A Perfect Day

This is one of those perfect days, a gift from the universe. The weather isn’t particularly nice, none of my problems have been resolved, I’m still facing life alone and yet . . . and yet . . .

I’m walking around with a smile on my face. (I’m cracking up here. I accidentally wrote “with a simile on my face”, and I suppose that could be true, too.)

It’s possible my recent bout of tears/sorrow/grief shook something loose in me and when things settled back into place, they settled into a more harmonious whole. It’s possible I’ve reached a new level of acceptance of my life, because as I have discovered, every step forward is accompanied by an upsurge of grief for what I am leaving behind. It could be that the grief I’ve felt over the loss of a friendship has smoothed over with the realization it’s how I feel about the friend that counts, not what the friend feels about me.

Or it could be the alchemist affect.

wizardPeople frequently remind me that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result each time, and if we lived in a closed system where everything remained the same, repeating the same ineffective actions would be insane. But every day things are different. And it’s that difference the alchemists banked on. We picture the alchemists doing the same procedure repeatedly in a crazed attempt to perfect their experiment, but the truth is, they did the same thing over and over again in exactly the same way in the hope of getting different results. Sometimes everything came together as they hoped, and they transformed lead into gold or themselves into a higher form of life or atoms into energy.

The alchemists knew the truth — that we do not live in a closed system.. The earth hurtles around the sun at 67,000 mph. The sun hurtles around the galaxy at 140 miles per second. The entire universe is also moving and expanding, so from one second to the next we are in a completely different place with a possibility of different factors. Add in more localized variables, such as humidity, temperature, sun spot activity and solar winds, and it would seem insane to do the same thing over and over again and expect the same results.

Does it really matter why I feel good today? Not particularly. It’s enough to know that it is possible for me to have a day that makes me feel good even though such days are as incomprehensible to me as those where I can’t stop crying.

For all I know, it’s not even me who cried the other day. Maybe it’s not even me who feels good today. Maybe I’m just a conduit for unrecognized cosmic energies.

Which would make today exactly as I said, a gift from the universe.

***

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.

And So It Begins . . .

The real estate agent was here today, taking photos of the house and putting a lock box on the door. She was kind to me, understanding that it’s different for me than for my siblings. For them, selling the house is just a task to be completed or ignored. For me, it’s . . . well, it’s the first step into a whole new anchorless life.

Having anchors isn’t always good because anchors keep us trapped. But anchors also keep us grounded, connected. And I will no longer have an anchor. First Jeff (my life mate/soul mate) died, then my father (not that I was deeply connected to my father, but I did come to look after him after Jeff died, which gave my life an anchor), and now his house is being sold. All I have left will be a storage unit full of stuff. (And friends. I do have a lot of those, both online and offline.)

It feShipels at times as if I’ve stepped off a curb into empty space, and I’m sure that feeling will be even stronger in the days to come.

No one, including me, thinks the house will be on the market long. It’s too nice, too almost-new with a fantastic view. And it’s in a wonderful, quiet, safe neighborhood. The thought of a quick sale is good because I won’t be inconvenienced for very long by visiting realtors and buyers. (Should be interesting. They want me out of the house when lookers come. “Just take a short walk,” they said.) But then, after the house is sold . . . (here again are those ubiquitous ellipses signifying nothing!)

Yesterday I felt as if I were being punished for coming here to look after my father. Today I’ve gained a bit of equilibrium, though the tears I couldn’t stop shedding yesterday are still close to the surface.

Ah, those pesky tears! They make me feel like such a baby, but I’ve come to understand that most often my tears aren’t a result of self-pity. They are more of a reaction to the incomprehensible. And unfortunately, I keep running into emotionally unfathomable and intellectually inconceivable situations. In other words — life.

Not only am I losing my anchor, I’m feeling rudderless. (Weird that I’m using all these nautical clichés — me, who’s never been on a boat in my life except for a ferry once eons ago, and an amphibious vehicle a few years back). I’ve mostly finished my packing. Except for furniture and what I need for daily living, the house is empty.

I’m living out of tubs. In this case, “tub” is not some sort of nautical term, but is literal. I have small tubs for my personal items so that I can quickly scoop them off the bathroom countertop and stash them out of sight. Same with my dishes and computer accessories.

And so it begins, another transitional stage in my life.

***

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 I Were Strong

It’s been a hard day today. I’m not exactly sure why things hit me wrong, but there it is.

