Making and Breaking Habits

I’ve often come across the idea that it takes twenty-one days to create a habit, but in my experience, it takes way longer than that, fifty days at least, which is why I resolved to blog every day for the last fifty days of 2017. And here I am, sixteen days into 2018, and still posting a blog every day. I’m to the point where, if I don’t feel like writing something, I would have to make a special mental leap not to do it.

Of course, daily blogging takes its own mental leap to continue the habit because often there simply is nothing to say. But here I sit anyway.

(Wait a minute! Back up a bit. What was that? Only sixteen days into the new year? Really? It feels like months.)

I’ve also read that it’s supposed to take twenty-one days to break a habit, though from the struggles people have with trying to give up smoking, it seems as if it could take anywhere from twenty-one days to infinity to stop. But when it comes to breaking a good habit, such as daily blogging (assuming that blogging is a good habit), it would take a single day. If I made that leap to not blog today, then it would be easy to make the same leap tomorrow, eroding the impetus, and so the habit would disappear.

Oddly, when it comes to my not eating wheat and sugar, I am already at the “mental leap” stage where I have to stop and think if I feel like a treat, though it has been but twenty days. Not that the habit is engrained enough to truly be a habit. It will take at least thirty more days for that, and even so, it will take a single day for the habit to disappear. And it will disappear when I take my Pacific coast trip — I already know that. After all, the initial idea for the trip was to make chocolate turtles in honor of my mother. And after the habit is broken, who knows how long before I will be able to cultivate the no-sugar habit again.

But that’s a problem for another day.

Oftentimes it’s impossible for me to cultivate a habit because something interferes before the habit is established. For example, I’d planned to try to lift light weights every day to strengthen my upper body and especially my wonky arm for when I go on that brief backpacking trip this May, but the thing that interferes is . . . me. I simply don’t feel like pushing myself, especially on the days I have hand pain. But we’ll see. Maybe after the fifty days of no sugar and wheat are up and they’ve become an engrained habit, I’ll look to establish the lifting-weights habit.

Or not. Sometimes I think being disciplined is highly overrated.

But for now, I’m sort of enjoying the game.

***

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.

Advertisements

2017 Got the Last Laugh

2017 was a year of pain, surgery, healing, doctors, drugs, along with various other maladies and challenges that kept me unwell for more than seven months.

I thought I’d be going into 2018 strong and relatively healthy, but 2017 got the last laugh. Here it is, the final day of the year, and I am sick again, this time with an intestinal bug. So much fun!

And so my prediction in Getting a Head Start on New Years Resolutions came true. Before I even started the year, my resolutions have gone by the wayside. That list has now been downgraded to a “to do list.” (Which, to be honest, was all those resolutions were in the first place.)

Despite that, with this post, as unpleasant as it might be, I have fulfilled my fifty-day blog challenge.

Wishing us all a healthy 2018 and challenges that are as pleasant to fulfill as this challenge was.

***

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.

Author Karma and Paying it Forward

For more than nine years, I have been interviewing authors, publishers, even book characters for my Pat Bertram Introduces . . . blog. I have promoted almost 500 authors and never asked for a single thing in return. I figured (silly me!) that some of the authors would do something for me as a thank you, but only a handful of people ever offered a reciprocal promotion, and in fact, most never even helped promote their own interview, expecting me to do all the work. Periodically, I would stop doing interviews, but whenever I had time, I would continue doing them, because, well, you never know if the right interviewee would come along and help catapult me into, if not big time, then bigger time. Besides, it seemed the right thing to do. And I did have the blog. . . .

For some reason lately, maybe because I’m trying to promote my books and few writers are doing anything to help, not even something simple like sharing a post on Facebook or retweeting a post on Twitter, the whole thing has struck me as terribly wrong.

So I changed my policy. If you want me to interview you, I’m still willing to do it, but I have made it a requirement that you promote my books in return. Doesn’t seem like too much to ask, especially since it can be something simple like tweeting my books (tweeting your own interview is not a promotion for me; it is a promotion for you).

