridge to the edge of the world. It arcs out across the sky, and ends abruptly, a shimmering river far below. She is obviously standing on the edge of the precipice, wondering where to go. (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? That seems to be a recurring theme in my wonderings on this blog.)

Knowing that sparkling potential waits for her, she takes a step. And it is not emptiness that meets her unhesitating foot, but sturdy rock and shale. She continues to walk, the bridge growing beneath her feet with every step.

Wooo. Seems apropos, doesn’t it? And so much like an answer to my question. Just go, believe in the journey, and everything will come together when I need it.

The section about the Three of Wands in Shadowscapes Companion by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore ends with, “The Three of Wands invites you to explore, seek out the uncharted, expand your horizons. Take a long view of situations and express leadership.”

I’m not sure how much leadership one can express when one is alone at the end of bridge that is being dreamed into existence as one walks upon it, but otherwise, it’s exactly what I’ve been inviting myself to do — dream, explore, believe.

***

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.

Hypnotism and Hocus-Pocus

I must be getting old.

I just got back from what was supposed to be a comedic show — it was billed as hilarious hypnotism and hilarious hocus-pocus. I appreciated the invitation and the treat. I liked having an excuse to get out of the house, and I especially enjoyed being with my friends, but the show was not particularly to my taste. The magician was okay, though a bit childish. But the hypnotist . . .

The hypnotist himself was not funny at all, though the audience seemed to find the antics he put his subjects through humorous. I found the whole thing more appalling than amusing. I realize the subjects were eager to be hypnotizestaged — they ran up the stage steps to make sure they were chosen, and avidly did everything they were asked. (I also closed my eyes and tried to follow along with his hypnotic instructions, but I have to admit my nodding off was more boredom than relaxation.) Still, watching people being played with like puppets wasn’t thrilling for me, especially when they had to act if they’d smelled people passing gas, felt as if they were afflicted with hemorrhoids, or were made to think they saw something obscene or terrifying.

I am way past the age where body humor or sadism holds any fascination. (To be honest, it never did — I’ve never been able to understand the attraction of the Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, and most comic books.) Even the innocuous things the hypnotist did like leaning his subjects against or on top of each other didn’t sit well with me. All I could think of was the danger of such propinquity among strangers and the diseases they could be catching.

Yep, too old.

One of the women I went with is a hypnotherapist, so if I ever want to know what it’s like to be hypnotized, or if I want to explore my past lives, I could do so. Since I don’t believe in reincarnation, it might be interesting to see what, if anything, my mind could conjure as a past. On the other hand, I’m not sure I care. I’m having a hard enough time with this life, learning whatever lessons come my way. In fact, I will be truly disappointed if I find out that reincarnation is real and I have to keep coming back — I’d just as soon be done with it all. (Which is probably why I don’t believe it reincarnation or any sort of consciousness after life — I don’t want it to be so. Oblivion sounds fine to me because obviously I wouldn’t be around to know that I’m oblivious. But I digress . . .)

Still, I’m glad I went. It was a unique experience for me since I’d never gone to a show like that before. And I do feel relaxed.

Very relaxed.

***

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.

Finding the Courage to Blog about Personal Matters

People often ask me where I get the courage to blog about the personal aspects of my life — first my grief over the death of my long time life mate/soul mate, then my efforts to deal with my schizoaffective brother, now the problems with my aged father.

To be honest, I do find myself a bit ashamed at having to admit my frustrations with my father. Although he is ambulatory and still strong, he refuses to do much of anything for himself. Even the home health aide from the nursing service that had been temporarily prescribed for him by his doctor has admitted he doesn’t need her. He is perfectly capable of taking care of himself. He just doesn’t want to. He claims that doing the least little thing tires him, which I do understand, but so what? Life is exhausting. Being old is exhausting. People in worse shape than he is live alone and have no choice but to do things for themselves.

windNone of this is a problem except that I am generally the one who gets stuck catering to his whims, and it’s especially a problem when he wakes me up in the middle of the night because he is frantic he doesn’t have something close at hand he won’t need until the following afternoon. (As I mentioned yesterday, this sort of behavior is teaching me to stop fretting. To live in the moment. If I don’t have what I might need tomorrow afternoon, then I tell myself to get a good night’s sleep and deal with the matter tomorrow. Although I don’t much like Scarlet O’Hara, she did have a good point in her decisions to worry about things tomorrow. Even better is Rhett Butler’s rejoinder to her, “Frankly, my dear . . . Like Rhett, I just don’t want to give a damn about things that cannot be changed or do not need to be changed at this very minute.)

