A Kind of Screwtape Letter

One thing I love about the internet is that you meet people you’d probably never meet in real life. Either they are mired in a different profession, live halfway around the world, or are of a poles-apart generation.

Just like real life, online folk can break your heart or make your day. Rob M. Miller is one who has been very kind to me. He recently said (wrote):

There are lots of facets to you, no doubt, but of equal certainty, one of them bears the hallmark of a warrior. I like that — a lot. You’re the best.

Oh, I so needed to hear those words, especially from someone I admire, like Rob.

Rob is knowledgeable, witty, and generous to other writers. His infrequent comments to members of Suspense/Thriller group on Facebook are memorable and worth repeating. In fact, I’ve posted a couple of those comments here on this blog to make sure they didn’t get lost in the great maw of Facebook. (Is Talent More Important Than Passion andPersistence? and How many subplots in a novel areacceptable?)

When I posted a new rule to the group a few days ago telling the members they were not allowed to discourage other writers, Rob was the lone dissenter. Not that he thought it a bad rule, more that it was too specific, making new rules for other offenses probable and ultimately chaotic in the same way the tax code has become incomprehensible and unwieldy. To that end, he posted a kind of Screwtape Letter to break the rule without breaking the heart of it. (The Screwtape Letters is a satirical and spiritual novel written by C. S. Lewis.) Rob’s letter was just as satirical. And written off the cuff in a few minutes. Oh, my. To be so talented!

Besides wanting to break my rule, Rob wished to show (as he said) the use of figures of speech, and, in this case, the use of an extended figure(s). Personification, of course, was used by having an epistolary piece written by the Devil, but the overall figure was that of tapeinosis, which means to say something in the negative to infer a positive. More modern examples of this figure is when one might hear a person say something akin to: “That movie looks bad … can’t wait to see it,” or calling something “the bomb,” or describing something as “sic,” meaning it’s “cool.”

In other words, by writing a letter to discourage authors, Rob actually encouraged us. Even I have the urge to write!

Thank you, Rob, for letting me post your wonderful and witty piece.

A Kind of Screwtape Letter by Rob M. Miller

Haven’t written in awhile?

Didn’t know “a while” should be two words?

Then maybe you should quit.

After all, writers write. Everyone knows that!

Don’t like the process? Are you like that primadonna:

“I hate writing … but love having written.”

Then maybe you should quit.

Have poor english, but great story …

… spot-on English, but a lousy tale?

Do quit, quitquitquit.

Why face all those ugly hurdles:
• the impossible-to-write query that works
• the agent you’ll never land
• the house for which you will NOT get signed

Quit, quit, quit.

You’ve bills to pay, are already retired (and surely way, waaay too old), are caring for an ailing loved one, and gawd! there’s those kids to raise, have been told you’ve no talent—and they were right!—are better at doing this, or that, or the other thing, but not really writing.

Not at all.

And you already know that.

The many rejection letters have proven it.

Just quit.

The challenges never end: all that marketing, Facebooking, blogging, websiting, plugging, blurbing, and what-the-hell’s a tweet?

Just stop.

And do remember, even if you’re successful, even if you were to write the Great American Novel, like with Harper Lee, I’ll make sure your troubles never end, with exploitation, impossible schedules, horrible critics, IRS hassles, and crazed number-one-fans just waiting to hobble your ankles.

I’ve no stomach for writers. They’re human, yes. Some are ugly, some are fat, some have this disorder or that, some are indefatigably optimistic, while others are suicidal, there’s writers with talent, many with only a smidge, some want to publish, some do not care, but all are drawn to the page, compulsively or intermittently, but drawn all the same. They are dragon fighters, archers, brave men and women (even when they do not know it), courageously putting down what others are unable or unwilling to put down.

I hate them.

Do me a solid then and quit.

I might even give you a break now and then—just to show my thanks.

With both fiction and non, writers illuminate on the human condition, and I most certainly do not want that.

All my best,

Most affectionately from your left shoulder,



SideshowAbout Rob M. Miller: With a love for reading and writing that started in his youth, Rob has traveled far to get to the place where he can now concentrate on breaking into the horror market.

