What If?

I faced no traumas today, no conflicts with others, no conflicts with myself, just the normal difficulties that come with trying to haul one’s used body around and make it do what one wants it to do. Luckily, this aging body is only used, not used up, so it managed to do what I asked of it. Like get up in the morning. Like strap on the twenty-seven pound pack and walk three and a half miles. Like go on an errand with a friend.

Now, it’s giving out on me. Actually, no — this poor used body is not giving out, it’s the overused mind that does not want to be tethered to words. It wants to roam free, not thinking, just . . . well, just not thinking. But without words, there is not much of a blog.

Oh wait! Photos! I don’t have to write about where my mind is. I can show you.

Less than four weeks until I am on the road again!

I mentioned to my landlord today that I was going to be gone a month and why, and he said, “I hope you’re bringing mace and a firearm.” I just stared at him, wondering if he were making a joke. But no. He was utterly serious. Then I mentioned to a fellow renter about my trip, and she, too, said I needed mace and gun. Huh? Mine is supposed to be a spiritual journey. (First, of course, an escape. Then a spiritual journey.) There is no killing on a spiritual journey. I’ll just have to be extra careful.

“What if a wild animal attacks you?” they asked. “Or a person?” I had no response to that, of course. There never is a response to “what if,” unless it’s: What if an animal doesn’t attack me? What if I have a wonderful time? What if things go well, and I return refreshed?

What if?

***

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.

Advertisements

The Sun Shines Brightly on Me

I currently reside in the desert, so very few days pass without some sun, but this month has seemed dark to me. Admittedly, we have had an upsurge of winter-cold days, with lots of blustery wind and even some rain, but the sunlessness has extended beyond mere weather factors.

For one thing, I turned a year older. The years don’t matter to me — what difference does a number make? I never notice the wrinkles unless I look in the mirror, and sometimes not even then. The gray in my hair is not an issue except for my dance teacher who thinks I look good in the wig I use for performances and says I need to dye my hair that color (and except for my sister who thinks I need a purple streak). What does matter is that every added year now brings new aches and pains and weird afflictions, and I have struggled with some small thing every day since the birthday — a pop in my thigh, a cramp in my calf, a swollen eyelid, aches in my fake elbow, and on, and on, and on.

For another thing, March brings the anniversary of Jeff’s death. Like my birthday, the number means little, except to marvel that I have survived so many years of pain and change, but it is a time of remembrance, of yearning, of sometimes even of reliving the last days I ever saw my life mate/soul mate.

This March added another burden, my problem with Deb. Although I do not think I caused the problem, considering that possibility added a different layer of pain to an already untenable situation. For all I know, I could be the narcissist. Do narcissists know what they are? Supposedly they do, at least on some level, so if you wonders, chances are you are not the narcissist. (Narcissists love to make their victims think the problem is with them.)

Another small thing adding darkness to the month was the realization that I will not get as strong or as fit as I would like to be for my upcoming trip, but that’s really a minor blip in the March darkness.

I didn’t just lie down and let March victimize me, however. I’ve been taking shorter but more frequent walks with my backpack. Succumbed to the tears that honor Jeff and the anniversary. Dealt with each small physical infirmity as best as I could. Spent some time writing each day (except for the two days dedicated to grief, and even then, I wrote my blogs). And, most importantly, I did a cleansing ritual in the desert on Sunday.

I discovered this particular ritual on a website about dealing with narcissists. To break the energy and the hold the narcissist has over you, you imagine a thick cord of energy connecting the two of you. You visualize a big, bright pair of gold scissors, such as the ceremonial scissors used for a ribbon cutting event, and you snip the cord of energy. You envision her half of the cord snapping back into her, and you take your half of the cord — all that energy you’ve wasted on her — and send it up into the sun.

So that’s what I did.

Yesterday in class, whenever I thought there might be a possibility of her getting to me, I thought of the sun shining down on me, blazing with the addition of my own energy. How can one be sad under such an image?

Today was the first day I’ve been out walking since the cleansing ritual, and oh! The sun shone so warmly and brightly on me, it gave me new hope for the days that lie ahead.

***

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.

