Women Adrift

I hadn’t been posting my blogs about my internal journey lately. For the first time, I’ve actually deleted a post or two without publishing it, not wanting to look as if I were unbearably pathetic. Although it might seem like it, I am not really unhappy. (I’d be a lot happier if it weren’t so hot and I could walk off my melancholy, but I am not so foolish as to go hiking in the desert in 105+ weather.) I have, however, been going through a small grief upsurge lately, nothing much, just riding the waves of emotion. This particular time of sadness hasn’t been so much about the loss of my life mate/soul mate, though that particular trauma has colored my whole life and probably will color it for the rest of my days.

Part of this particular upsurge has come about because now that I am back at dance class, I’ve been spending too much time with a group of married women, mostly older women who are still married to their high school or college sweethearts though there are a couple who are divorced and remarried. While I have been struggling to deal with one loss after another, their lives have mostly continued on the same track. As I listen to their chatter about their houses, travel plans, the care and feeding of their men. I feel . . . unbelonged. I don’t know how to deal with this particular issue. Maybe skip class occasionally when I get too overwhelmed? Mostly, I handle the situation by concentrating on the steps and trying to ignore the rest of what is going on, but the constant reminder that I am alone still gets to me.

It wasn’t until today, though, speaking to a woman my age who is dealing with some of what I have been going through, that I realized the greater problem, a problem I haven’t yet figured out how to resolve.

This other woman came to the high desert about the same time I did. Like me, she gave up her life in a cooler climate and moved here to take care of an aged parent. Like me, she is now lost. She has been here too long to go back and pick up the life she was living. After all these years, she has too much to lose by leaving, but she doesn’t have enough to keep her here, not enough to make this place (especially in the 105 degree heat) feel like home.

Where do you go when you have no real ties anymore?

I met a few other such women on my trip, women tent campers who had nothing but a restlessness born of unbelonging. They too had left what they had known and moved in with an aged parent to care for that parent until that parent’s death. The fact that we designated daughters were not married, were widowed, or otherwise lived alone, and so it fell upon us to make the move, does not mitigate the circumstances. We were uprooted when we went to be a caregiver, and uprooted again when the caregiving came to an end.

And so we drift.

This particular facet of my life has been mostly subsumed into the whole grief spectrum, but it is something separate from all the other losses, something I haven’t had to face it until now. After my dad’s death, I stayed at his house until it was sold, did some housesitting, visited friends, and then rented a room until it was time to take my cross-country trip. Now that the trip is ended, at least until the end of the summer, I have to face the truth. I have too much to lose by leaving, but it’s not enough to hold me here.

And so I drift.


(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.”)

13 Responses to “Women Adrift”

  1. Malcolm R. Campbell Says:

    Do you see the dance class as being a major reason for staying where you are rather than trying out one of the more interesting stops on your journey? I’m not sure how I would cope with the feeling of drifting.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      For now, yes, it is a reason for staying. It’s something to hold on to. I’m not sure I am ready to be totally adrift — the thought scares me. If I can get back into writing, it won’t matter as much where I am because that would be something to hold on to.

  2. leesis Says:

    ok, I’ve just stopped reading to say “unbelievably pathetic”…really??? PATSY!!! NO!!! Anyway back to reading…

    Pat my life has been somewhat backwards to yours. You’ve had all these important folks and then their loss and I had no one for 33 years. All I can say is yes there is sadness but “Where do you go when you have no real ties anymore?” That is entirely up to you. Create what you want, search for what you want, and isn’t that the greatest challenge?

    My dearest Pat I work with year twelve high school students. They have no idea what their future will be one year from now. Some have links, some don’t or those links they have are unhealthy so they won’t next year. Some have goals and some are clueless thus frightened.

    Be we 17/70, male/ female, Aussie/American when we have no one who is intimate and no sense of community we are scared. And sometimes that fear kicks us back into the past…we remember our loved ones, wish they were still here and feel a shower of grief. Or we can feel overwhelmed by a sense of tiredness when we see that it is us, on our own that must put in all the work.

    Please keep expressing your inner processes. They are not pathetic (I feel like I have said this before) they are what we all feel. That is the treasure of this blog.
    love ya

    p.s so drift…or full-steam-ahead…whatever feels good 🙂

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Tiredness is a good way of describing it. I find I am less able to cope when I am too tired or too hot. A lot more overwhelmed by the logistics of creating a new life. Next month starts a new cycle — I will be moving to a new house with new roommates, will be able to walk everywhere if I so desire, will be giving me a month’s mental breathing room — no trying to figure things out, just trying to write.