Born and raised in the “micro-hood” of Portland, Oregon, he grew up as the oldest of three children, the son of a book-lover and a book-hater.

It was after two years of free-lance stringer work, and a number of publishing credits, that he tired of non-fiction and decided to use his love of the dark, personal terrors, and talent with words to do something more beneficial for his fellow man -– SCARE THE HELL OUT OF HIM.

Rob edited and contributed to Sideshow, a horror anthology.

Kindness and Generosity Trump Free Speech

People who don’t like the way I run my writers’ group on Facebook often cite “free speech” as a reason for leaving.

I suppose they have a point. The group has a very narrow niche — discussions about the craft of writing and the sharing of tips and techniques. Nothing else. All the crap that destroys the value of other writing groups, such as promotion and discourtesy, is simply not allowed. The offending posts are deleted, and often the violators are banned. Making matters worse (from my detractors’ point of view), I don’t keep many posts permanently. Too often, the discussions are repetitions of those that have already gone sheriffbefore, and how many times can you pay attention to the same people claiming the same bad writing techniques are acceptable? Once is too many, in my opinion. Still, I don’t police the comments for good information. (In fact, I seldom police comments, though sometimes someone will contact me to point out a nasty remark, and sometimes I stumble upon an inappropriate remark, such as one member trying to discourage another from writing.)

But it does make me wonder at times if I have the right to delete disrespectful comments and posts that have overstayed their welcome. Maybe it’s just me who finds them repetitive and offensive. But . . . (There’s always a but in my posts, isn’t there?)

Offline conversations have an expiration date. They only hang around as long as one person remembers what was said, and sometimes the conversations are so unmemorable no one remembers them an hour or two later. We don’t walk around like cartoon characters with permanent dialogue bubbles over our heads, making our words available for everyone to see ad nauseam. (Literally, to the point of nausea. Who could deal with all that vomitus?)

That’s all I try to do — keep the discussions fresh.

I’m not really a fan of free speech anyway, at least not the way most people use the term. The USA First Amendment gives us and the press the right to express our opinions without government interference, which is important. According to Cornell Law School, however, the Supreme Court recognizes that the government may prohibit some speech that may cause a breach of the peace or cause violence. Also, the level of protection any speech receives depends on the forum in which it takes place.

So basically, freedom of speech is whatever the Supreme Court says it is. Pornography. Bullying. The right to fling insults. That’s what they protect at all costs. But say something against the government or mention God in certain venues, and wham. The gates of free speech close.

Despite what people seem to think, there is nothing in the constitution about all of us being able to say whatever we want whenever we want. The only concern here for me is that free speech in no way pertains to insignificant venues such as my group. We’re on our own. And in my world, kindness and generosity trump free speech anytime.

If you are concerned about comments you left here on this blog, don’t worry. Only spam is deleted. I’ve kept even the insulting comments, though my first impulse was to delete them. But here, I only have my own sensibilities to worry about. When it comes to a group, especially a long-standing online writers group, it’s more important to create a safe environment where incipient writers as well as professionals feel free to talk about their writing woes.

Oh, heck. Maybe that’s all rhetoric and I’m just a petty despot exerting whatever power I can.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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 Family Demon and Other Conundrums

Mercury is retrograde, according to what someone told me today. I don’t know what that means other than what the person said — that the retrograde is the cause of all sorts of things going wrong during the past three weeks. If this is true, things should get better now that the retrograde is over. Since Mercury is a big ball of iron (at least that’s what I read — I’ve never been there and taken a sample, so I don’t know for sure), it affects our electronics, which is why all the gadgets in my vicinity — smoke alarm, computer, phone, burglar alarm — went haywire.

fireIt’s also possible the unusual spate of recent problems in my life could be the family demon unleashing its powers. Not that I believe in demons, family or otherwise, but when my sister first mentioned the possibility of our family being infected by a demon, the stained glass cross hanging on the front door fell and broke.

Coincidence? Of course.

And yet . . .

