What the Screams Are All About

The worst thing about opening a decade-old work in progress (though can it be called a work in progress if no progress has been made on it for years?) is that I have forgotten much of what I’d written. I usually try to end a writing session in the middle of a scene to give me a hint of the next day’s writing session, and I ended that long-ago final writing session with a scream: A shriek like that of a jungle beast in pain woke him. He rolled over onto his back, too tired to wonder who or what could be making such a racket. More shrieks and shouts. This time the screeches sounded decidedly human.

But who screamed? And why? I haven’t a clue.

The best thing about opening a decade-old work in progress is that I have forgotten much of what I’d written, so I come to it as a stranger. I found myself shuddering and chuckling by turns, and in one place I actually laughed aloud. Not bad for a work that has been stagnant for so many years. (I did find a few stray, out-of-place chapters that I vaguely remember writing seven years ago when I was trying to meet a word count for the one National Novel Writing Month I signed up for, but they don’t help much because they take place long after the shrieks.)

The oddest thing about opening a decade-old work in progress is that I have forgotten much of what I’d written . . . and haven’t written. A few of the scenes I thought I wrote somehow got stuck in my mind and never made it into the manuscript. I do remember now that I didn’t feel like writing those scenes. Coming up with and writing the plethora of details needed to describe a fellow trying to scrounge for food in an inhospitable environment seemed dreary. Which means that as I continue with this book, my task will be to see that the scenes aren’t dreary, either for me or the reader.

The most disheartening thing about opening a decade-old-work in progress is that I have forgotten much of what I’d written, and I’d forgotten that the story does not fit at all with anything else I have ever written. I have learned in the intervening years that to be successful, a writer, like an artist, must develop a recognizable style. If you pick up a Rosamund Pilcher book, you know you’re not getting horror. If you pick up a Clive Barker book, you know you’re not getting a pastoral romance. And my stories are all over the place. Three of my published novels have a similar thread, a touch of otherworldliness along with a large dash of conspiracy; my fourth published novel is a gold-hunt mystery/adventure; my soon to be published novel Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare can maybe be classified as a self-aware cozy mystery, and my soon-after-that-to be published novel is the story of a woman dealing with grief. There is a gun and a bit of a mystery in the grief story, but mostly the mystery is that of the human heart.

And then there is this decade-old WIP. No mystery. Just . . . I don’t know. Maybe an apocalyptic horror story.

Eventually, I will have to settle into a style (or develop enough readers who are intrigued by a wide-ranging author), but for now, I will enjoy the discovery of what the screams are all about.

***

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.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Toddling Along

I am toddling along, trying to get back into my life now that the external fixator is off my arm. I’m taking a couple of dance classes, walking a bit, reading, writing occasionally. Mostly I’ve been trying not to be too introspective, hence the lack of recent blog posts. Besides, pain has a way of focusing attention onto itself and away from the bigger picture.

I’m not in a lot of pain, but there is always some. Either I am trying to work the hand to its new level of normality, or I momentarily have no pain and inadvertently use the hand in a way it has not been accustomed to during the last five months, and so my friend pain arrives once more.

When I returned from my cross-country trip, I had three goals: try to build up my strength, go on an anti- inflammation diet for 30 days, and finish my three works in progress. The strength-building goal was laid low after I destroyed my arm, and now that goal is mostly focused on the arm itself rather than all of me. I do such fun things as squeeze a sponge in a bucket of warm water, grasp a hammer by the end of the handle and flip it gently from side to side to help with elbow and wrist pronation, lay my left hand on flat on the table and try to raise the elbow to bend the wrist. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

Twelve days ago I started the anti-inflammation diet — no milk products, no grains, no legumes, no sweeteners of any kind — and so far I’m doing fine, though I do not notice any difference. (Supposedly, I am supposed to feel vibrant and healthy with more energy than I’ve had for years, but that simply is not happening.) When the 30 days are up, I will probably continue with a variation of the diet, though I will add some corn and cheese so I can eat with friends at a favorite Mexican restaurant.

