Shoes. Sheesh.

I normally try to write blog posts that touch on my insights, things I’ve learned, or questions I have about life — not just my life, but life in general. Occasionally, I even mention issues that irk me, but never, as far as I can remember have I talked about something so shallow as shoes.

I do blog about what is on my mind, though, no matter the depth of the topic, and today shoes are on my mind.

I have three pairs of shoes I’ve been wearing — one pair is completely worn out, one hurts the tops of my feet, and one hurts my heels. I still wear them because, well, shoes. Mostly, though, I wear them because I can almost never find shoes to fit. But now that it’s cooler, I need shoes I can wear for walking more than a mile or two, so off I went to hunt the wild shoe.

One store I planned to go to has disappeared, perhaps a victim of the trend toward internet shopping, though how anyone can buy shoes online, I don’t know. There doesn’t seem to be any consistency to size, as this little fable will show.

I was left with two stores: a national shoe store chain and a sporting goods store. At the national chain, I found one pair that seemed comfortable, but I couldn’t figure out where my toe was since the top of the toe seemed to be reinforced. I asked the salesclerk if she could tell where my toe ended. She felt the toe and said there was plenty of room. Yay!

Still, since I was in shoe shopping mode, I stopped by the sporting goods store. The first thing I saw was a pair of hiking shoes on sale for less than half price. They seemed a bit big, but thick hiking socks should make them fit. (Not that I’ve been doing any hiking, but ridiculously, I still think about doing an epic hike.)

Figuring I was on a roll, I tried on various other shoes and ended up buying a couple of pairs that fit as well as any shoe in a store ever fits.

The next day, I decided to try on the first pair of shoes I bought, and after walking around the house for a few minutes, I realized the left shoe was so short, it was cramping my toe. So I packed those shoes back in their box, and tried on another pair. Or tried to. I couldn’t even fit my foot into the shoe. And the third pair was huge.

As if that wasn’t weird enough, each pair of shoes was a different size. (For comparison, my foot measures 7 1/2.) The size 8 shoe was excessively wide. The size 8 1/2 was too short. The size 9 shoe was remarkably small.

Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? The grim sort. Or maybe a fable, but if it is a fable, I have no idea what the moral could be. I’ve gleaned no insights. Learned nothing.

I returned all the shoes except the hiking shoes, which puts me back at the beginning, with only shoes that hurt or are worn out. So . . . more shopping. Someday.

Shoes. Sheesh.

***
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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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Seven Years and Seven Months

Seven years and seven months ago, Jeff, my lifemate/soulmate, died after a long illness, catapulting me out of not only our coupled life, but the very house we shared for decades. After dismantling our home, getting rid of what I could and packing the rest, I went to stay with my father, who needed someone to be there for him. Although he was mostly able to look after himself, he was getting feeble enough that he needed someone in the house to make sure he was okay. And me, being newly loose in the world, undertook the task. If he were alive, my father would be over a hundred years old, but he died three years ago today, and once again I was catapulted out into the world.

I’ve become somewhat of a nomad, or maybe I should say a serial nester. In the past three years, I’ve lived over a dozen places (and those are only the places I’ve stayed more than a couple of weeks. If you include places I stayed a week or less, they are too numerous to count.) Because I’ve spent most of the past couple of decades taking care of friends and relatives, my financial situation is precarious, so I should be trying to find a place to settle down and get a job, but . . . well, I’m not. After the emotional rigors of the past ten years (starting with Jeff’s rapid decline and my mother’s death and ending with the fall eleven months ago that pulverized my left wrist, destroyed my left elbow, and smashed my radius, leaving me with a deformed arm, and wrist and fingers that don’t quite work the way they should), it’s nice to just go with the flow — not trying to do anything, not trying to think anything, not trying to push my recalcitrant spirit into a semblance of vitality. Just drifting.

