XP and the End of Days

End of days. Sounds like the world crashing down on our heads, doesn’t it? But in this case, all it signifies is that Microsoft is discontinuing support of its XP operating system. To hear tech people tell about it, it is the end of days. So many people are using this supposedly outdated system, that running a computer using Windows XP is a PUBLIC HEALTH RISK! Those outdated systems CAN BE USED TO INFECT OTHER SYSTEMS! They are a danger by becoming a part of a system of bots that ATTACK OTHERS online!

Yep, the end of days is here. And yet, how often have we heard the same old story? At the beginning, computers were called the devil’s work. The spread of computer technology was hailed as the end of civilization as we know it. The millennium bug was supposed to usher in an age of chaos. The current Heartbleed Vulnerability is supposed to make us defenseless against theft of personal information. And now the end of support for Windows XP puts us all at risk.

I suppose the risk factor is true. It is a matter of fact that the spread of computer technology brought massive changes to the world. The millennium bug did take one vast chunk of time to fix, averting disaster at the last minute. And there are always vulnerabilities in computer code that puts us at risk. That’s why we have constant updates to our systems, our browsers, the programs we use — to repair those vulnerabilities.

Apparently, what makes the XP problem so terrible is that more than 30% of personal computers still utilize that particular operating system. Microsoft obviously has never heard of the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Why else would they have followed up a program that worked, that people loved, with the excoriated Vista? But then, you don’t get to be one of the richest people in the world by embracing the status quo. Some people believe ending support for XP is Microsoft’s way of forcing all those customers to upgrade their systems, but the timing stinks since the newest system, Windows 9, won’t be available for a few more months, so people will be forced to buy soon-to-be-outdated systems.

Still, with so many people hanging on to XP, some because they trust the system, some because they can’t afford to upgrade, there will be plenty of support for “fixes” from outside sources — for a fee, I’m sure. 32% of all PCs is one huge mass of power.

I suppose I should worry about XP, but frankly, I’m more worried about my own operating system. I’m one of the few who have Vista who actually like it, though to be honest, it’s way too powerful for my needs. It’s geared to run the entertainment center for an entire household, and all I use it for is to run my rapidly aging laptop. I can already sense the doom for Vista. If support for XP has ended, can Vista be far behind? They have already stopped upgrading IE for Vista. IE9 is the best I can do, and there are so many bugs in the browser, it’s impossible to use at times. (For example, it keeps trying to open Adobe reader, and since the newer Adobe readers don’t seem to work with Vista, I have an outdated version of that, too, and it takes forever to load the page and the reader. Strangely, the reader has nothing to do with the web page, which adds to the absurdity.) Of course I also have Firefox and Google Chrome, but both of those browsers have features I don’t like and lack ones I do, so I’m never quite sure which one to use. I often have all three open (which is probably a technological mistake, but so far it’s the best I can do).

When Microsoft retires support for Vista, no one but me will care since most people have already updated their systems. There won’t be any furor, no rhetoric about end of times. Just a quiet sigh while I try to figure out what to do about the matter.

IGW_XP_EndOfDaysGraphic_V2

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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.

Ah, the Small Joys of Life!

A few days ago I ranted about my experience with this area’s designated communications company, and the hassle the representative gave me when they called to tell me some upgraded equipment would be here on Thursday. It seemed important to them that I know the exact date, yet after all that frustration on both our parts, they got the day wrong. The equipment came today. Wednesday. Not a problem, of course, just ironic considering their unpleasantness.

Installation was supposed to take only a few minutes, but wise in the ways of technology updates, I waited until the afternoon when I had many free hours. And I needed them all. Setting up the equipment was easy. I just followed the directions. The hardest part was in moving the couch to access the cable connection. The next hardest part was figuring out which power cord went to the router and which to the modem since neither cord they sent matched the image on the instructions. (I don’t know why I need a router when I didn’t have one bcomputerefore, unless the router was somehow part of the old modem.) Still, my guess seemed to work because all the appropriate lights came on. I even connected my computer to the wireless network despite their having given me two different sets of passwords and network IDs. And then all my efforts came screeching to a halt. My computer didn’t recognize the connection, or maybe the connection didn’t recognize my computer. Every time I tried to open a browser, I got an error message saying they hadn’t sent a package and to call the communication company.

