Trying Not to be Trampled by Other People’s Anger

There are a few things that scare the heck out of me. Angry people. People with an agenda. Vast crowds. Is it any wonder that yesterday, the day of the women’s march, I stayed as far away from Washington DC as possible?

The only time I was ever in a huge crowd, I was smashed against a chain-link fence waiting to see the Beatles pass by. At the time, I didn’t know who the Beatles were, didn’t care, but a neighbor girl who did know the Beatles and loved them, desperately wanted to go to the airport to greet the icons. Her mother said she couldn’t go unless I went with her (I’ve always been nauseatingly responsible) so the girl badgered me and badgered me to go with her despite my repeated no’s. I finally agreed to ask my mother, secure in the belief that my mother would say no since “no” seemed to be her default response. To my utter horror, she said yes. So the girl and I took a taxi out to the airport and waited for hours for the famed quartet to appear. When they finally drove by, smiling and waving, the crowd (mostly girls) erupted into a frenzy of excitement and charged after the car moving slowly along the other side of the fence. I was crushed against the fence, and probably would have been stomped underfoot except for the panicked grip I kept on the links. Finally, the crowd pushed past me, and I was alone. The neighbor girl had disappeared, and I had no way to get back home.

Obviously, I did get back home, but the memories of my return are not as sharp as the memory of the crowd and my panic. I vaguely remember talking to someone in a phone booth, but I don’t know who I was talking to or how I got there, and I vaguely remember a taxi dropping me off at the house.

I’ve never allowed myself to be fenced in by crowds again.

Strangely, my fear of crowds predated that episode, though I don’t know where the fear came from. Perhaps books? I’ve always read everything I could get my hands on, even when it wasn’t age-appropriate, so I subjected myself literarily to many traumas that I would not willingly undergo in real life.

Two things missing from that experience with the Beatles mob were anger and people with agendas. An experience that would incorporate all three of my fears would have scarred me for life. Of course, those fears and the possibility of being scarred are not the only things that kept me away from the woman’s march — I had absolutely no interest in such a thing. I want my days to be filled with accomplishment, even if all I accomplish is sitting around waiting for my arm/wrist/elbow to heal.

What did the woman’s march accomplish?

Is there one person in the entire world who woke up this morning and said, “Wow, I never knew women could be so powerful powerful”? Everybody already knows that. For example, the fact that Hillary lost the election does not make her power any less impressive.

Is there one person who woke up this morning and said, “Let’s make women equal”? Women are ready equal. In fact they are more than equal. If hundreds of thousands of men — not just men of color, but a vast presence of white men — had participated in a men’s march, there would have been a violent and angry backlash. Women are especially more equal when it comes to unborn babies. If the father wants the baby and the mother wants an abortion, the father is out of luck. Conversely if the mother wants the baby and the father doesn’t, he is stuck paying child support for the next 18 years. (Seems to me that being taught those facts in a sex education class would be a stronger deterrent to unwanted pregnancy than passing out condoms.)

As far as I can see, the only thing this march accomplished was to prove that hundreds of thousands of women were rich enough to make a weekend jaunt to the nation’s capital. Oh, and that women are just as guilty of practicing non-inclusivity as those they accuse of that very “crime.” All women were welcome . . . Except those who did not agree with the agenda of the organizers.

I tend to stay away from controversial matters so I’m not sure why I am talking about this (and yes, I am actually talking using speech recognition software) except that it’s hard to avoid reminders of the march unless I avoid Facebook, and it might come to that. The anger that fills my Facebook feed hurts my soul. I feel flattened by all that emotion, as if once again I were pressed against a chain-link fence, trying not to be trampled underfoot.

shark

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(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.

A Widow’s March

I have a lot of stuff in my head — no clear ideas or sharp feelings, just stuff. For example, I have conflicting feelings about the woman’s march. It seems like a good idea since solidarity is helpful, but there is a lot of contention over what the march is supposed to accomplish, which is not helpful. Some people say the march is pro-abortion, and so pro-life women are not welcome. Others say the march is for liberals, and so conservative women are not welcome. Others insist it’s about equal pay and equal opportunity, and so anyone is welcome. It seems funny that after all these months of people talking about inclusivity, separating women into various sexes such as lesbian, transgender, and whatever, all of a sudden now there’s just one . . . women. Why can’t it be that way all the time?