Occasionally I correspond with the newly bereft who discover me through my book, Grief: The Great Yearning. They appreciate knowing they aren’t alone in how they feel, and they seem to find solace in my words. And that’s all I have left of grief now — just words. (Well, that and compassion. Not everyone comprehends the total horror that one lives through after the death of the one person you shared everything with, the one person who anchored you to life, the one person who understood you.)

Oddly, in the same way that I can no longer “feel” the exact pain of my arm when it shattered, I can no longer actually “feel” the pain of new grief. I remember not being able to breathe. Not being able to think. Not being able to get a grip on the immense agony of my grief. I remember feeling as if I were standing on the brink of the abyss, remember thinking that if I reached out far enough, I could still touch Jeff. But I cannot actually recall the feeling of new grief itself.

Even more oddly, I’m not sure if the man in my memory is the real Jeff. Has my memory of him changed over the years to fulfill his changing role in my life? I no longer know, and don’t want to know. To try to resurrect the real him, if only in memory, will eventually lead to losing him again, and that I can’t handle.

So I drift.

I am doing what I can to exercise my hand, wrist, elbow — I won’t gain the maximum usage of the joints for another year, so I am still diligently following instructions. And I am still taking dance classes. And slowly, I am gaining strength, better balance, and maybe even a modicum of grace.

What I have not been doing is writing, even though finishing my decade-old work not-in-progress tops my to-do list (or would top my to-do list if I had one. A to-do list seems the antithesis of drifting.)

Although today is the anniversary of my father’s death, it is Jeff I think of. If Jeff hadn’t died, I would never have gone to take care of my father, would never be where I am today.

Drifting.

This photo is twenty years old, the only one ever taken of me, Jeff, and my parents. Although I am the only one still alive, that “me” in the photo is long gone. I don’t even remember being her. Maybe she’s just as lost as the other three.

***
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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 Nondecriptness of Nondescript

I got into a foolish discussion in an online writers’ group about the word “nondescript.” Frankly, it’s one of those adjectives that writers are so fond of that I have no use for because it doesn’t describe anything, doesn’t give us a feeling for who or what the thing being described is. In the discussion, a woman chastised me for getting the definition of nondescript wrong, even though I did not define the word. (Nondescript means lacking distinctive characteristics; ordinary, which is how I used the term.) To an author, to an observant human being, nothing is nondescript. There is always a distinguishing characteristic that makes a thing or person distinct from its fellow.

She gave the example of a gray wall. But the truth is, even a gray wall is not nondescript. A blank gray wall is gray, which in itself is a distinctive characteristic because how many gray walls do you see in a day? Not all grays are the same, anyway. It could be a bright silvery gray or a matte finish that seems to absorb all light. And that gray could be paint or paper, which further defines the characteristic of the wall. And if it has no finish but is unpainted gray cinder block, then that too is a distinctive characteristic. And where that gray wall is located further defines the characteristic because a gray wall in a hospital gives a completely different feel from a gray wall in bedroom.

Is anything anywhere in the world so ordinary that it lacks a distinguishing feature? An ordinary-looking fellow is not a clone of other ordinary-looking fellows. (And if you saw the movie Multiplicity, you will realize that even clones develop distinctive characteristics.) There is always something that sets a so-called ordinary person apart even if a cursory glance doesn’t show you what that something is. It could be a gait, a tie askew, eyes too close together, anything at all. Even twins each have their own distinguishing characteristics, at least to the people who know them well.

That’s what we writers do: look for those things that other people’s eyes glide over. It’s also why long descriptions are unnecessary. You look for the distinguishing characteristic — the defining characteristic — that makes the ordinary extraordinary, and that single characteristic tells us all we need to know about whatever it is that is being described. Maybe there is a fingerprint on that otherwise pristine gray wall or a crack at the base, which would tell us something about the person who owns that wall. Maybe there is a stain on the carpet or a strong smell of spice in a supposedly featureless motel room. As someone who has spent a lot of time in motel rooms, I can vouch for the fact that every one of them is different. Every one of them has a defining characteristic.