The day actually started out fine. I finished making my jazz costume in time for tomorrow’s pre-pre dress rehearsal for an audition next week. (We’re auditioning for a performance at the end of the month. — A jazz dance.)

And then things went down from there. I got a call from the executor of my father’s estate. He’s signed with a real estate agent, and the house is going on the market. He was short with me, probably because this whole thing is as stressful for him as it is for me, and his shortness, more than the thought of actually putting the house on the market, upset me. I felt as if I had no control over any aspect of the coming events. Which, of course, I don’t.

For just a second I thought, “I don’t have to do this. I can go home.” Then the real panic set in when I realized I don’t have a home. I can’t go home to Jeff, can’t go anywhere because I have yet to find someplace to live.

Although I’ve tried to be strong about having my life turned upside down once more, the truth is . . . cripes, I don’t know what the truth is.

Maybe there is no truth to anything. Maybe we just do the best we can and then . . . and then, we do the best we can again. And again.

I’ll be okay tomorrow. And I’ll be okay when the house is sold — if worst comes to worst, I can grab a couch in a friend’s house or go to a motel. It’s just today I’m having problems with.

I wish I were as strong as people seem to think I am.

***

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.

Four Years and Eleven Months of Grief

Today marks four years and eleven months since my life mate/soul mate died. Next month it will be five years. I haven’t been actively mourning the entire time he’s been gone so the title is misleading on that account, but the world changed forever when he left, catapulting me into a world of grief that will always be a part of me.

These lonely years seem unfathomable to me on so many levels.

Unfathomable that I have survived the horrendous pain and angst of grief that made it impossible to catch my breath at times.

Unfathomable that I’ve managed to live without him.

Unfathomable that I am still here.

Unfathomable that I still get up every morning.

Unfathomable that I have found much happiness, and unfathomable that I still am beset by sadness.

Unfathomable that I smile so easily and unfathomable that I am just as easily brought to tears.

Unfathomable that he’s been gone so long — it seems just a few months ago we made our final goodbyes.

Unfathomable that he was ever a part of my life — our life together seems like a faded dream.

Unfathomable that I will not be going home to him now that I no longer have to look after my father.

Unfathomable that the world continues to spin, the sun to shine, the moon to glow, the winds to blow.

Unfathomable all the nevers —  never see him again, never see his smile, never hear his voice, never cook another meal with him, never watch another movie with him, never discuss another book, never . . . never . . . never . . .

Unfathomable that I still yearn for him.

Unfathomable.

GTGYwp

***

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.

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.

Curiosity, the Passive Cousin of Passion

I hear a lot of talk about passion. Characters, of course, are supposed to be passionate. Apparently, passion is what makes a character compelling and memorable. Who can forget Scarlett O’Hara, with her overweening and narcissistic passion? Like her or hate her, people find it hard to look away. Her passions make her the center of attention for everyone, including herself. Well, everyone except for me. Her passion exhausts me.

We living characters are exhorted to be passionate also, to embrace life and follow our passions, which sounds like good advice for those with high levels of energy. I am too phlegmatic to be truly passionate, though I have my moments, particularly when unfairness comes into play. I despise unfairness. Yeah, I know — life is unfair, but why should it be? Is that a natural law of the universe? Thou shalt be unfair? But I digress. As you can tell by the title of this post, the topic is not unfairness or even passion, but curiosity.

Curiosity is every bit as important a motivator as passion when it comes to life and reading. I am not one for romance novels. The passion is not to my taste, and there isn’t much curiosity involved. You know the characters will get together if the story is a category romance. And you know they won’t get together if the story is not a category romance. Did Lara and Dr. Zhivago get together? Did Cathy and Heathcliff? Did Scarlett and Rhett? (As an aside, you and I would never use such spellings of names. Double tees for both major characters? How coincidental — and cutesy — can you get?)

I’ve always been motivated by curiosity, the passive cousin of passion. When it comes to reading, I want to know who did it, how they did it, why they did it. Curiosity has often kept me reading far into the night.

Desert pathsIt’s the same with life. During the long years of grief for my life mate/soul mate, it was curiosity that kept me going. (I describe him as my soul mate for lack of a better term. Despite the passion such a term might seem to invoke, we were not passionate people, not romantic, not even especially happy, but we were connected — for good and bad — on what seemed to be a cosmic level. Of course, for all I know, it could have been a folie à deux.)

I once wrote: I called for you when I was out walking in the desert today, but you didn’t answer. Well, of course you didn’t answer — you’re dead.

