Borrowed Life

(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.”)

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I’m living a borrowed life at the moment, staying for a few days with a lovely woman in her lovely home. I try to imagine what it would be like to have such a house complete with husband and grandkids, but I can’t. It’s as if I have passed some point of no return — my old settled life is truly gone and my new life as yet unimagined.

Where will I go? Will I feel as unsettled in an unsettled life as I did in a settled one? Will I be able to just let my life happen without trying to fix things or worrying over whatever imperfections I find? I do sometimes ruin things by trying to fix small flaws. For example, I wore my white t-shirt with the dance studio logo on it to the march on Saturday, and I got a small stain on it. In trying to remove that stain, I got a larger stain, and when I tried to clean that . . . Well, all I can say is I now need a new shirt for dance performances.

I try to fix small flaws in myself, too, though I am learning to let myself be. Life is messy, and it’s impossible to remove all the irritating stains that appear on the fabric of our days. The days take care of themselves anyway, disappearing one by one, and all the messiness of those days disappears too.

So much is gone from my life now, but much is still to come. I used to worry that I can’t see the shape of my future, but it doesn’t really matter. If life is unfolding as it should, the future will show itself to me as I move forward. If we create our own destinies, then I will create mine with each step I take. Either way, the future will take care of itself the same way the past did. One day at a time.

Adventure Update

(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.”)

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My adventure is slowly taking off –just baby steps at the moment. Literally, baby steps. Yesterday and today I participated in March of Dimes’ walks to support the cause but mostly to honor a baby who died before he was born.

Other than that, my life seems much as always, though it isn’t, really. I’m staying with friends until I get my car back, then I have to find a place to stay for a month — I certainly don’t want to wear out my welcome, and I need to stick around town for a while to rehearse for a dance performance.

The last days at my father’s house were hard — empty rooms and memories — so I’m glad I don’t have to be alone just yet. People are being very kind to me, which is helping make this transition easier. I sometimes wonder if all my talk about adventure is simply that . . . talk, but the idea is becoming very real to me, so I will do something. A friend told me about a woman who walked out of her house after her husband died, and never went back. Never had another permanent home. I understand how that is possible, and it might be the path I take.

Life beckons.

“Wild” is Tame

I never had any intention of reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. — I didn’t want to be a me-too, living someone else’s adventure in case I ever decide to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail, and besides, I almost never read books that everyone is reading. To me, reading is a very personal thing, and the hoopla surrounding such books diminishes them for me.

Wild was a last-minute birthday gift from a friend who knew my feelings and so knew it was a sure bet I wouldn’t already have the book. During the last nights in my father’s empty house, I was desperate for something to do — there is just so much websurfing, blog writing, solitaire playing one can do, especially sitting on a very uncomfortable stool — and I happened to find the book I’d tucked away and neglected to pack.

Oddly, I didn’t hate the book, but I didn’t particularly like it, either. I have heard so much about it, but much of what I have heard is wrong. (People have recounted episodes that simply are not in the book, which makes me wonder if they are in the movie.) Some people hail Strayed as a hero, though she is not. Some members of the hiking community vilify her, though she is no villain.

What she is, is a good character for a story, in the same vein (and vain) as Scarlett O’Hara. She wants something desperately, if only to be other than she is. She is willing to do anything and use anyone to get it, and her own imperfections create drama and tension. If she were what the hiking community wishes she were — responsible, a great hiker, someone who prepared and trained for her mission, someone who tested her equipment ahead of time, someone who followed the rules of “leave no trace,” someone who was sane and sensible — who would read her story? No one. Or only those members of the hiking community who read.