Most importantly, I have finished two of my three or four works in progress. (Three if I include only started works, and four if I include the first book I ever wrote, which needs a complete rewriting. I still love the premise, but I’m not really sure what to do with it.) I opened the file for the third WIP today, which actually is the oldest of the three, started before I ever had the Internet. (I was given the gift of the Internet nine years and 341 days ago. I wasn’t really sure what to do on the Internet, but figured I had a year to decide, and if after that year I still didn’t know, well, I could always get rid of it. But here I am.) I think the last time I worked on this particular book was maybe seven years ago, and I’d forgotten a lot of the fun little bits. It will be nice to finally finish it, but finishing it will bring its own level of sadness because it was the last book Jeff helped me with. My mother’s death, the advent of the Internet and publication of two of my books, and then Jeff’s death, shunted this poor WIP off my radar. And when the book is finished done, it will end my literary link with Jeff.

He was my first reader (or rather listener, since I read to him while he did chores). I did not think I would be able to write without his smile to encourage me, but the books I finished were both started after his death, and in fact, reflected either his death, my grief, or both.

I hope I’ll be able to continue to write after these started books are finished and (keeping my fingers crossed) published. Hope I will still have something to say. But I do not need to concern myself with the future right now. Other things matter more. Working my arm. Finishing my third WIP. Trying to get strong and healthy. That’s enough for any one person to concentrate on.

***

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.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Olio

Olio is one of those words dearly loved by crossword puzzle makers but that you never hear in real life. Olio means a miscellaneous collection of things, and that’s what today’s blog is — a collection of loosely connected thoughts.

Every time I write a blog using speech recognition software, I am especially pleased with how easy it is to tag an article. Normally, I would scour a blog searching for keywords, then copy and paste those words into the blog editor. This always added an extra 15 minutes or more to a blog — not that I begrudged the time, but it felt laborious. Now all I have to do is set my cursor at the bottom of the document, re-read what I wrote, and voice any terms I come across that I wish to use for keywords. Then I copy and paste the entire list into the blog editor. I don’t honestly know if using speech recognition software to tag an article saves time, but the process is so much less tedious, I don’t mind tagging as much as I did.

People keep telling me that one day I will understand the good that has come from destroying my arm, but I don’t necessarily think things — especially this injury thing — happen for a reason. They just happen. I do know most of us tend to make the best of bad situations, because really, what else can we do? In my case, since my pulverized wrist keeps me from two-handed typing, I got speech recognition software to make writing easier. And oh, it truly does make writing easier — though is it still writing if one is actually speaking and not writing?

I imagine writing has come to mean any means of disseminating one’s thoughts via words to people not immediately present. Every writer knows there is a vast difference between typing and writing, so there is also a difference between merely talking and writing using speech recognition software.

Still, as helpful as the program is, there is no way I would have ever exchanged a perfect arm for a piece of software, especially since I could have bought it either way, giving me both a perfect arm and speech recognition software. As for other benefits of having broken my arm? There are none that I can see. I can’t think of any lesson I learned. No monetary windfall came my way, and because of all the bills, I’m worse financially than I was before. And, of course I am worse off physically. The best I can hope for is to regain as much mobility I can, learn to live with whatever disability (and pain) is left, and not let fear of injury impede further adventures.

Oddly, with all of the care and worry of the external fixator, and the recent surgery to remove it, I’d forgotten I broke my elbow in so many places that I now have a metal elbow to match the various pins in my arm and the plate in my wrist. I never did any physical therapy for the elbow, just exercised it, and though I don’t yet have full mobility, I’m doing quite well. And my fingers are working to a certain extent. I was finally able to cut my hair (yep, I’m a do-it-yourselfer all the way). And today I discovered I could tie my shoes. Such a big girl now! Can tie my own shoes! When I had the occupational therapist, she tied my shoes for me; I left the laces tied and used the shoes as slip ons.

During the past four and half months, ever since I fell, I’ve been more or less drugged. It didn’t really feel as if I were, but now that I have been drug-free for a week — the recent anesthesia has worn off and I’ve sworn off pain pills — I can see that I’ve been in some sort of altered state. I don’t remember everything that happened during the past few months. It’s as if I walked out of the theater after the dance performance on November 19 and woke up today living in a different room, different neighborhood, and with a disabled arm.

I’m also disoriented as to time. I fell in the autumn and now summer is on the way. I seem to have misplaced a season or two. And I’m disoriented as to days and hours. When I was out walking today, I panicked, thinking I should be at the doctor’s office for my post-op appointment. I called to tell them I would be late and discovered I would not be late but in fact was twenty-three and a half hours early.

I don’t really know what to make of all this, though I suppose there is nothing to make of it. Just continue on as I’ve been doing — one day at a time, taking the bad with the good.