I kept walking, following the winding road wherever it took me. No view on the road was different from another. The road didn’t lead to any particular place. The point was just to go. To see. And so it is with my life right now. I have no real reason to do anything. There is no meaning in my life, no reason to live except for curiosity.

Since his death, I’ve often wondered what will happen to me. Where would life take me? Who would I turn out to be now that I am . . . just me? That same curiosity will continue to keep me going into whatever future there may be.

When I researched long-term walking, I came across mention of a woman who called herself the Peace Pilgrim. In her forties, the Peace Pilgrim responded to a spiritual awakening by getting rid of everything she owned, and setting out on foot to promote peace. She traveled for tens of thousands of miles with only the clothes on her back and a pen, toothbrush, comb, and map in her pockets.

I envy the belief, focus, and agenda that allowed her to travel so lightly. I’m not sure I am capable of the sort of belief it takes to travel with nothing but the clothes on my back. Don’t have an agenda, either, but as a friend told me, “I don’t think you need belief or agenda…seems to me you just need curiosity!”

Yep. Curiosity. Not passion, just curiosity. The need to see what is around the next bend. If I’m lucky and willing to take risks, the power of curiosity could lead me into a lot of adventure!

***

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 Current Year Will Bring Me Much Happiness

I went to Sacramento for a couple of days to set up my books at a special-ed teacher’s conference. When I opened my suitcase to unpack, I found a little surprise — a note from the TSA telling me they had searched my checked bag. (They also had searched my carry-on bag. Apparently, books are so dense, they show up as fog on the screen.) This was the first time I’d checked a bag — I prefer to travel light, but the suitcase was mostly filled with books, and I knew I’d never be able to lift it up to fit in the overhead bin — so I didn’t know what to expect. Luckily, I didn’t lock the bag. So, no harm done.

We had Chinese food while I was there, and since my friend doesn’t eat sweets, I ended up with both fortune cookies. The first one I opened said, “The current year will bring you much happiness.” That pleased me until it occurred to me that perhaps that particular fortune was meant for my friend. So I opened the second cookie. It said, “The current year will bring you much happiness.” Apparently, this is going to be a good year!

I sold a few books in Sacramento, which was nice. Visited with the friend who had invited me to share her table, which was nicer.

Already my fortune is coming true!

selling books

***

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.

Fishing for Life in Sacramento

I’m going to turn off my computer for the next forty-eight hours and take myself on a fishing trip. Not to fish for fish, of course — such a hobby is only peaceful for the one fishing; the poor fish are scared, hurt, and fighting for their life — but to fish for life. See what happens when I am disconnected from my usual online pursuits. (The last time I took time away from blogging, I was spending all my time with computer tech guy trying to fix a program that hogged my CPUs, so it wasn’t much of a disconnection from my computer.)

I’m planning on selling my books at a conference in Sacramento with an author friend. I’ve known her so long, it’s strange to think I’ve only visited with her once before. (We met online through our mutual publisher.)  Should be fun, just taking off for a couple of days. Seeing what I can see. Feeling what I can feel.

If you want to contact me, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you in a couple of days. Or whenever.

fishes

***

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.

Grief and a Need for Adventure

For the past few years, I’ve had an overwhelming desire for adventure, especially some grand and epic journey that would change me forever. I’ve noticed this same trait in others of my grief “age group,” those of us who lost our soul mates around the same time. Apparently, our psyches believe that only something great and powerful and life affirming (or death defying) can offset the terrible loss we suffered. This feeling isn’t reserved for just our group of course, but since we’ve suffered a similar loss within a few months of each other, the phases we all go through are more apparent to me.

For some people, the desire for an epic adventure dissipates as their grief dissipates. For example, I have a friend who’s been grieving the end of a love affair for the past couple of years, and although she’s been going through this same need for adventure, she now seems to have reached both an acceptance of her loss and a readiness to resume life on a more prosaic level. She wants to write and do art, which are adventures of their own, but both seem to demand some sort of settled life so the artist can pursue those adventures on art’s own terms.

campingMe? I’m not there yet. Although it seems as if I’m unequipped physically for great feats of endurance, such as an epic walk, I’m not ready to accept the idea of a settled life. In my case, I’m not sure it’s still about a need for adventure so much as a need for a simpler life. What could be simpler than taking a walk? One foot in front of the other. That’s all you need to do. At least, that’s the way it appears on the surface. The more I research, the more complicated such a life becomes. A gallon of water weighs eight pounds. In desert states, sometimes you have to walk fifty to a hundred miles before coming upon a water source. At a half gallon of water and five to ten miles a day, that means a minimum load of forty pounds just of water. Add to that food, shelter (tent), sleeping system, rain gear, emergency kit, change of clothes. No wonder people who walk across the country push or pull carts so they can haul the necessities. Or they walk with nothing, and trust in the journey to supply what they need. I have no interest in a cart, and no ability to surrender to trust, so here I sit, journeying on my computer, dreaming as yet impossible dreams.