Of course, the representative didn’t know what was wrong, either. She made me reinstall everything. (Luckily, it was just hardware I had to deal with, and hardware is easy —simply a matter of unplugging cords and plugging them in again.) In the end, after many different suggestions and attempts to connect to the internet, she told me to try restarting the computer, and that did the trick.

Although this updated equipment is supposed to make my computer run faster when on the internet, it seems the same to me. Of course, my computer is aged as computers go — more than 7-years-old — but still, there should have been some difference, especially since I added extra memory not too long ago. I’m just glad it doesn’t run slower, which is what happened after the last upgrade.

Despite the nuisance of the experience, I’m smiling as I write this blog. I learned something fun from it. Because of getting two different sets of login information, I could see a pattern in how they came up with passwords. joyfultuba265 was one. jaggedtomato193 was another. (Well, no it wasn’t. I’m not about to plaster my password all over the internet, though I don’t suppose it would matter. It only would work if you were camped outside my father’s house, and if you’re so desperate for free wifi that you would do such a thing, then be my guest.)

It used to be that people were cautioned not to use whole words for passwords, but recently I read that you should. That new decryption programs seemed geared more for nonsense. (Like those riddles where you rack your brain for a solution to no avail, and when someone tells you the answer, it’s so simple you feel like an idiot for not catching on, especially since your five-year-old came up with the answer hours ago.) Either way, from now on when I need a password, I’ll have fun with it. brokenapple964. crookedcucumber157. sillysink414. bananaunt762.

Ah, the small joys of life!

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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.

Are You Lazy? Am I?

There are hundreds of laziness tests on the internet that will tell you how lazy you are, that is if you’re not too lazy to take the tests. A Facebook friend recently took one such test and posted it on his profile. He commented, “Some of the choices are disgusting!” And he is right. Some of the choices are disgusting — it’s amazing to me that anyone thought of putting them on a list, let alone considered doing such things. The test seemed more an indication of how much of a slob you are than how slothful you are.

But . . . (you knew there would be a “but”, didn’t you?)

The test made me think about what laziness really means. According to my dictionary, “lazy” means “disliking activity or exertion; not energetic or vigorous.” It comes from the Middle Low German word lasich meaning “feeble.”

To us, laziness has negative connotations. When we say someone is lazy, we are generally referring to an able-bodied person who has the ability do a task but doesn’t. The word itself, however, has no such pejorative meaning. Just because people dislike exerting themselves, it doesn’t mean that they won’t. And just because people like to be involved in activities, it doesn’t mean that they will. And anyway, who is to say that disliking exertion is wrong? You don’t always have a choice in what you like or dislike. Besides, the whole thrust of human invention has always been about making things easier for us rather than harder.

napIf you are in a communal situation, such as a marriage, a family, a job, it is necessary to keep up your end of the work, but failure to do so isn’t necessarily because of laziness — it could be a sense of entitlement, insensitivity, or thoughtlessness. But if no one is depending on you, who is to say what is laziness? If you’re not engaged in any activity, but don’t need to be, what is wrong with lolling around doing nothing? Who says we have to fill our days with activity? I consider myself lazy because I am not currently working on a novel, but why should I write? Just because I can? At the moment, writing won’t improve my life, won’t gain me recognition or riches. It will simply use up time, and for now, I am using my time for more physical pursuits. (Oddly, the idea of my laziness — my lack of energy — is so ingrained, I don’t consider myself unlazy while doing these various physical activities.)

Not everyone has the same level of energy. Some of us are “not energetic or vigorous” by nature. We have to push ourselves through life, one trudge at a time. Others shoot through life like rockets, spewing excess energy to the winds. If the low-energy person is resting from his/her exertions while the high-energy person is still zooming around getting things done, why is the first person considered lazy? Both are doing what their natures dictate.

