Anniversary of a Dubious Miracle

I’m  not one for remembering dates of my anniversaries and such — the practice doesn’t fit well with a live-in-the-moment attitude, and besides, I seldom know what day it is anyway, and it’s almost impossible to remember what you never knew in the first place. For example, I have no idea what day I met Jeff, and even though I knew at the moment that he would be important to me (I just didn’t know how important), it never occurred to me to mark the date. Years later, when I did want to know, I could only remember that it was the first or second Saturday of August that year. (I wonder if it ever occurred to me before now to make the connection — he came into my life on a Saturday, and left it on a Saturday.)

Still, with my penchant for not paying attention to dates, there are some things so stunningly ghastly that the date can never be forgotten. Jeff’s death, of course. And also the destruction of my arm.

A year ago today, at this time, I was perfectly perfect (in my own overweight way), but by the end of the day, I would have sustained such a devastating injury that from one minute to the next, my life would never be the same.

If there is such a thing as a miracle that brings horror rather than joy, this particular event would have to qualify.

It started in dance class a month or so before the date. The class was going to perform a couple of dances as part of the local college end of semester dance concert, and I did not want to be a part of it. For days, weeks, the class members badgered me to change my mind, and I remember almost crying when I finally told them to leave me alone. “If I do it,” I said, “Something awful will happen.” I did finally agree to be understudy for one particular dance since if any of the principal dancers couldn’t do it, they would be in big trouble.

They finally left me alone, but then a whole string of events occurred. First of all, instead of being at the beginning of December as it always is, the program was scheduled for the middle of November. Second, a major wildfire destroyed the venue of my teacher’s grandson’s wedding, causing the wedding to be changed to the same day as the performance. And one of the best dancers had been absent for a couple of months due to an illness that threatened her grandson’s life.

And so, there I was on that fateful night.

Even then, all would have been well, but just as I turned to cross the parking lot between two cars, the motion-activated lights went out. (I guess from the lights’ perspective, I had disappeared.) Next thing I knew, I was on the ground, screaming in utter pain. When I finally was able to look to see what had happened, I discovered I had tripped over a parking berm. Instead of the parking lines lining up with the berm, they lines forced the cars to park in the space. (Utter idiocy!!)

Well, I finally stopped screaming in pain, and started screaming for help. And not a single person came, not even the security guards who were supposed to be patrolling the area. I considered going back inside to get one of my friends to help me, but after going through all the aggravation to make sure the class could perform, it seemed contraindicative to get them riled up. (And anyway, I didn’t want to trudge that long distance back to the performing arts center — what if there was another unseen obstruction waiting to trip me up?) I considered calling an ambulance, but since it was a Saturday night (Saturdays are sure fateful for me!!) with sirens already sounding in the background, I feared it would be a long time before I could get help. So I wrapped my destroyed wrist (with the bone sticking out) in my veils from the dance and drove myself to the hospital. (At the time, it seemed logical, but now I shudder at the thought.)

And events still conspired to exacerbate this “miraculous” event. For one, the surgeon on call at the hospital told me my elbow wasn’t broken, and as it turns out, it was broken in so many places I eventually had to have the elbow replaced. For another, the surgeon only put on an external fixator without fixing the bones, so that when I finally had the necessary surgery, scar tissue had already began forming. Luckily, this on-call surgeon didn’t want to perform the follow-up surgery, so he sent me to a specialist. That surgeon didn’t want to perform the surgery, either, so he tried to pawn me off on a specialist’s specialist, but when he couldn’t find anyone else to do it, he reluctantly agreed to do the surgery.

At my final follow-up appointment with the surgeon, I thanked him for taking care of me, mentioning that I knew he didn’t want to do the surgery, so I especially appreciated his fixing my elbow/wrist/arm. He laughed and said, “I really, really, really didn’t want to do it.” He went on the explain the difficulty — with a normal wrist fracture, the radius is still connected to the elbow, but with my injury (a pulverized wrist, a shattered elbow, and more than a dozen breaks in the radius due to all my weight landing on the wrist), the radius was unconnected to any other bone (not even to the ulna, since those connecting tendons had also been destroyed in the fall), which made the surgery horrendously difficult. And then, there was the problem of it being an “old” injury. (Even injuries a couple of weeks old apparently cause problems for the surgeon because of the necessity to scrape the scar tissue from fragmented bones.)