Although some people would pay to read a book written by me if I were to undertake such an adventure, it would reach only a fraction of the readership Cheryl’s book did because any book I write would not stir up controversy. I am not foolhardy. I am not desperate. I have nothing to redeem, no self-destructive tendencies to overcome. I am prudent and would not undertake such a mission unless I were prepared, training myself to carry a heavy pack (though the filled pack wouldn’t be anywhere near as heavy as hers). I am responsible, try to do the right thing, try to follow the rules if only because they make it easier for everyone, and so I would learn the rules of the trail, such as packing out toilet paper and digging holes for body waste. (That’s one of the things the hiking community was upset about — that she didn’t dig holes to defecate in, but the ground was frozen. I’d have done the same thing she did — cover it up with rocks — and so would everyone else.)

There is a saying among hikers — “hike your own hike” — and that’s what she did. Seasoned hikers are upset with all the amateurs who will follow in her footsteps, but I don’t think there is anything to worry about. Amateurs quickly learn or quit. I doubt many people who are inspired to try long distance hiking because of her story will have the implacable desperation to do what she did.

One of the problems with the book is that it was so obviously written long after the fact that it loses it’s immediacy and jerks me out of what urgency there is. For example, she talks about the snowpack being extraordinarily heavy that year, and that it wouldn’t be as heavy for another then or twelve years. There is no way she could know that as she was hiking. Yes, I know it’s a memoir, but still, it’s jarring.

Also, more than any other relationship, her relationship with her pack drives her and drives the book. Her hike was what it was because of the weight of the pack. In fact, the pack was so important, it was almost like a character, and yet she never really described what she carried, seldom mentioned using most of the things in the pack (and those she did mention would not have added up to the 50 or 60 pounds she carried).

And then there is the whole pain thing. Wild coupled with 50 Shades of Gray, which was out about the same time, seems to indicate a new trend in the world where pain is admirable, especially pain that is avoidable. Um . . . no. Not to me.

Mostly, though, the book seemed tame and not worth another thought.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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 Magic of Blogging by Email

I’ve been practicing posting by email to make it easier to blog when my only access to the internet will be my phone. It wasn’t as difficult to post by email as I thought it would be.

The first thing I needed to do was to get a special email address. To do this, go to your dashboard and click on “my blogs.” The easiest way to find “my blogs” is to go to your blog, hover your cursor over “my site” on the left navigation strip, then click on “WP Admin.” You should see “My blogs” on the left sidebar close to the top.

Click “enable email” for the blog you wish to post to via email. That will give you a special email address. I input the email address in my phone so I don’t have to ever think about it again, and now it’s ready whenever I need it.

To post by email, go to your email on your phone and open a new message. The recipient, of course, is that secret email address WordPress assigned to you. The subject line is the title of the blog. The body of the email is the blog itself. An attached photo will show up on the bottom of the email. Apparently, as of now, there isn’t a way to align the image via email. If you want to realign it — to add it to the top of the blog or to wrap text around it — you have to edit the post on your computer.

There are some really cool aspects of email blogging, for example, the shortcodes. [category a,b,c] will post categories. The categories must already be ones you use on your blog. The brackets are part of the shortcode, and there can be no space before the word “category” or after the last category you use. (In this case, the letter c.) You don’t even have to use the whole word, just the first few letters, but I haven’t yet tried out that tip.

For tags, use the shortcode [tags a,b,c]. Again, no space before the word “tags” and after the last tag. Be sure to separate tags with commas. New tags will be automatically generated; they don’t already need to be in use on your blog.

If you attach more than one photo, they will show up as a gallery. If you want each one posted individually, use the shortcode [nogallery].

These three shortcodes can be placed anywhere in the email and it won’t affect the text of your post.

Magic!

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

Giving Credit where Credit Isn’t Due

It’s almost impossible to rent a car without a credit card, but it is doable . . . for some people. Just not me. I tried. It would have been easier to deal with this move out of the house where I am living if I had wheels, but no luck.

To rent a car with a debit card, you have to be able to pass a credit check. The catch here is that if you can pass a credit check, you probably already have a credit card. For me to pass a credit check with my history of paying cash, I would need to have a job. They don’t care that I’ve spent the past ten years taking care of sick, old, and dying relatives. It’s not a paying job.

walkingEven if I were to get a secured credit card, where I have enough money in a separate account to equal to the limit on the card, they could refuse me, and according to the person I talked to, they probably would. No house. No apartment. No job. Not exactly a stable customer from their standpoint.

