Starting the Year With a Feeling of Dread

In a post I wrote six years ago, I mentioned that I was starting the year with a feeling of dread. Back then, I didn’t know what brought on the feeling, but I have the same feeling this year, and I do know what is causing the dread.

I don’t like talking about my financial situation because it makes me look like a fool, but the truth is, I spent most of the last decades looking after sick and dying relatives. At the time, it seemed the right thing to do (and I still know it was), but it left me without any retirement. I’ve been living off savings and a small inheritance, and this year there will come a time when I have to make some hard decisions, such as where to live and where to get a job. (The only thing I am qualified for is taking caring of folks, and I simply cannot do that anymore.)

Knowing that this decision was coming was a big impetus to getting my works in progress finished, but I destroyed my arm before I could finish the third book, and I haven’t been able to get back to it. Maybe I will finish it this year before my life changes beyond recognition . . . again.

I’ve drifted this past year, and unless I make those hard decisions, I probably will continue to drift until the money for one more grand adventure is gone and the need to settle into a new and unwelcome life becomes dire. (Oddly, the decision to get up and go on that last big adventure is just as hard as the other decisions because once the adventure is done, then those other changes will have to be made.) Status quo will hold until May when I head up to Seattle. On that camping/hiking trip, I will face the reality of what I am capable of, and if it is possible to live a nomadic life for a while.

(I have two dreams — one, to hike one of the long trails, and the other to be nomadic for a year to see what if anything will happen. It’s entirely possible both dreams are leftovers from my grief days. It’s also possible they stem from the unwillingness to do what I must to take care of myself. Whatever the reason, I do yearn for a spiritual journey, a vision quest, something that catapults me into “more.”)

I have not cried at all since March 26th, the day before my seven-year grief anniversary, the day before I got the external fixator off my destroyed arm, but in the middle of last night I woke with tears on my face, whispering, “I am so afraid, Jeff.”

I have been very good about living in the day and for the day, without too much thought for the future or too much looking to the past, but all this talk of a new year must have gotten beneath my defenses. (And then, there is this dang flu that came to visit me, which doesn’t help matters.) Admittedly, with the state of my arm this past year, there was really no other choice but to live in the day, to heal and exercise the poor limb, but it is slowly getting to the point that no further progress can be made, so I will have to live with the weakened arm.

There is nothing I can do about anything today — not the finances, not the fear, not the flu — so I’m going back to bed.

I hope all your decisions this year will be easy ones.

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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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Alone in a Stranger’s House

This is the fourth house I have stayed in since I left my father’s house, and the first one where I’ve been totally alone for any length of time. I’m tiptoeing around, feeling a bit guilty about borrowing another orangeroseperson’s luxury, especially since I don’t know the people all that well. (I know the woman from Hawaiian dance class, but I’d only just met her husband.) She assured me I am doing her a favor by being here since she doesn’t have to worry about stopping the newspaper, putting a hold on her mail, and risking the death of her plants, but still, I feel as if I’m encroaching. I suppose it’s this hesitancy to encroach that makes me an ideal housesitter — I’m not disrespectful of other people’s space and belongings.

They’ll be back at the end of next week, and when I mentioned the possibility of my leaving after the end of those ten days, she said, “Oh, no. You’re staying through Saturday, at least.” Her book club meets that day, and apparently, I will be the main attraction, the sacrificial lamb, or the guest of honor. Not sure which. With any luck, my car will be done by then, and I’ll be able to go to my storage unit and dig out my books. And if not, maybe I can find a ride. It will be nice to play author for a change.

People still tell me I need to make plans for my future, that I need to move on, but this is how I am moving on — embracing the uncertainty of life. Some people understand my reluctance to settle down, especially those who have also lost parents, spouses, soul mates, but others look at me with bewilderment, as if I am an alien species.  For now, though, I’m enjoying this catch-as-catch-can existence. It helps me appreciate the immediacy of life, concentrating on today, and not callalilylooking too far in the future. I have a comfortable place to spend this cloudy and humid night, and for several nights to come. After that, things will work out or they won’t, but either way, those future “things” whatever they might be, have nothing to do with today.