People keep asking me if I had inherited this house if I would continue living here. I always say no just because owning this house was never an option, but the truth is, I probably would stay out of inertia. If you have a place to live, it’s much harder to uproot yourself than if life uproots you. But eventually I’d have to leave because I don’t have the wherewithal to keep up such a house. Nor could I handle the stress of upkeep. Most of my recent stresses and dramas have centered around this house. Alarms chirping, things breaking down, things needing to be fixed, replaced, cleaned, packed. Things. Other stresses and dramas have centered around my computer and car. More things. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life as a caretaker of things. I want more from life than . . . things. (I’ve considered joining the tiny house movement, but again, although on the surface, owning a tiny house seems simple, in the end it’s as complicated as owning a big house. )

I have dance commitments through the end of May, so whether the house sells or not, I’ll be staying in this area at least that long. (Jazz and belly dance performances in March, Hawaiian and Tahitian performances in May.) And then? More dancing, probably. I still have much to learn that dancing can teach me. I’m considering renting a room in a house, which would give me more unsettledness than an apartment lease. Besides, considering the non-credit I have, never having borrowed money or owned a credit card, it’s almost impossible for me to rent a place.

I have way too many things for a simple life, but to simplify my life, I’ll be putting it all in storage. That way I won’t have to be burdened with those things, but will have them whenever I need them.

I do know I will do something. I’ll have to. My mother died at eighty-five and my father at ninety-seven, though there’s no saying whether I will live as long as either one of them did. (My immediately younger brother died nine years ago from brain cancer.) Still, there is a possibility of my living for decades still. I will have to do something during all those years, and whatever that something might be, I’m sure it will be an adventure because life itself is an adventure.

***

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.

Spending the Night Under the Stars

I spent the night outside last night. The house reeked of carpet and tile cleaning chemicals and both the house and the garaged smelled of the supposedly odor-free pesticide. Although I had an offer of a place to spend the night, I didn’t want to leave and close the place up. I might never have gotten rid of the hodgepodge of odors.

(Had to take a quick detour to look up the etymology of hodgepodge — it comes from a fourteenth century term hotchpot, referring to a stew. Now it means any sort of confused mixture of unrelated items.)

bedAlthough it seemed audacious when I first thought of sleeping outside, the experience turned out to be tame. More of a kid’s adventure than a quest for the wild women within.

First of all, I used the same makeshift bed I slept on the night before in the garage, so I was quite comfortable. Second, I slept on the patio, which sort of defeated the purpose of sleeping under the stars. Third, without my glasses, I couldn’t see the stars anyway, just the twilight haze of the ever-lit city sky.

I suppose it was the matter-of-factness of the experience that made it an adventure of sorts. I don’t remember ever sleeping outside before. I slept in a tent a couple of nights when I was in sixth grade, but that was so long ago I don’t even remember doing so. (Though I do remember a particular winding turn when all I could see out the window was the floor of the canyon far below. I felt sure my father was about to drive us off the cliff).

It wasn’t particularly cold here, but even if it were, I’d have been okay. I used my parent’s duvet so I was warm, even hot.

Apparently, as long as I am comfortable, I can sleep anywhere. At least, I hope so since I haven’t any idea where I will be sleeping once this house is sold.

As for the duvet — Since none of my siblings wanted it, I’d planned to keep it in my car for emergencies. I took off the exceedingly heavy cover, but duvet itself is white, which isn’t exactly practical for outside use — it costs a fortune to clean such a thing. I suppose I could just keep it until it got dirty and then toss it out. Or if it’s still clean when I get a sleeping bag, I could donate the duvet to a thrift store.

I sure will be glad when these silly little decisions have all been made and I am conundrum-free!

At least tonight I don’t have to decide where to sleep. The house seems aired out now, and I can spend the night in my usual bed. The stars will have to fend for themselves.

***

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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