Sweating the Small Stuff

I try to live by the saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff,” but sometimes it is impossible to do especially since some of the really small stuff seems to be the biggest stuff.

Some of the small things I am currently sweating are mosquitoes, gnats, and other insects. They wouldn’t be a problem if they left me alone, but already, so early in the season, I am dealing with mosquito bites, gnats up my nose, grasshoppers eating my petunias. (Luckily, so far the petunias are all the hoppers seem to like, though they have nibbled on other plants to see if that foliage were to their liking.) There’s not much I can do about the gnats or the grasshoppers, but I have sprayed permethrin on my gardening clothes (khaki pants rather than my usual black because mosquitoes love black) and I use eucalyptus lemon oil on my face and hands, but they still manage to get me despite those precautions. It’s possible they get into the house at night and feast on me then, but I’ve only seen one mosquito in the house so far. (Although I would never hurt a fly, I have no compunction about offing critters that drink my blood.)

Another small thing that I sweated was an eyelash that got caught in my eye. I couldn’t get it out last night, though after a while I couldn’t find it anymore, so I thought perhaps I’d removed it without knowing I’d done so. Today, however, I woke up with a sore eye. I finally found the lash masquerading as an inflamed blood vessel. I eventually managed to work it over to the corner of my eye where I was able to scrape it off. That is one “small stuff” I had to sweat because it’s not good to have something foreign in one’s eyes.

And yet another small thing that looms large is that each of the past few evenings, I’ve had tearful moments of missing Jeff. After eleven years, most people would think that missing him should no longer be an issue, especially since I’m doing okay, but occasionally it is. I’ve been trying to be upbeat, to see the good in my present life, to not look back but not look forward, either. Neither looking back nor forward does me any good. There is nothing I can do about the past because it’s done and there’s nothing I can do about the future because that is out of my control. Besides, aging is a factor in my future, though people often disagree and tell me that it isn’t. The truth is, looking to the future, I can see myself getting older and feebler and trying to do the best for myself with diminishing strength and energy, and that’s not something I want to dwell on now.

So I look to today, but sometimes, as it has the past few evenings, that concentration on today seems . . . phony. As if I’m trying to be someone I’m not.

Still, there’s nothing I can do about Jeff being gone, and all I can do about missing him is let myself feel bad for a few minutes then dissipate the sadness with some sort of activity. Last night I dissipated those sad energies with dusting the furniture and dry mopping the floors.

Nor can I do anything about the other small stuff I’m sweating, including literally sweating — it was already eighty degrees when I went out to water the garden this morning. (It’s now 95 degrees Faranheit, 35 Celcius.)

Although a more positive or upbeat attitude seems phony to me, as if I’m not being true to myself, I tend to think it’s not really phony but simply another way of dealing with whatever comes my way. And what’s coming my way, for the most part, are a few flowers here and there.

I am glad to have the flowers, and glad that the hoppers around here aren’t as voracious as they were where Jeff and I lived. I blamed myself for my inability to grow a garden back then, thinking it was due to a brown thumb, but it was actually due to the large, brown grasshoppers that ate everything down to the ground, even the three-foot trees we planted. (The only things they left alone were lilacs and Siberian elms.) So I am grateful that I’ve managed to grow anything!

See? Even in a post about my various “small stuff” troubles, I end up with a glad and grateful attitude, though that wasn’t my intention.

Phony or not, that seems to be the way I am now.

***

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

Remembering

During the past couple of years, I have tried to concentrate more on what I have gained rather than all that I have lost. The tally is still vastly weighted on the loss side, but good things have happened, such as finding a house and creating a home for myself.

The past few days, however, melancholy has gotten hold of me, and I remember the losses. I don’t know whether the plethora of dark clouds and rainy days are responsible or if it’s merely one of “those” times. That this is Memorial Day is entirely coincidental. In fact, I didn’t even remember it was Memorial Day until I went to the library and found it closed. Besides, although Memorial Day has become a day to remember all our dead, its original intent was a day for remembering those who died for their country in any of its various wars.