There are so many things we don’t know — way more than what we do know — especially when it comes to the specifics of how everything is connected. Generally speaking, we are connected to each other and the universe in a thousand different ways because we are all beings of energy, all made of stardust (to put it romantically). I once came upon an intriguing theory that the universe and everything in it is made up a single electron. This speedy little fellow moves so fast and in so many different directions and dimensions, including backward and forward in time, that it gives the illusion of many particles. And if anything happens to one phase of that poor lonesome little electron, then obviously, everything else is affected.

I am learning — finally — that there are things we can never know. Our brains are wired to translate the energy of the universe into sight, taste, sound, smell, feel, so we can never experience life raw, but just whatever our brains present to us as real.

So what does any of this have to do with the way the things in my vicinity are malfunctioning? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire,andDaughter 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.

Don’t Worry About Me

A night-long session with a technician from Trend Micro, the purveyor of my antivirus protection, wasn’t enough to fix the problem of the antivirus program with a high CPU usage. My computer is slow again today, and again, Trend Micro is eating all my CPUs.

Don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for a couple of days. I’m fine, just nursing an aged and ailing computer. (Seems to be my lot in recent years — nursing aged or ailing people and possessions.) I’m hoping to schedule another session with the technician soon, so they can find the problem.

detectiveWhen I find myself fretting over my slow slow slow computer, I remind myself that either things will work out or they won’t. I’ve already broken my streak of daily blogging, so it’s not as if it’s going to be a major problem if the machine is out of kilter for a while. Besides, a friend of mine discontinued her internet and gave away her computer and, except for a touch of nostalgia at what she used to be able to do, she seems to have suffered no ill effects. Apparently, there is life off line.

Well, of course I know that — it’s just that except for dancing, I’m not particularly fond of my current offline life. Too much to do: getting my father’s house prepared for sale, finishing my started projects, and packing my stuff. But then, if I didn’t spend three hours a day working on my blog, I’d have those hours to do what I had to do and probably wouldn’t still have all those things to do.

But don’t worry — I won’t be getting rid of the internet any time soon.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend, on or off line.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

Is Researching a Type of Planning?

People keep telling me I need to plan, that a person can’t go blithely into the future with no idea of what she is going to do, especially if she expects to undertake an epic adventure. Seems to me that not making plans guarantees adventure, but maybe I’m being too blithe.

Does research constitute planning? If so, then I am constantly planning.

I research the Pacific Crest Trail in case I want to through-hike the most challenging of all the USA national trails. (Well, second most challenging. The Continental Divide Trail is supposed to be even more daunting.) And I research other national trails, such as the Florida National Scenic Trail, the Arizona National Scenic Trail, or even the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail in Hawaii in case I want to go where I’ve never gone before. I research types of backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, food, water purifiers to find the best and lightest for my needs. There is no way I can or would ever want to carry 30 pounds for long distances. And yet, and yet . . . despite the drawbacks and physical challenges, the idea of a through-hike still lingers.

angelI research the state coastal trails of California, Oregon, Washington in case I want to walk along the edge of the world. I even have a friend who will help me dip my toe into such an adventure by taking me a ways up the coast from her house so I can walk back. She has even offered to keep me supplied so I won’t starve or dehydrate. My own personal trail angel!

I research walking across the USA in case I want to follow the roads. (This would have the advantage of maybe not needing to carry a lot of water. It seems to me that carrying a sign AUTHOR WALKING ACROSS USA. NEEDS WATER would be a heck of a lot easier to carry than gallons of water, and maybe as effective.) People who have taken such a walk leave with nothing and trust to the journey, but I can’t see me mustering that kind of trust. Or they push/pull a cart to make sure they have the water and food they need for the long dry stretches, and I cannot see myself doing that either. Still, the lure is there. Walking across the country is not a rare occurrence, but I sure don’t know anyone who has done it.

I research rooms for rent, apartments, and extended stay motel/hotels so I can stay in this area to continue taking dance classes.

I research freighters to New Zealand. Even though they are not that expensive ($100 to $150 a night) what adds to the cost is the medical and travel insurance ($400 to $500 per trip) and a whole panoply of red tape — doctor certificate of health, passport, shots (depending on where the freighter stops). I research distances. New Zealand is 6,000 miles from the USA. Australia is 1324 miles from New Zealand. If I go to New Zealand, would it make sense to extend the journey to include Australia? If I did go to Australia, should I go walkabout? (I found a two week walkabout trip for about $3500. But is that figure Australian dollars? One Australian dollar is worth $.78 American dollars, so would the walkabout be $2954 American dollars? Still a lot of money for such a trek.)

