Dreaming of Life in the Slow Lane

It seems strange to be alone. Strange to be blogging. Strangest of all to feel as if I belong —- not belonging to anyone or anywhere just . . . belonging. Maybe I’m beginning to feel a connection to the world again. Or it could be my inner sense of irony coming into play since I am at my storage unit sitting among my belongings.

I’ve been staying with friends ever since my father’s house was sold. (I’d been looking after him these past few years, and now he’s gone, as are my mother and life mate/soul mate.) I’m without a car —- the restoration that was supposed to be done in three weeks has now dragged on into two months — but it hasn’t been too much of an inconvenience. At least not to me. My friends might have a different opinion! Besides, I’ve needed to hang around town a bit longer anyway. I’d committed to doing a dance performance at the end of this month, and there have been practices and rehearsals to attend. And dance classes, of course.

I have been researching ultralight camping gear, researching the various trails, following the comments and updates of women hikers in preparation for . . . something. Adventure. Experience. Life in the slow lane.

I still have no idea what I am capable of, what I am willing to risk, what form my adventure will take. All of know is I want that intangible . . . something.

My original idea was to be spontaneous, just follow where the trail of life might lead, and perhaps I will still be able to spontaneous once all the research and preparation has been done. And yet . . . there have been people who set off on foot with no preparation or baggage whatsoever, just a head packed with determination and a heart full of trust. Such a life might come for me eventually, but for now I’m still dreaming. And researching.

I do believe, though, that whatever journey I make, whether strolls around the neighborhood, day hikes, backpacking, or cross-country road trips, I will be starting out alone. A friend had invited me to do the Appalachian Trail with her, but the more we talk, the less it seems to be to my advantage. But who knows what will happen in the next couple of years. I can’t even predict the next couple of weeks!

It’s been nice “talking” to you again. Wishing you fabulous adventures and dreams enough to last a lifetime.

***

(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.”)

***

Pain is No Gain

I’ve joined some women’s hiking groups on Facebook, following their hikes, and gleaning what information I can from their experiences. I have to say that as much as the various trails beckon me, I have no interest in the pain and hardship of a thru-hike. So much of what they talk about is how to deal with leg cramps, shin splints, blisters, tears (the weeping kind), emotional and physical traumas, and an overwhelming desire to quit. In such a situation, I would have no problem just calling an end to that hike. (I don’t particularly like hiking anyway — I much prefer walking.)

For me, life is trial and error. Actually, that’s not true. I believe in trying new things, extending myself, seeing how various aspects of line work out for me, but when things don’t work out the way I envisioned, I don’t consider it an error, just a different kind of learning experience.

I do push myself, or rather nudge myself (pushing sounds like too much effort), so I am always going just a bit beyond what is comfortable. Pain is no gain, as far as I am concerned, and yet I do accomplish much. Dancing. Walking. Embracing uncertainty. But pushing myself beyond my strength seems a blueprint for disaster.

Still, I am planning on walking the Appalachian Trail in a couple of years, but all that means is I will gradually build up my strength and trailability, learning what I need to know, and trying to figure out if it’s possible to do a fairly pain-free hike. (If being pain-free means hiking just a few miles a day, that’s fine with me!) And if what I learn is that hiking long distances is not something I can do . . . well, that’s all part of the adventure.

***

(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.”)

Into the Woods

I’ve watched a couple of Disney fairy tale movies recently, and both brought me reminders of how I want to — need to — live my life.

In Cinderella, the dying mother tells Ella to have courage and to always be kind. Good reminders! ( Similar to the admonition Swayze gave his bouncers in the adult fairy tale Roadhouse. Be nice . . . until it’s time not to be nice.)

In Into the Woods, the witch tells Rapunzel that she is safer in the tower, that yes, charming princes are out there in the woods, but so are bad things, such as wolves. It seemed reflection of my current state of affairs, where people remind me of the dangers of a woman traveling alone, and either urge me to settle down and if l still insist on traveling, then bring a companion. And yet, despute their concern and possibly good advice, I still wish to go into the woods alone.

Having a companion would be very nice at times during my travels, but being alone would also nice, especially for an introvert. (An introvert is not always a timid loner as we often imagine. An introvert is simply someone who gains strength, energy, and renewal by being alone. Extroverts gain the same advantages by being around people.) And, considering the purpose of my journey — to embrace life; to interact with the world in a more basic way; to find new ways of being me — alone time is a must.

So into the woods . . .

At least, that’s the plan. I’m still city-bound, still vehicleless, still living on the mercy of friends still dreaming of adventure. But one day soon, my real journey will begin. Or maybe it already has. It becomes more impossible every day to imagine myself in an apartment or rented room, and more possible to imagine myself going into the woods. Alone.