It’s true that most of my “losses” are loved ones who have died in the past decade or so — my parents, my brothers closest to me in age, and Jeff, of course — but there are other profound losses during those same years that still shape my life, such as the destruction of my arm (though I have become used to the deformity and the remnants of pain), the lack of dance classes, the inability to hike long distances, and losing my home not once but twice (once when Jeff died and once when my dad died). The home loss is especially poignant in an area where families have remained for generations. They might not have lived their whole lives in this very town; they might have come from a nearby town, but to someone who is new to the area, this seems inconsequential. It’s not as if they moved hundreds of miles. They are still within reach of where they grew up, within reach of family and memories.

But this isn’t about them. It’s about me feeling the losses and me feeling lost. Although I didn’t list it with my losses above, I think one of the greatest losses is of myself. Grief changes a person. Being semi-nomadic changes a person. Being isolated changes a person. Owning a home changes a person. I am getting used to who I have become and am still becoming, but it’s not the me I remember being all those years with Jeff. Somehow, our being together allowed me to be a truer version of me than I’d ever been before. I tend to think I am again living a true version of myself, but it’s a different version, one that sometimes strikes me as being . . . not me.

It might be that I spend too much time alone. Although I am comfortable living alone, I must admit I still miss having someone to do nothing with. Sometimes I have someone to something with, but those days of doing nothing in particular with someone are long gone. There are so many little nothings in a day — miniscule victories or insignificant happenings that aren’t worth talking about, but that we want to mention anyway. And there are times when we’re sad or lonely or restless, and just want a moment’s connection — perhaps nothing more than a shared look — before continuing our daily tasks. I can call people or text them, but it’s not the same thing. By the time I make the connection, the moment of nothing has become something.

I don’t mean to sound as if I feel sorry for myself. I don’t really, at least, not much. I just think it’s important to occasionally stop and remember what once was and is no longer.

***

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

My Formative Years

I did not grow up watching television. My father refused to have a set in the house until we all left home because he did not want us to have that sort of influence in our lives. Some of my siblings went to a friend’s house after school to watch, but I didn’t. Any free time I had — then and now — I spent reading. Consequently, it’s given me a different worldview from most people my age (and younger) because we had completely different influences in our formative years. Well, our early formative years. As far as I can see, I am still in my formative years, though I can’t really say what I’m being formed into. I just know that I am not yet a finished product.

Despite my disclaimer of not watching television, over the years I have managed to get a sampling of the programming I missed. One such program was “All in the Family.” I think about this particular show whenever I put on my socks and shoes. (It seems odd to say socks and shoes rather than shoes and socks, but since socks go on first, it seems as if “socks” should be listed first.) The episode I saw was Archie Bunker berating his son-in-law (at least, that’s who I think the younger man was) about the way he put on his socks and shoes. Like me, the young fellow put a sock and shoe on one foot, and then put a sock and shoe on the other foot. I’m not sure why the character put his shoes on that way, but for me, now that I’m getting older, it’s simply easier to do one foot at a time.

It’s weird to think that putting a foot on a knee, pulling on a sock, then putting the foot down, putting the other foot on a knee, pulling on that sock, then putting that foot down, and then repeating all that motion to put on shoes has become so arduous that it’s simply easier to do one foot at a time. Yet, for me, it is so.

Still, Archie Bunker wouldn’t approve; he claimed it was a stupid way to put on socks and shoes. “What if the second sock has a hole in it?” he asked his son-in-law to the accompaniment of a raucous laugh track. “Then you’d have to take off the first shoe and sock and do it all over again.”

Even though he does have a point, I continue do it the “wrong” way, at least according to Archie. There have been times the second sock did have a hole in it, so I’d limp to my dresser — one shoe on and one shoe off — and drag out another sock. Luckily, I buy socks in batches, so chances are there will be another matching sock in the sock drawer, but if there isn’t, I’ll wear an unmatched sock of the same color because really, if anyone is close enough to my feet to notice that two white or two black socks don’t exactly match, then I have a greater problem than unpaired socks. On occasion, though, I do take off the shoe to go get another sock, but that’s because I don’t like tracking dirt around the house, and has nothing to do with the right sequence of putting on shoes and socks.

Come to think of it, perhaps my father had the right idea about no television. If a single episode of a single show has this sort of influence, I can’t imagine what a steady diet of television programming would have done to me in my formative years.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Nothing Comes from Nothing

Deep thoughts as well as “duh” moments can come from the most mundane actions.

