Is It Fun Being You?

I watched a tape of an old “Boston Legal” show the other night. Although I don’t particularly like the series — it was mostly smugly rich lawyers in a large firm behaving badly — the byplay between William Shatner (Denny Crane) and James Spader (Alan Shore) was riveting. You don’t see many instances of male friendship in movies or on TV, which is compelling enough, but the two characters often talk about matters that are beyond the general fare of television. (Not that I would know — I seldom watch television, though I have a couple of series and a couple of partial series on tape for no other reason than that I have them.)

One such conversation occurred during the show I viewed. Denny, despite his growing Alzheimer’s, had just experienced a triumph over his ilness by having a significant impact on a trial, and afterward while decompressing with Shore on the balcony of Denny’s office, Denny says, “It’s fun being me.” Then he turns to Shore and asks, “Is it fun being you?”

Such a simple question, one I had never considered. Is it fun being me? Although I can’t get the question out of my mind, I truly have no answer to it. I have fun, of course, and while fun is not my raison d’etre, perhaps it should be. Life dumps plenty of sorrow and responsibility on me — I certainly don’t need to heap more problems on myself, and besides, having fun would help balance my life.

But that was not the question. Denny did not ask, “Are you having fun?” He asked, “Is it fun being you?” — which is something completely different.

I’m the one in glasses.

I’ve always taken life and myself too seriously to have fun being me. Oddly, Alan Shore once described me when I was young without knowing he was doing so. As he says to one of his female associates, “When I look at you, I see one of those little schoolgirls, running around in her plaid skirt, always to class on time, the first to raise her hand, the neatest of . . . penmanship.” Yup. That was me.

I’m trying not to take things so seriously, though it’s hard when I seem to be always in the middle of other people’s life and death situations. Still, I need a more lighthearted approach than simply not taking life so seriously. Since I will need to find a new focus for the next twenty or thirty years (assuming I live as long as my mother did) perhaps that focus should be not just being me as I’ve been trying to do, but having fun being me.

And I’ve already taken the first step. Dance class is teaching me many things besides dancing: to be accepting of (and maybe even celebrating) imperfections in me and everyone else; to be committed to something life changing outside my normal purview; to find joy in movement, especially synced movement; to be happy in the moment; and most of all, to enjoy being someone who enjoys dancing.

***

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.

Reaching a Bridge in My Life

An online friend occasionally does free one-card tarot readings on Facebook. In April, I asked her, “Does the card promise me joy?” She drew the Sun Reversed card, and she explained, “Had this card been upright I would have said a definite yes, but the card is telling me there have been some disappointments from the past that still are with you. It says there can be happiness and joy, but for now it’s you that seems to be clouding it for yourself.” (You can read the rest of the response here: Being Open to the Possibility of Joy.)

The reading took place shortly after the two-year anniversary of the death of my life mate/soul mate, when I was still feeling very sorrowful, still subject to upsurges of grief. I was tired of feeling bad all the time, hence my question, but paradoxically, I had not yet reached a stage where I could welcome happiness. Grief continued to hold me in its embrace, but even more than that, I still felt the unfairness of it all — his life being cut short, my having to continue without him.

And then a few weeks ago, everything changed. It happened suddenly, almost from one minute to the next. Part of it came from an odd random thought that flitted through my mind, “He beat the system, he’s out of it now,” though why I thought he beat the system, I don’t know, when he suffered for years. But he’s finished with pain now, and I’m finished with my worry that he had been denied additional years.

I’ve also been spending time consciously being me. We’re always us, but we’re not always aware of it. I’m trying to feel how I fit with the world around me, so I go out in the desert and stand there, not thinking. A couple of times I’ve had the awesome feeling that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Don’t know where all this is going to lead in the end, but it felt good at the time, and it’s helped me with the search for meaning that was such a weight after he died. If I am being me, I don’t have to search for meaning. Being is my meaning. Of course, one of these days, when my father is gone, I will have to search for a place to live and something to do, but for now, this is all I expect of me.

Last night, in an emailed conversation with my tarot-reading friend, I asked, “Does the tarot have any words of wisdom for me?”

Her response:

“I chose the Alchemical Renewed deck and as I was shuffling, the Lady of Vessels jumped out and her message to you is to be aware of your own feelings, appreciate your own talents and allow those inner thoughts, feelings and wisdom to rise and come to the forefront of your mind. What she is telling you is that this is a time for inner reflection and the ability to recognise and allow your intuition to guide you because that inner knowledge always knows what you should do and what is the best course of action for you to take. She also tells you it’s time to be self confident and let all that is good about you shine out.