Author karma and paying it forward were big concepts back when my books were first published, but come to think of it, that was mostly talk. Even back then, before the plethora of “indie” authors, no one bothered to return my favor. I suppose it’s understandable — most authors seem to think they are special and so deserve special treatment. After all, generally, they are the only author they know.

But still . . . it’s interesting to me that no author ever asked me why I was interviewing them. They all took my promoting them for granted, as if it was their right.

I sound very bah humbugish, don’t I? So not the spirit of Christmas! But too bad. If you want my help, you help me in return. As simple as that.

https://patbertram.wordpress.com/author-questionnaire/ As you can see by clicking on the link, I put the announcement that my interviews were no longer a free service in bold letters. Do you think anyone will pay attention? I don’t.

Wishing you a bah humbug sort of day.

***
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.

Dandelion Fluff and Veins of Gold

A friend left this comment on yesterday’s post.  Your blog titled 1000 Days of Grief read: “But now I know freedom was his final gift, though it was as unwanted and as unasked for as the grief. I haven’t learned yet what to do with this freedom. Perhaps if I embrace it as I did my grief, it will also take me where I need to go.” In the grief blogs I have read so far you never apologize for following your grief, actually quite the opposite, you give all of us permission to feel what we feel. I may be wrong but you sound apologetic for your ambiguity now. It strikes me as “OK” you feel two ways, even three, four or more about freedom as you follow it, trusting it will take you where you need to go.

Very astute of her!

A few days ago, I wrote about impossible dreams and how important they might be. I followed up with a post congratulating myself (more or less) on having found a direction to point myself, as if the impossible dream was perhaps not quite so impossible after all. Meantime, in an article about how to get in shape for a backpacking trip, I read that the best way to prepare is to fill your pack with however much weight you were going to carry, add five pounds, then strap a two-and-a-half pound weight to each ankle, and go out and hike five miles.

And so the whole pack of cards came crashing down on me. Not only did I re-realize the impossibility of the impossible dream (with all that weight, I wouldn’t even have been able to stand up, let alone walk a single step) I felt foolish for my on-again/off-again dreaming, as if I were a child pretending to be an adult. And because of my posting all these thoughts, my wishy-washiness was out there for all to see (or at least the “all” who manage to find me in the blogosphere), which seemed . . . well, embarrassing.

It wasn’t until the end of yesterday’s blog (the blog that seemed apologetic) that I connected my ambiguity with grief, because how can any of this have to do with grief? After all, I haven’t had a massive upsurge (or even a mild upsurge) of angst for nine months. It was easy to write unabashedly about grief when I was pouring out my heart along with my sorrow, but it seems less heroic just to . . . waffle. And yet it is all about grief. When you have lost the most important person in your life, no matter what you do, it is always about grief.

And in the world of grief, I am but a child, a child in the eighth year of life.

People talk about grief as if it were merely an emotional aberration and that soon we will be back the way we were. They talk about us going through, moving on, healing, journeying, all different ways of describing the grief process, but the truth is, more than anything else, grief is a matter of being. Of becoming. Of Kintsugi.

Kintsugi is roughly translated as “golden joinery” and is the Japanese art of embracing damage, of mending broken pottery with veins of gold, turning what might have once been a simple ceramic piece into a work of art.

And that is exactly what grief is. When you lose the most important person in your life, a person who seems connected to your very soul, you can never be the same. Oh, sure — you look the same, people still treat you the same (or try to), but you know you’re not the same. What you do, however, is embrace all the shards of your shattered life, and one by one you glue each piece back to the whole with veins of gold, and if a piece is missing, you fill in the void with more gold. As time goes on, you turn your life into something new, a work of art that maybe only you can appreciate because only you know the effort it took to put yourself back together again.