To call something ordinary or nondescript or featureless is to be unobservant. Sometimes it is hard to tell one rose on a bush from another, but no rose is ordinary. No sunset is ordinary. No ocean wave is ordinary. No full moon is ordinary. No person is ordinary.

Why would anyone ever call anything nondescript? To do so is to ignore the remarkable fact of our very existence.

There is an ongoing movement among authors to shoulder the responsibility of presenting the issues of today, to be inclusive of all marginalized folks, but that is being simplistic. The responsibility of authors is to show us jaded folk things we might not otherwise be aware of, things that might otherwise escape our attention, things that show us the truth — that nothing is ordinary. Nothing lacks distinctive characteristics. Nothing is nondescript.

Apparently, nondescript is a recurring issue with me because I found other blog posts I wrote about the same topic: Describing the Nondescript and Adding “Script” to “Nondescript”.

So today, indulge me in this one thing and help me celebrate the uniqueness — the non-nondescriptness — of us all.

***
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Don’t Forgive Yourself

[A new grief friend emailed me yesterday in angst because he doesn’t know how to forgive himself for the way he acted when his life mate/soul mate was dying. What follows is the email I sent him. I hope he doesn’t mind my sharing my own words because I think they are important enough to preserve on this blog.]

Dear Friend,

Try this: Don’t forgive yourself.

I just looked at Grief: The Great Yearning to see how long it took me to forgive myself. Day 211. That is a very long time from where you are. And it’s not so much that I forgave myself but that I realized there was nothing to forgive.

In my book on day 211, I mentioned the numbness of that last year, and why it had to be that way, why it was okay I acted the way I did without actually enumerating all the problems of that last year, but there truly were a lot of things I had to learn to accept. For example, I often bristled when Jeff talked to me. Because of the cancer in his brain (which I didn’t know about), he could no longer hold a thought in his head long enough to have a conversation, so he “lectured” me. I clenched my fists and jaw while I choked on his words. Sometimes I walked away from him when he was talking because he wouldn’t listen (or as I now understand, couldn’t listen) to anything I had to say. During that last year, I hated when he used “my dishes,” though up until then, we shared everything. (It took me a long time to understand why I hated that he used those dishes, but I now see those dishes as a metaphor for our lives. As long as we had a life together, they were our dishes. When he began moving away from our shared life, leaving me to find my own way, they reverted to being my dishes.) We bickered about what I would do when he was gone — he wanted me to go stay with my father so he wouldn’t have to worry about me, and staying with my father was the very last thing I wanted (well, second to last — the very last thing I wanted was for Jeff to die.) And the month before Jeff died, we had the only truly horrific fight we ever had.

Would I have given anything to go back and redo that year? Of course I would. After he died, I suffered over every disconnect, over every time I could have been, should have been kinder, over every word I didn’t treasure.

The truth is, I lived the best I could under horrible circumstances. The truth is, you lived the best you could under horrible circumstances. And, the truth is, you reacted normally to something that was done to you, then you went on with your lives. The only reason it is a problem is that your life mate died.

It wasn’t until day 335 that I realized the nature of grief. When the loved one is alive, we are on a Ferris wheel, riding up and down and around, up and down and around. Always, we are ourselves, being kind and nasty, loving and angry, always it seems as if we are in the same moving seat, paying no attention to the other seats on the ride. When our loved one dies, the Ferris wheel stops, and we see that we are in every single one of those seats. Something that passed is no longer past. Something that was vital and in motion is now static. We have to grieve every damn one of those seemingly infinite seats, seats that we never would have paid any attention to if the ride had just kept going.

So what if you got angry? You were alive. You were in a relationship. People get angry. It sounds to me as if you had reason to be angry. You were hurt. And underlying all of that was the soul-destroying knowledge that your mate was dying, which makes you really, really angry. (Even when you know a person is dying, though, you don’t really know it. In my case, I just figured Jeff would be forever dying and I would be forever struggling to deal with it.) When the dying goes on for a very long time, you can’t be your optimum self. Because of that damn Ferris wheel. You are on the ride, dealing with stresses that no human should have to deal with, and since you are still on the ride, you see only that single seat.