What I don’t understand is if this is a march about abortion, are all these women planning on having abortions? And why are there so many abortions? People used to say that there were unwanted pregnancies because of lack of education about pregnancy avoidance, but it seems as if there are more abortions than ever. To my understanding, the new regime is not so much interested in abolishing abortion as in removing federal funding. If this is what women are against — removing the funding — it’s even more mystifying to me. What they are saying is, “my body, my decision, your financial responsibility.”

More of a concern to me than abortion is the whole cultural aspect of women’s ideology. Apparently, one of the airlines used pink lights in the plane to Washington DC as a show of solidarity for the women, but really . . . pink lights? Why does pink still signify women? Pink is a color that is used to reduce aggression and anger. Could it be that’s why the airline used pink lights, not so much as solidarity but to keep the women in line?

See? Stuff.

Talking about cultural aspects of women’s ideology reminds me of the many anti-feminist themes still present in so-called women’s movies and chick lit. Too often the stories are about trying to get the guy to propose, which leaves me to wonder why the women don’t do the damn proposing if they want to get married. There are stories about successful business women who have to learn the importance of love. There are stories about women trying to teach each other how to trap a man. Sometimes, especially in historical romances, there are hints of rape as a prelude to romance. And of course, there are on-line sites that brag they are smart women who love trashy books, books that in no way reflect their own political beliefs.

I’m not really interested in people’s sexuality, so all the talk of inclusivity when it comes to gender and sexual orientation passes me by (though it is nice to know how one’s friends lean in order to understand them better). When you are alone, there is no sexual orientation because orientation connotes a leaning toward, and if there is no one to lean toward there is no orientation. What does concern me personally is the subtle (and not so subtle) exclusion of widows.

Ours is a coupled society, whether the couple is the same sex or different sexes, so a person alone is someone who barely exists. Even worse, there is a vague feeling that it’s your fault for being alone. People quickly forget that you once were coupled, that you once had someone. And now you’re . . . inconvenient. If your friends used to be other couples, you are no longer invited to events, so you try to make new friends, but if the women you like are married, you’re in the same boat as you were before. (People expect widows to become friends with other widows, but this does not solve the problem of exclusivity; it exacerbates it.) If you try to do things on your own, you pay double for a room in a hotel or on a cruise ship. Ads about products for old people show couples. Ads for assisted living places show couples. Ads about supporting one another in illness shows couples. And then there are the ubiquitous articles where a couple who is celebrating their gazillionth wedding anniversary gives advice on how to say together so many years, which always makes me want to scream “You’re still together because one of you didn’t die!”

But some of us are not so lucky. We are left to grow old alone, and a woman (or man) alone is no one’s priority.

None of this “stuff” will change anything, not even for me. Current events only serve to make me feel more alone, more outside the range of what is considered normal life in the twenty-first century. I probably would not be musing about any of these things, but the juxtaposition of the woman’s march (or rather the contentions about the march) along with a blog reader’s question as to whether I had any insight on growing old alone has put all this stuff in my head.

The growing old alone part is no one’s fault, of course. Nor do I expect society, the government,  or even individuals to do anything to solve the problems that will arise for all of us folks sitting alone in our empty rooms. We will do what we have always done since the death of our beloved, take each day as it comes, do what we can to survive, and hope that someday our lives will make sense again.

I’ve never been one for marching or demonstrating in a group, but today I will do a widow’s march. Sort of. I will take a solitary walk, and try to clear the stuffing out of my head.

beholder

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(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.

Pain, Cosmic and Otherwise

When I was going through the first horrendous days, weeks, months of grief after the death of my life mate/soulmate, and even later as the grief extended into years, I felt comfortable (mostly) talking about my pain because it seemed noble, perhaps, or maybe even cosmic. The experience was so much bigger than I am that the only way I could deal with it was to cry out my pain to the whole world.