So yes, I am ambiguous. I say one thing one day and another thing on a different day. Sometimes I hold on to dreams, and sometimes I blow dreams away as if they were dandelion fluff. Like a child, I pretend I can do anything, pretend that I can be anything (with no regard for reality). And like a Kintsugi artist, I carefully add one vein of gold at a time.

And so I grow.

And there is no need to ever feel apologetic about that.

***
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.

Not a Flowing but a Flowering

If I hadn’t challenged myself to posting a blog every day for fifty days, I wouldn’t be sitting here at the computer trying to write  . . . something. Anything.

Normally, I would have gone to dance class today (ballet and tap, it would have been), which might have given me something to write about, but I woke with a sore throat and didn’t want to push my luck by going anyway — everyone I know caught cold this fall, and some people have had it for months. Not that I want to whine about being under the weather — that gets old. Actually, I don’t want to whine at all. I’ve been feeling good lately — I’ve spent many hours hiking in the desert, and I always feel most myself when I’m walking, especially when I’m walking out in the wild. Perhaps it’s the rhythm of walking that brings me to myself, or maybe it’s the wild inside connecting to the wild outside.

But today is not a day for walking. Or hiking. Or being any kind of wild.

It’s a day for . . . I don’t know. Just being, maybe.

I’ve been scrolling through my archives looking for inspiration for today’s blog post. My challenge was specifically worded so I didn’t have to write something new — I just had to post something. But I couldn’t find anything that spoke to me about me today.

I feel such a slug at times, as if I have always just flowed through my days, accomplishing not much of anything (which, though we seldom admit it, is living just as much as anything else), but I look at those previous posts and see not a flowing but a flowering. Adventures and explorations galore. A multitude of life-changing losses. A few life-changing gains. And yet, oddly, none of those things seem to have anything to do with me.

Each day, it seems, I am born anew, a woman with not much of a past, a woman with an unknown future. I was going to write “a woman with not much of a future,” but who’s to say what will happen? I remember times when nothing seemed to happen, such as the long years when Jeff never seemed to get sicker, never seemed to get better. And then suddenly, he did get sicker, and just as suddenly he died. During all those years when we would talk about his being gone, I could never have imagined what my life would become. And that was a mere seven years ago. Three years ago, my father died, and oddly despite my occasional nomadism, I am mostly living the same life as I did with him, though without responsibilities and in a different house, and I could never have imagined that, either.

The days continue to flow, but to what purpose, I don’t know.

Maybe a new flowering.

***
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.

Silly Season

In November, many fiction writers participate in a project called National Novel Writing Month (though now it seems to be an international thing). Bloggers tapped into that pool of creativity and used to participate in something called National Blog Posting Month where bloggers post something each day in November. Maybe they still do; I don’t know. I do remember that the year I did it, the month was called The Silly Season because bloggers quickly ran out of ideas and so wrote about anything, no matter how silly.

I am in the midst of my own blog challenge, to post something every day until the end of the year, and today is my silly season because all I can think of to write is something totally unimportant in the grand scheme of things. (Let’s hope my silly season ends here, but with thirty-four days left of the challenge and not much to say, who knows what I’ll end up posting.)

A couple of years ago, when I went on a buying spree for camping and backpacking supplies, I ended up with a $39.00 dividend from REI. I thought I had until March to use it, but I found out a couple of days ago it would expire shortly. Since I didn’t really need anything, I checked the website to see if I could find some hiking pants in my size because the only ones I have are black, which is too attractive to mosquitoef3a389da-0c18-4277-a25f-7290e42da4a3s. No pants, but I did find a lovely blue fleece jacket in my size. (I knew it was my size because I have a couple of others in different colors.) It was on sale for 40% off, and since it was (accidentally on my part) the weekend after Thanksgiving, I got 25% off the 40% off. Even with shipping and tax, the total bill for the $65.00 fleece came to less than my dividend, so it was free to me!!

The jacket came today, and it’s lovely, and so very warm. It also came with a warning: This innovative product will make you want to go outdoors and stay there.