I research cars and other vehicles for a possible extended tour of the USA, the national parks, and all my online friends. Do I want to find a small camper that fits in my budget, and so have to deal with another aged vehicle with a lot of miles? Do I want to get a small van such as a Ford Transport Connect and build my own nest inside? Do I want to get a small SUV-type, such as a Kia Soul, which has plenty of room to sleep when the back seat is folded down, or a Honda Fit, which gets about the same highway mileage as a Prius? Do I want to get a junker, and let it take me as far as it can before it breaks down?

But oh! I already have such a car. Today is my bug’s birthday. I got it new 43 years ago today. I checked with my insurance agent about insuring it if I restored it, and apparently, unless I can get it classified as an antique, which allows but 2000 miles of travel a year, then all I would get if anything happened to the car is the blue book value of nil.

See? Research.

You’d think I’d be wasting my time by researching instead of actually doing something or even planning to do something, but the odd thing is, as I research, the impossible adventure becomes . . . possible.

One of the hardest things to do to make an adventure come true is to overcome the status quo of one’s life, but luckily, my status quo is going to overcome itself without any help from me once my father’s house is sold and I am . . . wherever I will be.

So, back to researching . . .


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.


Living Small

I just realized today that I live small. I leave a small footprint on the earth — driving as little as possible, walking wherever I can; buying little, recycling what I can; getting rid of what possessions I can, scaling back on what I can’t. I am also a small thinker. Though I like to think I think big thoughts, I actually get bogged down in minutiae and overthinking. When I listen to music (which is almost never), I keep the sound turned down. I would like to write expansively, but I write small, dredging each word and each idea out of the depths of my mind. My non-writing creative projects are all small — literally, not metaphorically since I tend toward tiny things such as dollhouse doll’s dolls and miniature plants. (The pot of roses illustrating this article is standing on quarter to give you an idea of how small it is.)

Evehandmade miniature rosesn my everyday life is small. Temporarily, I find myself living alone in what seems to me a mansion, and yet, I live in the same two small rooms I used when I was looking after my father. (To be 100% accurate, as my minutiae-driven mind dictates I must be, only the bedroom is small. The living room of my suite is 16’x18’.)

I’m not one of those people who take a mile when given an inch. In fact, when given an inch, I generally only take a centimeter. (2.54 centimeters per inch according to Google.) In this case, I am aware of my tenuous situation. The house belongs to my father’s estate, not me, so I’ve been hesitant to take advantage of living here, even though according to local law, this is my home. Besides, I am performing valuable services, not just house sitting, but clearing out my father’s things.

Still, I’ve never danced around the house in my underwear like Tom Cruise in Risky Business. Never slept in another of the bedrooms or used the main living room except when I had my pre-probate party. Never even used my father’s Jacuzzi. (He never used it either, come to think of it, so I can’t really say it was “his” Jacuzzi.)

This not taking advantage of the situation reminded me of an Emo Philip joke I heard a very long time ago. He talked about taking a girl home from a date, and how she passed out half naked, and so, as he said, “I took advantage of her . . . I called Guam.” I wanted to use the joke in his inimitable way to illustrate this post, and to that end, I’ve spent the past two hours searching online for the exact words. I didn’t find the joke, but I got my example anyway — my spending so much time searching for what was a trivial part of this bloggery illustrated my living small. (But I did come across some of his wonderful one liners that I remember, including this one: Some mornings, it’s just not worth chewing through the leather straps. And two liners like this one: When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.)

My sister-in-law was here this weekend, helping get the house ready for sale, and she asked why I didn’t take the curtain off the glass door separating my rooms from the rest of the house. I explained that everyone else tells me it would scare them to live alone in such a big place, so just in case I’d have such a problem, I’ve kept the curtain. It made the place small and familiar enough that being alone here didn’t bother me. (Loneliness does bother me, but that’s something completely different.) My sister-in-law commented on how full of contradictions I was, talking about living out in the open on some sort of epic adventure, but living behind a curtain here in this house.