I Am an Eight-Year Grief Survivor

Today is the eighth anniversary of the death of my life mate/soul mate. How is this possible? I remember that after Jeff died, eight minutes seemed like a lifetime, eight hours almost an eternity, eight months incomprehensible. But eight years? Totally unthinkable and unimaginable. How did I survive such sorrow? How do any of us survive?

Actually, I do know the answer to that — we survive one agonizing breath at a time.

The miracle of grief is that the pain does lessen over the years, but I truly don’t see how it can — every year that passes is one more year I did not have with him, everything I do is one more thing I could not do with him, every thought is one more thought I could not share with him.

During these past eight years, most people continued on with their shared lives — happy and sad, arguing and making up, in sickness and in health — and I, and all my brothers and sisters in sorrow, kept going somehow, trying to find a place to set first one shaky foot and then another in our suddenly broken and bleak lives.

Over and over, we had to listen to people tell us to move on, and yet, after their sometimes compassionate, sometimes irritated words, those people went home to their husbands and wives, and we went into our sad and empty rooms, apartments, houses to be faced again — and again and again — with the knowledge that who we loved was gone, what we had was gone, what we needed was gone, what we hoped for was gone. All gone.

Incredibly, I have become used to the goneness. Incredibly, I have moments of happiness. Incredibly, I have even come to like being alone. And yet, I wish I didn’t have to do this anymore, this building a life from scratch, this living without him. Sometimes I want desperately to go home to him. If not that, then see him one more time in the flesh. Be warmed by one more smile. Hear one more word.

For those of you who are still comfortably married, how long has it been since you saw your husband or wife. Eight hours? Eight minutes? Eight seconds?

Well, it’s been eight years since I last saw Jeff. Eight years (and five days) since I last talked to the one person who understood me fully, the one person I never had to explain myself to, the one person who shared my sense of humor, my sense of honor, my sense of history.

Eight years. What was totally unthinkable and unimaginable in the beginning remains totally unthinkable and unimaginable.

For those newly inducted into this hall of horrors, I hope you will find comfort in knowing that a person can survive, find a sense of renewal, maybe even find  new dreams.

For those of you who have friends and family who still mourn their deceased spouses, next time you want to tell them to get over it or move on, think about how long it’s been since you saw your spouse and think how long it’s been since they saw theirs.

Eight minutes. Eight hours. Eight days. Eight months. Eight years. It’s all the same. Grief truly knows no time.

The one thing that does change, the one thing that makes the goneness bearable is us. Grief gradually changes each of us bereft into a person who can survive the loss, but that change brings with it another loss to grieve — the loss of the old self.

Have I spent the totality of the past eight years drowning in tears and sorrow? Of course not. The person who was born when Jeff died has never shared her life with another. That person has always been alone, done things alone, developed into a strong person, gained some wisdom. But the person she left behind is still grieving, and last night, the grieving woman came to visit, bringing her endless tears, her great yearning, her profound loss.

And we comforted each other — the woman who died when Jeff did and the woman who was born eight years ago into the world of grief — as we kept vigil until his time of death.

Eight years. Unfathomable.

After last night’s tearfulness, today I gathered my courage and valiantly began my ninth year without him.

And so it goes.

***

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 Opportunity to Escape

This morning, it suddenly seemed absurd my researching narcissism and obsessing about one extremely unimportant individual in my life, and I had to laugh. Not that narcissism is absurd — the personality disorder has ruined many lives — but I have more important things to obsess about, such as my upcoming trip to visit my sisters. (One sister invited us other two to visit her around Mother’s Day to make chocolate-covered pecan and caramel turtles in honor of our mother.)  Now that is something worth obsessing about!

It’s entirely possible this narcissism thing could be a way of distracting me from the impending visit and the very real problems that could arise. Not that I am expecting problems, as such, but the truth is, my two sisters and I have never been alone together, and I mean never. We’ve all been together with other family members. We’ve each of us been alone with one other sister, but never in memory have just the three of us done anything together, possibly because we are so far apart in age. If I really thought there would be more than a little discomfort I would opt out, but I think, despite us three being almost opposites (visualize a unilateral triangle), we are mature enough — or old enough — to manage a weekend together.