And then the damn thing stops.

I understand you cannot unsee the seats of the ride you wish to unsee. They are there. Every single now-stationary seat has to be grieved. So don’t forgive yourself. Grieve for that which you lost. Grieve that you reacted in a human way. Grieve that the Ferris wheel stopped. But don’t try to forgive yourself. Wait. Cry. Scream. And some day, maybe day 211, maybe day 345, maybe day 763, you will understand that you were simply living, simply doing the best you could under untenable conditions.

Do we want to be better? Of course we do. Do we want to have done better? Of course.

But the tragedy is not the hurt, not your anger, not whatever you did to try to relieve the stress. The tragedy is death. If you had lived to an old age as a couple, your anger would have been long forgotten. It’s only death that makes it relevant.

So grieve. Face the real culprit: Death itself.

(And oh, my gosh, do I sound ridiculously pedantic. Take what you can from this email and disregard the rest.)

But know that I understand, and one day, you will too.

Wishing you strength as you carry this burden of grief. Wishing you peace.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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 Wheel of Time

Over the past several months, I’ve been reading (and rereading) Robert Jordan’s massive Wheel of Time series. The books in the series are not stand alone books — you cannot understand one book without the previous books — which means that in effect the WOT series is single novel of over four million words broken up into fifteen parts. In fact, the series itself is not stand alone — there are all sorts of books, blogs, discussion forums comprising billions of words where readers try to figure out the truth of the story.

Not only is the scope of WOT almost impossible to fathom, but Jordan had a bad habit of putting in bits of deus ex machina that he refused to elucidate in the work itself, companion books, or even interviews. Perhaps he himself did not know what those bits meant or maybe he simply wanted to be mysterious for mysterious’s sake, to create a legacy of people debating worthless points. Which they do. Ad infinitum. Jordan also refused to explain what to him are obvious story points, such as who killed a certain bad-guy-turned-maybe-good-guy, but again, dozens of forums present various theories because that obvious point was obvious only to he who created it. At least in this particular case, the murderer was revealed in an appendix several books after the fact. Jordan also spent thousands upon thousands of words on red herrings and subplots that go nowhere, but sometimes used a single sentence buried in huge blocks of description to bring out a major point. Yikes.

And wow, is there description. Tons of description. Whenever food was mentioned, I found myself skipping a paragraph or two. When clothes were mentioned, I’d skip a couple of pages. And sometimes, when there was zero action or character development, such as in a few very clean bathing scenes, I’d skip the whole dang chapter.

I also tended to skip over some of the women’s parts. Although Jordan mostly develops his three main male characters into individual heroes, he turns his three main women characters into insufferable caricatures, indistinguishable from one another except for a few annoying character tics. At first I thought he had a problem with women, but his secondary and tertiary female characters are often well-defined or at least not brats and prigs who believe, without giving a single shred of thought to the forces the other characters face, that they know the best for everyone.

I am not a fan of fantasy fiction, especially not one man vs. the powers of darkness stories, but when I was house bound for all those months, I needed something to do, and a massive read seemed to fill that need. Though I’d tried to get immersed into other such series, books that start with a war in a bizarre place with an incomprehensible name fought by characters with equally tongue-twisting names for a goal that seemed completely alien hold no interest for me. Luckily, the first Wheel of Time book began in an earthly place with understandable actions by understandable people with simple names.

Even after investing all this time in reading the books, I’m still not sure I like the series — although the theme seems to be about the importance of having choices, most of the characters, both good and evil, go out of their way to force others to their will. Too much torture and punishment for my taste. It seems to me that in a world where everyone is free to choose, it’s just as easy to find someone to willingly do your bidding as to waste the effort forcing someone to do it. (Oddly, the three main males do turn others to their will, but without wanting to or without even trying.)