Other than admitting my frustrations and leaving myself open to accusations of harshness or hardheartedness — particularly since I don’t believe the aged have the right to use their infirmities as a club to control their families — I don’t find that writing about such matters takes much courage. Because I share my stories, others who are in the same dead end situations tell me about their plights, which is encouraging for all of us. Grief for a deceased soul mate, heartbreak of dealing with mentally ill alcoholics, frustrations with taking care of the aged are things so many of us have to deal with. It’s nice to be able to break the ice of aloneness and find encouragement in knowing we are not the only ones with such problems.

***

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.

The Joy of Dancing

While doing our routines in jazz class today, I could feel a huge smile stretching my face, and I thought, “I’m dancing!” Of course, since the realization that I was actually dancing made me lose my focus, I immediately missed a step. Still, it didn’t stop the enjoyment because after all, I’ve only been taking classes for a year, and that makes me very much a neophyte when it comes to dancing.

Dancing.

Even now, simply typing the word, I can feel glee welling up inside me.

Of all the strangenesses in my life during the past few years, falling in love with dance has to be the strangest, though in the nicest possible way.

The poster that hangs above the door of the dance studio

Dancing isn’t something I have ever had much interest in, especially classical dance, partly because I don’t have a good sense of rhythm and am not exactly graceful, so I never thought I could do any sort of choreographed dance. It seemed too complicated, not just learning the steps, but remembering the sequence of those steps and performing them with style. And yet, now I am dancing. Fortunately, a lot of dancing is about counting out the beat, generally counts of eight. . . . five, six, seven, eight. And I can count.

(I was one of those strange children who didn’t daydream, but who counted in her head whenever nothing else was going on up there. Don’t ask me why I counted. I’ve never figured it out, except perhaps there was something comforting about streams of numbers.)

But now I have many reasons to count. Ballet. Jazz. Egyptian Classical Belly Dance. Hawaiian. Tahitian. Tap. And soon, maybe even lyrical jazz. Such magical words!

During all the years of grief, when I had nothing to live for, nothing to bring me ripples of happiness no matter where I traveled or what I tried, I somehow knew only falling in love again could bring me back to life. For some bereft, falling in love with a person is the key. For others, falling in love with life is what brings them a sense of renewal.

I fell in love with dance.

I tell my teacher I owe her more than I can ever repay, and it’s true. She is teaching me not only the steps, but is imparting her own love of dancing, and dancing has brought me more joy than I could ever have imagined. (Even during the horrific months of dealing with my father’s decline and my brother’s mental problems, dance brought me a safe haven of happiness.)

Today I took a jazz class. Tomorrow, I have Hawaiian, Tahitian, and tap classes. Oh, lucky me!!

***

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.

The Challenges of Looking After an Aged Parent

Taking care of an aged parent is a challenge, with new tests — and testiness — arising every day. The biggest problem, of course, is that the parents want to be babied while giving up none of their parental authority. (They seem to forget that such authority had expired decades previously when we grew up, left home, and developed our own life with our own unique responsibilities.)

rainA friend cautioned me against coming to take care of my father — she knew first hand the challenges I would face. But for the most part, he and I have managed to deal together okay, mostly because I adopted a policy of doing whatever he needed but nothing that he could do for himself. (He wanted me to wait on him like some unpaid servant, or like my mother did for the sixty years they were married.) After his recent hospitalization and an ensuing bout with pneumonia (he refused to sit in a chair or take walks while hospitalized, saying he had patients’ rights, and he had the right to refuse any treatment, so the pneumonia came as no surprise), I’m having a hard time resetting those parameters. He simply won’t do anything for himself, even though he is still strong and reasonably healthy for his age. (He says it tires him. I want to say “get over it,” though I don’t.)

And then there is the problem of the household finances. When he lost his ability to think clearly and keep enough numbers in his head to reconcile his accounts, he turned the household finances over to me.

Sort of.

When he is unwell, everything goes smoothly. He says he trusts me, and that I have permission to arrange matters (and papers) most convenient for me. When he is well, he forgets that trust, rummages around in his desk, puts everything back the way he had it, disarranges my work and makes my to-do list disappear.

Yikes. What a balancing act — letting him think he is still in control while making sure the bills get paid and balky appliances get fixed.

I figure if he’s well enough to mess around with such matters, he’s well enough to get his own meager meals, but he doesn’t see it that way. I try to be patient, realizing it must be hard to be ninety-seven years old and dependent on a daughter, but I also can’t forget that I am that daughter, with a life of my own. I never took a vow of obedience to him. Never signed on to be a servant. I’m just the designated daughter, the unattached one who got stuck with the awkward situation.

