Melancholy Lady

I was afraid that splitting my scalp during a potentially disastrous fall would make me more hesitant about living an adventurous life, but so far so good. Although I am being extra careful because of the Frankensteinian staples in my head, I still go exploring when the weather allows, which isn’t often. (I have seen more rain this past week than in all the years I lived in the desert.)

I’d heard that Mitchell River runs through St. Ansgar where I am staying for a couple of weeks, so I set out to look for the water. I peeked through trees, climbed over a fence, tramped across a grassy field, wandered down a rain-soaked road to catch glimpses of the river.

Though it wasn’t much as adventures go, it did satisfy my wanderlust for the day, and I did get a good look at the river.

I still have about ten days left here in St. Ansgar (I am babysitting the Blue Belle Inn while the owners are gallivanting around Scotland), but already I am looking forward to heading on down the road. I get melancholy if I stay in one place too long, remembering that I once had someone to settle down with, once had someone who cared about the trivialities of my life — once had someone to tell all the things that aren’t worth telling. Now I am alone and feeling not quite real.

Life is strange. It really shouldn’t matter after all these years that he is gone, but it does. One great irony about love is that while all the songs, poems, stories reinforce the idea that love is what makes life worth living, when you lose that love, people expect you to suddenly not care. It’s okay for them to still bask in the light of their own loves, but not okay for us bereft to lament the darkness.

See? I told you being in one place too long makes me melancholy. But in the end, it’s all part of this great adventure we call life.

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

***

What if the Past Isn’t Dead?

Many years ago, Jeff and I set off across the country to look for a kinder, simpler place. We had grown up in Denver back when downtown was barely a pimple rising from the flat plains of Colorado. We’d suffered through years of exponential growth and the resultant crime rates. When Californians moved to Colorado to escape the gangs, they brought the gangs with them in the bodies of their own children. And with Denver on the map thanks to a presidential wanabee from Texas who declaimed, “Imagine a great city,” Denver was also flooded with big-time crooks in big-name suits. Lots of shenanigans going on with shady land deals at what was to be the site of the new airport, and of course the savings and loan scandal where even the son of a president managed to score some ill-gotten profits.

Add traffic to the mix, the exhaust-blackened trees along mountain highways, and a faster pace of life than either of us appreciated, and we’d had enough. (My being held up with a gun as I came home for work added to our determination to find a better life.)

We hit the road with no real plans of where we’d end up, though we did have list of relatively crime-free places to check out. It was thrilling — and liberating — at first, but reality hit when we couldn’t find a better place. We stayed in northern Wisconsin for a while (eighteen months? Two years? I should remember, but I don’t) then we headed back west. But not back to Denver. Remember that old Joe South song, “Don’t it Make You Want to Go Home?” That’s how I feel about Denver — everything’s changed, and there’s none of me left to go back to.

And now I am back in Wisconsin for a couple of weeks.

As I drove here along I-90, passing places Jeff (my deceased life mate/soul mate) and I had visited together, tears welled up so I could barely see the road. I remembered our hopes and excitement as we’d made that journey, but I also remembered the complications and complexities that waited us. And I remembered how our story ended.

Those two youthful folks are long gone, and as I struggled to see the road through bleared eyes, I had to remind myself their failures and sorrows are gone, too. Life cannot hurt him any more. That old pain does not wait for me here.

But somehow, I found it hard to convince myself of that simple reality. And so my journey into Wisconsin was accompanied by the shadow of my dead past.

I’ve been in Wisconsin a few days now, staying at the apartment of a friend while she housesits in Mineapolis, and I am doing okay.

But I can’t bring myself to go up north to where we lived. What if the past isn’t dead? What if we are still there, struggling to create a new and simpler life for ourselves? It’s best not to find out.

***

(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.”)

***

The Difference Between Today and Some Future Tomorrow

I was talking to a woman about grief today, and I realized something. It doesn’t get better, it gets different, and in that difference, we can find happiness again.

Easter Sunday marked the sixth anniversary of my life mate/soul mate’s death, and except for a brief acknowledgement of the day, it passed without incident. No tears, no upsurge of sorrow. Just . . . difference. I’m different, I think. (It’s hard to know for sure — I can barely remember what I was like back then, barely know what I am like now.) But for sure my life is different.