Now that I am dealing with a different kind of pain, physical pain, I don’t feel as comfortable writing about what I am feeling. The pain is localized — it affects only me. To talk about the harshness of losing mobility in my elbow, wrists, and fingers, possibly permanently, seems self pitying because as bad as this injury is (shattered elbow, pulverized wrist, radius broken in 12 places, displaced ulna, deformity) others have it worse.

I know I still have the right to feel bad. That others have it worse doesn’t erase my pain. It just makes it feel less — cosmic.

People seem think I should have resumed my normal life by now, whatever it might be, but it’s all I can do to get through the days. I have to be careful not just because of the external fixator that is still attached my arm, but because of the effects of the strong painkillers I am taking and the need to be careful not to risk a fall. I’m not really prone to falling. The fall that destroyed my arm was a fluke — I tripped over a parking curb I couldn’t see in the dark. But I have to be very careful not to reinjure the arm, at least until it’s healed. I take walks on nice days, so I do get some exercise, but I use a trekking pole as a cane to ensure my balance.

I’ve been trying to cut back on the pain pills because I need to get myself back, but when the cloudy and rainy times come, such as last night, I am grateful for the meager relief the drugs bring. I hope that as I heal, my reaction to inclement weather won’t be as strong because . . . oh, my. The weather -induced ache can be terrible, particularly since I have so many injuries in a single limb.

I no longer have to wear the splint, not even at night, so I am able to work my elbow and regain some mobility at least in that one joint.

Although I have not been writing, I have been keeping busy. Endless games of computer solitaire. Reading. Netflix. Watercolor painting. And doing jigsaw puzzles that came in a care package from a dear friend. (This woman has been especially concerned about me, knowing that I am having to deal with this alone, and she included several delicious treats in the package as well as soups and a throw to keep me warm.)

I’m trying not to worry, trying to take things as they come, trying to focus all my energies on healing, but I have to admit I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what is to become of me. An injury like this is like a new chapter in the story of one’s life with a plot twist that sends you ricocheting off into an unknown direction, but so far I have not had a glimpse of that direction. Even if life doesn’t make the change for me, I can use this injury as an impetus to create something new in my life, but so far I have not had a glimpse of that something new. Maybe it’s too soon. After all it could be a year or even two before I am healed, which gives me a broad scope for growth. For now, though, my life feels like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing.

I hope you are all doing well and finding all the pieces of your life in this new year.

Below is my most recent painting.

watching-b

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(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.

Rear Window

Time for another fireside chat, euphemistically speaking. The heat I’m feeling is not the breath from my Dragon, the speech recognition software I am currently using, but from the sun burning through my window. After several days of cold, rain, and wind, the sky is temporarily clear and the sun is scorchingly hot. For the first time in my life, I feel inclement weather in my bones and muscles, in increased pain. But ah, with the sun comes a better outlook and acceptable levels of pain, if there is such a thing. (This reminds me of an incident that happened in the hospital after my first wrist surgery. The nurse asked me what my goal was for the day. I said, “You mean like running a marathon?” She said, “No. Regarding your pain.” I responded, of course, that I wanted zero pain. The nurse laughed. I still don’t understand why the laugh. Isn’t that what we all want, zero pain?)

I’ve always tried to take care of myself, augmenting fairly good genetics with supplements, healthy foods, and exercise, so I have not had to deal with a lot of excruciating pain except for occasional ailments. The thought of having to live with chronic pain is daunting, especially because the pain came in an instant. One moment I was fine — happy, healthy, and relatively carefree — and the next moment I was on the ground screaming in pain. And now nothing will ever be the same. I’m planning on doing whatever I can to gain a painless existence, but that will always laughably be a forlorn hope. I have already reached the age where small aches are a daily occurrence and healing a painstaking matter. However, after yesterday’s weather-induced agony, today’s sunny prognosis is a real blessing, and it assures me that there is hope no matter how forlorn.

