Starting From Scratch

On Saturday, I waited for the old year to play itself out, on Sunday, I started the new year with a feeling of dread, and today . . . well, today I got on with my life. Every upsurge of grief seems to end with a new level of acceptance, a renewed determination to live. One of the factors one has to deal with during the second year of grief is realizing for the hundredth time that this new state of being without our loved ones is permanent, that there is no redo. You start from here, from scratch.

Scratch is a starting line for a race scratched in the dirt, and starting from scratch means you start at the beginning with no advantages, even if you’re the weaker contender. That’s exactly how this feels — a scratch beginning, no advantages. We bereft see other couples, some who have been together for decades longer than we were granted, and yet here, at our new beginning, we start alone, uncoupled. I try to see this as being given a chance for freedom, but freedom connotes not just freedom from something, but freedom for something. I am free of my worries for my dead life mate/soul mate (though oddly, sometimes I still worry. Is he warm, comfortable, happy?) but I have not yet discovered what I am free for. That will come, perhaps, with living.

Today, as a symbol of starting from scratch, I planted my Bonsai. Well, I planted the black pine seeds. Bonsai means potted tree, and a pot of dirt and a few seeds do not equal a tree. At least, not yet. I’ll just have to wait to see what happens. Who knows, in ten, twenty, fifty years, I might have my own little potted tree. That’s assuming, of course, that if the seeds sprout and if they grow, I’ll be able to snip off any of the precious growth. I mean, how would you like it if someone decided to make a potted plant of you, and snipped off a few fingers or even a limb just because they found it pleasing? Okay, so maybe I don’t quite have the hang of positive thinking, but I did plant the seeds, so that counts for something!

My grief book is also in the works. I got my manuscript back from my publisher today with the final edits. One editor had to give up on it — couldn’t see the words through her tears. The editor who finished the work said, You’ve written an exquisite book.  It’s wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.   I can see many of the sayings from the book being used as proverbs by grief counselors, such as “time is the currency of love.” You have many, many profound insights.

A nice way to start from scratch — with a new book and wonderful compliments. My grief book probably won’t be available for a couple of months, and that’s fine. I need time to get used to the idea. It’s a hard thing to do, putting oneself out there for anyone to gawk at. People are mostly kind, especially those who will find comfort knowing someone else feels what they did, but I worry about the first time I get a nasty review. It’s one thing to get a terrible review when it’s a story you made up. It’s something completely different when it’s your life.  What if someone tells me to just stop whining and get over it? Maybe I’m gathering disadvantages before I ever cross the starting line, so I won’t think about that.

There might not be a redo button in life, but there is “do,” and putting the book out there is doing something. And so is planting a tree. This might not be an auspicious beginning, but you can’t expect more when you’re starting from scratch.

10 Responses to “Starting From Scratch”

  1. khakicrouch Says:

    Oh Pat this is wonderful and just what I needed I started this year missing my husband who died 30 November 2011. I’m determined to try and push forward. It is just hard as you said. Thanks for sharing I will look forward to reading your book.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I am so sorry. Oh, my gosh. You are so new into this process. If you ever need someone to talk to, someone who understands, please stop by and tell me how you are doing. I’ll keep you in my thoughts.

  2. Eileen Schuh Says:

    Grief is a difficult emotion, both to experience and to express. In September I lost a dear cousin–Dave was the first of our generation to die and it struck all us cousins hard. I wrote three blog posts as I struggled to comprehend the incomprehensible http://eileenschuh.blogspot.com/2011/09/time-does-not-stop.html http://eileenschuh.blogspot.com/2011/09/time-heals-all.html http://eileenschuh.blogspot.com/2011/09/david-bertsch-in-memory.html

  3. Holly Bonville Says:

    Can’t wait. Is it going to be an ebook or print or both? I want one in print, maybe a few to give to friends too.
    There are millions of widowed out there who’s opinions will mean more than a review. If someone writes a bad review it just means they haven’t had a loss as great as this and wouldn’t know how to begin to understand. Basically, they don’t know what they are talking about.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Holly, it will be both a print book and an ebook. I wanted to make sure there would be a physical book to hand to those who need a companion on this journey. I’m hoping it will be out before the second anniversary of his death, which is at the end of March.

  4. Joy Collins Says:

    Pat,
    I envy your resolve and ability.
    I am still struggling. Today I feel steeped in my grief. I slept most of yesterday. I just do not want to face this year yet. I think the reality is settling in – finally? again? – and it is overwhelming.
    I look forward to reading your book.

  5. Cathy "Elaine Garverick" Gingrich Says:

    Hi Pat,
    I am soooo happy you took my advice of LAST WEEK and wrote a book to help all of us! You are one fast writer!
    🙂 Cathy
    PS
    Strange, but funny, but I also have disquieting thoughts re snipping off the toes and fingers of defenseless plants…

  6. Juliet Waldron Says:

    A strong start to a New Year–with clear eyes, even if there are a host of pain lines around them. Long ago, my mother called bonsai “poor little tortured trees.” I thought she was being over-the-top about another culture’s art forms, but in a way we are all life’s little bonsai–hang in there is the shape and little area alloted–while still trying to be beautiful. (())


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