At the moment, I am in Florida, staying a couple of blocks from the beach, visiting a woman I had never even heard of a week ago. (Oddly, because of my blog, she knows me very well.) It doesn’t even seem strange to me, this almost blase attitude when it comes to visiting strangers, though I am sure that in my more cautious days, such behavior would have appalled me. But I have learned that unlike other authors, I don’t have fans — I have friends. Most of those friends are as yet unmet, as yet unheard of, but friends nevertheless. It is our shared sorrow, our shared determination to find renewal after a devastating loss that connects us. Because of this, there has never been even a moment of discomfort when I do finally meet these friends.

The difference for me, the difference that allows me to find happiness despite my missing him, is a willingness to embrace life no matter what it brings. To accept myself without censure. To simply be wherever I am or who I am with.

As the years continue to pass, when the seventh, tenth, fifteenth anniversary comes, there will be more differences. More opportunities for happiness.

For those of you new to grief’s journey, I hope you will find comfort in knowing things will not always remain the same, that in the difference between today and some future tomorrow, you will find joy again.

***

(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.”)

***

Live in Peace

Two years ago, a man died. I didn’t know him, didn’t even know of him. His was just another anonymous death, one of the 155,000 people who die every day. But to his wife, he was not an anonymous statistic. His death was not one of the many. To her, his was the only death, a catastrophe of enormous proportions.

His death changed her world. His death changed her.

The effects of his leaving are still rippling in her life and the lives around her. I have yet to meet the woman except online, won’t meet her offline for another few weeks, but because of the shared experience of losing our life mates — our soul mates — we have become friends. Would she have chosen him over me and all the other friends she has made since he left? In a heartbeat. And yet here we are, two of the left-behinds, dealing with life as best as we can, making the most of a situation we did not choose, snatching at whatever happiness comes our way.

I don’t suppose it makes any difference to her that I’ve spent this day thinking of her and how much she still misses him. I don’t suppose it makes any difference that I feel how diminished the world is without him. In the two years he’s been gone, 262,000,000 people have been born, and yet the death of this one man — the death of any of us, actually — diminishes us all.

May he, and all our dead, rest in peace.

May we, and all the world, live in peace.

***

(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.”)

The Truly Creative Mind

A couple of weeks ago, I was discussing my work-in-progress with a friend. This WIP is about a murder in the studio where we take dance classes, and my idea is that each of us should have an unconscious hand in the murder. Ideally, each of our flaws would become a fatal flaw. For example, if one person hadn’t been late, if another person hadn’t left something behind, if a third hadn’t picked up something by accident, the poor woman wouldn’t have died.

We discussed possible flaws to assign to our classmates, then my friend said, “You know what’s wrong with you, don’t you.” I gave a rueful smile because I knew what she was going to say even before she said it: “You’re too sensitive.” (I don’t know how to work sensitivity into the story equation, so for now, I’m thinking my character’s flaw will be disdain, which I have to confess I sometimes feel when people say things that are patently untrue.)

This seems to be the consensus nowadays, that I’m too sensitive. I take things to heart, am sensitive to slights, hurt terribly by unintended insults, feel unfairness no matter who it’s directed at, wounded by disloyalty, and being ignored or shot down when I speak silences me completely.

I’m not sure why my sensitivity bothers others, but there it is. It would be a lot more comfortable for all concerned, of course, if I were able to accept with insouciance what anyone said to me, and yet, sensitivity has always been part of me. Grief blew whatever defenses I’d built to smithereens, and now everything bothers me, partly because I think people should feel honored that I have deigned to spend time with them. (I’m joking, of course, though there is an uncomfortable kernel of truth to the matter.)

To be honest, I’m not sure what being less sensitive will gain me. Why would I want to feel less? To insulate myself from unpleasantness? To ignore nuances of voice (both complimentary and chastising)? To accept other people’s view of the situation as the only reality?

I read something when I was a very young girl that has stuck with me throughout the decades because it seemed to be about me. I found this quote in the forward of a Pearl S. Buck book. (I was a precocious reader, having read everything in the children’s library by the time I was in second grade and everything in the young adult library before the fourth grade).

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.” —Pearl S. Buck.