One of the many benefits of modern medicine, or so I always thought, was the ability to remove physical pain from our lives, but I am learning that many of the miracle drugs merely take the edge off the pain. In itself, that’s a good thing, but it still leaves behind one heckuva lot of unpleasantness. Perhaps, in the end, I won’t have to deal with as much unpleasantness as the orthopedic surgeon claims I will. Perhaps I will find a way to turn off my reaction to the pain so that it’s just another sensation. Perhaps I will learn to heal myself. Perhaps a lot of things. All I know is that today, sitting here in the sun, staring out the rear window, I feel pretty damn good.

In the early days of my incarceration in this room, I’d look out the window and muse that this must be the absolute worst performance ever of the movie Rear Window because, unlike Jimmy Stewart, I couldn’t see much of anything. Cars in the mid-distance. Cactus close in. But no murderous folk. No folk at all for that matter. But today it makes no difference that I can’t see anything happening outside that window. All that matters is that inside, by the window, my life is happening.

It’s been nice chatting with you. I hope you are also having a relatively pain-free day.

The watercolor below is my most recent offering, an almost obscenely cheerful and optimistic image, and way out of character!

20170112_153837-1_resized

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(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.

Thinking of Many Things

I went to the doctor today to have him look at my arm. It wasn’t exactly good news but wasn’t really that bad either. He keeps saying it’ll take up to two years for me to become normal again, even though his “normal” includes some immobility. But then, who knows? No one, if the truth be known. His statements are merely guesses based on experiences with other folks, some of whom would be more dedicated than I and others who would be less dedicated.

I still have the fixator attached to my arm, which is one of those could be good could be bad things. It’s uncomfortable, but apparently the longer the fixator is on the better off I will be. The device is separating the hand bones from the wrist bones. Apparently the fall pushed the hand bones way down into the wrist, and they need to be held in their proper place as long as possible.

There is some good news, or at least news of progress. New bone is being formed where once were only sharp edges. And I have healed enough so I no longer need to wear a splint at night, and I only need to use a sling during the day if I’m around people. I can also start exercising my elbow a little bit more.

I don’t suppose it really matters whether the news is a little bit good or a little bit bad — it is still going to take a very long time before I am healed.

On a more positive note, I have enough toys to keep me busy for now so that I’m not falling back into grief mode. The Dragon speech recognition software, of course, is wonderful, and I have been enjoying splashing watercolors onto paper. Oddly, if two paintings could be considered a representative sample, I paint hope, which gives me hope for the future. (Is that redundant? Isn’t hope always for the future? As far as I know, there can be no hope for the past or even the present because the present is a done deal.) The picture that accompanies this post is my latest creative play endeavor.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you to know that I think of many things while I sit here in my solitary room staring out the window.

One thing that mystifies me is how few people checked up on me off-line. Maybe they didn’t realize how needy I’ve been, or maybe we weren’t as good friends as I thought we were. I suppose I could’ve called them, but since I had nothing good to say, I didn’t want to run anybody’s holiday. But it is night now, and such thoughts are better left for the bright of day.

One thing that amuses me about this experience is how blasé I have been about letting a stranger help bathe me. I stand in the shower naked while she washes my hair, and we chat of normal things as if we’re sitting down to tea. It is kind of surprising, since she is a healthcare worker, but she said she could not be as comfortable if our positions were reversed.

And one thing that frustrates the heck out of me is how difficult it is to get drugs from a drugstore even with a prescription. The pharmacists don’t seem to understand how hard it is for some people to get to the store, and yet they will not release painkillers a day before the prescription was supposed to have been used up. Nor do they want to release the painkillers even after the prescription has been used up. My last prescription was for 15 days. I eked almost 30 days out of it, and they still did not want to fill the new prescription. I will be glad when I can get off pain medications, but to stay off I will have to find new ways of dealing with pain. Apparently the chronic pain is going to come from the side of the arm that was not broken — the ulna was displaced and that is what will be causing most of the problem. But I will figure out something because I cannot deal with pharmacists the rest of my life.

Once again it’s been great talking to you. I hope the things you think about are more thrilling than those I think about.

?????????????

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(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.

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

cloudy-day

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(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.

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(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.

Being Strong

There is a saying making the rounds of Facebook that I can’t get out of my mind: Strong people know how to keep their life in order. Even with tears in their eyes, they still manage to say, “I’m okay” with a smile.