I’m hoping in the next week or so things smooth out and I can stop being at his beck and call. Well, I will stop — that’s a given. I just don’t know how that will sit with him.

And so it continues, my paying the wages of daughterhood.

***

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.

Where Things Make Sense

Dance class still remains the one bright spot of my days, a place I can go where things make sense, where music and beauty are more important than death and sickness, where choreographed movement is powerful enough to tame even the chaos of my life. (Even though my abusive brother is gone, my 97-year-old father is still riding the rollercoaster of old age, alternating between neediness and the need to control, between accepting God’s will and clawing to live, between practiced saintliness and grumpiness.)

During the 3000 miles I traveled on my recent journey, I never once felt at home, not even when I returned to my home state (where technically I am still a resident). I certainly didn’t feel at home when I came back to my father’s house — for me this lovely house has always been a place of death and dying, mental imbalance and grief. (Only the grief was mine. The death, dying, and mental imbalance belonged, in order, to my mother, father, brother.) The one time I felt I had arrived anywhere was when I stopped by the dance studio after my trip. The teacher and my fellow students greeted me with delighted smiles and hugs, held me while I wept, took me to lunch. (Even though they didn’t all understand my tears, considering the abuse I’d been subjected to by my brother, they did understand grief.)

jazz shoesI’m still fighting an allergy-induced sinus infection that kept me from class yesterday, but I was determined to go to jazz class today. I’m glad I went. After we did our warm-ups, we started learning a new dance.

A year ago, when I took my first jazz lesson, I wasn’t sure I’d ever learn the steps. I couldn’t tell what the teacher was doing, couldn’t pick up her cues fast enough, couldn’t make my arms and feet do different things at the same time. By the end of the month, I knew enough so I could write down the first steps of the dance, and I practiced. Now I know that dance plus two others. And today we started a fourth.

During class, while she was counting out the beat as I’ve seen so often in movies — five, six, seven, eight — joy welled up inside me. I was dancing! Actually dancing. Me, who previously could only balter. (Means dance clumsily, for those of you who don’t want to look it up.) Actually, that’s not exactly true. I just wanted to use the word “balter”. I was simply a neophyte. My dancing up to a year ago had mostly been bobbing to a beat, though I did sort of know a polka step that my Polish mother had once tried to teach me before losing patience with my lack of rhythm. (Around that same time, my once-upon-a-time tennis champion father tried for an hour one day to teach me tennis before losing patience with my lack of talent.)

I don’t know where my life is headed. Well, obviously, none of us do. But big changes are coming and soon I won’t have a place to go, nowhere to call home, no place I particularly want to live, no one in particular to make a life with.

But for now, there is one thing I want (need!) to be . . .

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.

A Trip to Eternity

Right before I took my brother home to Colorado, I took another trip, one just for me. In its own way, this first trip is as incomprehensible as the second one, and together they comprise a very strange and mystical journey.

I had nowhere in particular to go on my sojourn, so I headed north to visit a friend I’d only met offline once. I had enjoyed our visit so much that I thought I like to take her out to dinner and visit some more. When I realized there was no way I’d get to her place early enough to have dinner with her, I decided to head west toward the ocean. I was experiencing a brief grief upsurge because I’d just talked to my bank about removing Jeff from our joint account, something I’d resisted all these years, and it felt like one more little death.

“What’s it all about, Jeff?” I sobbed. “Have you figured it out yet?”

There was no answer, of course. He has never answered me in any way I could understand. I continued driving west on the same highway, but somewhere along the line the highway must have veered off, and I ended up on a narrow two-lane road that seemed to be going north. The road curved, and vineyards hugged the hillsides. Although Jeff had never visited any vineyards, he had a special affinity for them, and collected any movie he could that featured such terrain, such as A Walk in the Clouds.

vineyard

I stopped at one vineyard where a musical event and barbecue were going on, sat for a while and enjoyed a glass of sangria, good barbecue, and satisfactory (though too loud) music, then I continued my journey.

I ended up at the coast in the dark. I stood at the water’s edge, listening to the surf and watching the tides come in (or out), then I went to find a place to stay for the night.

surf

As you might expect, there was no vacancy anywhere by the beach on that Friday night at the beginning of August. I headed inland, drove for hours on a winding road with no shoulder, no turnoffs, and no other cars, but finally ended up at a motel around midnight. The next morning, I talked to my friend about dinner plans, but she was unavailable, so I headed west again with a full tank of gas. Again I ended up on a winding road with no shoulder, no turnoffs, and only a few other cars. I couldn’t see where I was going or where I had come from since most of the road was lost in the curves. All I had was the moment, and the moment was lovely.

scenery

When I was down to less than a quarter of a tank, I began to wonder if I would find a gas station before I ran out of gas. I didn’t much care, except that there was no place to pull off the road if I did. When I came upon a small market, I stopped and asked the woman at the cash register if there was a nearby gas station.