One solution to the not-being-able-to-pass-a-credit-check situation is to get a secured loan, say for $500. I put $500 in a savings account to secure the loan at 1% interest. They lend me $500. I put that money in another savings account, also at 1% interest, and I use that account to pay off the loan, for which they charge me 18% interest. Since all of this is reported to the credit bureaus, it helps establish credit.

Still, I’d be paying them so I could use my own money. Huh? This makes sense? And if I do all this, maybe, someday, I’ll be able to rent a car. It seems as if there is ever such an emergency, it would be cheaper to buy a junker and then resell it for pennies on the dollar. At least I’d have gotten something for my troubles.

To be honest, I never believed in credit. Still don’t. I hate being in debt. And I always figured if I didn’t have the money now to get what I needed, there was no reason to believe I would have the money at a later date. And if I did believe I’d get the money at a later date, then it made more sense to wait.

The onset of debit cards has made credit cards mostly unnecessary, except when it comes to renting a car. Luckily, there are alternatives when one finds oneself temporarily without a car — namely feet and friends.

Luckily I have enough of both to handle the current situation.

There is another problem, though. Without credit, it’s almost impossible to rent an apartment. But I don’t want to think about that now, and anyway, I’m not ready to settle down.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

Winging It

Yesterday was my last night of being homed. Today I start my odyssey as a homeless woman. I could rent an apartment (that is, I could if they didn’t do a credit check — I have no credit, never having borrowed any money, mortgaged a house, or bought anything on time), but I can’t force myself to do that. It just seems so terribly sad to settle down without Jeff. And then there is the problem of incipient stagnation. At first, I’m sure, I’d do things, but gradually entropy would set in, and there I would be . . . the crazy catless lady.

That scenario is not entirely accurate, but it feels accurate, and that’s all I have to go on . . . feelings. And my feeling is to wing it for a while. “Wing it” meaning to do something extemporaneously. “Wing it” meaning to improvise. “Wing it” meaning to fly.

And oh, I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive
And oh, I can fly, I can fly, I can fly
And oh, I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive
And I’m loving every second, minute, hour, bigger, better, stronger power

(Chorus from #thatPOWER sung and written in part by Justin Beiber.)

The most complicated aspect of this homelessness is that at the moment I am also carless. My vintage VW is in the shop being prettified (it’s one thing to be homeless, another to look like it). I have also promised to stay in the area until after May so I can perform in a dance program at the local college. We will be performing two of my favorite numbers, a trio of Tahitian Apurimas and a powerful rendition of Hawaiian War Chant, so the promise wasn’t hard to make.

People are being very kind to me in offering to house me for a few days (and even longer), which is especially generous because my situation is of my own making. As I said, I could probably find a place to live, and my carlessness isn’t due to an emergency. (It’s like trying to get sympathy for a hospital stay when the surgery is strictly cosmetic.) On the other hand, maybe it is necessary. These visits will help ease my way out into the world.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens. I’ll try to continue to blog every day (or most days, anyway), but don’t get concerned if I disappear for a few days. Ah’ll be bock. (That’s supposed to be a phonetic rendering of The Terminator’s infinitely imitated accent.)

Thank you for your support during these past five exhausting, angst ridden, grief stricken, terrible and wonderful years. Wish me well as I start this new phase of my journey.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

Haunted by the Specter of Empty Rooms

The last night in my father’s house. I’ve been wandering through the empty rooms to make sure I haven’t overlooked anything, and I can’t stop crying. It seems as if during the past five years I’ve tapped into a well of endless tears, and though the weepfests are fairly rare now, tonight brought them back.

It’s the end of so many things.

I came to this house after the death of Jeff, my life mate/soul mate, to look after my father and ensure he could be as independent as possible during his last years. I fulfilled that task, and now he is gone, too, having survived my mother by almost eight years.