My most recent watercolor. Maybe it’s time I start signing them.

***

(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.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

What a Person Can Get Used To

It’s amazing what a person can get used to. Four months ago, after I broke my arm and elbow and wrist in more than a dozen places, I had surgery to have an external fixator screwed into my arm to keep the hand bones from migrating down to where my wrist was supposed to be. When I woke from the anesthetic with the hardware attached to my arm, I have no idea why I didn’t freak out. I don’t know if they told me what they were going to do; if I was so drugged, what they did to me just didn’t register; or if the whole thing was so preposterous that I just accepted the device for what it was.

At first, it was hard having something that looks like a small sewing machine attached my arm, a  sewing machine that weighed a couple of pounds, but at the beginning I had a bit of help — an occupational therapist that miraculously showed up at my door one day. I think one of the hospital doctors have prescribed a nursing service, which I did not need, and along with the service came this wonderful woman. For a couple hours a week, she helped me open bottles, cut up apples, wash my hair, help with whatever finger exercises I could do, massage scars and aching muscles. During most of that time, I was on heavy duty opioids that did little more than fog my brain, make me sleep, and slightly reduce the acuity of the pain. The loss of this therapist, who I had come to depend on, happened to coincide with my grief anniversary date (exactly one month before the seventh anniversary of his death, which for some reason is more painful than the anniversary itself).

I survived that unexpected and quite profound bout of grief, of course, because, odd though it might seem, I have gotten used to grief popping up whenever it feels like it.. After the grief episode, I entered a period of equanimity that hasn’t been especially good, but it certainly hasn’t been bad. I think it’s more that I’ve gotten used to the fixator, to not being able to drive, to spending most of my time a loan in a single room. The last week or so, I have done away with all pain medications, and surprisingly — or I suppose not surprisingly — I’ve begun to feel like writing again. Having forgotten most of the book I was writing, I had to reread the entire thing — twice — to get it back into my head. I also gave the rough draft to a couple of friends to read, and took their suggestions into consideration along with some of my own suggestions, such as moving a crucial scene closer towards the end.

Now that I have gotten used to this life, I have been given a surgery date to get the fixator removed. (First week in April.) People keep telling me, “I bet you’re going to be glad to have that thing off your arm,” and though I agree to keep from seeming contrary, the truth is, I’m not particularly glad. To be honest, I feel a bit of trepidation. As long as the fixator is on my arm, I am more or less forced into a life of idleness. Reading, writing, walking, painting, doing puzzles. When the fixator comes off, there will be a period of recuperation, drugs, and I’m sure quite a bit of backtracking in the use of fingers, elbow, etc. After that comes a year maybe two of relearning how to use the wrist and hand, and learning how to accommodate whatever deformity and disability I end up with. All necessary steps, but not necessarily pleasant ones.

So for now, these last couple of weeks before the fixator comes off, I intend to enjoy this idleness I have gotten used to.

I hope you are finding periods of creative idleness, too!

***

(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.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

The Power of Words

I am a writer, hence words are my life. So far, they are not my living, though I still have hopes of making money with my writing, but they are my life. I love to play with words. I think in words rather than images. I see hidden meanings in words. For example a friend on Facebook told me that grief is like tide pools — sometimes very shallow and sometimes unfathomably deep. She said she preferred the shallows because of the living things she could see in the pools, and all at once, in the midst of the word shallows, I saw the word hallow, meaning sacred and holy. This seemed very deep to me, but maybe I simply liked playing with the idea that “shallows” had depth.

Still, sometimes the power of words surprises me. In my previous post, Vulnerability and Upsurges of Grief,  I mentioned that I was going through a profound grief upsurge, one that was so strong I felt I needed to reach out to Jeff in the only way I knew how — by writing him a letter. The next day, I was puzzled by the absence of tears, by the peace that had settled over me. The only thing that changed from one day to the next was that letter. After I’d told him about my arm, my feelings of isolation, my financial woes, I wrote “Odd that your death brings so much grief, but it also brings me comfort, knowing you are out of this world. At least one of us doesn’t have to deal with this crap anymore.”

