Settling In, Not Setting Out

A blog I wrote the other day reminded me of one I’d written a long time ago called “The Importance of Being Important,” and I wanted to quote from that old post. I never did find the post; apparently, I had planned to write it, had written the title down on a list of blog topics that eventually got thrown away, and then I forgot all about it. I have no idea what I wanted to say about why we need to be important, but at one time, the idea must have been important to me.

I do think we humans have a need to feel important — to ourselves, if no one else. Importance could be tied in with a need for purpose, for being needed, for feeling that life does mean something, because feeling as if we aren’t important in the scheme of life is a crushing burden.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. In searching for that non-existent post in my archives, I came across essay after essay about my dreams for an epic adventure, plans for such an adventure, preparation for such an adventure, as well as actually setting out on various ventures. It struck me how different my life is now, and how different I am. Instead of setting out to experience more of the world, I am settling in to a world of my own making.

Even if it’s not actually a world I am making, it’s definitely a home — a place of refuge, a place where I belong, and most especially, a place that connects me to the rest of the world. In that respect, it is a way of experiencing more of the world, or at least experiencing the world in a different manner.

After Jeff died, I was afraid of settling down. Since I was well aware of my penchant for being a quasi-hermit (though it’s possible it’s more laziness than an actual penchant because sometimes it takes too much energy to be social), I feared that in settling, I would become a crazy cat lady (sans cats, of course, since I don’t want that much responsibility) and that when my expiration date came, weeks would go by before anyone would know I was gone. Luckily, I have neighbors who keep an eye out for me, and anyway, the role of crazy cat person in this neighborhood is already taken by a man who lives across the street.

[If I ever do write my small-town novel, there are certainly plenty of archetypes to choose from — the aforementioned crazy cat person; the hoarder who won’t let anyone in his house; the neighborhood talker; a generous and civic-minded man and his greedy slumlord brother; the tireless club woman who is active in just about every organization in town; the neighborhood drug dealer and thief. Except for the clubwoman, all the characters are men, which puts a bit of spin on the archetypes.]

Until the Bob issue, I did a good job of finding people to socialize with, but oddly, it’s my place itself that makes me feel as if I am settling in (which to me means taking an active interest in making a comfortable life for myself) rather than settling down (which to me connotes staidness and passively accepting the status quo).

The place seems almost like a presence in my life, as if it wraps itself around me in a comforting way. (I’m laughing here. That sounds almost like the premise of a horror story rather than a pleasant feeling, and perhaps, that’s how crazy old ladies living alone become crazy.)

It’s still early days, of course. I have been here less than three years, and I am just now beginning my journey into elderliness, so who knows how the experience of settling in will turn out. But so far, although I sometimes miss the excitement of setting out, settling in has been good for me.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

6 Responses to “Settling In, Not Setting Out”

  1. Uthayanan Says:

    Nicely written. If I can understand your photo as a figurative expression you have a long way to go with your life. But nicely settled the way you want. It is important to have a peaceful life. People interested in intellectual occupations it is difficult to look after animals in company without help. It was same for my wife. With pandemic it is not easy to have some excitement as you feel like. Like you cultivate your garden sooner or later you will find your excitement world which you feel like. I hope you have nicely settled to write a bestseller ?
    (I am calm at home but I couldn’t sleep well may be with full moon with longest partial lunar eclipse)

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I hadn’t thought about animals in such a way, but you are right — for someone who lives in her mind as much as I do, looking after animals would not be peaceful at all. People keep telling me I should get a cat or dog for company, but the responsibility and disruption would be too hard for me.

      The change of seasons as well as a full moon makes it hard for me to sleep, too.

  2. Estragon Says:

    That road pic is oddly compelling. I’ve traveled enough to know there’s no perfect place out there, but still…

    As for being important, I think it’s overrated. Maybe because running my own businesses for a long time meant people relying on me for their livelihoods, etc. Selling the businesses and the relief from that responsibility was liberating. Obscurity suits me just fine.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      The road is in southern Arizona on the way to Chiricahua National Monument. That was an awesome place! I’m glad I went then because I’d never be able to hike those hills now.

      • Estragon Says:

        Interesting… my wife died the day before we were to do our annual road trip to Florida, but we were already planning a trip to that area for the following year. Maybe someday.

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