This morning I was walking around the house, waiting for it to heat up, and I marveled at my good fortune to own such a place. I wondered what I had done to deserve such largesse, but the truth is, none of us ever truly deserve either the good or the bad that happens to us. The best we can do, I think, is survive the bad times and be grateful for the good.

Because of this internal discussion, I found myself humming the refrain from that song, “Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could.”

And that’s when my thoughts went into a whole other direction. If nothing can come from nothing, where did we get something? It’s not possible to have nothing and then have something because something has to come from something. (This is not a religious discussion — I know all the various religious beliefs. This is just my mind playing games with me.) So I got to thinking that neither infinity nor time (assuming time exists and isn’t just a construct of our minds) can be a straight line because a straight line connotes a beginning if not an end. So I thought infinity had to a circle. And then, as I continued down that same mental path, I thought that infinity was probably more akin to a mobius strip than a circle, and that’s when the “duh” hit.

The symbol for infinity is a mobius strip — a sideways 8 — a structure that has no beginning and no end.

And I knew that.

Of course, then there is the whole discussion of where time and the actual figure eight structure of the universe came into being, if in fact it did, but I think I’ll stop here around about where I began, somewhere in the middle of the mobius strip I call my mind.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Fountain of Youth

I’m reading a book about a group of scientists who discovered the so-called fountain of youth. I say “so-called” because it wasn’t a fountain, it was an injection of a substance that prevented telomeres from malfunctioning or wearing out. From what I understand, telomeres are a compound structure at the end of chromosomes that keep the long strands of DNA from getting tangled during cell replication. When they malfunction, you get cancer. When they wear down, you grow old. Apparently, if there is a way to keep telomeres at peak performance, you won’t get cancer, won’t grow older, won’t get any of the diseases of old age. You wouldn’t be immortal, of course, since you could die from any number of other causes, such as car accidents or non-DNA-related diseases. And I suppose you’d have to be especially careful of yourself to keep from being like the women in the movie Death Becomes Her.

Although it was an interesting premise, the story breaks down because the only way this group of exceedingly smart “immortals” thought of to keep their eternal youthfulness from being discovered is to find younger doppelgangers every twenty years or so, kill them off, and take over their identity. Ignoring the immorality and illegality of such a drastic solution, there would be myriad problems, such as fingerprints not matching. (I almost didn’t get my driver’s license renewed because my thumbprints didn’t match. They finally figured out that the previous thumbprint was printed at the tip rather than the meat of the thumb like the current print.)

It reminded me of a novel I once planned to write. I’d have to check my notes to find out why this particular character didn’t age (I think it had to do with a project they were working on that killed everyone else in the lab and left her unable to get older), but I do remember the first scene. She’s in a stall in a restroom while people she knows are primping at the mirror and talking about her, something to the effect of, “Who is she trying to kid? All that makeup she wears doesn’t fool me. She’s nowhere near as young as she pretends to be.” The character in the stall realizes it’s time to move on because the truth is she is trying to hide her age. The heavy make-up is to make her look older rather than younger.

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

Mostly I’m wondering if such a serum were available, would you take it? Would you want to be eternally young? To live forever, or as forever as possible?

I wouldn’t, though to be honest, I wouldn’t mind finding a true fountain of youth. I wouldn’t drink the water, though I might bathe my cheeks to plump them up (I don’t mind my wrinkles, but the crepey skin on my cheeks is sort of creeping me out.) And I’d like to bathe my legs in the water to keep them young, but for the rest of it, not so much.

In a way, I’m viewing the experience of aging the same way I now view grief. Although grief was utterly painful and angst-ridden while it had me in its grip, I’m glad I had the experience. It was way beyond anything I could have ever imagined, way beyond anything I’d ever read about. I tend to think aging is the same. As long as a self-aware person retains her ability to think and can process what she is thinking and feeling, it could be (and is) interesting to see some of the changes — not just physically but mentally and emotionally.

Besides, I think eternity could be utterly boring. I mean, what do you do with eternity? It’s the same thing I’ve wondered about when it comes to after-death eternity, though with pre-death eternity, at least you have a body to do things with, emotions to experience, things to see and hear and taste, but after a while, all things pall.

Even more than that, either you stay away from people entirely and miss out on the joy of love and friendships, or you remain alive while everyone you know and will ever know ends up dead. All that grief would be too much to handle, and if it isn’t, if one can lose and keep on losing without ever being affected, would life be worth living?