Although he told me it would take two years to get back partial use of my hand, wrist, and elbow, I didn’t believe him. But today I do. After a year, I can do many of the things he didn’t think I’d ever be able to do, such as open a door with my left hand. He’d also said I “should” be able to type and drive again, but the tone of his voice expressed doubt. He also said I’d have chronic pain in the ulna (which hadn’t been broken) and the fingers (which hadn’t been broken but which had been pushed out of line) and he was right about that. He also promised arthritis, which is apparently nothing I can avoid. But that won’t come for awhile.

Meantime, after the fear of never being able to use my hand/arm/wrist/fingers, and despite pain and a deformity that apparently only I notice, I am grateful to be able to type, open doors and bottles, drive, carry sort-of-heavy items, and oh, so many things.

In the end, it wasn’t the fall that was miraculous. In a strange sort of way, it was inevitable. The miracle is that I am doing as well as I am.

So as it turns out, this is not a day to remember horrendous event and mourn the loss of some mobility, but a day to give thanks for being able to use my left hand/wrist/elbow/fingers at all.

***
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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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Seven Years and Seven Months

Seven years and seven months ago, Jeff, my lifemate/soulmate, died after a long illness, catapulting me out of not only our coupled life, but the very house we shared for decades. After dismantling our home, getting rid of what I could and packing the rest, I went to stay with my father, who needed someone to be there for him. Although he was mostly able to look after himself, he was getting feeble enough that he needed someone in the house to make sure he was okay. And me, being newly loose in the world, undertook the task. If he were alive, my father would be over a hundred years old, but he died three years ago today, and once again I was catapulted out into the world.

I’ve become somewhat of a nomad, or maybe I should say a serial nester. In the past three years, I’ve lived over a dozen places (and those are only the places I’ve stayed more than a couple of weeks. If you include places I stayed a week or less, they are too numerous to count.) Because I’ve spent most of the past couple of decades taking care of friends and relatives, my financial situation is precarious, so I should be trying to find a place to settle down and get a job, but . . . well, I’m not. After the emotional rigors of the past ten years (starting with Jeff’s rapid decline and my mother’s death and ending with the fall eleven months ago that pulverized my left wrist, destroyed my left elbow, and smashed my radius, leaving me with a deformed arm, and wrist and fingers that don’t quite work the way they should), it’s nice to just go with the flow — not trying to do anything, not trying to think anything, not trying to push my recalcitrant spirit into a semblance of vitality. Just drifting.

Occasionally I correspond with the newly bereft who discover me through my book, Grief: The Great Yearning. They appreciate knowing they aren’t alone in how they feel, and they seem to find solace in my words. And that’s all I have left of grief now — just words. (Well, that and compassion. Not everyone comprehends the total horror that one lives through after the death of the one person you shared everything with, the one person who anchored you to life, the one person who understood you.)

Oddly, in the same way that I can no longer “feel” the exact pain of my arm when it shattered, I can no longer actually “feel” the pain of new grief. I remember not being able to breathe. Not being able to think. Not being able to get a grip on the immense agony of my grief. I remember feeling as if I were standing on the brink of the abyss, remember thinking that if I reached out far enough, I could still touch Jeff. But I cannot actually recall the feeling of new grief itself.

Even more oddly, I’m not sure if the man in my memory is the real Jeff. Has my memory of him changed over the years to fulfill his changing role in my life? I no longer know, and don’t want to know. To try to resurrect the real him, if only in memory, will eventually lead to losing him again, and that I can’t handle.

So I drift.

I am doing what I can to exercise my hand, wrist, elbow — I won’t gain the maximum usage of the joints for another year, so I am still diligently following instructions. And I am still taking dance classes. And slowly, I am gaining strength, better balance, and maybe even a modicum of grace.

What I have not been doing is writing, even though finishing my decade-old work not-in-progress tops my to-do list (or would top my to-do list if I had one. A to-do list seems the antithesis of drifting.)

Although today is the anniversary of my father’s death, it is Jeff I think of. If Jeff hadn’t died, I would never have gone to take care of my father, would never be where I am today.

Drifting.

This photo is twenty years old, the only one ever taken of me, Jeff, and my parents. Although I am the only one still alive, that “me” in the photo is long gone. I don’t even remember being her. Maybe she’s just as lost as the other three.

***
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.

No opinions. Just being.

Day three of trying to live in the world right before my eyes, a world uninfluenced by anyone’s opinion, not even my own.

The key word here is “trying.”

