Stardust of Reality

I’ve been going through an upsurge of unbelonging lately. I first experienced this unbelonging after Jeff died, when I lost the feeling of belonging to someone, to a place, to life itself. This needing to feel as if I belong somewhere is one of the main reasons I’ve focused for so many years on the dream of an epic walk/hike — I hoped such a trek would help me feel connected to the earth in a more fundamental way. And I needed something bigger than me in my life.

Couplehood is bigger than either of the partners, and when we lose that connection, not only are we set adrift in an alien world, we are set adrift in a life that suddenly seems so much smaller than it was. Grief’s immensity gives an illusion of connection to our deceased life partner, but as grief wanes, the unbelonging becomes even more apparent.

Hence, my need for the dream of an epic walk. Now that I have whittled that dream into something I can handle — just a few miles — it is no longer bigger than my life. (Going from “impossible” to a couple of days on the trail was an incredible step, but it is still 2,645 miles short of the dream of thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.)

I didn’t mind when I just had the dream of thru-hiking the PCTrather than the reality, because that way, I never had to think about what came next. But now I know — life as usual. That’s what comes when the dream ends.

And so here I am. Once again, feeling unbelonged.

Someday I hope to get strong enough do a longer backpacking trip, but for now, I have other things I need to concentrate on, such as my new book about grief.

I’m still at the preliminary stage, which means I’m thinking about the book and trying to arrange it in my head. I’ve also been going through blogs and emails, looking for topics to include in the book. As I was going through emails from a woman who encouraged me in my grief journey, who kept me focused on the need to grieve rather than to hide from the pain (and made me see that my grief posts were neither whiny nor self-indulgent but necessary for me and for my readers), I came across the following comment:

“You belong, my friend, simply because you are part of the stardust of reality!”

sky space dark galaxy

I love that — “stardust of reality.” It’s something to keep in mind as I navigate this post-dream stage of my life.

And who knows, maybe I’m setting myself up for a new dream, a new reality.

Last night I got a text from my sister that included a screenshot of comments on my blog where people mentioned how adventurous I was. She said, “Apparently, I’m not the only one who sees you as an adventurist.”

I responded, “Apparently, I am the only one who thinks I am a bit of a fraud. But I tell a good story.”

She texted back, “We—all of us—think on some level we are frauds. No joke.”

Later, much later, I realized that when it comes to writing, I don’t feel like a fraud.

That should tell me something about where to look for belonging.


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 “Stardust of Reality”

  1. Janet Griffin Says:

    I want you to know that I’m sorry for the loss of your husband Jeff. I just read this article and I feel like I do not belong that when I had the sudden loss of my dear husband three years ago
    going on four year now come November 2018 it still seems like yesterday. I never had a chance to say good-bye but me it will never be good-bye. I felt so joyful and happy before he passed away, I felt like we were a team. I carry on but it is not so easy.
    I find you to be very courageous, with your hiking, your writing and publishing books, your blog and I am sure so many other things you do.
    When I find out what others are doing or have done who lost their spouse. It makes me wonder if I will ever get beyond where I am at this moment. I feel that I am still in a state of grief and longing.
    I wanted my husband and I to grow old together. It was not in my control. I find the weekends very hard as we used to do a lot together on the weekends. Just the sound of his voice so many other things I truly miss. I know I am blessed and have so much to be thankful for. I still want my husband something that I have no control. Thank you for your encouraging blogs.
    As someone quoted to you Pat, “you are part of the stardust of reality. As for me I have not found myself yet.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Janet, after three and a half years, you have just reached the starting line to going beyond where you are now. Those first years are more about feeling the amputation of your husband being ripped from your life and processing what happened to you, Know that you are where you are supposed to be. The idea that we can get over grief quickly, the very thought that we can “move on” when we are still yearning for the life that seemed to have been promised us, is so wrong. It’s as if we were catapulted off Earth into an alien world far, far away, and we are supposed to immediately “get over it.” Nope. It takes years. (If you’ve haven’t already, please read this blog post Grief is incredibly complex. It’s not just an emotional reaction, but also spiritual, physical, mental. If the connection is strong enough, we feel as if we are standing with one foot in eternity with our beloved, and one foot here, a precarious balance at best. Gradually, as you do more things (things that you and your husband didn’t do together) you move further away from the edge. I’m not sure you ever get over the yearning. It’s been more than eight years for me, and just last night I had a tearful moment, desperately wanting to go home to him. But it’s not an option. Be patient with yourself. Grieve when you need to. Try new things when you can. And you will find some sort of renewal. I promise.

  2. Kathy Says:

    That’s pretty awesome that you feel like you belong as a writer and you should because that is you for sure! I admire that about you. But so many writers and musicians experience the “imposter syndrome.” And I’m so very sorry if anything I said added to your feeling of uncoupled loss. While different, I do remember what that felt like after my divorce (even though it was a triumph to be out of that marriage) and I so longed to be coupled again but in a loving, supportive relationship. Having said all of that, I’m reminded that often artists only truly feel at home or where they belong when they’re in the act of creating their art – writing or creating music. Anyway, I’ve rambled on… But I wish you well on your next pursuit.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Kathy, no need to apologize. You have never made me feel bad about anything! In fact, you so often make me feel good about myself. And I love rambles — that’s when the truth comes out. My problem with writing is that I sell so few books. With books, there is such a tremendous outlay of time and energy for so little reward that it makes the whole thing seem futile. That could be why I love blogging so much — blogging is immediate, there is no expectation of a financial payoff, people actually read what I write, and the rewards are commensurate with the time expended. But still, I will expend whatever energy necessary for this new book. I do think it will be important, and I do have insights into grief that I’ve never come across before.

      Thank you, as always, for your kind words!

  3. Terry Jean Allard Says:

    You wrote: I realized that when it comes to writing, I don’t feel like a fraud. Hold that thought close and dear because it is so true! I have related to the following song lyrics since my husband died three years ago. I often say them aloud or to myself when I feel bottled up enough to explode or implode.

    I’m so tired but I can’t sleep
    Stand’in on the edge of something much to deep
    Funny how we feel so much but cannot say a word
    We’re scream’in inside but can’t be heard

    A hike is a hike is a hike…one mile,ten miles, a whole coast….your gift to you. Your writing is your gift to all of us…we can feel heard when we cannot form the words we so desparately need to express!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      “A hike is a hike is a hike…one mile,ten miles, a whole coast….your gift to you. Your writing is your gift to all of us.” Such a lovely thing to say. It brought tears to my eyes and helped put my life into perspective. (And gives me the courage to write this book. Looking back at all those years of grief is going to be way harder than I thought it would be.) Thank you!

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