I’m not as hypersensitive as Pearl Buck, at least not anymore, but I was that sensitive as a child and a young woman, and apparently, I am heading once again in that direction. I have a hunch this sensitivity is something that being so connected to Jeff all those years protected me from, because I didn’t feel so abnormally sensitive when he was alive. His presence seemed to give me a safe place to “incubate,” to be myself without fretting about my difference from everyone else (because I was like him). Then later, his long illness dropped me into a period of dormancy, of numbness, of simply getting through the days, weeks, years.

And now? Without the cocoon of our relationship or the numbness of his dying, I am thrown once more into the world to deal with life however I can, to feel whatever I can. I seem to have fallen into a period of relative joylessness, but one day, the joy will return, and what will I have gained if I have learned to shut myself off from my sensitivities?

Of course, if people considered my feelings first, debates about my hypersensitivity would be moot. And since that will not happen, all I can do is deal with the fallout as best as I can with walks and tears and chocolate. And blogging.

***

(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.”)

Late Night Loneliness

I’ve hit a stage in my grief/life process that I truly do not know how to handle — my almost total aloneness. I have close friends, even one who introduces me to people as her adopted sister, but no one of my own, no one who connects me to life on a profound level. Most people seem to have someone to anchor them to life — a spouse or life companion, a son or daughter, a parent — but here I sit, alone with my tears — no one to smile at me, to touch me, to check up on me to make sure I’m okay. If I were to get sick or incapacitated, if there were some sort of emergency in the early morning hours, there’s no one I could call to come help.

chainThere are people in my life. Friends. A couple of siblings who contact me occasionally. And people all around the world care for me — in fact, I will soon be meeting some of those people — but they are either living with their “anchors” or are struggling with their own particular brand of aloneness.

How does one do this, this being so alone? I don’t know.

The funny thing is I never wanted to spend my life with anyone. I figured I’d always be alone, and I was comfortable with my aloneness and loneliness. Until one day I wasn’t. And there Jeff was. (I found out many years later that about that same time, Jeff was feeling lonely, wishing he had someone of his own, and suddenly there I was.)

Throughout all the years of grief, I told myself to just hang on, that eventually the pain would diminish, and I would be okay. Well, the pain did diminish, I’ve mostly gotten used to his being gone, and I am okay — no major traumas or exhausting dramas complicate my life. But oh, that late night loneliness is a killer.

I don’t even have a place — an apartment or home base of some kind — to anchor me. This is by choice because I know I would close in on myself if I were to settle into my aloneness. (People keep telling me that I wouldn’t, but the truth is, it’s happening now.) I’m sure this unsettledness is exacerbating my loneliness at the moment. Eventually, I hope to break out of this loneliness/aloneness and into a new world of experience (or do I mean a world of new experience?), but for now, all I can do is hold on and hope I don’t drift too far from any feeling of connectedness.

***

(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.”)

What Goes Up Must Come Down

I find myself shying away from writing about what I am feeling now that many people I know in offline life read this blog. It was one thing telling my truth to strangers who were attracted to my words because they felt the way I did or who were curious to see what I wrote. It’s something completely different to worry those I encounter every day. Sometimes it takes more courage than I have to put myself out here in the blogosphere, especially if it shows me in a bad light, but not doing so hurts only me. For many years now, writing this blog has helped me find my way through the trials and trails of my life, and I need this now as much as I ever did. So here’s the truth, as far as I know.

20150903 120855 resizedWhen I was in Crescent City, wandering through the Redwood Forest and meandering along the beach, I couldn’t imagine ever being unhappy again. And yet, here I am, slowly sliding into . . . Grief? Sorrow? Loneliness? Emptiness? Depression? Not really sure. I do know I am prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder, where the closing in of the darkness makes me SAD. (Which is why I always celebrate the end of the creeping darkness.) And allergies affect my mood more than they affect my sinuses. (Never have figured that out. In fact, my severe allergy reactions have sometimes been mistaken for mono or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.) It’s also possible the balance of life is kicking in — what goes up must come down, and I was “up” when I was up north. And now I am down in the southern part of the state.

Even worse than feeling down, I am finding people’s shenanigans hard to tolerate. Find their constant prattle . . . dare I say it? . . . boring. But I also find my time alone empty. (Come to think of it, this could be just plain old fashioned grief. I miss Jeff, still and always.)