Unfortunately, lately my head is filled with a whole lot of opinions.

For most of my life, I lived in my own sphere of influence. Or rather, Jeff’s and mine. We were researchers. Thinkers. Truthseekers. We tried to find the reality beyond opinion, beyond the accepted lies masquerading as fact. The truth was seldom found in the current world of that day, only coming to light years later after a whole lot of research.

The first years of grief after Jeff’s death protected me from outside influences because that all encompassing pain left no room for anything else. And then came the near destruction of my arm. For almost five months I seldom saw anyone, seldom talked to anyone. To escape from becoming mired in my own mind (even worse, a mind that was fogged by opiates and the long-lasting effects of anesthesia), I started reading all sorts of articles on the internet, mostly those showing up in my news feed on Facebook.

To my horror, I found myself reacting to things that had nothing to do with me. Other people’s opinions about race, politics, gender, and a whole slew of other issues. Opinions about these issues even spilled over into discussions about writing (which up until then had been fairly neutral, the only arguments coming from those who wanted to destroy all rules of writing and those who wanted to adhere to every rule). People started exhorting writers to be inclusive, to be political, to use their fiction as a way to influence the world.

As if everyone else’s problems were also my problems.

I used to be color-blind. I remember telling my mother about a woman working at the local grocery store, a woman who struck me as being particularly kind, and after finally finding the woman, my mother said to me in exasperation, “It would have helped if you had told me she is black.” My response was a bewildered, “She is?”

Well, people convinced me it was racist not to give people the honor of their race, when in fact it was more of a matter of a selective memory and poor observational skills. (I once got in an argument about some guy’s beard. I swore he didn’t have one. And guess what? When I turned around and looked, I saw that the guy had a huge beard!) Apparently, I remember people and things more as impressions than actual images.

Then people convinced me that noticing people’s skin color was racist. And that my friends being generally white makes me a racist. And that my being white (or actually, sort of a pale pinkish yellowish beige) is in itself racist. But just because someone thinks something does not make it true. I’ve come to the conclusion that we are pack animals, and as such, we tend to pack together with those of our own kind. Sometimes our own kind is of our own gender or our own race; sometimes it is a group of all races who happen to have affection for one another; sometimes it is a group of writers or walkers or dancers. Bias is not racist. Or sexist. Or whatever. It is merely the “pack”age.

But here I am blathering on about things that don’t have to do with me. At my age, I am who I am. I take those in front of my eyes at face value. What other people think about the so-called issues is their problem. What they think about me is their problem.

Opinions are easy. Everybody has one.

Truth is hard. Truth is that tiny space where all opinions overlap. Or maybe truth is that even tinier space where there are no opinions.

That’s what I’m reaching for. No opinions. Just being.

 

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.

An Insular Life

Day two of reacting to and interacting with only that which is before my eyes was lovely. Elsewhere, there were sorrows and tragedies, nasty political commentaries, and . . . well, problems too numerous to mention, but here, in my insular world, the sun shone warmly, lizards scampered in the desert, rabbits lolled on the lawn, and a trio of ravens silently chased each other above the treetops, the only sound the loud whooshing of their wings.

A perfect day. Others did not have the option of such a perfect day, of course, but in the end, I can’t worry about them. All I can do is live is my own life.

Besides, does knowing all that is going on the world really help anyone? Maybe we aren’t supposed to be global people, feasting on the news like scavengers, emoting about things that couldn’t possible touch us. Chaos theory tells us that everything does touch us (the flap of a hypothetical butterfly wing in Hong Kong supposedly affects weather halfway around the world), but the effects may not be felt for a very long time, too long to matter.

I think about rural peoples in days of yore who seldom saw anyone outside of their households. They knew nothing of the human, political, and natural forces in countries across the ocean, even in far away cities in their own country, that might have created (or at least affected) their world, but if they didn’t know, did it happen? Did they live lesser lives for not knowing? Would we live lesser lives if we did not know?

It’s hard not to know what is going on today, at least in a cursory way, since people talk about what they saw on the news, but at third or fourth hand, the tragedies lose their immediacy. (And anyway, almost all news is third or fourth hand by the time it is sifted and filtered down through news bureaucracies, which makes it all a sort of gossip.)

Maybe it’s not possible to live in the small world before my eyes. Maybe trying to do so makes me an unkind (though happier) soul, but my mission (to the extent that I have a mission) is not to succor the world, but to help the bewildered bereft make sense of what happened to them. (An email or a blog comment directed specifically to me is included in the world before my eyes, as is the page of a book, so to that extend, I do live the larger world.)