But despite my ambivalence, I keep rereading. The scope to the story is utterly astounding. In the story, during the so-called age of legends, people wielding the power that turns the wheel of time, broke the world. Mountains grew where no mountains had been, waters flooded lands, green spaces became deserts. And humans started over. Again.

Interestingly, breaking the world is exactly what Robert Jordon did — he mashed our world into bits, mixed it all up — legends and traditions; countries and races, clothes and customs; myths and mysteries, religions and philosophies — and put it all back together into his own creation.

I wonder what it would be like to create such a massive fiction world, a world that reflects our world but not. A world that reflects our values but not. A world that exists only in our minds but not. Or, rather, maybe not. If it exists in our minds, it’s possible Jordan’s world exists for real, sort of dream world we all created together, just as philosophers and physicists say we do with the real world.

Assuming there is a real world.

Maybe we’re all writing the story of our world as we live it, creating with our hive mind the very fact of our existence. If we all stopped believing in it, would it disappear as if we were closing the cover of a novel? Would we disappear if we stopped believing all the things we see and hear except with our own eyes or ears? Would we be different if we simply refused to accept the role that has been forced on us?

Maybe, as I study Jordan’s world, I’ll learn how to help build a better version of our own — how to write it or right it, either one.

Meanwhile, the wheels of time keeps turning . . .

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

Blog For Peace

On November 4th, people all over the world blog for peace. Blog4Peace was created and founded by Mimi Lenox, who believes that because words are powerful, blogging for peace is important. Although I do not believe in the possibility of world peace (because war and stressful times are never our choice but are fostered and foisted on us by the power elite) I do believe in personal peace, in finding peace within ourselves no matter what others do to provoke us into chaos.

Before you start screaming about humans being a warlike creation, ponder this: how many wars have you personally started? None. In fact, we the people of the United States of America have seldom wanted to be involved in war. We have always been manipulated and tricked into fighting, and at the beginning of our “war culture”, even once war has been declared, people seldom willingly to do their “duty.” Draftees in World War I simply ignored their notices until it became a criminal offense to do so. Even in battle, soldiers seldom aimed to kill. It was only with the coming of insensitivity training (which was the origin of many of the realistic video games) that soldiers learned to overcome their base instinct for peace and could kill their enemies. Or someone’s enemies. At Christmas, during both world wars, men of both sides, against orders from their officers, sat down to celebrate together.

Yep. A warlike people.

Still, few of us find internal peace, and no wonder. The cognitive break between who we are and who we have been led to believe we are, creates internal chaos, so we fight each other over whose side is right. There is no right, especially when it comes to leadership. One leader or another. Heads or tails. It doesn’t really matter in the end, because it’s always the same damn coin. And we’re always the fodder for the coin-flippers’ wars.

Still, if we were all to find internal peace, perhaps . . . just perhaps . . .

Well, no. I doubt it will change the world. But if we change ourselves, we change our own personal world. And that is important.

How To Blog For Peace:

  1. Choose a graphic from the peace globe gallery http://peaceglobegallery.blogspot.com/p/get-your-own-peace-globe.htmlor from the photos on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BlogBlastForPeace#!/BlogBlastForPeace/app_153284594738391Right click and Save. Decorate it and sign it, or leave as is.
  2. Send the finished globe to blog4peace@yahoo.com
  3. Post it anywhere online November 4 and title your post Dona Nobis Pacem (Latin for Grant us Peace)

Sounds cool, doesn’t it? See you on November 4!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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 Last Rose of Summer

Summer is gone, of course, but just like the rest of us stalwart blooms, the summer roses are hanging on, at least out here at the edge of the desert. Faded, perhaps. Maybe even lonely. But hanging on.

