Pointing Myself in a Direction

I reconnected with my once-upon-a-time Yoga teacher the other day. She happened to “like” one of my twitter posts, and I was so pleased to see her name after all these years, that I immediately wrote her a message, and we’ve been “talking.”

I loved her Yoga classes and her philosophy. She was the one who taught me to use my whole sphere. She said we live in a personal sphere, the space taken up by outspread arms and legs. As we age and become more fearful of missteps, we shrink into the center of our spheres, shortening our stride, hunching into ourselves. Ever since, I have striven to open myself not just to my physical sphere, but also beyond what I can encompass.

I was devastated (devastated for myself, not for her) when she left to accept a fabulous job offer. It worked out, in a way, because I went searching for something else to do to give me a respite from looking out for my father, and I found dancing. (This was one of those very rare cases of one door closing and another opening, though I truly hate that platitude. After Jeff died, people frequently said, “When a door closes, a window opens,” but who uses a window in place of a door? And anyway, what good is a window or even a door to a widow who has lost her foundation?)

In one of the recent messages to my erstwhile Yoga instructor, I mentioned my idea of eventually doing some sort of epic hike, and she responded: “Baby steps everyday towards your goal will help you accomplish your dream. We have a Bucket List of walking The Camino de Santiago-we’ve begun working on it-It’s years ahead. Just point yourself in that direction & start!”

So, baby steps.

The first step is to get well. I caught the cold that’s been going around, and I’m stuck inside for the duration. (It’s interesting how the idea of an epic adventure always rears its head when I am housebound. Well, perhaps not interesting. But understandable.)

The second step is to continue working to get my hand/arm/wrist/elbow in as good a shape as possible.

The third step is to . . . well, one and two should be sufficient for now.

I am beginning to see, though, that an epic hike for me would be years in the future, which is one of the things that makes it an impossible dream — by the time I am ready, it’s possible I would be too decrepit or too broke. But it is a direction in which to point myself, and that has been the problem these years after Jeff’s death — I’ve had no direction.

I might be driving up the coast to Seattle in May, which would be a good time for a reconnoitering trip. I am also collecting lists of hikes that are less ambitious than the iconic national trails and that might possibly be good starter long hikes. I just added the Pinhoti Trail to the list. I am sure there are hundreds of trails that would be perfect for a few weeks or even a few days. Or even one night. (If I’m going to do baby steps, a one nighter would be the first trip!)

It’s possible what I like is the impossible dream and that backpacking is more of an ideal than something I ever want to do. (My father had such a dream — for as long as I can remember, he talked about walking the coast of Portugal. I don’t know when he finally gave up on the idea, or when it gave up on him.) And yet I have enjoyed every one of the day hikes I have ever taken, and enjoyed every night I spent camping.

Step three, now that I think of it, should be to get over the idea of chucking it all and just heading out. Considering the dismal state of my finances, it seems silly to pay rent when I am elsewhere, but for now, it would probably be best to have a base. And anyway, there would be the problem of what to do with my car if I were on the trail for months.

So, baby steps all the way.

I do like the idea of doing something every day to prepare, even if it’s only research. (Only research? From what I’ve been able to gather from the research I have already done is that research is one of the most important things a beginner backpacker can do.)

But for now, I’ll point myself in the direction of a nap.

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.

6 Responses to “Pointing Myself in a Direction”

  1. Dennis Winters Says:

    Pat, I have come to your blog for help and support over the last couple years following the death of my wife about two and a half years ago.  My close group of family and friends has been very supportive and have respected my timeline of working through my grief.  Things seem to be getting better in fits and starts, but I still find myself breaking down over my loss. I just moved into a new residence.  I contemplate opening up to new female friends and taking off my wedding ring.  These thoughts bring guilt pangs but I know I have to move on with my life.  Most of my support peeps assure me it is okay to move forward and ‘she’ would be good with it.  In a sense, they imply I have “paid my dues” and she would want me to be happy.   Any insight? Thank you for all you have done for those of us on this journey.  Checking in with you has shown me the progress that can be made over time.  You seem much more applied and confident these days.  Keep keeping on.

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      My thoughts? It is okay to move forward, and I’m sure your wife would want you to be happy, but it sounds to me as if you aren’t quite ready, otherwise you would simply do it without thought. In my experience, most folks need at least three years to get to the point of being willing to take the next step. Some people, of course, come to that point earlier, but grief is a hard burden to bring to a relationship. You know it’s not about “paying your dues.” It’s about that horrendous amputation being healed, about seeing yourself as an individual without the sense that you still owe your wife anything, even loyalty or guilt. On the other hand, maybe opening up to new women friends will help you find the renewal you need. If so, go slowly. Don’t jump into a commitment too soon. And make sure if you find someone for more than just a few dates, that she knows of your continued sorrow over your wife. The second relationships that last are the ones that take the first relationship into consideration. But whatever you decide, know that there is no reason for guilt. You’ve been left behind to find a new life. So, whether now or next year or never, know that whatever you do is right.

  2. Den Says:

    No direction after losing a spouse so hit home with me. Why pick a direction when you don’t even want to move. I am so glad you are finding at least a compass point. Baby steps. But you only get a thousand of them. You will reach your stride even if it is shorter than it used to be. God bless.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      So true about not wanting to pick a direction because you don’t want to move. I’ve been forced into many different directions, but they have always been away from him, which seems the wrong direction. But I have to do something, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life settling for comfort and stagnation (though that is my natural inclination). Thank you for the encouragement.

      • Den Says:

        Yes, every direction is away when he used to be the center. It is like standing at the North Pole, a step in any direction is South (not metaphorically, although it certainly may feel like that).

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