Still, I am driving up to Seattle instead of flying to give me the opportunity to escape if need be. Or perhaps I’m driving because I need an excuse for an adventure, a reason to run away from my problems. Oh, who cares why I am driving. I want to. It’s as simple as that.

I am planning to take a couple of weeks to get there, which will allow me to visit friends along the way, to visit a few national parks and monuments and wilderness areas, and to do some camping and hiking and perhaps see some wildflowers.

Just the thought of being in the open feels like a breath of fresh air on my soul. I hope the reality is the same. (I must admit I have a few reservations about my arm, but one way or another, I manage to do what is necessary, so I’m sure I will be able to continue doing so.)

I’d more or less considered not coming back to the desert at all, just continuing to travel, but since I promised to be back for a dance performance, I’m paying my room rent to give me a place to return to.

I really don’t want to spend another summer in the desert — it’s impossible to do much walking, not even in the early morning, and I would like to continue my backpack practice in preparation for a long hike. On the other hand, I don’t really want to be on the road when other people are out in force, and besides, it’s hot almost everywhere in the summer. Maybe not as hot as here, but still hot.

But that is a decision for another time.

Today the only decision I have to make is what national park land to research, what maps to print out. I wish I could be totally spontaneous, and just go without any sort of plans, but my idea of spontaneity is to drive. And drive. And keep on driving. That kind of driving becomes almost a zen-like experience, because as soon as a thought passes through your mind, you’ve left it behind, but it doesn’t satisfy my need for adventure.

So, I’ll close this post and go open my atlas and see where it will take me.

Wishing us all the best of adventures!

***

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.

 

Bright Scissors And Dull Rocks

I was raised in a narcissistic family, where the children had to cater to the needs of the parents. It wasn’t until I was in my forties that it dawned on me that children are not supposed to make allowances for the parent’s lapses, but instead, the parents are supposed to help the children with theirs. We all grew up eventually, parents included, so that helped, and by doing for my parents what they hadn’t done for me once I was out of diapers — help them at their neediest — I paid off whatever karmic debt had been accrued.

Then, I had to deal with a brother who had some sort of personality disorder, enhanced by the grandiosity of a narcissist. After two years of his abuse, I literally drove him away — took him back to Colorado and dumped him on the street. I didn’t want to do that — I’d planned on getting him a motel room for a week or two, but the laws in that particular city made that impossible. Leaving him there was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and I cried the entire 1000 miles back to where I was caring for my dad in his last days. I have not seen my brother since. I did not give him my phone number, and the address he had for me now belongs to someone else. It makes me very sad to think I had to resort to such measures, but it truly was a matter of survival.

You’d think by now I’d have learned to deal with the narcissists that get their claws into me, but since another narcissist has shown up in my life, one I have been calling “Deb” after a character in Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare I am once again researching narcissism. A lovely and very wise woman told me that you cannot control a narcissist, whether by making nice, ignoring, praying, meditating. If they want whatever it is they perceive you have, they will attempt to destroy your reputation, and if you confront them, they will play the victim card. Her advice was to ease my way out of the situation. Although I know the only way to deal with such narcissists is to walk away from them forever, as I did with my brother, in this case, I’d also be walking away from something that once was a lifesaver — dance classes. And I’d be walking away from a friend who is almost like a sister to me.

One thing I found in my research is that narcissists, for all their bragging about how strong they are, are inherently weak. They project themselves onto another person, seeing their bad qualities in that person (because they can’t face them in themselves), and subsuming that person’s good qualities into themselves. And, despite what it might seem with all this recent blogging about the Debs, I am strong. No wonder she has fixated on me!

Just knowing all this will help, but I also came across two pexels-photo-236118.jpegvery good ways to deal with the Debs. One is to envision the energy that connects the two of us, and using bright gold scissors, cut that cord of energy. Visualize her energy snapping back into her and my half of the energy cord shining brilliantly as it rises to the sun. I love this idea because it is energy that really seems to be the issue here — both her negative energy that disturbs the energy created when dancing, and the energy I have been giving to the situation.

Another way to handle the Debs if you can’t escape is to be like a rock. Apparently, narcissists play with people the way children play with Barbie and Ken dolls (or whatever the current doll fad is), but they tend not to be interested in dull, gray rocks.