***

(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.”)

Being

I don’t know if you will find this as amusing as I do, but I’m sitting in my storage unit, taking a break from digging out stuff I need for the coming week, and rearranging boxes to make needful things more accessible. I feel perfectly comfortable here, as if I’ve always been unanchored without my possessions a constant presence in my life. Maybe I’m finally learning to be at home wherever I am, unanchored or not.

I called myself unanchored because although I don’t have a place of residence at the moment beyond the grace of my friends’ hospitality, calling myself homeless doesn’t fit with the current meaning of the word, or at least the current implications of the word. I am not destitute, not dysfunctional, not addicted to anything. I am merely in a state of transition, learning to go with the flow of life, experiencing whatever comes my way. And apparently what has come my way is my sitting in a storage unit, smiling at the ridiculousness of the situation.

(Actually, now that I think about it, it’s not so silly. The photo at the bottom of this post is what I am seeing. Is your view as lovely?)

When I left the house today, I made plans to meet up with my friend in four hours. She seemed concerned about what I would do with all that time. I suppose what I am currently doing is simply being. Not a bad way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Hope your day is as being-ful as mine.

***

(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 Transition Between Today and Tomorrow

(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.”)

***

I’m still camping out on the couch in a friend’s house. I’ve been without a car for more than five weeks, without a house for two, but my friends have been kind to me, not just giving me a place to stay but ferrying me to dance class.

I seem to be always in transition. At my father’s house, I was in transition between my shared life with Jeff and my solitary future, between grief and renewal. Now I’m in transition between . . . I’m not sure exactly. Maybe between a settled life and an unsettled one. Or maybe just between today and all my tomorrows.

The strangest feeling about my life right now is that I’m not blogging every day. Blogging was a daily exercise for almost four years, but now I’m back to the way I started, just posting as time, inspiration, and need permits. For years I needed to write in order to make sense of all the trauma going on in my life, but at the moment I’m just flowing with the stream of chance and change.

Big changes will be coming, but for now life is uncomplicated. There are no decisions to be made because I couldn’t follow through anyway since I have obligations for the next month.

I’m still dreaming of an epic walk, though, and the reality is coming clearer. A friend who has been urging me to thru-hike so she could experience it vicariously has made the commitment to do a thru-hike herself. In 2017, she will be hiking the Appalachian Trail, and she invited me to join her group. I said yes, of course, though it’s so far in the future, there’s no way of knowing if any of us will be around to do it.

(She chose the Appalachian Trail instead of the Pacific Crest Trail because of the availability of water and the marginally easier terrain.)

I hope you are doing well in your own transition between today and tomorrow.

Visiting Heaven in Hell

(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.”)

***

Going with the flow is taking me interesting places, most recently to heaven in hell. (I’m trying to be clever, and probably not succeeding.)

A friend had a conference in Palm Springs, and she let me hitch a ride with her. The weather was hellishly hot, but the scenery was heavenly and made up for any discomfort.

We wandered through the botanical gardens — a veritable treasure trove of cactuses. We admired the statuary arrayed around town. We feasted on old fashioned hamburgers and utterly fantastic malts at a fifties-style diner and nibbled our way around the edges of a casino buffet that featured a huge assortment of vegetable dishes.

And we took the tram to the top of Mount San Jacinto (an ascent of two and a half miles) where I stared at the tops of the trees and wondered if I could ever traverse the nearby Pacific Crest Trail.

Do I really have the courage to live an adventurous life? I honestly don’t know. I haven’t really dived adventure yet. This weekend was more like dipping my toe into a tide pool while the whole of the ocean beckoned to me.

But still, tame though the trip might have been, it was adventure of a sort.

The Strangeness of Friends

(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.”)

***

One half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it.” ~ Sidney Howard (1891-1939) American playwright and screenwriter, best known the screenplay of Gone with the Wind.

I’m not exactly sure what I want. Adventure, of course. Experiencing life in a way I never have before, for sure. Becoming more deeply connected to the world, if possible. But those are all just nebulous ideas. I have no specific idea of how to achieve that or what I will be doing except going with the flow.

I expected to be heading towards even more of a solitary existence, but oddly, what I am giving up, at least for now, is time alone, and that is fine. People are treating me well, insisting I have not outstayed my welcome, but I don’t seem to be able to find long empty stretches to keep up with this blog. That too is fine. I have no new insights, no incredibly awesome or incredibly awful experiences to talk about. Just an unsettled life that is rapidly beginning to feel normal.