It seems to me that there isn’t really such a thing as laziness. For example, people who scam the welfare system in the USA are often considered as being too lazy to work, but the system is so laborious that many people who are eligible do not have the energy to deal with the bureaucracy. Those who do know how to work the system in nefarious ways are not lazy — they are awash in a sense of entitlement that borders on fraud.

If we can do something but don’t, if we choose to stay in bed instead, it could be that we aren’t lazy so much as that we need the rest. Despite all the machines that have been invented to make our lives easier, our lives are stressful. If someone repeatedly hits the snooze button in the morning, it might not be a sign of laziness but of exhaustion.

More than that, what we call laziness seems to be lack of motivation rather than a true disinclination to work. We almost always find the time/energy to do the things we love if the rest of life doesn’t get in our way. (To most of us, work is what we don’t want to do. The lucky ones are those who get paid for doing what they want to do. Tests have shown that if people are allowed to work on whatever project they wish when they are at their jobs, they are happier, more productive, and work longer hours. If they have to work on a project that is assigned, that they have no affinity for, then their job suffers.)

We get out of bed on Saturday if the sun is shining and we are going for a run/walk/hike/picnic — anything that’s fun. If only bad weather and detestable chores await us, we have no motivation for getting out of bed, so we stay there. And what is wrong with that? Again, I am not talking about a communal living situation such as a family. In that case, it’s only fair to do your share of the chores. But if no one is depending on you, it makes no difference if you wait a few more days to clean the house or do laundry.

Perhaps I’m wrong in my assessment about laziness, but I’ve decided to strike the word from my vocabulary anyway. No more laziness. If I have no inclination to do a chore, then I’m gathering my strength. If I have no desire to write, then I’m letting my ideas steep. If I have no will to exercise, then I’m giving my muscles a rest.

Works for me.

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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.

Things That Will Always Make Me Cry

I recently came across an article “100 Things That Will Always Make Us Cry!” The list seemed to be geared for young people (it was on a site for students that included modern translations of Shakespeare and synopses and analyses for various “required reading” books.) Even if the site wasn’t so obviously scholastic, I would have known the list wasn’t meant for me — I didn’t recognize most of the items, and those I did recognize have never made me cry.

The cultural things that do make me cry (as opposed to real life things that make me cry, such as the thought that Jeff, my life mate/soul mate is dead and that is why I will never again see him here on this earth) are meetings and leavings.

When two people get togetheLooking at eternityr in a book or movie, no matter how disparate or desperate the mating, that makes me cry. It reminds me that never again will I get together with Jeff. “The end” has been written on our love story.

What makes me cry even more is a shot of someone walking away. Remember that old TV series, “The Incredible Hulk”? The end of every episode was the same — a shot of Bill Bixby walking away. That always got to me. And now, any scene with someone walking away makes me weep because it reminds me of my loss.

During my first months of grief, I came across a photo of Jeff I didn’t know I had. For a long time, even though it made me cry, it was the only photo of him I could look at, perhaps because it didn’t show his face. (The one photo I have that shows his face doesn’t look at all like he did at the end, which bothered me back then, but now I’d just as soon remember him the way he looks in the photo — handsome, radiant, alive.) What really made me cry over this photo is not just that he seems to be disappearing into the earth but that he’s facing the distance, as if he were already heading away from me to his destiny with eternity.

Yep, walking away.

That always makes me cry.

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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.

I Do Not Want to Blog About . . .

There are so many things I do not want to blog about today.

I don’t want to write about my father and his continued decline. Anyway, there’s not much to say. He’s doing exceptionally well for 97, but still, he is 97 and has congestive heart failure, hearing problems, and isn’t thinking as clearly as he did just a few months ago.

I don’t want to write about my future plans. (Yeah, I know — “future plans” is redundant since “plans” connotes the future, but in this case I’m talking way in the future, not what I plan to do tomorrow or next week.) The truth is, I have no plans, just dreams. Although I like the idea of roaming the country on foot, the realities are bleak (lack of water sources, possible health issues, inexperience). I also am getting uncomfortable talking about what I’m going to do after my father’s death, as if I’m trying to hurry him out of this life, though the truth is that he could be gone in an instant, and just like that (a snap of my fingers), I’d be homeless. I’d be foolish not to consider my options. But not today.