One of the hardest things about losing a lifemate/soul mate/spouse/partner is that there is no longer any “us.” There is only I. Me. By subconsciously identifying myself as being still part of an “us,” perhaps I felt a continuity of our shared life. Since his death, I’ve never really felt the continuity, never felt his presence — only his absence. (People sometimes suggest I should put Jeff out of my mind because he is in the past, and the truth is that I do forget him for weeks on end, but it’s also true that his absence is part of my present. His absence fuels my need to live, my need not to waste whatever life is left to me.) I’d packed his picture in my storage unit when I went on my trip, and since I have no way to go get it right now, I printed out another copy of the photo. I tacked his image above my computer, and seeing his radiant smile makes me smile.

I’d read once that those bereft who find a way to make their lost mate a part of their lives are happier and more contented than those who try to ignore the past. I suppose in my rush to live as fully as possible, I’d forgotten this, or maybe thoughts of him had just naturally drifted away. In the busyness of my life in the shallows, he’ll probably drift away again. But for now, it feels good to have this connection, even if it is all in my mind.

Because of anecdotes about near-death experiences, we all assume our dead are happily waiting for us, but I’m not sure that’s true. Even though they might not feel loss as we do, it’s possible that they too feel the separation. I also think it’s possible that sometimes inexplicable grief comes not from within us but from without, from our lost one thinking about us, missing us. (I used to think that calling a death a “loss” was a misnomer because we did not mislay the person, but now it does feel as if Jeff is lost to me, lost in the far reaches of time.)

March is shaping up to be an interesting month. Not only do I add another year to my age, I tick off another anniversary of his death. It’s also another long month of having the external fixator attached to my arm. (The surgery to remove the device will not take place until April.) Another month of isolation. Another month of surrendering to idleness. (That part, at least, sounds inviting.) I might again founder (and flounder) in the depths of grief, or I might find peace in the shallows. But whatever happens, right now, at this moment, I am at peace.

And all because of a few powerful words.

great-saguaro

***

(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.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Creative Play

I haven’t used my Dragon speech recognition software for a couple of days, and I need the practice. So here I am, talking to you.

Oh, who am I trying to kid — I really just wanted to play with my new toy!

It’s funny, I got this software so I could work on my books since I am not doing anything right now except healing, but I haven’t been working on my books at all. My current book is one about a grieving woman during the first couple of months after her husband died, and it’s rather a painful story. The problem is that to continue writing the tale, I have to reread it to see where I am, and I haven’t felt like going back through all that agony. I did do one thing to forward the progress on the book — I sent it to the woman who encouraged me to write it so she could read it and tell me what she thinks, and she loved it. So that’s good to know. Actually I lied — I did do one other thing to further the story. I decided to leave the ending ambiguous, just hinting at where she might go and what she might do, because after all, at two months after the death of her husband she would have no clue who she will become. I’m still not sure who or what I’m going to become, so how is that newly bereft woman supposed to know anything about what her life is going to be?

In the end, I guess you can say I’ve been writing. If typing is considered writing, and now if speaking can be considered writing, then why can’t thinking be writing also? (This is what we writers do: find ways to convince ourselves we are working when we are not.)

As for my life. That’s going about as well as my writing, which is to say not much of anywhere. Dance classes started for the year yesterday, and I didn’t go. I’m not supposed to do anything that strenuous until I get the external fixator off my arm. Instead, I stayed in my room and played with watercolors. I am no artist. Not even any inclination to be an artist. But somebody gave me the watercolors and I figured I should at least attempt to use them. Luckily, the paper she sent with the paints is postcard size, just large enough to balance the frustration of not knowing what I am doing with the fun of doing something. A large sheet would be way too frustrating for me, though if I had copious paints rather than the small watercolor set, it might be fun splashing paint on a larger page.

The weather was also nice enough for me to take a walk today, which always makes me feel at least somewhat alive.

And now I am playing with my incredible Dragon.

I have noticed a special effect with using the Dragon and talking out loud to write—the headphones, microphone, and the sound of my voice creates a special and private space. I don’t know if the headset will block out a lot of noise, because I can still hear the traffic outside the window, but it helps me block out the noise and concentrate on the words inside my head. Obviously, since I have not added any words to my book in progress, I don’t exactly know how beneficial the Dragon is going to be, but I have a hunch it’s going to be just fine. I have never been an inspired writer, a writer who sets her fingers on the keys and the story forms without  her actually thinking it out. I have to dredge the words one at a time out of my mind, so I might as well go one step further and say them aloud. Oddly, during my last few writing sessions I’d found myself mouthing the words before I typed. Perhaps I was practicing the Dragon long before I even got it? (An aside: as intuitive as the Dragon is, it does not recognize when I am asking a question. I still have to tell it to put a question mark at the end of the sentence.)