I’d been mostly doing okay by retreating into rock form and not goading her into the drama that she feeds on, but from what I have been reading, even something as minor as a flinch or a turning away (which I have to admit, I have done) can escalate the drama, especially if another person is there to help it along by calling attention to the reaction.

So, bright scissors and dull rocks.

Sounds like a plan.

***

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.

Dealing With the Debs

Ever since I started writing about my ongoing problem with a Deb, I’ve been collecting enough hints on how to deal with such characters to write a primer.

(For those of you who haven’t been following this saga, Deb is — was — a narcissistic character in Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare who has come into my life for real, and has been bedeviling me for the past year.)

Following first my own inclinations and then advice from friends (a couple of whom are therapists), this is the list of what I have done so far:

I tried ignoring her, but for the Debs who love attention, being ignored makes them ramp up the pressure for attention.

I tried setting boundaries, real physical boundaries (before my arm was completely healed, it frightened me to have people invade my personal space) and asked her to honor the boundary, but she took the request as a challenge and refused.

I tried being super nice, as a friend suggested, but somehow, the Deb took this as a sign of my conceding, and she stepped up the aggression. (You know the kind of aggression I’m talking about — small insults she laughs off as “just funning” and make you sound foolish if you complain about them.)

I tried standing up to her, in fact got right in her face, and she gave me the innocent act. Though, with the Debs, it’s hard to know if it’s an act. I get the impression sometimes they really do think they are innocent of abusing others.

I tried running away from her — literally running — but she completely misunderstood and thought I was running from someone else.

I tried breathing out the bad energy and breathing in the good, but I got the sequence wrong. You’re supposed to breathe in the bad energy, transform it into good energy and breathe that out. How does one do that? Haven’t a clue, but I will try it.

I just recently tried Ho’oponopono and though saying those phrases (I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you) didn’t seem to work, it did help me to dispel the bad energy as soon as I was alone.

I’ve also just recently tried to use that pent-up energy to propel me into doing something strenuous, for example, the last time, as soon as I got home from class, I strapped on my backpack and went out walking, even though I was already exhausted from class.

One thing I haven’t yet tried is to do standing Kegel exercises in class. Apparently, the pelvic muscles are the ones that dispel stress, and by doing Kegels, you can find your center.

Another thing I haven’t yet tried is to give myself permission to fixate on the issue when I’m alone, which, along with the Kegels, is a suggestion from a therapist friend. She advised really giving in to the energy of the conflict, but to allow myself no more than say thirty minutes to obsess. That seems like a good idea. When I get something in my head, I fight the thought, which keeps it going around and around and around. By giving the thoughts space and validity, maybe I can stop the cycle.

It does makes sense — when you try to think your way out of such a problem, it causes circular thinking because you can’t logically find a way out of an illogical situation.

Eckhart Tolle says, “True intelligence is to rise above thinking as the source of intelligence.”

Dr. Haleakala S. Hew Len, a proponent of Ho’oponopono, says, “The intellect working alone can’t solve problems, because the intellect only manages. Managing things is no way to solve problems.”

So, there you have it — a brief compendium of ways of dealing with the Debs and the negative energy they spew.

If I had known from the beginning that this particular real-life Deb was my Deb, my creation, I might have done things differently before they escalated, but how was I to know? One does not expect one’s nemesis in a novel to appear in one’s life. Now, I’m to the point where I have no desire to deal with her — my only hope is to keep that energy from affecting me, and to dispel whatever energy I do allow to affect me.

Sounds like bliss!

***

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.

Audio Books

People often ask me if my books are available as audio books. (Okay, one person asked.) It used to be that some Kindles would read a print version of a book to you, but apparently that option has disappeared, so the only other option is an audio book.

To make an audio book, you have to find a narrator, preferably a professional narrator so that the book isn’t full of ums and ers and throat clearing. Ideally, the narrator must make each voice distinctive. All that runs into money.

To give you an idea of how much money, I am including here an excerpt from a company that distributes ebooks:

To assist with your budgeting, here are some rough guidelines on cost: Each hour of recorded content comprises roughly 9,000 words, which means a 26,000-word novella might run about three hours and a 100,000-word book would run about 11 hours. Narrators typically charge between $150 and $400 per finished hour.