I don’t want to write about my homeless brother who is camping out in my father’s garage. (It sounds mean, but it’s the best my father can do for him. He is too dysfunctional to live in the house — he creates havoc, and my father wants/needs peace. Besides, if my brother were to live in the house where I had no protection from him, I would leave here.) Said brother is going through one of his manic phases, which means he is intolerable, demanding, insanely vocal, and very needy. I can’t fulfill any of his needs at such times, especially not the one he most wants — awed respect.

I certainly don’t want to write about his legal problems. He was arrested for being intoxicated in public a few months ago, didn’t show up for the court date, and now there is a warrant out for his arrest. When they catch him (because of course he won’t call the courts to get the matter straightened out as the deputy who made the courtesy call suggested), he will expect me or our father to pay his $5,000 bail. I won’t do it, and I sincerely doubt our father will. Besides, as much as I hate the thought of him in jail, I hate even more the thought of him here bedeviling me. I could use the rest. (As I was writing this, I got a phone call from him. He’s been arrested again for being intoxicated in public, but for some reason they waived bail, just gave him anther court date for both charges. I so could not handle being an alcoholic! Way too much work.)

I don’t want to write about grief and the death of my life mate/soul mate that precipitated my move here to look after my father and more recently (and very unwillingly) to do what I can for my brother. I’ve said about all there is to say about grief. It comes. It stays. What else is there to say? Well, I could say I’m mostly happy now which is true, but he’s still gone. I will never be happy about that until I’m gone too.

I don’t want to write about writing, my fallback topic. With self-publishing and we’ll-publish-anything-presses so prevalent, making authors believe they can write however they wish, there’s no reason to discuss right ways to do things. (Despite what most authors seem to believe nowadays, there are right ways. I just don’t feel like fighting about it anymore.)

Nor do I want to write about my aches and pains. I especially don’t want to talk about the gum infection that has me on high doses of antibiotics. (And probably why I’m not exactly overflowing with joy today.) The good news is that if I have any other infections, susunflowerch as strep or pneumonia, those microbes will be killed along with whatever caused my gum infection. The bad news is side effects. At least so far, all I’ve had to deal with is nausea. I haven’t developed a black furry tongue. (Fingers crossed here.)

While trying to think of a suitable ending for this blog post about what I don’t want to write about, I stopped by Facebook and clicked on a link for a test to see what flower I am. The results said: “You are a sunflower. You are the eternal optimist, always looking up. Nothing can shake your sweet, happy spirit. Friends enjoy your company because they find your joy contagious.”

Yep. That’s me today. Sweet, happy spirit. Contagious joy.

Gotta love the irony!

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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 Rant About the Idiocies of Corporate Monopolies

I am not one to waste my blog time ranting about the idiocies of corporate monopolies, but at the moment I feel like ranting. (Feel free to head out and do something more interesting than listening to me. Like watching a pot boil or eating a liverwurst sandwich.)

The other day my father got a bill from Charter Communication that reflected a $50 increase in his monthly bundled rate. When I called them to find out what was going on, they said that his contract had expired, so the rates defaulted to the normal rates. I asked if they needed him to sign a new contract so he could get a lower rate, and phonethey said no, that their new rates were lower than his old rates, and they would just switch him over to the new normal rates.

By this time, I was thoroughly confused, so I asked why they hadn’t just automatically given him the lower normal rate. Their oh so logical response: “Because we couldn’t get into the account to change it.” But they could change it to the higher normal rate? Yep. That makes sense. (Apparently, their normal rates are whatever the representative decides. A friend tried to find out what her new rate would be, and she and her husband were each given three different figures.)

They also said my father was eligible for an equipment upgrade — a faster router and modem. I’m all for that. Some sites, including one of my email sites, have so many ads and videos going at once, that it takes forever to load the page. They ended the call by telling me I’d have the package in a week, which means it will come on Thursday.