I don’t know if you can tell that I am smiling as I am speaking, but I really do get a kick out of this program. It’s magic. I speak and words appear on the page. Awesome.

Well once again it’s been nice talking to you. Literally, talking. I hope you managed to do some creative work today, or creative play. Talk to you again soon.

***

The painting below is my first attempt at watercolors. I call it Cloudy Day. Why orange clouds? Why not?

cloudy-day

***

(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.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Getting Used to the Way Things Become

Someone left a comment on my blog yesterday wondering whether the depression I mentioned was actually grief, and the tears that came to my eyes told me she was right. I had been fine with my injury until Christmas Day, and then I lost it. I haven’t felt that sad for I don’t know how long, but on that day I couldn’t stop crying. I was desperately lonely, afraid because I don’t know what’s going to happen with my arm and how it can affect my life, and more than anything I just wanted to go home. Now that the holidays are passed and we are more than a week into the new year, I am mostly back to normal — whatever normal means — taking each day as it comes and trying not to panic about the future.

It seems funny to be leaning back in a chair, feet up on a desk, and talking my way into a blog using speech recognition software, but it’s actually a lot more natural than clicking away at a keyboard. And less lonely. After Jeff died, I used to go out to the desert and talk to him. I seldom talk to him anymore, but I know a lot of people who still talk sunsetto their deceased spouses even after many years. I always knew it was a way of keeping in touch with the loved one, or at least feeling some kind of connection, but now I understand it’s also a way to offset some of the loneliness. I wonder if we need to hear the sound of our voices, that if we don’t talk we somehow feel less alive. Does it matter if there’s nobody there to listen? There’s no one here listening to me talking, but I suppose I could assume you’re listening, though not at the very moment I’m speaking, which does make this sort of a conversation.

Because of my grief posts I end up “meeting” a lot of bereft spouses, people who once had a life companion and now are alone. I worry about them, and I worry about myself. There are some things in life that can never be undone. The dead do not come back. A new love or a new marriage does not erase the old one. (And a mangled arm no matter how painstakingly fixed does not miraculously become brand-new.) In a little over two months, it will be seven years since Jeff died, and that still matters to me. He was such an important part of my life and his being gone is an important thing of its own.

Sometimes I’m glad he’s not here to have to deal with my injury. There is nothing he could do about it, and it would only make him feel bad, though it would be nice to have someone help put the splint on every night, keep me company, and do the thousands of small things that seem impossible with one hand. I try not to listen to the voice in my mind that says the accident would not have happened if he were here, but it’s true. If I were still living our shared life, I would never have been scurrying across a dark parking lot in the middle of the night. I would have been home with him. But life does what it will, and we are left to cope as best as we can.

One thing the fall taught me is how quickly things change. (Or rather I should say re-taught me, because death has already taught me how quickly things change.) There I was heading for my car that night, happy, contented, healthy, and the next thing I knew I was in the emergency room with an arm that will never look the same, feel the same, or act the same. It just goes to show that any plans we make can be derailed in a moment.

We do get used to the way things become, and often after a bad incident we convince ourselves that it was actually a good thing. For example, if somebody got in a car accident and met his future wife in the emergency room. But generally we just try to make sense of things, and if good things happen after the bad incident, or if we make good things happen, we tell ourselves we were lucky. I wonder if there will ever come a time when I say this accident was a good thing? I suppose it’s possible that this speech recognition software will change my writing habits and catapult me into bestseller dumb. (I was trying to say bestsellerdom, but I loved the way the speech recognition software translated the term, so I kept it.) It’s possible that I don’t write as much as I could because I’m lazy. It takes a lot of effort to either write by hand or sit at the computer and type, and now that I have the opportunity to relax and spout off as I wish, it might make a difference. We’ll see.

It’s been fun talking to you. Talk to you again soon.

***

(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.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Dragon Myself Back to Writing

I haven’t been blogging lately, partly because I have nothing to say or rather nothing I want to say —I have been too depressed to want to share what I’ve been feeling, though depression does go with the territory of being housebound — and also because it’s too hard to type one-handed. (I fell and destroyed my left wrist and elbow a couple of months ago.) Yesterday I installed Dragon speech recognition software on my computer, so now I can blog without typing. I’m not sure if it will change my “voice” or if dragonI will even be able to think while talking, but at least it gives me something new to play with and something new always offsets depression.