Going by this formula, a mediocre narrator for Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare would cost me about $2,300. Maybe someday I’ll make enough off my books that the cost will be worth it.

Meantime, I have a cheaper option. If you want an audio version of any of my books, call me, and I’ll read aloud to you.

***

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.

Practicing Ho’oponopono

I do not buy into the philosophy that everyone who shows up in our life is there for “a reason, a season, or a lifetime,” but maybe sometimes it is true.

Lately I’ve been talking about a woman in dance class who seems to be my character “Deb” from Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare come to life. Like my fictional Deb, this woman acts as if she is in competition with me, and her behavior follows the typical pattern of a narcissist. First, she tried to control me with patronization. When I put a stop to that, she tried to crowd me both physically and with small torments. When that didn’t work, she tried to turn the teacher against me. She made a couple of tactical errors there. First, the teacher and I are friends, though it might not seem like it at a casual glance, because she does not pay particular attention to me in class. Second, Deb started to forget herself and make disrespectful comments to the teacher.

Now Deb is aligning herself with another woman, and in doing so, is changing that woman’s attitude toward me.

If it weren’t such a ridiculous and stressful drama, I’d feel sorry for Deb and her need for attention, but it is not my responsibility to fix her, if that were even possible. Nevertheless, she remains a problem.

A new blog friend left a comment yesterday: Why is there always a Deb? And it does seem as if there is always a Deb bringing a dark energy with her. Another friend said that if I quit dance class because of this woman, another Deb would show up in my life.

Which makes me wonder if perhaps this woman is in my life so I can learn how to deal with the Debs once and for all. I have to admit the idea of never again having to deal with a Deb sure is a pleasant one, so I should try to get from this experience what I can.

One of the many reasons I took care of my father after Jeff died was that I wanted to resolve my old problems and lingering issues with him. I knew there would come a time when I was alone and needing to start a new life, and I didn’t want to start that life with any baggage from the past. It worked. By looking after my father, by reversing the parent/child roles, all those conflicts gradually disappeared. There were no father/daughter conflicts at the end, just a dying man and the woman who was there to help him pass out of this world.

Could there be some of this going on with my “Deb”? Am I supposed to learn how to deal with folks like her without reacting to their machinations? Or am I just supposed to be able to see the pattern and do with it what I will?

I do know that when I was younger such situations confused the heck out of me because I could not understand their fixation on me, their insistence on competing despite my dislike of conflict, their tendency to push me around when I did not fight back, and their attempt to get people to see me as they did.

Being honest with myself, as I try to be, I’ve explored the possibility that the problem is with me, but now, even if it is true, I no longer want to admit any culpability, which could be a step in the right direction. That I can see the pattern is perhaps another step. Knowing I can’t fix her is possibly a third step. The fourth step, maybe, is learning to step outside the confrontation so that it doesn’t affect me so much. If so, I have a long way to go, because this situation, like any conflict and unfairness, raises my hackles.

Today, in an effort to overcome the reaction to the energy she spews out, I tried to practice Ho’oponopono around her.

Ho’oponopono means “to make right,” or “to rectify an error.” Dr. Haleakala S. Hew Len says, “The intellect working alone can’t solve these problems, because the intellect only manages. Managing things is no way to solve problems. You want to let them go! When you do Ho’oponopono, what happens is that the Divinity takes the painful thought and neutralizes or purifies it. You don’t purify the person, place, or thing. You neutralize the energy you associate with that person, place or thing. So the first stage of Ho’oponopono is the purification of that energy.”

How you neutralize that energy is by repeating four phrases to yourself: I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.

So, that’s what I did today. It didn’t make any difference, but we’ll see.

***

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.

Prevailing

A friend who follows astrology told me that March 20 (yesterday) begins a time of great change for me, and although no astrological prediction pertaining to my life has ever come true, this one almost did.

After yesterday’s dance class contretemps (hey! I spelled contretemps right without needing spellchecker to correct it for me, though I did need spellchecker to check the spelling of spellcheck), I’d had enough. I simply did not want to play in that sandbox anymore (and sometimes, it does feel as if we are in preschool rather than postschool), so I called my dance teacher and told her I was taking time off.