I have never particularly liked this town where I find myself. I did love being close to the desert, but ever since my father’s house was sold, I’ve been city-bound when I’m here, trapped not just by miles of surrounding houses and businesses, but by first the heat and currently the chill winds. Now that I have my car back, I could drive to the desert to walk, but the desert doesn’t speak to me as it once did. Still, I will have to do something to catapult myself out of this particular phase. (Those of you who have been in this sort of situation understand the vicious circle. You know you need to walk off the exhaustion and sadness, but you are too sad and exhausted to get out there to do it.)

I sound as if I’m whining, and maybe I am. I know I sound self-centered, and that I definitely am. (It’s hard not to sound self-centered when you are writing about yourself.) Still, I am keeping busy in the hopes that busyness will stave off some of the sadness. Tomorrow I have ballet class, then a visit to a home show, and finally a movie and birthday party.

And in less than five weeks I leave on an extended road/camping/hiking trip. I worry about heading out in winter, but I know if I don’t do something, I will slowly fold in on myself, and I can’t allow that to happen. Won’t allow it to happen.

And guess what? It’s only 38 days, 19 hours, and 18 minutes until the end of the creeping darkness!!!

***

(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.”)

Grief Has No Timetable

It seems strange that after five and a half years of pouring my heart and my grief out onto this blog, I no longer feel comfortable talking about my upsurges of sadness. Grief has no timetable, of course, but still, it seems self-indulgent to continue writing about my sadness, which is one of the reasons I haven’t been saying much the past few days.

This should be a good time for me — after six months and four days of being without a car, I finally got my bug back, newly restored, and it looks wonderful. Now I’m planning a trip across the southernmost part of the country beginning in the middle of December, which will be a fabulous adventure. I even got an invitation from an old friend to spend Christmas with her.

And yet, here I sit, with tears clouding my vision.

I have no idea Broken-heartedwhat brought on this particular bout of sadness, though it might have something to do with my car.  When my Beetle was in the auto body shop, I didn’t have to worry about anything except getting the car back — it’s as if my life were on hiatus — and now unpalatable truths are descending on me once more. Without a way to get there, I didn’t have to accept that I’m not going home to Jeff, but now that my bug is back in my possession, here it is again, the awful truth of my life — that he is gone and I will never be going home to him.  It could be that after five years of living as if I were well off, another unpleasant truth is sinking in — I will have to go back to work one day. (I haven’t worked in many years. First I took care of Jeff, and then my dad.)  Since I’ve been sitting here lamenting to myself that “it’s not fair,” it’s possible the sadness has to do with being around so many women who have been married for four decades or more, which reminds me that I didn’t have that same opportunity.

More probably, it’s simply time. I go for longer and longer periods without thinking about Jeff, go for several weeks without any sort of grief flashback, but I can never fill the emptiness inside where half my life was amputated. And sometimes the pressure of his goneness builds, pushing sorrow to the surface of consciousness.

I do well on my own. After all, I managed to clear out our home and get here to this town 1000 miles from where he and I lived. I took care of my father, and cleared out his house in preparation for sale. I arranged to get my car restored, took trips even though I didn’t have personal transportation, and . . . well, you know all I’ve done. I’ve certainly made no secret of it.

But still, I have times where I yearn to see Jeff one more time. Yearn to talk with him. Yearn for his smile. (I find myself being greedy for compliments or thoughtfulness from acquaintances, and it’s not hard to figure out what that’s about. I can’t get a single word or smile of approbation from the one person from whom I would like a nod of approval, so I try to fill that lack however I can.)

I’m debating whether to keep this post to myself. It sounds too whiny and ungrateful, but it is also my truth — no matter how long he’s been gone, no matter how well I do on my own, I still miss him, and for as long as I am on this earth, I always will.

***

(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.”)

Grief, Adventure, Car Update

I never know when or why grief raises its grizzled head, but apparently today is one of those days. It could be I am so relentlessly living in the present that the effort wears me out or maybe my sad truth simply wears through.

I don’t want to spend the rest of my life draping my psyche in moldy widow’s weeds, so I try to stay focused on what I have — friends, adventure, dance, writing — and not what I don’t have, but oh, that “don’t have” is so very hard to handle even all these years later.