Just now I received an automated phone call from Charter. They said there was a problem with my recent upgrade and they had an important message for me. I waited for a couple of minutes for a live representative to come on the line, and the first thing she asked me for was the phone number. Huh? They called me and didn’t know what phone number they called? (Her explanation, “It’s an automated system,” wasn’t much of an explanation, but it’s the only one she offered.)

I don’t know the phone number here — I never call it. And I have no need to know it since I never give it out. My father is 97-years-old, and he likes answering the phone when he is awake, so I don’t want to bother him with answering calls for me. (Since he was napping when Charter called, I got the all the fun, though I would have had to deal with them anyway. He can’t hear very well, and he gets easily confused, so he would have turned the phone over to me so I could get confused instead.) I went searching for his phone number, finally found it, and gave it to the woman. At her request, I gave her the address, which I do know. And then she asked for the security code. Yeah, right. That’s something I waste precious brain cells for, carrying that number around in my head. (When I called them, of course, I’d gathered all the information and had it ready. Since they called me, it was their responsibility to have the information ready. She didn’t see it that way, of course.)

The representative wasn’t very patient with my frustration and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t thrilled to be talking to her. She kept saying she needed the information to get into the account so she could tell me why Charter called. The thing is, Charter had called me — yeah, I know, I keep repeating that, but it’s an important point. When I call someone, I feel safe (safer, anyway) giving out information on the phone, but for all I knew, it might not have been Charter who called. It could have been a scam and someone wanted the information to . . . well, to do whatever scammers do with personal information.

At long last, the representative accessed the account. The important message? That the equipment will arrive on Thursday.

Sheesh.

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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.

To Blog or Not to Blog

Every day we are faced with large decisions and small — decisions that make the difference between life and death, decisions that only make the difference between being lazy or productive. (Though who is to say that being lazy is unproductive. We often get our best ideas when we are lolling around, thinking of nothing.)

My decision each day is to write this blog. Most days, the choice is easy. I generally have no lack of things to say. But some days, like today, I have to coerce myself to write something. I have nothing to say, no new insights, no plans or hopes — just a blank “paper” on my computer, and yet, here I am, filling the blankness.

I could, of course, simply not write anything, but I’m one of those people who by default does what takes the least effort. Once I stop making the effortasking to write, once I break the infallibility of a daily blog, then it’s all over.

You dieters know what I’m talking about. When you go on a diet and then “accidentally” nibble on a cookie, you figure the whole day is a waste since you broke your diet, and so one by one those cookies disappear. If you’d never sampled the cookie, you’d still be on that diet. Or if you’d done the logical thing you’d still be on the diet — you’d have enjoyed the nibble and continued on as if you’re still on your diet, because you are. One nibble does not break a diet. It’s all those subsequent cookies that do the dirty deed. Even worse, once the diet is broken, it’s almost impossible to get back on it.

It’s the same thing with blogging. As long as I make an effort to write every day, I will continue to write every day. But if once I slack off, then it’s all over. First one day will pass, then another, because why not? The world wouldn’t end if I neglected to post my words. In fact, the world might even be a better place. But after not writing one day, then the next, I’d begin to think about it, wondering if I wanted to write. As the days passed, I’d even forget to ask if I want to blog, and gradually I’ll sink into wordlessness.

I’m sure that will happen someday. Just not today.

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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.

Meaning of Flowers

“Say it with flowers” is an ad slogan dating from 1917. Apparently the slogan strikes a chord with us, otherwise it wouldn’t have lasted almost a hundred years, but what, exactly, are we saying when we say it with flowers?