She has a point.

So today I took down the curtain. Not exactly living large, but it’s a start.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

Realtor Time

I’ve spent the whole morning getting my father’s house ready for realtors to look at in preparation for putting the house on the market, and now I’m between realtor appointments.

The first realtor said he liked the house, but he might have been backpeddling. While looking the place over, he kept finding faults — the mantle over the fireplace would be a drawback for the younger crowd, the pillars that defined the greatroom were a mistake, the living room floor should have been tile to match the entryway and kitchen, the house was too plain to get the big bucks.

I found myself bristling at his words, as if he were insulting me, which was sort of strange. This is not a house I chose, and I had nothing to do with the design “flaws” the realtor took exception to — I just sort of landed here by accident. I got a grip on myself, or rather a grin on myself, since my reaction was rather humorous.

When he left, he said I was a nice lady, not high maintenance, and it would be a pleasure to work with me, but really, what else could he say, that he dreaded meeting me again? (And anyway, it’s the truth. I am a nice lady and I’m not high-maintenance.)

The next realtor will show up in a few minutes.

This is just the beginning. Strangers will be traipsing through the house, and I will have to live in unclutter, putting away projects each night to make sure the house is presentable in case of a showing, and eventually, someone will fall in love with the house, and it will be sold. And then . . .

My thoughts of the future always end with ellipses since I haven’t a clue where to go from here, but I’m okay with that. Finishing packing my stuff and dealing with realtors and potential buyers is enough to think about for now.

This is a big step for me, learning not to project myself too far into the future, and so far it’s working. I’m much more at peace with myself and the world than I have been for a long time. Now if I can just stop overthinking everything, I’ll be on my way to . . .

Yep. Those dang ellipses again.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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 Am So Romantic!

sleeping bearNichole Bennett, author of Ghost Mountain and Sleeping Bear, wrote a blog post in honor of Valentine’s Day next month, entitled Are you romantic? Or romantic? She admits that she’s not romantic, “at least not in the “wine me, dine me, we live happily ever after” way. Then again, if you mean “romantic” in the Edgar Allen Poe, basing your writing on the Supernatural, I’m so romantic it’s not even funny.”

I can relate to that. I used to enjoy a bit of traditionally defined romance in movies, books, and in my own writing, but I’ve noticed lately that I’ve become something of a romance-phobe. I think it has to do with dealing with my loneliness, getting on with my single life, and accepting aloneness as my current normal.

I first noticed a change about a year ago. I could no longer handle books with a happy ending for the romance subplot (I don’t read romances per se; the romance always has to come as an adjunct to a more compelling story.) I didn’t like that the character got to have a romance when I no longer could. (It made me cry, if you must know.) On the other hand, if there was no happy ending to the romantic subplot, well, that made me cry too, and quite frankly, I’m sick of crying. So . . . no more reading.

Lately I’ve noticed that the romantic subplot in movies makes me itchy. Not only does secondhand romance seem pathetic, it makes me feel lonely, and I certainly don’t need anything to a) remind me that I don’t have a romantic relationship and b) make me feel lonelier than I already am.

Which brings me to writing. I’ve been thinking about writing fiction again. I want to find time and space (mental space, that is) to write the dance murder mystery that was once suggested to me, but beyond that, I haven’t a clue what to write. My work-in-progress features a necessary romance (necessary because they have to have a baby. Although that baby doesn’t show up until the very end of the book, he is the crux of the story). But I begrudge those poor characters their romance and so the book remains a work-in-pause. In two other WIPs, the poor girl goes off into the sunset by herself, which at one time fit my idea of romance, but now just seems . . . lonely.

So . . . no books, no movies, no writing. No coupling of any kind. If that’s romance, then yes, like Nichole, I am so romantic it’s not even funny.

Click here to read Nichole’s post: Are you romantic? Or romantic?