“Where are you going?” the woman asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

She stared at me blankly and asked, “Where did come from?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t even know where I am. I’m just driving.”

She nodded, then admitted there was a gas station up ahead about twenty-five miles on the road to Lake Isobel.

“I know where Lake Isobel is,” I said.

“It’s desert,” she told me. “Not very pretty. Since you’re out for a drive, you should turn left instead of right when you reach the end of this road and go to Ponderosa.”

I bought a peach and chips and thanked her for her help, then continued on my way. The stop at the gas station on the Lake Isobel Road was like a stop in a foreign land. I had no idea what language they spoke, didn’t understand a word they said to me, they didn’t understand a word I said, but after a frustrating half hour I had a full tank of gas.

I turned left, of course. The scenery was remarkably beautiful.

sequoia national forest

I meandered along, stopping occasionally to take photos, and when I came to a parking area, I paid the price and took a break for a walk. “Trail of 100 Giants” proclaimed a sign, and so I found myself walking among the giant sequoias. Oh, my. Such beauty. Even the carnival atmosphere of the other visitors couldn’t mar the cathedral-like air of that awesome place.

redwood

The next day, I found myself within a few miles of California City, a platted area designed to be a megalopolis in the middle of the desert, and since I’d always been fascinated by the idea of the place, I took a quick look. Oddly, the roads and signposts of this city-that-never-was still surround the town.

California City

And finally, on my way back to my father’s house where I am temporarily residing, I took a turnoff to see The Devil’s Punchbowl, something I’d seen from afar, but never up close. The Devil’s Punchbowl is a huge scooped out area in the earth lined with magnificent boulders.

devil's punchbowl

It was while wandering around the punchbowl that I glimpsed the scope of my journey. Though I do not truly believe in signs, it seems to me that the trip to the wine country was a message from Jeff (or from my own inner being speaking in a way I could understand) telling me to pay attention. From the vineyards, I’d gone to the eternal waters, to the eternal trees, to the eternal land, to the eternal rocks.

A trip to eternity.

Even though I know what the trip was, I don’t know what it means. Maybe that we are part of something bigger than we can know. Maybe that our lives mean more (or maybe less) than we think. Maybe that it will all come right in the end. Maybe that we are where we are supposed to be. Maybe that the universe really is unfolding the way it’s supposed to be. Maybe, more specifically, that it doesn’t matter about dropping my brother off in Colorado, that he will be all right.

I do know that when I drove back after leaving my brother in Colorado, the eternal moon stayed by my side all that night while I wept.

***

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.

Putting My Brain in a Box

Talking to my homeless, schizoaffective, and alcoholic brother is an exercise in futility. He bellows, doesn’t listen, is relentlessly and terrifyingly angry. I wouldn’t talk to him, but I’m trying to get him out of here, back to a place where maybe he can get a pension along with food stamps and Medicaid in a state where the pot he needs to help him sleep and to keep his psychosis at bay is legal.

The worsspeedt problem for me (besides his continued presence) is not letting his anger affect me. Sometimes when I am listening to his incessant nastiness and feel his fury coursing through me, I have to clench my fists to keep from beating him into silence. I believe this reaction is the accumulation of his fury assaulting my psyche rather than any innate violence, particularly since the moment I remove myself from his presence, my own anger disappears. I have to make sure I am more than arm’s length from him, because the closer he is, the more I feel the effects. Of course, my backing away infuriates him, so he advances, and we do a strange sort of dance.

The other day I tried to calm myself by doing the port de bras I learned in ballet class, bringing my arms into a circle over my head, opening them to shoulder height, turning my palms to the floor, and letting my arms gently float to my side. It did help me keep my calm, but my movements, which I’d intended to also calm him, only infuriated him further. He seemed to think I was doing some sort of clumsy Tai Chi or Yoga.

Today a friend told me another way of maintain equanamity — put my brain in a box. She counseled me to mentally construct a box. (Mine looks like a treasure chest with red plush lining.) Then open my head, gently lift out my brain, put it in the box, close my head, close the box. Finally, put the box in a closet and shut the door. That way I can get through times of pain or anger or aggravation without feeling anything because, of course, my brain is in the box.

Seems to work. After I put my brain in the closet, I was able to deal with my brother, my father’s needs, some siblings’ requests for information, the plumber, phone calls, and various and sundry other frustrations.

Maybe I’ll leave my brain where it is temporarily. It seems to be resting peacefully.

***

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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