A long silence, then, “How much time are you taking off?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Ten days. Ten years. I just can’t do it any more.”

She said I was too good a dancer, and she refused to accept my resignation. I’m sure part of her consideration was the performance we will be doing at the beginning of June, but also as a good friend and a lifelong dancer, she has some inkling of what dancing means to me, though it’s hard to explain.

It’s not for exercise — I get plenty of exercise on my own, and would do even more if I weren’t going to class. It’s not for camaraderie, because I’m reverting back to my hermitic ways, and being around people exhausts me. It’s not for fun or enjoyment, though the stress-free classes give me both. It’s more of a thing of energy, of nourishment for my spirit, and too often lately a black miasma hangs over the class that others sometime respond to, but apparently only I can feel.

Still she does know of a lot of the byplay between me and the other characters, and she told me not to let anyone take dance away from me.

I agreed to stay. For a while. So the big change — not taking dance classes anymore — did not happen. But I also firmed  my decision to step up my training saunters with the backpack to allow for a different sort of change.

In the middle of all this, I realized something — no matter what happens, I will prevail.

Did you notice above where I called my classmates “characters’? I meant characters in a book, which they all are — characters in Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare. It seems to me that a lot of what happened in Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare is happening in a sort of parallel reality in class, with the Deb character playing out her solitary (and totally inexplicable) feud against Pat and pulling those who don’t know the truth in to her mind-set of “Oh, poor me. Look what Pat’s doing to me.”

It’s entirely possible I am the villain — writers don’t always recognize the truth of their characters. But I do know one thing — no matter what happened (happens) to any of the other characters in the story, at the end, Pat did prevail.

***

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 It Make You Want to Go Home

When I was young, my favorite song was Joe South’s “Don’t It Make You Want to Go Home.” Back then, the lyrics spoke to me of poignancy, change, and the way growth was destroying the special places in the world.

Now, I couldn’t bear to listen to the song. It would speak to me of grief, of loss, of my inability to ever go home again. And oh, I do so want to go home!

This is an especially hard time for me because I am nearing the eighth anniversary of Jeff’s death. I’ve been holding on to myself, not giving in to sadness, (or rather, not welcoming it), just trying to take life as it comes.

Well, today at dance class, life came hard. After we’d practiced the dance we’re learning for a performance, the others were standing around talking about the dance and how to do things or change things or something unimportant like that.  So I took the opportunity to step outside and scratch myself discreetly. As I left, one woman called after me as if I were doing something wrong, “Pat, don’t be like that.”

Well, I scratched, took a few deep cleansing breaths, and went back inside to where a couple of the women were talking about me. Then the teacher lectured us on how there is no animosity in dance class.

Huh? Animosity? The only animosity I felt today was against this itch that won’t go away. Through ballet class and then belly dance class, I’d barely said anything to anyone, just minded my own business, and for what?

I don’t know.

I don’t know what I’m doing here anymore, but I still don’t know where to go, still don’t know how to create a new life. Still don’t know how to earn a living. (I’ve always hoped I’d be able to make a living with my books, but I can’t even give them away.)

I just know I want to go home and there is no home to go home to. Jeff was my home. He’s gone, and I am just so damn tired of it. I’ve done very well with my meager resources all these years, finding renewal, finding a dream, even finding joy at times, but still, he’s dead.

I spend a lot of time counseling grief-stricken folks — sometimes just through this blog, sometimes through email or phone conversations, and I always tell people the truth. That it is almost impossibly hard. That they will always miss him/her. That they will find renewal, though it might take many years.

What I’ve never said is that the one thing you never get over is being tired of their being dead. How can you? Although your efforts through time do make things better, it’s the passing of time that continues to make things hard, because every year that goes by is another year they’ve been gone, another year you’ve had to live without them.

Luckily, this month is more than half over, and every day that brings me closer to the anniversary also brings me closer to my May trip. I can’t make changes until after the trip since I won’t know until then if any sort of epic hike is possible, so I’m sort of just hanging in there by the tips of my fingers. Holding myself together the best as I can.

But oh, I’m so tired of having to do any of this.

If I could just go home for a little while . . .

But I can’t.

Dammit.

***

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.