Maybe. Someday.

For now, though, silly post or not, the jacket will be perfect for my trek into the very cold desert tomorrow.

***
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.

Blogging for Peace and Other Matters

It’s only the second day since my resolve to blog every day until the end of the year, and I’m already finding excuses why I should bail on idea. Too tired. No ideas. Nothing to say.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I’ve been planning on doing a follow-up to the Blog4Peace project I participated in on November 4th, but the drift of life had me in its grip. I suppose now is as good a time as ever to offer my retrospective, even though that day is long past.

I’ve been a peace blogger since 2012, though I’m not sure why I decided to participate in the first place. I don’t believe in “world peace” as a cause. People always talk about the human race as if we are warmongers, and yes, some people are, most notably those who make money and take power from wars, but think about it. How many wars have you personally started? For the most part, we (you and me, anyway) are peace lovers. We shy away from violence. Most of us don’t even start personal conflicts, though sometimes we do unwillingly get involved in contretemps we don’t quite know how to end.

Nor do I believe that nature itself is peaceful.

Just think about it — there you are, having a nice pleasant walk through the woods, having a picnic in a meadow, or perhaps standing on top of a mountain. All is peaceful. Or is it? If your ears were hypersensitive, as is the hero from my decade-old work-in-progress:

All seemed silent, still.

His ears became attuned to the quiet, and he heard insects cricking and chirring and buzzing.

Then other sounds registered, sounds so faint several seconds passed before he comprehended what he was hearing: the relentless hunger of nature. The larger prairie creatures and the most minute devoured each other in a cacophony of crunching, tearing, ripping, gnashing, grinding.

At the realization he was sharing space with things that must be fed, he took a step backward and bumped into a tree, a gnarled oak that hadn’t been there a moment ago. Leaning against the ancient tree, he heard the roots reaching out, creeping, grasping, wanting, needing. He jerked away from the tree and fell to hands and knees. Blades of grass moaned under his weight, and the screams of wildflowers being murdered by more aggressive vegetation almost deafened him.

He opened his mouth to add his own shrieks to the clamor, but closed it again and cupped his ears when he became aware of a long sonorous undulation deep beneath the ground. The heartbeat of the earth.

Yeah. Peace.

If we expand peace to a microscopic or even a cosmic plane, we see a stasis created by opposite but equal forces in conflict.

And yet . . . and yet . . .

On November 4, hundreds, maybe thousands of people were peacefully blogging about peace, creating peaceful images, sharing peaceful words, contemplating peace, visiting each other’s peace blogs. A lovely day. A peaceful day.

We may not have stopped wars or violence. We may or may not have attained peace within ourselves, may or may not have been at peace with our world.

But we mattered.

***
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.

Fifty Day Blog Challenge

Ever since I finished my two latest books a year ago (Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare and Unfinshed, I haven’t done much writing. Not much blogging, either (though technically, blogging is writing, so I shouldn’t separate the two.). There’s always been an excuse. A shattered arm/wrist/elbow. A fuzzy mind from opioids. (I used to think I had an addictive personality, but I guess not — I was glad when I finally was able to handle the pain and stop taking pain pills.) And then there was the very hot summer. (The air conditioning in this room I am renting is minimal, and I was too hot to think. But then, I didn’t feel like thinking anyway since I seem to be in a drifting mode.)

Well, enough of the excuses, and more than enough of the parenthetical comments!

When I mentioned my non-writing to a friend, she said, “Well, write something.” Since I always try to do what people request (unless, of course, I am in a rebellious mood), here I am.

In 2011, I participated in a hundred day blog challenge: to post something every day on each of the last 100 days of the year. The time is long past to be able to duplicate that challenge, but coincidentally, I just discovered there are 50 blogging days until the end of 2017, and since I love even numbers, coincidences, and serendipity, I decided to try an abbreviated challenge.