Sometimes I get embarrassed, occasionally even annoyed when people tell me how admirable I am because I don’t see it. (Though I used to, oddly enough, back when I was going through those first horrendous years of grief.) Now I’ve come to see that I’ve only done what everyone else does in the face of great trauma, angst, and turmoil — hang on to that last shred of sanity, humanity, honor, or whatever you want to call it. (Not dignity, that’s for sure. Dignity goes out the door when seemingly never-ending pain and tears enter.) Sometimes when we are fighting our way through turmoil, it feels as if we are surrendering to our worst side because we live in a culture that seems to revere stoicism — the ability to accept great pain with little affect. And yet, as I learned, hiding pain does not help anyone, though it does let others escape the discomfort of hearing us scream out our agony.

The truth is, we are all stronger that we believe we are, braver than we can imagine, more emotional that we ever expected, and have the ability to pick ourselves up and take another step when all we want to do is dive into oblivion. Sometimes it seems to take forever to go through the trauma of hellish heat, buffeting winds, destructive storms, but then all at once, there you are, still standing in the warmth of a new day.

The last rose of summer.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

No opinions. Just being.

Day three of trying to live in the world right before my eyes, a world uninfluenced by anyone’s opinion, not even my own.

The key word here is “trying.”

Unfortunately, lately my head is filled with a whole lot of opinions.

For most of my life, I lived in my own sphere of influence. Or rather, Jeff’s and mine. We were researchers. Thinkers. Truthseekers. We tried to find the reality beyond opinion, beyond the accepted lies masquerading as fact. The truth was seldom found in the current world of that day, only coming to light years later after a whole lot of research.

The first years of grief after Jeff’s death protected me from outside influences because that all encompassing pain left no room for anything else. And then came the near destruction of my arm. For almost five months I seldom saw anyone, seldom talked to anyone. To escape from becoming mired in my own mind (even worse, a mind that was fogged by opiates and the long-lasting effects of anesthesia), I started reading all sorts of articles on the internet, mostly those showing up in my news feed on Facebook.

To my horror, I found myself reacting to things that had nothing to do with me. Other people’s opinions about race, politics, gender, and a whole slew of other issues. Opinions about these issues even spilled over into discussions about writing (which up until then had been fairly neutral, the only arguments coming from those who wanted to destroy all rules of writing and those who wanted to adhere to every rule). People started exhorting writers to be inclusive, to be political, to use their fiction as a way to influence the world.

As if everyone else’s problems were also my problems.

I used to be color-blind. I remember telling my mother about a woman working at the local grocery store, a woman who struck me as being particularly kind, and after finally finding the woman, my mother said to me in exasperation, “It would have helped if you had told me she is black.” My response was a bewildered, “She is?”

Well, people convinced me it was racist not to give people the honor of their race, when in fact it was more of a matter of a selective memory and poor observational skills. (I once got in an argument about some guy’s beard. I swore he didn’t have one. And guess what? When I turned around and looked, I saw that the guy had a huge beard!) Apparently, I remember people and things more as impressions than actual images.

Then people convinced me that noticing people’s skin color was racist. And that my friends being generally white makes me a racist. And that my being white (or actually, sort of a pale pinkish yellowish beige) is in itself racist. But just because someone thinks something does not make it true. I’ve come to the conclusion that we are pack animals, and as such, we tend to pack together with those of our own kind. Sometimes our own kind is of our own gender or our own race; sometimes it is a group of all races who happen to have affection for one another; sometimes it is a group of writers or walkers or dancers. Bias is not racist. Or sexist. Or whatever. It is merely the “pack”age.

But here I am blathering on about things that don’t have to do with me. At my age, I am who I am. I take those in front of my eyes at face value. What other people think about the so-called issues is their problem. What they think about me is their problem.

Opinions are easy. Everybody has one.

Truth is hard. Truth is that tiny space where all opinions overlap. Or maybe truth is that even tinier space where there are no opinions.

That’s what I’m reaching for. No opinions. Just being.

 

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

An Insular Life

Day two of reacting to and interacting with only that which is before my eyes was lovely. Elsewhere, there were sorrows and tragedies, nasty political commentaries, and . . . well, problems too numerous to mention, but here, in my insular world, the sun shone warmly, lizards scampered in the desert, rabbits lolled on the lawn, and a trio of ravens silently chased each other above the treetops, the only sound the loud whooshing of their wings.