“The Lady of Vessels breaks down to a 2, that’s the number of duality, compromise, balance and choice. What she tells you here is that it’s time to restore that balance, to settle down that duality that exists, and to bring together any opposing forces that exist so that they may work together for a more stable future. This is a time where you have reached a bridge in your life, and it is what you learn at this point that will carry you over that bridge and onto a new path.”

Isn’t that beautiful? The future spooks me if I think about it since I will be growing old alone, but the person who is growing old alone won’t be the me of today, it will be the me I become, the me on the other side of the bridge.

The Lady of Vessels seems to agree that I am where I am supposed to be, doing what I am already doing. Even though I would have continued following the same path, feeling and being me, it’s nice to know it’s in the cards.

Being Where I am Supposed to Be

I was happy today. I didn’t feel giddily gleeful, just a quiet peace that came from knowing I was where I was supposed to be.

I’d been walking in the desert, ruminating over my petty concerns. I have no major problems at the moment — I have a place to stay and food to eat, and I feel no great lingering sorrow over the death of my life mate/soul mate — but there are small matters that niggle at me. I seem to have crossed some invisible line where I no longer attract people through my words, but am actually starting to repel them — people have been blocking me on Facebook, and often it’s because of a simple non-combative comment I made in one of my discussion groups. I also wonder how to entice people to read my books, and I still ponder the whole issue of my writing. Although I am coming to an accommodation with continuing to write despite lackluster sales, I still am not comfortable with the idea of being a writer among millions of other writers — never have liked being a face in the crowd.

So there I was, walking, thinking, talking a bit to my deceased mate, when it suddenly dawned on me that at that very moment, I was not a face in the crowd. There was no crowd — just me. I stopped and looked around. A jackrabbit loped by, but other than that, no creature made itself known. I felt the breeze cooling my sweat, heard the air whistling faintly as it passed my ears. I stilled my thoughts and simply stood there in the middle of the desert, deep blue skies above, sun-warmed soil beneath the soles of my shoes, desert knolls surrounding me and blocking any view of the nearby city.

A friend who has endured far worse grief than I have, told me that she is finding peace by telling herself that she is happy. Alone out there in the desert, I decided I was finally ready to take the next step in going on with my life, so I thought, “I am happy.” And I realized that was the truth of it. Right then, I was happy. I had no sense of longing for something or someone, no sense of waiting. My entire life — all the joys and pains, the learning and creating, the loves and losses — had led to that very moment, and I felt as if I had arrived where I was supposed to be. There was no reason for me to be there, nothing to for me to do, no task to accomplish. All I had to do was simply . . . be.

One cannot stand in the middle of the desert forever, so eventually, I continued my walk, still feeling the effects of that moment. There are few perfect moments in life, but that was one of them. (I’m smiling as I write this. Can you tell?)

Pat is Prologue

Yesterday I mentioned a revelation I had in the desert — a question, really. What is the point of being me?

It had suddenly struck me that I am truly part of the unfolding universe. There I stood baking under the sun, my sweat evaporating into the space around me, my feet solidly on the ground, air flowing in and out of my lungs, connected in dozens of ways to the world and, ultimately, to the universe.

When the universe came into being, creating itself in the big bang, everything that ever would be came into being at the same time. The matter of the universe — stardust, to be romantic — has been connecting and disconnecting, rearranging itself in an infinity of shapes and forms, for billions of years. At one moment of such creativity, I was born. I am of the universe, perpetually a part of it. Although my body seems to be a thing in and of itself, it continues to exchange matter with its surroundings. In a quantum sense, my few electrons are indistinguishable from the whole.

Here I am, a creature born of stardust, at once eternal and ephemeral, physical and psychical, emotional and logical, alive yet forever dying.

Everything that ever happened on earth and in the universe since the beginning has culminated in a single person — me. Everything that happened in my life up till now has created the person I am today. So, what is the point of being me?

This is not a religious question. Nor am I looking for simplistic answers or rehashed dogmas. Instead, it’s more of a credo or a different way of looking at the world and my future. What do I want to do while in this body made of stardust? What do I want to feel? What do I want to think? How do I want to live? How do I keep from wasting the miracle that is me? How do I celebrate this connection to the unfolding universe? What is the life that only I can live? In other words, what is the point of being me?

(You, of course, are the culmination of life up to the point of your birth, but it’s up to you to ask your own questions.)

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