The lazy days are flowing one into the other, and it seems as if my life has come to a standstill, as if the stagnation I fear has already set in, but however I feel, the truth is, this has been a year of unprecedented adventure, change, and awe.
I started out the year in my father’s house, dealing with grief for all my dead while I cleaned out his “effects” and readied the house for sale. I gathered all my friends together for a Pre-Probate Party to celebrate the last days before his will went into probate, the last days I knew for sure I would have a place to live. Since then, I have never been without a place to live, though I stayed on couches, lived in a camper, house-sat a few times, and even rented a room for a couple of months. (Oddly, I am ending the year in this same precarious position as I started because my current room is in a house that’s for sale, and soon I will again be Stepping From The Known Into The Unknown.)
Sometime during those last days at my father’s house where I tried to imagine Unimagined Possibilities, I found myself with a new philosophy: Either Things Will Work Out Or They Won’t, which allowed me to stop worrying so much and instead let me enjoy the uncertainties of my new life. If things work out, obviously, I don’t have to worry, and if they don’t work out, there’s nothing I can do about it now because I have no idea in what way they won’t work out. Or things might work out in a way I couldn’t even fathom, which is what usually happens.
And so I drifted through my days. I continued to take the dance classes, which I love, but I dreamed of . . . more. Something epic. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail or the as yet unfinished California Coastal Trail. Perhaps stepping foot on the Appalachian Trail (which a friend recently told me is pronounced Apple-atchian. Okay. Got it. Now I know the most important thing about the trail if ever I decided to hike a bit of it.) I also considered a more realistic venture since I do not think I have the ability to carry a heavy backpack for many miles — visiting national parks and day hiking to sample a variety of trails and terrains.
A friend, who knew my dreams of adventure, invited me to stay with her and volunteered to drop me off at trail heads and pick me up when I was finished with my hike so that I could experience adventure in a relatively safe manner. And so began two magical months of hiking along the ocean, losing myself in the forest (not getting lost geographically, more like letting the forest take me over), becoming one with . . . myself, perhaps. I am usually of two minds about everything, so I am often beset with doubts, worry, and internal discussions. But not up in the redwoods. Not by the ocean. There, I was simply me. Simply happy.
One of the things I had been of two minds about centered around my ancient VW bug, A Forty-Three-Year-Old Lemon. I considered replacing the iconic car with some sort of van I could turn into a mini-home, considered getting an automobile big enough to sleep in, considered, oh, so many possibilities, but in the end decided to keep the poor old thing a little longer. After all, how many people can say they have only owned one car in their whole life, a vehicle they bought new and kept going through the decades? And the way I figured, if I bought a new car now, in five years, it would be old. If I bought a new car five years from now, five years from now it would be new.
Still, if I were going on a long trip to visit parks and meet online friends, I would prefer to look like a near-classic lady in a near-classic car rather than a homeless woman in a rattletrap, so I found someone who would do the body work. All I wanted was a couple of holes patched and enough rust gone so it could be painted, and six months later, six months of learning to do without a vehicle, what I found at The Great Reveal!! was a full body restoration. And because the outside looked so beautiful, I had to have the inside reupholstered because it truly looked pathetic in relation to the lovely body. And then, when I took it to my mechanic for a tune-up before my cross-country trip and he expressed concerns about the engine lasting for all those miles, well, now I have a new engine, transmission, and a lot of other new parts, and Oh, My, My Erstwhile Lemon Is a Beauty!
Despite the awesomeness of this year, it seems to me as if it is . . . was . . . a time of preparation, not just for the coming year, but for a new way of living and thinking. I can’t go on a cross-country trip until I have put 500 miles on the new engine and have all the kinks worked out, but I am ready to meet the changes and challenges of both the trip and the coming year.
At least, I hope I am.
(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.”)