I imagine that when I finally set off for points unknown, that too will feel normal. The changes are happening now while I am so uncharacteristically depending on the friendliness of strangers. Or should I say the strangeness of friends? It does seem strange that these people are being so kind to someone who appeared in their lives such a short time ago, but I am so very grateful for their kindness.

And grateful for these unexpected few minutes alone.

A Close Encounter of the Unhomed Kind

(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.”)

***

I’ve been sort of joking about being homeless, and I suppose I sort of am. (How is that for a noncommittal sentence!) And anyway, I consider myself ‘unhomed’ rather than homeless. (I’m laughing. I’m using my phone since I don’t want to be dragging my poor old computer from place to place, and the phone has a mind of its own. I’d written the word ‘unhomed’ but the word ‘unhinged’ appeared instead.)

My stuff is in storage, and at the moment I am living off the kindness of friends, but this is due more to my lack of a vehicle and a need / promise to continue with dance classes at least until the end of May than to destitution. I have resources and plans, just a strange set of circumstances coupled with a growing need for adventure.

I’d planned to rent a room for May, but couldn’t find anything within walking distance of the dance studio so I will need to continue relying on friends for another few weeks. The distance wouldn’t have mattered if I had my car, but it’s still at the body shop. The original estimate on my car was that it would take three weeks to be de-dented, de-rusted, and painted. Four weeks have gone by, and now the auto body guy says three more weeks. Luckily, my friends don’t seem to mind my company. And if they did? Well, I’d figure out something. Use my vehiclelessness as an excuse to go on some sort of adventure by bus, perhaps.

I am learning something during this time — the foolhardiness of my making plans. Every time I make any sort of plan, it changes. Not just concerning my living situation but about taking off on a trip. I’d planned to leave June first, but a friend asked me to housesit the first couple of weeks in June, so I’ll be staying around here a bit longer than I’d originally intended. Makes life interesting, just going with the flow.

And for now the flow is toward . . .

I was going to say the flow was toward homelessness, but the truth is, now that I don’t have a permanent place to stay, I feel less homeless than at any time since Jeff died. He was my home, and I knew that to ever be happy I’d need to find ‘home’ within myself. To be home wherever I am. And if I am home, I can never be homeless even if I don’t have a set place of residence.

If you’re one of those who are worried about me, I truly appreciate it, but there’s no need to be concerned. I’m just experiencing a close encounter of the unhomed kind.

Borrowed 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.”)

***

I’m living a borrowed life at the moment, staying for a few days with a lovely woman in her lovely home. I try to imagine what it would be like to have such a house complete with husband and grandkids, but I can’t. It’s as if I have passed some point of no return — my old settled life is truly gone and my new life as yet unimagined.

Where will I go? Will I feel as unsettled in an unsettled life as I did in a settled one? Will I be able to just let my life happen without trying to fix things or worrying over whatever imperfections I find? I do sometimes ruin things by trying to fix small flaws. For example, I wore my white t-shirt with the dance studio logo on it to the march on Saturday, and I got a small stain on it. In trying to remove that stain, I got a larger stain, and when I tried to clean that . . . Well, all I can say is I now need a new shirt for dance performances.

I try to fix small flaws in myself, too, though I am learning to let myself be. Life is messy, and it’s impossible to remove all the irritating stains that appear on the fabric of our days. The days take care of themselves anyway, disappearing one by one, and all the messiness of those days disappears too.

So much is gone from my life now, but much is still to come. I used to worry that I can’t see the shape of my future, but it doesn’t really matter. If life is unfolding as it should, the future will show itself to me as I move forward. If we create our own destinies, then I will create mine with each step I take. Either way, the future will take care of itself the same way the past did.

One day at a time.

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Adventure Update

(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.”)

***
My adventure is slowly taking off –just baby steps at the moment. Literally, baby steps. Yesterday and today I participated in March of Dimes’ walks to support the cause but mostly to honor a baby who died before he was born.

Other than that, my life seems much as always, though it isn’t, really. I’m staying with friends until I get my car back, then I have to find a place to stay for a month — I certainly don’t want to wear out my welcome, and I need to stick around town for a while to rehearse for a dance performance.

The last days at my father’s house were hard — empty rooms and memories — so I’m glad I don’t have to be alone just yet. People are being very kind to me, which is helping make this transition easier. I sometimes wonder if all my talk about adventure is simply that . . . talk, but the idea is becoming very real to me, so I will do something. A friend told me about a woman who walked out of her house after her husband died, and never went back. Never had another permanent home. I understand how that is possible, and it might be the path I take.

Life beckons.

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