I no longer know who I weep for. All my dead? The woman I once was? Death itself?

I came here shattered by grief — totally desolate with no idea how to go on by myself, no idea how to want to go on by myself. Now I have dance classes, friends, dreams. Would Jeff even know me now? Would the woman I once was know me?

I rememb016ber how at the beginning of my grief, I used to marvel that so great a trauma as the death of the one person who tied me to earth and made life worth living didn’t change me. But something did — perhaps living. There is a whole world out there if I have but the courage to take it, and yet here I am, soaked in tears.

Tomorrow I will gather myself up and forge ahead with hopes and a smile, but tonight, well, tonight there are just too damn many empty rooms. Too damn much sorrow.

I know this is the cycle of life. People are born. They live a few years or many. They die. But my heart doesn’t want to know that particular truth. My heart wants what it can no longer have — to go home to Jeff. But that home is gone, too. Those rooms I emptied before I came here are filled with other people’s belongings. Jeff for sure isn’t there. Nor is he in my future.

The specter of empty rooms haunts me.

I used to love empty rooms. Jeff and I never put furniture in our living room. A weight bench. That was all. But now, empty rooms remind me of ends, not beginnings. And I am tired of ends. (That’s probably why I like the idea of a nomadic life, though I doubt I would like the reality — there are no ends, only beginnings.)

I wish I were strong and wise and brave, but the truth is I simply do what everyone does — keep on going however I can.

And tomorrow I go, leaving these empty rooms behind.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

Testing 4 5 6

(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.”)

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Yesterday I tried out the post by email feature on WordPress but forgot to add tags and categories. so today I need to try to do that too. I’m disappointed that the photos appear at the end of the post rather than at the beginning or in line with text, but I’m pleased that I can post at all. The main problem is that the photo appeared after my signature line, so I’m experimenting with putting the signature line first. If it’s too annoying let me know and in future posts by email I’ll just leave it off or just not worry that the photo is tacked on as an afterthought.

I’m also trying to do this without wifi because obviously if I’m out in the middle of nowhere I’ll be lucky to have a signal of any kind and definitely no wifi.

I took my last walk in the neighborhood today, and then ended out in the desert. I’ll miss that easy access to the wilds, but there will be more wilds in the future. This is an interesting time in my life, that’s for sure.

Testing 1 2 3

I figure since my internet access might be a problem, I should learn how to blog by email. I read the tutorial but there is no way to find out if I learned anything unless I test myself. Okay let’s do it. Abracadabra! Post!

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Posted via phone. Since this smartphone is probably more intelligent than me, blame any mistakes on the phone.

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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.

Leaving the Nest

The papers for the sale of my father’s house will be signed next Wednesday. The buyers came for one last walk-through yesterday, and as I sat outside on the small wall separating this property from the neighbor’s, I marveled at how little time these people had spent inside the house. Twenty minutes the first time they came to look. Ten minutes today. I suppose with all the information and photos posted online, it doesn’t take more than that to decide you like a house, but it seemed so little. I mean, I spend more time test walking a new pair of hiking shoes before I decide to buy.

But I have heard that buying a house is an emotional experience, not necessarily a logical one, and besides, there are appraisers and inspectors for the more practical side.

bowl of lightsThey still like the house and still intend to buy it, so there will be no last minute reprieve for me. Just as well. It’s time for me to leave the nest. Literally, the nest. I built a small nest of pillows and comforters in one corner of one room, and that’s where I’m staying. The rest of the house is empty.

It’s nice and nicely symbolic to have these few days in the empty house. No furniture, no clutter, not even many necessities except for my nest, a few personal items, and my computer. And my bowls of light. (Hey! I bet that’s why the house sold so fast! The magic of light!)

When the couple and the realtor finished visiting the house, I gave the new owner a small gift, hugged her and wished her much happiness in this house. That hug, too, was symbolic. A passing of the torch. And a more binding contract than the one they will sign next week.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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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