Roses Yellow Rose with Ladybugsay “I love you,” but each color has a has a secondary meaning:
Red roses — Love, passion, respect, courage
Yellow roses — Joy, friendship, freedom
Pink roses — Happiness, gratitude, appreciation, admiration
Cream roses — Thoughfulness, charm, graciousness
Peach roses — Admiration, fascination, enthusiasm
Orange roses — Desire
White roses — Innocence, purity, secrecy, reverence

Some flower meanings seem obvious, either because of their names, their common usage, or their natures:
Aloe — healing
Forget-me-nots — remember
Monkshood — beware
Narcissus — egotism
Orange blossoms — eternal love or fertility
Poppy — oblivion or eternal sleep
Sage — wisdom
Venus Flytrap — caught at last
Violets —modesty
White lilies — purity
Withered flowers — rejected love.

Other flower meanings seem haphazard, as if the symbolic language was assigned randomly without much thought:
Daffodil — regard
Hollyhock — ambition
Morning glories — affection
Peony — shame
Sweetpea — departure and/or thank you for a lovely time
Sunflower — false riches
Wintergreen — harmony
Wisteria — welcome

Most of us have our own meaning for flowers. For me, lilacs mean remembrance, but in the languange of flowers, lilacs mean first love. (Which works well for me, too, since the man lilacs make me remember is my first love.) And for me, big red poppies mean lack of luck since unluckily we can’t plant them anymore.

In the end, though, sending flowers always means the same thing: “I am thinking of you.”

It’s kind of odd, now that I think about it — the few times someone sent me flowers, I was truly touched, but never in my entire life have I been able to send flowers to anyone. Whenever I considered it, all I could think of were the soon to be dead blooms and the screams of agony of the flowers being so cruelly lopped off the plant.

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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.

Spending Too Much Time in Shuttered Rooms

After my life mate/soul mate died, it was all I could do to get through the day. I couldn’t imagine a future without him in the world. Didn’t want to imagine it. When my grief started to wane and I could again contemplate the future, I would wonder where I should go to settle down, but my mind always rebelled at the thought. Settle down? Alone? How? He was my home. Without him, there was no home, just a place, and one place seemed the same as another.

Although I am gradually coming to terms with both my loneliness and my aloneness, I still rebel at the thought of finding somewhere to settle when I leave here. (I am currently staying with and looking out for my 97-year-old father.) For a person with hermit tendencies, such as I, settling down alone sounds like stagnation. At the beginning, I would do things, of course, but then as time passed, I would become entrenched in my habits, would get tired of the same sights, the same errands, the same . . . everything. And my world would shrink and continue shrinking until I became the crazy cat lady sans cats.

Most people have not been able to identify with this scenario. They see me now, embracing new ways of living, and say that it will always be so. Perhaps they are right, but still I do fear the stagnation that would come from being too long entrenched in one place alone.

The truth is, whether we are aware of it or not, some form of stagnation happens to all of us. In “It’s a Nomad, Nomad World,” Bruce Chatwin spoke of our heritage as nomads and explained the necessity for keeping on the move, especially by foot. Chatwin wrote:

Some American brain specialists took encephalogram readings of travellers. They found that changes of scenery and awareness of the passage of seasons through the year stimulated the rhythms of the brain, contributing to a sense of well being and an active purpose in life. Monotonous surroundings and tedious regular activities wove patterns which produce fatigue, nervous disorders, apathy, self disgust and violent reactions. Hardly surprising, then, than a generation cushioned from the cold by central heating, from the heat by air conditioning, carted in aseptic transports from one identical house or hotel to the another, should feel the need for journeys of mind and body, for pep pills or tranquillisers, or for the cathartic journeys of sex, music and dance. We spend far too much time in shuttered rooms. . . . 

The best thing is to walk. We should follow the chinese poet Li Po in “the hardships of travel and the many branchings of the way”. For life is a journey trough wilderness. This concept, universal to the point of banality, could not have survived unless it was biologically true. None of our revolutionary heroes is worth a thing until he has been on a good walk. Che Guevara spoke of the “nomadic phase” of the Cuban Revolution. Look what the Long March did for Mao Tse Tung, or Exodus for Moses.

I have no interest in being a revolutionary hero or even a spiritual leader who wanders in the wilderness until fate thrusts me into a new role. But somehow, I instinctively knew the truth — that settling down means mental stagnation. When you live with someone, you don’t stagnate quite as much because there is someone to help disrupt the rhythms of your life. But who disrupts the rhythms of your life when you are alone? (Cats, I suppose, which could be why so many old women alone end up tending  a houseful of cats, but that’s not for me.)

