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.

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When Things Don’t Go as Planned

My housesitting job for July has fallen through. My car still is not finished. Since I don’t have wheels, I haven’t been able to go searching for camping equipment, and since I don’t have a local address, I haven’t been able to order anything online. And so my adventure continues.

I’ll be able to find places to spend the night, places where people won’t turn me away even if they weren’t exactly thrilled about my staying with them, which is nice. I certainly don’t like the prospect of living on the streets in this weather. 105° yesterday. Oh, my. Not that I would have to live on the streets. I could go stay in a motel somewhere, but I’d be pretty much trapped.

My main focus next week will be to see if I can light a fire under the body shop guy. I’ll call, go visit him, see if I can get others to go on my behalf. I understand this isn’t his only job. I understand it’s taking longer than he expected. I understand it’s an old car and needs special care. But enough is enough. (It wouldn’t bother me so much if I still had the housesitting job, but I’m not ready to be out in the world without transportation.) I’ve considered taking a trip by plane or by bus, but if I weren’t here to nag the auto body guy, I might never get the car back.

Meantime, I’m just going with the flow. Waiting to see what if anything transpires. Making lists of people and places to visit. Dreaming about sleeping under the stars (though what good that will do me since without my glasses on, I couldn’t see them anyway).

This isn’t exactly the way I’d planned to spend these months, living on the mercy of friends and acquaintances, but to paraphrase my Aunt Mil, when things don’t go as planned, that’s when the real adventure begins.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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

I don’t know if you will find this as amusing as I do, but I’m sitting in my storage unit, taking a break from digging out stuff I need for the coming week, and rearranging boxes to make needful things more accessible. I feel perfectly comfortable here, as if I’ve always been unanchored without my possessions a constant presence in my life. Maybe I’m finally learning to be at home wherever I am, unanchored or not.

I called myself unanchored because although I don’t have a place of residence at the moment beyond the grace of my friends’ hospitality, calling myself homeless doesn’t fit with the current meaning of the word, or at least the current implications of the word. I am not destitute, not dysfunctional, not addicted to anything. I am merely in a state of transition, learning to go with the flow of life, experiencing whatever comes my way. And apparently what has come my way is my sitting in a storage unit, smiling at the ridiculousness of the situation.

(Actually, now that I think about it, it’s not so silly. The photo at the bottom of this post is what I am seeing. Is your view as lovely?)

When I left the house today, I made plans to meet up with my friend in four hours. She seemed concerned about what I would do with all that time. I suppose what I am currently doing is simply being. Not a bad way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Hope your day is as being-ful as mine.

***

(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.”)

The Transition Between Today and Tomorrow

(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.”)

***

I’m still camping out on the couch in a friend’s house. I’ve been without a car for more than five weeks, without a house for two, but my friends have been kind to me, not just giving me a place to stay but ferrying me to dance class.

I seem to be always in transition. At my father’s house, I was in transition between my shared life with Jeff and my solitary future, between grief and renewal. Now I’m in transition between . . . I’m not sure exactly. Maybe between a settled life and an unsettled one. Or maybe just between today and all my tomorrows.

The strangest feeling about my life right now is that I’m not blogging every day. Blogging was a daily exercise for almost four years, but now I’m back to the way I started, just posting as time, inspiration, and need permits. For years I needed to write in order to make sense of all the trauma going on in my life, but at the moment I’m just flowing with the stream of chance and change.

Big changes will be coming, but for now life is uncomplicated. There are no decisions to be made because I couldn’t follow through anyway since I have obligations for the next month.

I’m still dreaming of an epic walk, though, and the reality is coming clearer. A friend who has been urging me to thru-hike so she could experience it vicariously has made the commitment to do a thru-hike herself. In 2017, she will be hiking the Appalachian Trail, and she invited me to join her group. I said yes, of course, though it’s so far in the future, there’s no way of knowing if any of us will be around to do it.

(She chose the Appalachian Trail instead of the Pacific Crest Trail because of the availability of water and the marginally easier terrain.)

I hope you are doing well in your own transition between today and tomorrow.

A Close Encounter of the Unhomed Kind

(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.”)

***

I’ve been sort of joking about being homeless, and I suppose I sort of am. (How is that for a noncommittal sentence!) And anyway, I consider myself ‘unhomed’ rather than homeless. (I’m laughing. I’m using my phone since I don’t want to be dragging my poor old computer from place to place, and the phone has a mind of its own. I’d written the word ‘unhomed’ but the word ‘unhinged’ appeared instead.)

My stuff is in storage, and at the moment I am living off the kindness of friends, but this is due more to my lack of a vehicle and a need / promise to continue with dance classes at least until the end of May than to destitution. I have resources and plans, just a strange set of circumstances coupled with a growing need for adventure.

I’d planned to rent a room for May, but couldn’t find anything within walking distance of the dance studio so I will need to continue relying on friends for another few weeks. The distance wouldn’t have mattered if I had my car, but it’s still at the body shop. The original estimate on my car was that it would take three weeks to be de-dented, de-rusted, and painted. Four weeks have gone by, and now the auto body guy says three more weeks. Luckily, my friends don’t seem to mind my company. And if they did? Well, I’d figure out something. Use my vehiclelessness as an excuse to go on some sort of adventure by bus, perhaps.

I am learning something during this time — the foolhardiness of my making plans. Every time I make any sort of plan, it changes. Not just concerning my living situation but about taking off on a trip. I’d planned to leave June first, but a friend asked me to housesit the first couple of weeks in June, so I’ll be staying around here a bit longer than I’d originally intended. Makes life interesting, just going with the flow.

And for now the flow is toward . . .

I was going to say the flow was toward homelessness, but the truth is, now that I don’t have a permanent place to stay, I feel less homeless than at any time since Jeff died. He was my home, and I knew that to ever be happy I’d need to find ‘home’ within myself. To be home wherever I am. And if I am home, I can never be homeless even if I don’t have a set place of residence.

If you’re one of those who are worried about me, I truly appreciate it, but there’s no need to be concerned. I’m just experiencing a close encounter of the unhomed kind.