      As always, thank you for the endorsement. It’s funny — at the beginning, people used to tell me how brave I was to be so open, but that was easy. I didn’t deal in real life with anyone who reads my blog, so I didn’t feel so vulnerable. But now it does take courage because I don’t want to hurt people I see on a daily basis, and I don’t like opening myself up like this to people I see in the flesh who may or may not understand.

  3. Trev Brown Says:

    Hello Pat. Another fascinating blog. I must just say in your defense that that these feelings you describe simply don’t get talked about. The literature that surrounds bereavement (at least that which I’ve read) spews out platitudes and discreetly overlooks the fact that when the dust settles you are still having to sort out the threads of your life on your own.

    The question seems to hang heavy (in my own life at least) – what I am I meant to do now? The fact that you can’t immediately come up with an answer is so easily seen by others as you wallowing in your own pool of tears, but it isn’t. I very rarely talk about my own bereavement, but I am distinctly aware that – on the odd occasion when I do mention feelings connected to it – the discomfort of others is all too obvious and it leads to self-censorship. Your candid posts are much valued by me and (I am sure) many many others, and I very much hope you can find a way forward.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      This really made me think. Without meaning to, people do herd us into self-censorship, maybe to preserve the status quo?

      I hope you find a way forward, too. But maybe the journey is all? Maybe we don’t need to know what to do? Just be there when we are doing whatever it is we are doing? These are some of the questions I struggle with because it seems so senseless at times if there is no one to share things with. But it can’t be senseless, because we are still here.

  4. mickeyhoffman Says:

    When I was younger I had to endure other women bringing their wedding photos to work. Why would I want to look at photos of people I don’t know? And later, photos of their children. Same response. Now it’s come to be their grandchildren as well. Maybe I’m a real pig, but I am not interested even in the children and grandchildren of my closest friends. Luckily, these friends know that and don’t care. We have other things to talk about.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Sounds like my Facebook feed! I don’t think you’re a pig. Why should we be interested in such things? If we wanted to be inundated with pictures of kids, we’d have had our own.

  5. Roberta Pace Says:

    As an older woman with an even older husband, I think about the future and what it will be like when I am alone again. I don’t think I want to move to be closer to family who are not very close (intimate) . Sometimes even now, climbing into a shell sounds and feels good. I know my energy will fade and I don’t know what I will do. Right now, putting one foot in front of the other is the best I can do. And I’m scared. Thanking God for all the good things in my life makes me feel good right now. And that, I can do.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      A good reminder for me, too, to be thankful for the good things in my life. Dancing with you is one of them!

      Maybe everyone is afraid, but afraid to admit it.

      Despite all the confusion in my life right now, one thing I have held on to from the beginning is that grief takes us where we need to go, makes us who we need to be to get through the terrible losses. So yes, enjoy what you have now. Don’t ruin it with thoughts of the future. (Come to think of it, that’s good advice for me right now, too.)

  6. paulakaye Says:

    Pat-I found myself reading this and wondering where I am going myself. I still have two grandchildren here that Richard and I took in 8 years ago together. I didn’t want to be a single parent. Yet, here I am. The oldest has joined the Marines and will be leaving in November and the youngest has 2 more years of high school. I won’t be in that “drift” mode until then. I already feel that I am there in my mind!! Sending you a big virtual hug!!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It’s funny, but those with mates seldom have to worry about where they are going. It’s only us who are left alone who wonder. It doesn’t matter if we own a house or drift from place to place — it’s all part of the drift. Maybe being with someone gives us the illusion of importance or stability or meaning, and when we’re alone, we have no one to help maintain the illusion, hence the drift.

  7. Della Luce Says:

    Since my childhood moving from one place to another, I seldom made friends and those I did, are still special now. I am writing of my turbulent past in hope it will be published but I have had to consider changing my name. My travels keep me sane although my children, grown up now, think I do not love them for wanting this life. On the contrary I love them with all my heart but I need to mend now and so hence the reason for my traveling. Enjoyed your article so much that it made me realise that we are doing the right thing and travel. DL

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