In less than nine months, I’ll be marking the sixth anniversary of my life mate/soul mate’s death. Can seven, ten, fifteen years be far behind?

It seems odd that though I seldom think of Jeff, can barely conjure up an image of him in my mind, can’t even remember the sound of his voice, his goneness rules my life. If he were still alive, would I be walking along deserted beaches, hiking in old growth forests, putting myself in dicey situations in the name of adventure? Of course not. I’d be home with him.

And that lack of “home,” I’m sure, continues to be the crux of my grief. He was home to me. Without him, there is no home, though I am learning to be at home wherever I am. Still, there are times when I desperately want to go home, and that’s when it hits me . . . again. He is gone and there is nothing I can do about it.

Even though I know the truth — if he hadn’t died, my life, and his, would have become truly horrific — it doesn’t help with my missing him, with my desire to go home to him.

To a certain extent, being without a car is exacerbating my feeling of homesickness and homelessness. I have a hunch this prolonged situation is as frustrating for the auto body guy as it is for me since there is way more work than he ever imagined — though I never did ask for or expect the full restoration he is doing. He also has me bugging him to get the car finished, which I don’t think he likes, but he is not the one without a car, without a mate, without a home. (I do have places to stay, for which I am eternally grateful, but the places are other people’s homes, not mine.)

The past few days I’ve mostly been walking around town or taking it easy hiking on the Pacific Coast Bike Route to give myself a chance to heal from the dog bite, sprained calf muscle, and myriad mosquito bites, but tomorrow I’ll attempt something more challenging to get back into the moment.

Jeff might be gone, but I am still here, and I have to do something.

***

(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.”)

***

Wednesday’s Child

A childhood ditty declares, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.” I sometimes wonder if there is any truth in the saying — I was born under Wednesday’s curse and I do seem to be more woe oriented than most people I know.

Everything always seems so easy for others. When I mention my tales of woe, such as grief for my deceased life mate/soul mate, people often dismiss my pain and offer their own religious beliefs as consolation. But those are their beliefs. Not mine. And even if they were my beliefs, they wouldn’t affect my grief. Grief is not intellectual. It is visceral, as much of a physical trauma as it is emotional, and as such is not always ameliorated by religious beliefs.

eclipse(I make it seem as if grief is a constant in my life, but it isn’t, not really. I can go weeks without thinking of him or shedding a single tear. This just just doesn’t happen to be one of those weeks.)

I suppose it does seem unimportant, this death that occurred five years ago. And yet, to me, it is all-important. Because of his death, I am where I am today, both spiritually and geographically. Because of his death and all the other deaths that have affected me in recent years, I have to rebuild my life from the ground up. This seems an immense task to me, and yet people shrug it off as if it is an everyday occurrence.

Is life that easy for others? Can they as easily dismiss their own woes as they do mine? After a trauma, can they really go on as if nothing has happened? Do the realities of life and death affect them so lightly? Or is it that they are better at hiding their feelings than I am?

I suppose it’s possible that I lack the resilience necessary to lead an easy life, but it seems to me I am resilient enough. In the past five years, I have closed up a house after the death of its inhabitants not once but twice, getting rid of the earthly possessions of those who no longer have a use for them. I have twice been dislocated and unhoused because of death. I have made friends and lost them, and made new friends. I’ve had my heart broken and my feelings hurt, and endured abuse from my dysfunctional brother. I’ve walked thousands of miles, written hundreds of blogs, laughed and joked, smiled and listened. I’ve learned to dance — not well, perhaps, but well enough to perform on stage with my classmates. And I am still chugging along, dreaming a new future into existence.

For the most part I am happy, grateful, hopeful even. And yet . . . and yet . . .

When he died, it felt like an amputation, and whatever was amputated is still gone. I have become so used to the feeling that I don’t always notice the amputation, but every once in a while grief steals over me like an eclipse, shadowing my life with pain and sorrow. For just a moment I wonder what is wrong, and then it comes to me.

He is dead.

That’s the fact of my life I cannot get around. Where he is, if he is, whether he is subsumed into the whole or maintains individual consciousness, I still have to deal with his goneness, still have to make my own way in the world. Still have to learn to live fully.

And oh, yeah. I have to forget that whole “Wednesday’s Child” thing. I don’t need any more woes.

***

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,216 other followers