And challenge it will be. I have little to say, no real inclination to say what I do have to say, and making a commitment goes against the drift, but what the heck. I never let a lack of wisdom stop me from blogging before.

All this is by way of warning for those of you who follow this blog. Today and the coming forty-nine days are more for me, just for the discipline of it. I don’t expect you to read or comment on my meanderings, (especially not this blog post), but if you desire to do so anyway, I will be glad of the company.

And maybe I will even be glad of a chance to stop the drift. Just drifting has been good for me, but it doesn’t really accomplish much, and before I leave my current place (the road — and an epic adventure — is calling to me), I would like to finish the book I started a decade ago, clear out some of the stuff in my storage unit that I haven’t been able to get rid of yet, become strong enough physically to go hiking again, and oh, so many things!

So, this is a start.

Perhaps.

***
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.

Dona Nobis Pacem

Today, along with thousands of people all over the world, I am blogging for peace. If words matter, this is important.

People always talk about the human race as if we are warmongers, and yes, some people are, most notably those who make money and take power from wars, but think about it. How many wars have you personally started? For the most part, we (you and me, anyway) are peace lovers. We shy away from violence. Most of us don’t even start personal conflicts, though sometimes we do unwilling get involved in contretemps we don’t quite know how to end.

Although I don’t think we can do much on an individual basis to bring global peace, we can try to find peace within ourselves. If all on this earth were at peace with themselves and those they see every day, then our human world would be at peace.

And that is what I wish for you today — peace in all you behold.

***
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.

Shoes. Sheesh.

I normally try to write blog posts that touch on my insights, things I’ve learned, or questions I have about life — not just my life, but life in general. Occasionally, I even mention issues that irk me, but never, as far as I can remember have I talked about something so shallow as shoes.

I do blog about what is on my mind, though, no matter the depth of the topic, and today shoes are on my mind.

I have three pairs of shoes I’ve been wearing — one pair is completely worn out, one hurts the tops of my feet, and one hurts my heels. I still wear them because, well, shoes. Mostly, though, I wear them because I can almost never find shoes to fit. But now that it’s cooler, I need shoes I can wear for walking more than a mile or two, so off I went to hunt the wild shoe.

One store I planned to go to has disappeared, perhaps a victim of the trend toward internet shopping, though how anyone can buy shoes online, I don’t know. There doesn’t seem to be any consistency to size, as this little fable will show.

I was left with two stores: a national shoe store chain and a sporting goods store. At the national chain, I found one pair that seemed comfortable, but I couldn’t figure out where my toe was since the top of the toe seemed to be reinforced. I asked the salesclerk if she could tell where my toe ended. She felt the toe and said there was plenty of room. Yay!

Still, since I was in shoe shopping mode, I stopped by the sporting goods store. The first thing I saw was a pair of hiking shoes on sale for less than half price. They seemed a bit big, but thick hiking socks should make them fit. (Not that I’ve been doing any hiking, but ridiculously, I still think about doing an epic hike.)

Figuring I was on a roll, I tried on various other shoes and ended up buying a couple of pairs that fit as well as any shoe in a store ever fits.

The next day, I decided to try on the first pair of shoes I bought, and after walking around the house for a few minutes, I realized the left shoe was so short, it was cramping my toe. So I packed those shoes back in their box, and tried on another pair. Or tried to. I couldn’t even fit my foot into the shoe. And the third pair was huge.

As if that wasn’t weird enough, each pair of shoes was a different size. (For comparison, my foot measures 7 1/2.) The size 8 shoe was excessively wide. The size 8 1/2 was too short. The size 9 shoe was remarkably small.

Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? The grim sort. Or maybe a fable, but if it is a fable, I have no idea what the moral could be. I’ve gleaned no insights. Learned nothing.

I returned all the shoes except the hiking shoes, which puts me back at the beginning, with only shoes that hurt or are worn out. So . . . more shopping. Someday.

Shoes. Sheesh.

***
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.