I do not know if I am physically capable of a life on foot — I’ve never been athletic. Even if my capabilities weren’t an issue, the problem of getting enough water seems insurmounatble. The sheer volume of water a person needs is staggering. Some areas in the west, you can go up to hundred miles between towns, and in the wilderness sometimes it’s almost as far between watering holes. Considering that a gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds (just the water, not the container), and considering that a someone on foot needs to drink almost that much a day, and considering that at the most I could walk 10 miles a day (and that is being optimistic),  I’d need to drag along almost 84 pounds of water. (I read about a college student who dragged that much water with him on a cross-country trip. Actually, he didn’t drag it, he pushed it. Used some sort of cart.)

I don’t know what the answer to my conundrum is, but I have a hunch it will take care of itself. I’d probably start out in my ancient vehicle, and if it broke down or fell apart . . . well, then I’d have to finish the trip on foot.

It’s also possible that I end up doing what everyone does in the end — spend my life in shuttered rooms.

As a matter of fact, right at this moment, I am in a shuttered room. It’s not so bad.

***

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.

Perpetuating Gender Roles

A fellow Second Wind Publishing author posted an article that took me aback. Her post, Wives are Awesome, spoke of marriage roles, and how from the moment men took their vows, all the troublesome details of running a household vanish. Their wives make sure they have their favorite shampoo, their clothes are clean, the coffee brewed.

It was a clever article with a great punch line, but it surprised me to learn that women are still mommying their husbands to such an extent. I thought this sort of gender role disappeared a generation ago. It’s women’s prerogative, of course, to arrange their lives however they wish. I can even understand how it happens. In the throes of new love, women do what they can to mothermake their husbands’ lives easier, and over time, this role of nurturer becomes ineradicable.

It’s not just men who perpetuate such a role — women do, too. When a friend disagreed with my stance on women’s issues (apparently, as a thinking woman, I’m supposed to automatically be a feminist), I asked in rebuttal what percentage of household chores he did. He said, “I do everything I’m asked.” The assumption that household chores were his wife’s obligation and that she had to ask for his help made my hackles rise, but then he added, “She doesn’t like the way I do some things so she doesn’t ask.” I had no response to that, of course. It’s hard to share equally in the responsibility of running a household when one of the partners insists on holding the reins. (The moral of the story is, if you want your partner to do a greater percentage of the household chores, don’t complain about the way he or she does them. Let your partner work in his/her own way in his/her own time.)

Getting such glimpses into other people’s lives makes me realize how easy I had it with Jeff, my now deceased life mate/soul mate. We “wifed” each other, doing what was necessary without ever asking the other to do something. And if one of us didn’t like the way the other did a chore, we did it ourselves. (He once mentioned he didn’t like the way I did dishes. I didn’t say anything; I simply left them for him to do.) Whichever of us noticed that the carpet needed vacuuming or that a floor needed scrubbing (or rather the first one who was bothered by it) did the task. Mostly, though, we did things together or split up the responsibility without making a big deal about it.

Although it might not seem like it, roles really are changing. It’s no longer assumed that women who marry will take up where the husband’s mother left off, nurturing him as if he were still a child unable to fend for himself. Sometimes men take on that role for their high-powered wives. Sometimes both share equally in the responsibility and sometimes the couple hires a housekeeper to look after both of them.

When Jeff died, the thought of growing old alone panicked me. I’m okay now, mostly because I don’t think about it. Still, I do wonder what would happen if I met someone new and fell in love, but the thought of ever setting up a household with anyone again is beyond my imagining, especially considering problems of aging, possible health issues, and entrenched behavior, such as his expecting to be “wifed”.

Even if I found someone who would be willing to “wife” me, I wouldn’t be interested. Having someone look after the small details of my life sounds like a burden. It’s amazing to me that so many men willingly shoulder the load.

***

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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