Today I had dance classes. Today I had lunch with a friend. Today, my friend and I explored my new neighborhood, peeking through wrought iron gates to see the secret community hidden within. (Lovely stone houses, so at odds with the usual bland stucco and tile architecture of this area.) Today I read a book. Today I ate well, maybe too well! Today I watched the birds at the bird feeder and the hummingbirds at the hummingbird feeder. Today I took photos of flowers that caught my eye. Today I have my computer set up, which always gives me a feeling that all is right with my world. Today I am blogging, and so I know all is right with my world, even if — especially if — I am alone in a stranger’s house.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels 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.

Ignore-ance is Bliss

I’ve never liked the saying, “ignorance is bliss.” I’ve always quested after the truth, so ignorance seems like a paltry way of living, though many people seem to cultivate the state. On some matters, of course, ignorance definitely is bliss. If you don’t know who or what ISIS is (I will have to plead ignorance on this; it seems to have slipped into the news when I was successfully not paying attention), then of course you will be more blissful than those who dwell on whatever it is ISIS is doing. Or in the case of Ebola — being ignorant of the matter might keep you focused on your goal of taking a trip to Africa, which is infinitely more pleasant to contemplate than the possibility of bringing home an unwanted and very deadly souvenir.

napBut what if the “ignorance” that equates to bliss is something entirely different from lack of knowledge or information? What if it actually refers to ignore-ance?

And believe me, ignore-ance truly is bliss.

I’m ignoring my father’s eventual decline, just concentrating on what I can or need to do today.

I am ignoring my uncertain future (when my father goes, my current place of residence will go too, leaving me temporarily homeless and without any clear idea of what to do, how to do it, or where to do it).

I am ignoring the sadness of my disconnection from a dear friend because nothing I’ve done or said seems to be bridging the gap.

I am ignoring the book I started writing in July because with everything else going on in my life, I don’t have the proper focus and so that poor lone written chapter sits at the top right hand corner of my blog. Luckily I am ignoring that, too, or else it would taunt me.

I am ignoring my deceased life mate/soul mate. He can take care of himself wherever he is or isn’t, and I am tired of being sad.

It is so much nicer simply dealing with the problems of the moment — or rather, lack of problems. Most of my problems live either in the future or in the past and if I ignore those, then today, right this moment, everything is blissful. I’m still feeling a glow from the dance classes I took this morning. I’m enjoying the perfect weather — calm, clear, relatively cool. And I’m writing this blog in silence ignoring the fact that as soon as my father wakes from his nap, the television will be blaring.

Ah, ignore-ance. Ah, bliss.

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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.

Cleaning up the Past

Many people I know seem to be suddenly delving into their past — getting DNA results to see their ancestry, trying to trace their family trees, or even doing past life regressions.

At one time I was interested in my roots, even kept a few notes from conversations with my parents, but now, I don’t really care. Since I know who my parents were to a small extent, where they came from, what their medical history is, I realize I have the luxury of not caring. Those who don’t know their parents, such as adoptees, lack that luxury.

My non-caring is more than simply indulging in such luxury, though. It’s about being who I am, not who I am in relation to who I used to be or in relation to everyone around me, but who I am right now. Today. This minute. Once I was a newborn, a child, an adolescent, a young adult, a part of a couple. Today . . . none of that matters. None of those permutations seem to have anything to do with me, as if somewhere, light years behind me, each of those people still has some sort of existence separate from me.

I started shredding my past yesterday, and continued with the exercise today. Things that once were important no longer seem to have any meaning at all. I have a hunch it’s because whoever I was in that past is gone. I am changed beyond anything that erstwhile “I” would recognize.

This disconnect with the past began when my life mate/soul mate died. (He was only 63. Seems so very young!) And somehow taking my dysfunctional brother back to Colorado finished the disconnect. For the past four years I’ve felt as if somehow I was born anew. Back then, I was born into the world of grief, but now? Maybe I’m becoming who I was always meant to be. Whatever that is.

I will keep a lot of stuff, of course. Someday I will have to settle down, and it will be good to have essentials such as pots and pans and towels, perhaps even some fripperies to remind me of my past. Or not. Without a special someone to love, without something to hang on to, I might just be blowing in the wind.

For whatever reason, it feels good to be getting rid of things. Very cleansing. Periodically, I consider getting rid of everything I own, and maybe someday I will do so. But not today.

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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.