I guess I’m lucky in that I won’t ever have to make this choice, though in a certain sense, I make it every day because every day I do something to try to improve my life, my body, my mind. As far as I know, that’s all anyone can do without having access to a fountain of youth.

***

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

Becoming the Matriarch

Getting old is a weird thing. When you’re very young, the old seem to be a fixture; after all, you never saw them when they were young. As far as you know, they were always old. Oh, you do see photos, perhaps, but those photos seem to have little to do with the old folks in your life. All you really know is that you are young and they are old.

In fact, it often seems as if they were born old, as if old is what they were supposed to be, when the truth is, you were born young. Still, despite what we learn of history, whether our personal history or world history, it seems as if the world begins when we are born.

As time goes on, we do get a sense of the progression of life. We grow older, learn to walk and talk, and eventually we go to school. Sometimes we get younger brothers and sisters, and we are puffed up with our oldness. We try so hard to grow up, especially if we have an older sibling, because we want to be as old as they are. We want their privileges, such as they are. And then, the big birthday comes, and even though we are a year older, so is the sibling.

And so the years pass.

Then one day you wake to the realization that you are the old generation. In the back of your mind there’s still the image of the world you were born into, where you were young and the old were old. So how is it possible that the world has suddenly become inverted?

After Jeff died, I was afraid of growing old alone, but now I’ve gotten used to the idea, and although the thought of being old doesn’t worry me, being old and feeble does. Luckily, I have been able to bypass the feebleness for now (though with my wonky knees, sometimes I sense a less than active future).

I am confused, though. How can I be the matriarch of my family — the oldest living female? There are cousins somewhere who are older than I am, but for the most part, everyone who is older than me — parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older brother — are all gone now.

And I am now that old woman who so mystified me when I was young.

To be honest, many of my youthful years seem to have disappeared, not just out of sight but out of mind, so perhaps the truth is what I once sensed about other elders — that I am a fixture; that I did in fact appear on this earth as an old woman. And there’s no one who was alive when I was born to tell me otherwise.

With any luck, I will continue to grow older, and if enough years pass, I will look back to this time as a relatively youthful one. The ninety-year old woman I sit with says I am just a kid, so perhaps I really am still relatively youthful.

But none of that mitigates the very real fact that I am not only the oldest living female in my family, I’m also the oldest of anyone, male or female.

Does this blog post have a purpose? None that I can see. It’s just that once I was so young that everyone in my family (and the world, too!) was older than I was. And now?

Maybe it’s best if I stop thinking about this.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

Celebrating My 3,000th Blog Post

As the title of this blog post indicates, this is my 3,000th blog post. It seems amazing to me that I’ve managed to find so much to write about. It seems even more amazing that after writing all those words, as well having written nine books (all published!), that I don’t feel wiser. But then, becoming wiser was never the goal. The goal was simply to write, and that I have done.

When I was a kid, I often used to get diaries for Christmas. I loved those books with the little key that could lock one’s thoughts away. I always started out disciplined, writing a bit every day, but gradually, perhaps after the first week or so, the entries became fewer and fewer. And always, most of the pages remained blank.

It’s not surprising, really. When one is so young, there’s not really much to say. “I went to school.” “I went to church.” “I did my homework.”

I hadn’t yet learned to try to work out my feelings on paper. In fact, I hadn’t yet learned my feelings were valid. Life just is, when one is so young. You don’t know that life can be different. You don’t know that you can be different. Each day seems so much the same, with the same drudgeries being replayed and replayed again. School. Homework. Chores.

I suppose I could have written about the books I was reading, but I had not yet learned to be critical. I read in the same way I breathed: inhaling without thinking about it.

When I grew up and left town for a while, I used to write letters to good friends, telling about my trials and tribulations, but after a friend found some of my old letters and read them back to me, as if expecting me to share her hilarity at my naivete, I stopped writing my thoughts and feelings to anyone, not even myself. I still talked about such things, but I never again wanted a record for anyone to laugh at. (She thought I would like to know how much I had grown after the letters had been written, but I didn’t see that at all; I only saw that the younger me with all that angst had become a figure of fun.)

And yet here I am, telling the world my every thought, my every pain, even my triumphs.