I hope that in whatever world you found yourself today, you, too, bathed your eyes in loveliness.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.

Peachy Keen

The tenth anniversary of my birth into the online world, the tenth anniversary of my dipping a toe into the blogging stream, passed by unnoticed. For all those years, the internet was a place of refuge for me, a way of both slipping away from and embracing the traumas of my life. For an entire decade, I had to care for the sick and dying; grieve the deaths of loved ones; handle the loss of homes, friends, hopes, and security; deal with the pulverization of my wrist, arm, and elbow. And I survived it all.

Now, this virtual place of refuge has become less of a haven and more of morass of passions, opinions, issues, and divisiveness, making me feel estranged in this oh, so strange non-land. During the decades I lived with Jeff, I had no fear of delving into the truth and voicing my thoughts no matter how far out of the ordinary because they were always received with his respect and understanding. I have tried to continue the path of truth, but in an indoctrinated world, a world where propaganda rules and reason is trumped by passion, I have been rendered mostly mute, which is okay. It’s better for my sanity if I live in the world in I see before my own eyes rather than the world reflected in the vitriolic eyes of the unsocial media.

It’s also better for me to live with my own emotions, not just online, but offline. When my own wild emotions — grief, anger, fear — began to fade, I still felt as if I were drowning in sorrow. Other people’s sorrows. Staying away from those particular people and their problems (no matter how cold that makes me seem) has brightened my life considerably.

Someday, I am sure, I will take to blogging regularly again. Someday . . . when I have something to say.

Meantime, I am trying to wean myself away from Facebook, trying to empty my mind of extraneous thoughts (though, to be honest, my mind is already mostly empty), and trying to enjoy my unlonely solitude — when I am alone, that is. I still take frequent dance classes, and once in a while I even go on a small adventure, most recently to pick peaches in an orchard less than three miles from where I am staying.

(I had to smile at the discovery of the peach orchard. In my latest book, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, I called this community Peach Valley and commented, “nope, no peaches, and not much of a valley, either.” I sure was wrong about that!)

I still have no clue where my life will lead me but there is so much of the country I haven’t seen, so much I haven’t experienced, that I am contemplating another long trip after my hand is completely healed. (The fake elbow works fine but the hand and wrist still don’t always behave, and sometimes they are very painful, though for the most part, they do what I need them to do.)

But for now, there is dancing.

And fresh peach cobbler for dessert.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.

Blue on Blue

Blue on blue actually refers to the photo below, a toy VW bug on top of my VW regulation-size VW (you might have to click on the image to see the tiny car), but it can also refer to my current life. Though I don’t particularly like admitting it, I have been a bit blue lately. Healing is frustrating because it takes so darn long, but not healing is even more frustrating because . . . well because it’s frustrating. It’s hard not being able to do simple things that I used to be able to do with my hand/wrist/arm, and when I can do things, it’s not without pain. Some wrist mobility I can never get back because of the plate holding everything in place. At best, using the hand feels awkward, though I can drive and type, so that’s good

Then there is the whole financial thing, which I try not to think about because at the moment, I can do nothing about the situation. I have a new book coming out soon (Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare) and that should fix all my financial woes, right? Yeah, right. But, in a perfect world, it could happen.

And this thirty-day diet I am on that is supposed to give me energy and get rid of any inflammation seems to sap whatever energy I have. But there is just a week left, and although I hadn’t planned on deviating greatly from the diet (I do think staying away from wheat and sweeteners is a good idea, for example) I can’t help thinking of all the things I could make next week if I had the energy — made-from-scratch brownies, pierogies, bread, hamburger rolls (aka Bierocks or Runzas).

But there are other shades of blue besides the gloomy blues in my life such as the bright blue sky and the risible blue of smiles. Not much makes me smile right now, but there are some things. My current work in progress has some amusing moments that made me smile when I read it. Recently when I was out walking, I got caught in a hail storm (yep, hail in the desert!) and for some peculiar reason, despite the discomfort of being very cold and very wet, being out in that storm made me smile. A new dance I am learning makes me smile. (Actually, two new dances make me smile — an Arabian ballet from the Nutcracker and a Samoan dance to the tune of “We Know the Way” from Moana.)

And the blue toy VW made me smile. It’s one of those pull-back cars that speed along by itself, and that, too makes me smile.