A perfect day. Others did not have the option of such a perfect day, of course, but in the end, I can’t worry about them. All I can do is live is my own life.

Besides, does knowing all that is going on the world really help anyone? Maybe we aren’t supposed to be global people, feasting on the news like scavengers, emoting about things that couldn’t possible touch us. Chaos theory tells us that everything does touch us (the flap of a hypothetical butterfly wing in Hong Kong supposedly affects weather halfway around the world), but the effects may not be felt for a very long time, too long to matter.

I think about rural peoples in days of yore who seldom saw anyone outside of their households. They knew nothing of the human, political, and natural forces in countries across the ocean, even in far away cities in their own country, that might have created (or at least affected) their world, but if they didn’t know, did it happen? Did they live lesser lives for not knowing? Would we live lesser lives if we did not know?

It’s hard not to know what is going on today, at least in a cursory way, since people talk about what they saw on the news, but at third or fourth hand, the tragedies lose their immediacy. (And anyway, almost all news is third or fourth hand by the time it is sifted and filtered down through news bureaucracies, which makes it all a sort of gossip.)

Maybe it’s not possible to live in the small world before my eyes. Maybe trying to do so makes me an unkind (though happier) soul, but my mission (to the extent that I have a mission) is not to succor the world, but to help the bewildered bereft make sense of what happened to them. (An email or a blog comment directed specifically to me is included in the world before my eyes, as is the page of a book, so to that extend, I do live the larger world.)

I hope that in whatever world you found yourself today, you, too, bathed your eyes in loveliness.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

Peachy Keen

The tenth anniversary of my birth into the online world, the tenth anniversary of my dipping a toe into the blogging stream, passed by unnoticed. For all those years, the internet was a place of refuge for me, a way of both slipping away from and embracing the traumas of my life. For an entire decade, I had to care for the sick and dying; grieve the deaths of loved ones; handle the loss of homes, friends, hopes, and security; deal with the pulverization of my wrist, arm, and elbow. And I survived it all.

Now, this virtual place of refuge has become less of a haven and more of morass of passions, opinions, issues, and divisiveness, making me feel estranged in this oh, so strange non-land. During the decades I lived with Jeff, I had no fear of delving into the truth and voicing my thoughts no matter how far out of the ordinary because they were always received with his respect and understanding. I have tried to continue the path of truth, but in an indoctrinated world, a world where propaganda rules and reason is trumped by passion, I have been rendered mostly mute, which is okay. It’s better for my sanity if I live in the world in I see before my own eyes rather than the world reflected in the vitriolic eyes of the unsocial media.

It’s also better for me to live with my own emotions, not just online, but offline. When my own wild emotions — grief, anger, fear — began to fade, I still felt as if I were drowning in sorrow. Other people’s sorrows. Staying away from those particular people and their problems (no matter how cold that makes me seem) has brightened my life considerably.

Someday, I am sure, I will take to blogging regularly again. Someday . . . when I have something to say.

Meantime, I am trying to wean myself away from Facebook, trying to empty my mind of extraneous thoughts (though, to be honest, my mind is already mostly empty), and trying to enjoy my unlonely solitude — when I am alone, that is. I still take frequent dance classes, and once in a while I even go on a small adventure, most recently to pick peaches in an orchard less than three miles from where I am staying.

(I had to smile at the discovery of the peach orchard. In my latest book, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, I called this community Peach Valley and commented, “nope, no peaches, and not much of a valley, either.” I sure was wrong about that!)

I still have no clue where my life will lead me but there is so much of the country I haven’t seen, so much I haven’t experienced, that I am contemplating another long trip after my hand is completely healed. (The fake elbow works fine but the hand and wrist still don’t always behave, and sometimes they are very painful, though for the most part, they do what I need them to do.)

But for now, there is dancing.

And fresh peach cobbler for dessert.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.