Although this blog — this weblog — was not supposed to be anything more than a platform for my author-ity (authorness?), it became so much more after Jeff died — a scream of pain, a way of finding sanity in the chaos of grief, a place to tell the truth about what I was feeling. Later, as the pain abated, it became a way of tracking my growing will to live, to become someone who could survive — and thrive — alone.

Even later, it became something of a travelogue, as I wrote about my various road trips, and later still, it became the chronical of first-time homeowner.

What I have ended up with, after all these years, is that diary I never had the discipline to keep when I was younger. I seldom go back and read older articles, but they are here if I ever need to remember all I have done in the years after Jeff’s death.

Mostly, though, I just write for the day. It has become a way of standing tall, and saying to the world — and myself — “This is who I am right now.”

And who I am right now is someone who is celebrating her 3,000th blog post.

***

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

Respecting My Years

I am rapidly approaching that “elderly” birthday, the one that can no longer be kindly categorized as late middle age. For the most part, I don’t notice a difference, but there are some interesting dichotomies. My memory is slowing down, especially when it comes to short-term memory, and I am a bit slower in thought, but on the other hand, I think that I think better, if that makes sense. I’m also a bit slower physically, some of which is due to age and some to my perception of age, by which I mean that I am respectful of my years and try to make accommodations, even if they aren’t strictly necessary.

For example, I have no trouble shoveling my sidewalks, and yet I won’t go walking in the snow unless I must, and if I do have to, I make sure to wear non-skid hiking shoes and use my dual trekking poles. I also make sure to carry my single hiking pole whenever I am out in the dark or in any other possibly adverse condition, though to simply take a walk on a good weather day, I leave it behind. (People call it my cane, which I object to because a cane seems such an elderly thing to carry, but I suppose technically it is a cane since I’m using it in the city to help with my balance as I navigate broken sidewalks and bumpy streets.)

Now that my knees are doing better, I could probably climb stairs without too much trouble but I am very careful when I’m on stairs, walking up or down like a very old-elderly woman instead of a young elderly one.

Knowing how easy it is to trip, I try to be aware of what I am doing, even when walking around the house. I pay particular attention to the sill between the kitchen and dining area; it’s the sort of thing old women tend to trip on, and after such a fall, too many of their lives are never the same.

Sometimes I worry that respecting my years and acting like an old woman will age me more rapidly, but I tend to think it’s better to err on the side of caution even if I move slower than I could. Of course, accidents happen to even cautious people, but I can’t worry about every little thing — otherwise I’d never do anything! But still, I am trying to respect my many years of living so I can be around to enjoy more of them.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive? Would you even want to?

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

A Princely Pattern

I’ve been reading children’s books published around the turn of the twentieth century, and it surprises me how philosophical and mystical so many are, including two books I remember from my own childhood. One book, The Little Lame Prince, I remember reading several times; I even remember where it was place on the shelf in the public library. Years later, I went looking for the book in that library and couldn’t find it. Back then, I thought that libraries kept all books ad infinitum, but now I know that simply is not feasible. I must have told my mother about the book, because one day when I was in my forties, she handed me a red book and told me, all smiles, “Look what I found at a yard sale.”

Yep. The Little Lame Prince. Not surprisingly, I wasn’t impressed with the book. After all, it was a children’s book and whatever I had gleaned from it when I was young no longer seemed relevant. I don’t know what happened to the book. I’m sure I gave it away as I do with all my books once they’ve been read to saturation, though now I wish I had the book if only because my mother had thought of me when she saw it.

Now, oddly, the book seems relevant again. Or at least interesting from a scholarly point of view. The book is about — ta da! — a little lame prince. The author in no way panders to the child, either the character or the child who is reading the book, but instead instills in him the need to accept what he can’t change, that comfort came by seeing “the plain hard truth in all its hardness, and thus letting him quietly face it.” Such an odd sentiment (without being sentimental) for an old children’s book, but oh, so true! It’s what I’ve been saying about grief: it’s important to face it, to feel what you are feeling, and for others to let you feel the harshness of grief without their trying to cajole you into a better frame of mind.