It’s funny that the depression didn’t come from the injury so much as being alone in a room for days on end. It’s my room not a hospital room, but still fate has brought me to the thing I’ve dreaded all these years — stagnating alone in a solitary room. I’ve been desperately wanting to go home, but it always comes down to the same thing — I have no home except this temporary one. But maybe that’s the truth with all of us, that whatever home we have is temporary because life itself is temporary.

It seems strange that even though only the arm is injured I am housebound, but there is a whole lot I can’t do. I can’t go walking unless the day is warm and the street dry because another fall at this time would be disastrous, and I have to use a trekking pole to help keep my balance since the broken arm is in a sling. I can’t drive so I am dependent on willing or mostly willing friends to take me wherever I need to go. Mostly I’ve been reading, playing solitaire, checking Facebook for interesting articles, and trying to take care of myself.

Caring for myself is hard. I can’t cook except for simple things, so I mostly eat prepared salads and frozen dinners. Can’t even take a shower by myself. Luckily, an occupational therapist comes once or twice a week to help. I will probably have the external fixator on my arm for another three weeks, and the fixator makes doing anything even more difficult. When the fixator finally comes off, of course, it will be months before I will gain some use of my arm. I really hated the thought of not being able to write during all that time, especially since I got such a good start on my latest book before the accident, but hopefully Dragon will drag me kicking and screaming all the way to the end of the story.

I am writing this blog with Dragon, though I am not sure that technically it can be called writing if one is speaking. I suppose I should say I am composing this blog, but what the heck — it all looks the same at the end no matter what tool one uses to get there.

For the most part, I’ve been accepting of my injury. There’ve only been a few times when I panicked at the thought of not gaining full usage of my wrist and elbow, but mostly I’ve been taking things as they come. Now that the swelling is down, I can see that the doctor is right — there is considerable deformity. Depending upon the mobility I regain, or don’t regain, I might need another surgery in a year, which might also fix some of the deformity. Once the fixator is off, I will do whatever I need to do to get as much mobility as possible, and then wait and see what happens.

Meantime, there is Dragon. The program is actually easy to use. The main problem I have as a temporarily one-handed person is putting on the headphone so I can use the microphone, but so far I have managed. If nothing else I can wear the headphone around my neck.

It’s been good talking to you. I hope you’re having a good year so far.

***

(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.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Having a Human Experience

I did a Bollywood dance performance eight nights ago, and a few minutes later, I was lying in the parking lot outside the theater screaming in agony. Apparently, as I crossed the parking lot to my car, I tripped over a free-standing cement parking curb. Shattered my left wrist. I drove myself to the hospital (I didn’t want to leave my car in the lot, and somehow, fueled by adrenaline and unreasoning pain, it seemed the most expedient solution for getting to the emergency room.)

After a night in the ER, I was admitted to the hospital until they could do the surgery a couple of days later. When they got me on the cart to wheel me to the operating room, they told me the only panties I could wear were the mesh hospital panties, and since I was already wearing those, I didn’t think anything of it. Then, before they wheeled me away, the nurse came and pulled off the panties under the mistaken assumption they were not allowed. And I started crying. Up until then, I’d accepted the pain, the emergency room, the drugs, the hospital stay and everything else that happened to me with equanamity (or the numbness of shock?) but the removal of the panties did me in. I felt unutterably vulnerable and alone.

I still do.

I’m out of the hospital, dealing as best as I can with drug-fuddled mind and only one usable hand/arm. I’m trying not to feel sorry for myself, and mostly succeeding, but this is the culmination of a very traumatic ten years. It started with the death of the brother closest to me in age nine years and eleven months ago. Since then, I have had to deal with my mother’s illness and death, my life mate/soul mate’s long dying and subsequent death, my elderly father’s care and his death. Also, I broke an ankle, scalped myself, lost a tooth, and now have multiple fractures in my wrist/arm.

Lots of life — and death — going on.

But for now, what’s important is the current injury.

People ask me how I am interpreting this particular experience and what the message is. I am trying not to find messages. Trying to see the fall as simply an accident because anything else, such as the possibility that internal conflicts could manifest themselves physically, is simply too frightening.

Although I don’t believe in rites, such as funerals, I went to my mother’s funeral to see everyone in my family one more time. But shortly after I got there, I broke my ankle. Spend the viewing at the ER and the funeral at the bone specialist’s office.