So, blue on blue. Nowhere near as bad as it sounds.

***

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 Blooming Desert

The desert is blooming, and so, I hope, am I. Each day I do a bit more, stretching my poor deformed limb, trying to get back into my life, whatever that might be.

No — not my poor deformed limb. My exquisite limb. As Sheila Deeth, friend and fan extraordinaire, suggested, paraphrasing the blurb at the bottom of my posts, “’an exquisite wrist, wrenching to move, and at the same time full of profound promise’ perhaps?” I like her phrasing so much better than the way I describe my wrist! And I’m sure the wrist would appreciate the new appellation because it is trying so hard to move! It’s not the limb’s fault it doesn’t look the same as it used to. (Though who am I to judge? I don’t look the same, either!)

Today I used both Pacerpoles (I’d been using the right-handed trekking pole as a cane), thinking the left pole would give my wrist a workout, and sure enough, it did, though I had to carry the pole part of the way. Still, any usage of the wrist, no matter how painful, is a step in the right direction.

And, even better, both my exquisite wrist and my exquisite self were rewarded with these exquisite images of the blooming desert:

***

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 Have a Secret

If you’ve known me long enough, I’m sure you can guess what my secret is. Although I try to take things as they come, am grateful for the blessings that tiptoe into my life, struggle to find a good side to any setback, the truth is, I hate this.

I hate that I fell and destroyed my arm and wrist so badly I won’t be able to do everything I once did. I hate that I am in pain and that from now on might always have to deal with pain. I hate that my arm is deformed. I hate that after almost five months, I am still struggling just to get through the days. I hate that getting the fixator off didn’t really change anything except that it catapulted me into a new and vastly longer time of pain and rehabilitation. I hate that Jeff is gone — somehow it seemed to me that after all the agony of his death, I would live a charmed life, because shouldn’t such a terrible thing be offset by an equal amount of joy? I especially hate that that particular conceit didn’t turn out to be true, and I now have to deal with not only his absence but also my increased vulnerability.

I tell myself all the things I’m sure you are thinking. I tell myself the injury could have been so much worse, and that is true. The force of the fall was so great, I could have broken my back or my neck or my face.  I tell myself I will get used to all of this, and that also is true — I will get used to it . . . eventually. I tell myself that just because we survive one horror in our life it doesn’t mean we are safe from other horrors. I tell myself that I am grateful for this time of healing, that I don’t have responsibilities clamoring for my attention. And I’m grateful for the friends who helped me in my need, for the readers who have offered support and comfort, for the doctor who tried to put my mushed wrist and shattered bones back together.

And yet, tonight, none of that seems to matter.

Luckily, there are only so many hours in one particular night, and soon this night will be over. I don’t suppose tomorrow will be much different from today, except for perhaps gaining the strength and courage to go on.

That, at least is one thing I do not hate — the ability to keep going despite the traumas that sometimes bow my back.

Here’s hoping will all have a good night and that tomorrow we’ll wake refreshed and able to shoulder the burdens — and joys — of the new day.

***

(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.

Acknowledging Pain. And Pleasure.

Sometimes I wonder at what point telling one’s truth becomes self-indulgence, but I don’t suppose it matters. Writing helps me process my various traumas, and if anyone gets tired of my tales of woe (I am a Wednesday’s child after all) he or she can move on to sunnier blogs. I do know that in the scope of world events, such as wars and other horrors, a disabled and deformed arm is of little consequence, but in my world, the injury continues to loom large.

Still, I don’t suppose anyone really needs to know that yesterday I shed tears of pain, frustration, and fatigue. It’s amazing how much energy it takes to deal with chronic pain and even more amazing that the ensuing exhaustion does not lead to easy sleep. If I sit quietly and don’t move my left elbow, arm, wrist, or fingers, the ache is minor and can be easily ignored, but remaining immobile is a good way of ensuring that my left limb will remain permanently immobile.

Normally massaging an atrophied limb makes it feel better, but I have so much scar tissue to be massaged, that kneading makes the pain worse. Unfortunately, I need to knead, so this pain, too, I have to endure. Ignoring scar tissue is dangerous. (Recently two friends have undergone major surgeries because of old scar tissue) and I have enough problems without worrying about scar tissue eventually impeding the flow of blood.