Are these really signs of a strong person? If so, I must be the weakest person alive. I have no idea how to keep my life in order; to be honest, I don’t even know what that means. But it’s the second sentence that really has me flummoxed because when I’m not okay, I don’t lie and say I am.

CowboyIf you have tears in your eyes out in public where someone can see you, and that someone asks how you are, and you respond, “I’m okay” with a smile, you have just closed them out. That’s not a sign of strength. It might be a sign of having reached your limits. It might be that you don’t feel comfortable telling your troubles to a stranger. It might be that you’re feeling sorry for yourself and are ashamed. It might even be the proper response depending on the circumstances, but it’s not strength.

If you say, “I’m okay” with a smile to people you know, that’s a sign of weakness. Strength is letting people in. Letting them know the truth of you.

Think about it — how would you feel if someone you knew well said they were okay, and you later found out they were dying of cancer? You’d feel shut out, regretful of the words left unspoken, sorry for hugs not given. But when it comes to your own drama, you prefer to simply say you’re okay.

It takes strength to allow people a place in your trauma, so if you want to dismiss people’s concerns by saying “I’m okay” with or without a smile, that’s fine. You might even feel as if you are protecting them from hurt, but what you are doing is protecting yourself from the blessings that come from allowing others into the center of your life.

We’ve been raised in a code-of-the-west culture where it’s considered important not to complain, to keep your troubles to yourself, never to quit, to tough things out. I don’t advocate complaining for the sake of complaining, but telling the truth about how you are feeling or what you are going through to a sympathetic listener is an important step towards healing. It takes strength to show vulnerability, to go against those ingrained ideals.

Saying “I’m okay” with tears and a smile seems like a recipe for loneliness. Come to think of it, isn’t being alone part of that western code? Maybe it’s time to find a different definition of what a strong person is.

***

(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.

A Special Treat

Such a wonderful treat today — I took a walk!

The past few weeks have been trying — first the fall that shattered my wrist, the hospital stay, surgery, and then the demoralizing discovery that things were worse than expected. The first surgeon told me my elbow was not broken, so I tried to use it as much as I could, which was a mistake. The elbow was in fact shattered, and the movement only served to dislodge the bone fragments, and those fragments in turn severed the ligaments. Because my wrist had been pulverized, I have some heavy piece of equipnent (external fixator) screwed into my bones to keep them in the proper position rather than melding and shrinking my arm. Not only do I still have to contend with that thing for another six weeks, I had additional surgery to replace the shattered elbow and to further repair my wrist.

At the post op visit yesterday, I found out that I would have even less wrist recovery than originally expected, the wrist will be deformed, and in about a year, when all this is healed and I have regained as wide a range of motion as possible, I will need additional surgery. As if that news wasn’t enough to cope with in one day, I had to make the rounds of pharmacies to get the pills I need to keep from screaming in pain. A couple of pharmacies didn’t have the drugs. (Someone said that because they are a controlled substance, the drug companies can only sell so much, and this time of year, the pills are hard to get.) One pharmacy didn’t trust me because they weren’t my usual pharmacy (I don’t normally take medication, so I have no usual pharmacy). And one pharmacy thought I was trying to pull something by submitting a prescription from a different doctor. (How is it my fault that the doctors didn’t want to do the delicate operation and were passing me around like a hot potato?)

But I got the prescription filled, dealt with the not-good prognosis, and survived the self-pitying bout of tears.

This morning I woke with but one wish. To go for a walk. Seems so basic and ordinary, doesn’t it? But with only one hand, it’s hard to put on socks and impossible to tie shoes. And there is a bit of cowardice involved — if one can fall with absolutely no foreshadowing of the traumatic event, it’s hard to trust one’s foot placement. And then, of course, there is the matter of being drugged into a fog.

When the therapist came to check on me, I asked if she’d help me with my shoes and socks. She did. She even walked with me. It wasn’t much of a walk, perhaps a half mile or so, but oh! It felt wonderful. As if I were alive again.

For tonight, I’ve pushed all thoughts of the future from my mind, and am concentrating on that one special joy.

I took a walk today!

***

(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.”)