Something else that struck me is the sentence: “The plan of this world is infinite similarity and yet infinite variety.” It’s something we know without actually thinking about. We know all snowflakes are alike and yet all are different. We know all leaves are alike in their leafness, and yet all are different. In such a way, all people are alike, too. I mean, if you see a person, you know immediately it’s a human being and not a starling or a star (of the celestial type). It’s this similarity and variety that makes it seem as if everyone grieves differently, when in fact, there is great similarity in the grief cycles of those suffering from the death of a spouse.

The other children’s book that particularly struck a chord was The Lost Prince. (Hmm. There seems to be a princely pattern here.) This book is very Zen or Buddhist or anyway, not a typical western way of thinking. The lost prince was brought up to think good thoughts, to be good, to find balance and peace in silence so that he can connect to “the Thought that thought the world.”

It shouldn’t surprise me that this sort of thinking didn’t mean anything in particular to me when I was so very young and reading these books for the first time. It’s possible I understood the message, but it seemed no different from any other message I gleaned from a book; when one is new, all ideas are new and all are treated the same. It’s only as we get older and supposedly wiser that we categorize ideas and things and people, which seems a very unwise thing to do.

It’s also possible that a steady diet of such books at a young age helped create my own rather mystical bent, or at least compounded it.

Whatever the truth of me, my mind, or these books, it’s definitely been a interesting experience, rereading these books and seeing in them the philosophies that helped formed my own life.

***

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

Judgement Call

I sometimes watch television with the woman I sit with several hours a week, and the show of choice is Judge Judy. The most annoying things, of course, are the commercials. The political ads were horrific, but thankfully they are done with, and by the time they return, I’ll probably be finished with this job and with television. Almost as bad as political ads are the drug commercials, with all the happy people dancing around gleefully while the life-threatening side-effects are listed. Most annoying are those sleazy lawyers promising to get me big bucks if only I could get injured in a car accident.

I suppose the lawyer ads make sense, since this show is partly about the law. It’s mostly, of course, about Judge Judy and her sharp bluntness. That sounds oxymoronic, but she is so very blunt in her speech and so pointed in her remarks that her bluntness comes across as sharp. Not just smart as in keen but sharp as in cutting.

As I watch her, I wonder what it would be like to be so very direct. I realize she is a judge, and that it is her show and her courtroom, so what is entertaining coming from her mouth would be downright rude and hurtful coming from me. And above all, I strive not to be rude or hurtful or unkind in any way. If people annoy me, I stay away from them. It gains me nothing to get in their face and tell them what I think of them. Besides, it would probably make me feel worse than it would make them feel.

As I watch the people who stand before the judge, I wonder how I would act if I were one of them. Would I be able to stand there and keep my mouth shut while my opposite number is spouting lies? Would I be seething at the injustice? Would I protest out of turn? Would I be too intimidated to speak up when allowed? I have a hunch I’d be one of those who try to explain too much, to give the context and other background information. A lot of what happens to us can’t be fit into a yes or no situation. There are always gray areas. And yet often, those folks, whether defendant or plaintiff, are only allowed a single word — yes or no.

But none of that matters. I truly doubt I would ever go to a small claims court, would ever apply to be on judiciary show, would ever get a lawyer to try to resolve any situation those litigants get into.

If I lend someone money, I assume it’s lost, and if they pay it back, great. If they don’t pay it back, I will nag them, and if I still can’t get the money back, eventually give that up, too.

I have seldom gotten a deposit back from a landlord — they have almost always managed to find a way to keep it — so I made sure any deposit was an amount I could afford to lose. Now that I own a house, I don’t have that sort of problem, for which I am eternally grateful.

I do have a contractor who doesn’t always show up when he says he will, but I couldn’t sue him even if I wanted to (which I don’t) because I don’t have a written contract. And anyway, we’ve become friends. Whenever I need something done immediately (like a leaky toilet) that goes beyond what would be contracted for, he does without question. A friendship like that helps take some of the stress out of home ownership and is not worth jeopardizing.

I’ll probably never have a property line dispute — the first thing I did when I got here was to have my property surveyed, and it is now part of the legal definition of the place.

I’ve been bitten by dogs, my car has been hit by other drivers, and I’ve slipped and fallen and been badly injured, and never have I sued. In fact, that’s a matter of contention between me and a friend because my not doing so comes across as my being contrary rather my making a judgement call. And maybe I am contrary, but I know for sure I’d rather end a fender bender (even when it is the other person’s fault) with a hug rather than an appearance before a judge.

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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