Click here to read an interview with Nichole R. Bennett, Author of “Ghost Mountain”


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

Wishing . . .

waterlilyfrontI just read a lovely blog by Sherrie Hansen, author of Love Notes, Wild Rose, Water Lily, and whole lot of other romances. In her post Give Me a Kiss to Build a Dream on…And My Imagination Will Make that Moment Live, Sherrie talks about her life, the wild times interspersed with times of drawing back and being the one taking the pictures instead of the one in the center of the photo.

I envy Sherrie’s self-proclaimed wild times — at least she has that to look back on. I was never wild. I was responsible from the time I was five, always doing the right thing (or trying to) and I was sensible, always weighing the payoff against the pain or pleasure. I acted silly at times, both as a child and as an adult, and I often felt lighthearted and even carefree, but never wild. (My adventures were the literary kind. All I ever wanted to do was read.) Now, however, I’m learning to be bold, to embrace my untamed soul, which is a good alternative for me — fearlessness without recklessness. (Though some people are appalled by my recklessness in thinking of traveling alone, either on foot or in a vehicle. I guess one person’s recklessness is another person’s deliberateness.)

What really struck me about Sherrie’s piece, however, was her cry: It’s time to start wishing again, to go to the places I dream of seeing and – more importantly – experiencing. It’s time to live life to the fullest and seize every opportunity – because a kiss to build a dream on is fine, and I do have a great imagination, but sometimes a kiss isn’t enough. Sometimes, I want wild, passionate lovemaking all night long. I want to live. I want to fly – to be the one in the picture instead of the one holding the camera.

Oh, my, yes.

I’m trying to teach myself to wish. Whether by nature or nurture, my wishbone seems to be missing, but I can see that wishes are important. Wishes can help us fly (even if only on an airplane), can help us find a way into an unimaginably wonderful future, can be the impetus to find the wild woman within.

Still, for me, for now, there’s dancing. In a way, dancing is about wishing, about big dreams, about taking us a step further than is comfortable, about being bold, about just . . . dancing.

Click here to read Sherrie’s article:

Click here to read interviews with Sherrie Hansen.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.



In between bouts of sorting and packing my stuff (which in many cases entails finishing started projects so I can store the equipment and supplies in their appropriate boxes), I’ve been clearing out my father’s stuff. I’m leaving the furniture in the house for now because supposedly it’s harder to sell completely empty houses, but even though my father lived sparsely, there are still many things to be sorted through and given away or boxed up for donation— medical and first aid items, bedding, towels, office supplies, dishes and kitchen tools, books, and on and on. And then there are the personal and household cleaning products that can only be tossed away. (I donated his clothes to a rescue mission a couple of months ago.)

I’m making procleangress on clearing out the house. In fact, most of the rooms except the linen closet and the kitchen (and my rooms, of course) have been decluttered. Nothing personal remains to destroy the fictive dream of prospective buyers. (Apparently, house hunters need to see themselves in the house, and other people’s possessions keep them from doing so.)

Strangely, after all these years, I’m falling in love with the house. I’ve appreciated the shelter, but never had any fondness for the house itself. It has been a sad place for me, the place I came to nurse my grief, to look after and then nurse my father, to deal with my abusive/alcoholic/schizophrenic brother. But as I am cleaning out the stuff in house, I am also cleaning out my “stuff” — my grief for my deceased life mate/soul mate, my despair over my brother, my complicated dealings with my father.

When my dysfunctional brother was here and banned from the house, he often expressed outrage that I lived like a millionaire and never felt grateful for the great gift I’d been given. I used to think, “No millionaire has ever had to look after both an abusive brother and a dying father, being torn between the two of them.” But what do I know. Maybe that’s what being a millionaire is all about.

Now however, I am living like a millionaire, reigning over a house full of empty rooms that speak to me of peace and comfort, of expansiveness, of new possibilities. (It is ironic that I so love empty rooms because I live in a clutter of projects-in-progress.)

Although the house is more than ten years old, there has never been a fire in either fireplace, nothing has been cut on the cutting board, the Jacuzzi has only been used a couple of times, there has never been more than one car in the three-car grease-free garage. Someone, somewhere, will be getting a lovely barely-used house to turn into a home.

And me? Well, I’ll be . . . somewhere. But I’ll always be grateful I had this time to declutter.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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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