There’s no therapist cracking a metaphoric whip to make me do the necessary work, just my own undisciplined self trying to put myself back together again. Some of the pain is inadvertent, such as when I absently reached out to grab something with my left hand, but that is all to the good. After all, the whole point of gaining as much mobility and flexibility in the limb as possible is to be able to use the arm without thinking about it.

The very idea of having to live with such pain and effort for a year or two (and possibly the rest of my life) is daunting, so I try not to think — just do. I could take pain pills, and I did take one last night, but although they sometimes take the edge off the pain, they cause additional problems such as vertigo, so I only take them as a last resort. During the months when I absolutely had to take the pills, I couldn’t bend over without feeling as if I were falling, couldn’t walk without feeling as if I were off balance. (I still use a trekking pole as a cane, though now it is more of a precaution than a necessity. But come to think of it, it is a necessity. Any fall could cause more damage to that poor pulverized wrist.)

At the moment, I feel more hopeful than I did yesterday, maybe because I have not yet been reduced to tears. I do know I have to take each day as it comes without trying to negate — or exacerbate — my pain, frustration, and fatigue.

Although I have not yet learned to ignore the wails of the passing trains at night (during the day, the wind blows the sound away, so it’s not as much of a problem) and have not completely eradicated the smell of stale cigarette smoke from my room. I do feel that this new place is more conducive to healing than the old one. I have more privacy inside and a nicer area to walk outside. Being a creature of habit, I often take the same route — winding through the neighborhood, looping across the desert, and returning by way of the longest sidewalk I have seen since I left a city grid. That anachronistic sidewalk pleases me as much is the open space of the desert does.

So, see? I am not all doom and gloom, though sometimes it does feel that way.

Here’s to healthier and happier days for all of us.

 

***

(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.

Everything Passes

I had a moment of discouragement today. It didn’t last long — moments by definition don’t last long —but in that moment, I totally lost heart.

This should have been a good day. I had my post-op doctor’s appointment to get the final bandages off my arm, and I was actually feeling pretty good until I saw my arm unadorned — no fixator, no bandages, just me. I knew the arm was deformed but had never actually seen what it was going to look like, and the misshapenness shocked me. My wrist and arm were unfamiliar as the back of my hand, or even the front of my hand. (All the bones of my hand were squished together in the fall, and they were never able to be put back where they should’ve been.) I don’t suppose other people would notice the deformity, especially at a casual glance, but it is quite pronounced.

People keep telling me to look on the bright side. That at least I still have an arm. That other people have it worse. That up until now I have been lucky. I understand what they’re saying, but it doesn’t really help. Once you start comparing yourself to other people (some do have it worse, but others have it better) or to what was or might have been, self-pity is not far behind. And self-pity is a deformity of its own.

Besides, today is about me. What happened to me. And it seems as if being disheartened for a moment, or even two, is a perfectly sensible reaction.

Still, when people aren’t trying to be encouraging (and succeeding only in making me feel bad), I’m okay because the truth is it could have been worse, a lot worse. And up until now I have been lucky. I’ve never been particularly beautiful, and I carry some extra weight, but in its own way, my body has been perfect. And now it’s not.

As the surgeon said, however, it’s not how the arm looks but how it works. He was quite impressed with the mobility I have managed to regain in my fingers. (I can almost make a fist.) I only did what he told me to do, which was work my fingers whenever I got a moment, and I will apply that same diligence to my wrist. This is the long haul now. He says even the most simple hairline fracture of the wrist takes a year to gain the maximum possible mobility, and my injury (injuries, actually) was 1000 times worse than that. So I’ll try not to be discouraged for two years, at which point I will know what I have to live with, and will probably even be used to it.

Although several people have told me to make sure I demand physical therapy, the surgeon said there’s no point in going to physical therapy yet, that it’s better to wait until I get some mobility, otherwise the therapist would just sit me in a corner and have me work the wrist. And that I can do now. He will reassess in three months. Until then I am on my own. He did offer suggestions, such as massaging the scar tissue because the extensive scar tissue is impeding some of the motion. And he suggested water therapy: A large sponge in a bucket of warm water. Reach the hand in the bucket of water and squeeze the sponge letting the water run down the arm. Sounds therapeutic, doesn’t it? Almost pleasant.

When I stand outside myself and don’t let myself get involved in the emotion of the injury, I find the whole thing both interesting and challenging. But you can’t live outside yourself. And in myself I feel . . . so many aches and pains and emotions.

But one way or another, everything passes, and so will all of this.

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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.