And now, once again, I’d been faced with doing something I didn’t want to do — that dance performance. I really, really didn’t want to be part of a multi-day show and even told my class if they badgered me into it, something bad would happen. Somewhere along the line, I stopped saying no and ended up being understudy for that one particular show because they truly did need me. I enjoyed the performance, did it perfectly. And then, a few minutes afterward, I lay screaming in the parking lot.

If there is a message, it’s for me to stop doing things I don’t want to do. Or more accurately, to stay away from internal conflict. (There are actually two internal conflicts at play here — the dance recital and the book I am writing. I don’t want to write it, but I want to finish it, and now I am forced to take a hiatus.) But the truth is, I don’t want to believe that there is any correlation between internal conflict and broken bones. Way too frightening!

It’s better if I think of this latest trauma, as with all my traumas, as my being a human person having a human experience.

If I say it enough, I might actually come to believe it.

***

(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, the Internet, and Other Unpolitic Matters

It seems funny to me that I managed to write a blog post every day for more than four years, and now I can’t come up with four posts a month. There is so much I don’t want to talk about. Or rather, that I do want to talk about but don’t think it . . . politic. (Weird, isn’t it, that talking of politics is no longer politic? Not that I particularly want to talk about what’s going on in the world, but it’s hard not to want to have my say.)

During all my years online, I’ve heard people say that the internet is a harsh place because people hide behind their online personas and spew filth, but until this past week, I’ve never encountered such hatred and anger. Online, people are screeching about racists and xenophobes and misogynists and bigots, but offline, people are respectfully and calmly talking about why they voted the way they did, and not one of them voted for racism. Except that in today’s world, if you disagree with standard group-think for any reason, the first word that comes up in retaliation is “racist.” Or “anti-feminist.” As if the only reason to vote for a Broken heartwoman is that she’s a woman like you. (Apparently, women are not allowed to look beyond gender to the issues dear to their heart.)

None of this has anything to do with me, really, but I see the hurt caused by such divisiveness. I have never lost so much respect for so many people so fast as I did this past week. The election results didn’t upset me. I know that historically any Republican president brings out the activists, which mitigates the power. But the hatred and lies and name calling is something I can do without. Not only am I a person who wants everyone to get along, but such contention exacerbates my ongoing sadness.

When I was writing my dance class book, I was in a good place mentally. But now . . . not so much. I’m not experiencing grief; really, it’s more that all the vehement rhetoric makes me miss the one person I knew who could look rationally and historically beyond the hype on both sides to the truth, who understood my feelings, who knew my thoughts and agreed with them because they were his thoughts too. I realize having such a person in my life was a blessing, but sometimes it’s hard to still count that particular blessing because it ended so very long ago. In a few months, it will be seven years since he’s been gone. Long enough to forget occasionally that I had him in my life, but not long enough to completely fill the hole he left behind.

Working on my current book, a novel I started six years ago about a woman who lost her husband to death, is resurrecting the sadness, which shows me grief is still there, buried under my renewed equanimity. (I never used to be an emotional person, but his death slammed me way off course.) I periodically think about scrapping the book. I don’t know if anyone will ever read it. A grieving woman is not the sort of heroine that people seem to admire. A person experiencing grief is at the mercy of her hormones and brain chemistry, her emotional and spiritual tornadoes, the sheer debilitating exhaustion of the process. No amount of determination, no power-woman tactics can get you through it. Only going through it can get you through it.

Such a character and her manifest weakness, no matter how temporary, is not exactly something most people find inspiring. And yet, that’s the whole point of the book. To show the truth of grief. I got so sick of books where the woman lost her husband, cried herself to sleep, and woke up the next morning thinking, “Okay, that’s done with.” Or as one author wrote, “She went through all five stages of grief.” Yeah. That’s deep.

There is a reason why books featuring fictional widows and widowers generally start three to five years after the spouse’s death — those first years are not pretty.

And my poor heroine’s story is the first two months after her husband’s death. Oh, my. What have I gotten myself into!

But, despite my misgivings, I keep plugging along with the book and my life. And maybe someday both will find an acceptable resolution.

As for the world outside my own little world? Nope. Not a hope. People have become too addicted to their own opinions to ever see the truth in the opposition. The situation would break my heart if it weren’t already broken.

***

(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.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.