The Joy of Discussion

I talked to a long-time friend yesterday. It was truly wonderful to be able discuss all the topics that confound me about today’s world without either of us once raising our voices. (Though I’m ashamed to admit, I did interrupt her more than a time or two.) We didn’t always agree, but we didn’t need to agree to disagree, either. That went with the respect and intelligence we both brought to the discussion.

One thing we both find shocking and appalling is that many of the issues concerning people today, such as the whole systematic racist thing, we thought had been settled long ago. And it had been. In our laws (though perhaps not always in individual cases), all people have equal rights, except when they don’t. Any equality in law (again, not always in action), tends to favor minorities with the various programs aimed at giving people equal representation in government and business.

And yet, here we are — decades after the war on poverty, decades after affirmative action, decades after billions of dollars have been spent to mend some of the discrepancies in our society — and the grandchildren and great-grandchildren who should have inherited the benefits of these programs are worse off than their progenitors. Not all, of course. I’d be interested in knowing what’s the percentage of blacks who have been assimilated into the wider culture of the USA vs. those who have clung to the inner-city culture. I bet there’s a greater percentage than the rhetoric we are being fed would lead us to believe. (It must be appalling to these successful and law-abiding people to be lumped in with the rioters and law-breakers, to be constantly reminded of their victimhood when in fact they don’t believe they are victims of oppression.)

My friend and I didn’t just stick to this topic, of course. We swept through the whole gamut of issues. From MeToo (and the problems of both supporting the movement and yet worrying about how all this hatred toward men will affect boys today and the men they will grow into), the upcoming election, The Bob, and all sorts of other concerns.

But the main topic (at least for me) seemed to be the protests, the riots, and the destruction of lives. (If you destroy someone’s livelihood, if you burn down everything they hold dear, you destroy their life.)

I left the conversation wondering if any of the local rioters ask themselves what they are gaining. (I say local rioters because those coming into various cities to do damage know exactly what they are doing.) Do the local rioters truly want anarchy? Do they really want a city without a police force? Do they really want to bring down this country? Do they really think that destroying small businesses is advancing the cause of minority individuals rather than serving corporate interests? (People are starting to ask who is funding the riots, but that’s no big secret. All you have to do is run a quick search to find out what corporations are contributing to what cause.)

I also realized why all this confuses me — I don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle. For example, last night I read an article mentioning that a Duke University professor had been fired because (among other reasons), some students had complained about his handling of a discussion on race. The complaint? The professor had presented various points of view, which distressed those students who thought there was only one way to think about things.

How was I supposed to know problems such as this exist? I did know most people cling to their opinions without giving credence to anyone else’s. I did know there are those who try to manipulate people into believing that their side is the right side. What I didn’t know is that a certain segment of society simply cannot believe there is another side.

Which is why it was nice talking to my friend. We are both lifelong readers, so we have both lived myriad lives, experienced myriad points of view, cried over injustices. We see sides that others ignore, try to see through other people’s eyes (because that’s what reading does, shows us a different way of seeing). Unfortunately, neither one of us can see a peaceful resolution of this current mess.

But we were able to discuss, to question, to see perhaps a bit of order to the chaos. And that is a rare joy, indeed.

***

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.

Who Visits My Blog

Someone asked me yesterday if anyone reads my blog. She seemed shocked when I told her people all around the world have visited this blog. Most come from the USA and other English speaking countries. Others come from countries I’ve never even heard of, and yet, someone in those countries has heard of me. What an amazing thing the internet is!

Here is a map showing where my visitors originate:

Pink shows visitors, and the darker the pink, the more visitors. Apparently, if I am reading the map correctly, the only places from which no visitors have come are Svalbard, Turkmenistan, Western Sahara, Guinea-Bissau, Chad, and Central African Republic. I find this utterly astonishing. Not to be disingenuous, but I simply can’t imagine being interesting enough to attract so many different people.

Here is the incredible list of countries where visitors have come from. (The number represents visitations only, not views, since often people click on more than one blog entry, and each click is a view):

United States400,695
United Kingdom71,399
Canada47,758
India43,550
Australia27,431
Philippines8,063
Pakistan7,222
Ireland7,190
South Africa5,205
Malaysia4,555
New Zealand4,548
Singapore4,230
France3,868
Germany3,578
European Union2,706
Indonesia2,385
Netherlands2,166
Brazil1,754
United Arab Emirates1,670
Italy1,574
Hong Kong SAR China1,434
Spain1,381
Russia1,358
Norway1,297
Saudi Arabia1,153
Thailand1,140
Nigeria1,,136
Denmark1,130
Sweden1,102
Japan1,095
Vietnam1,089
Bangladesh1,075
Turkey1,015
Lebanon987
Belgium966
Romania935
Mexico901
Kenya882
South Korea839
Switzerland803
Greece772
Poland761
Argentina706
Nepal682
Israel630
Egypt613
Sri Lanka601
Portugal577
Jamaica574
Finland500
Trinidad & Tobago473
Austria462
Taiwan433
Qatar405
Hungary383
Ukraine362
Malta351
Jordan349
Ghana343
Cambodia332
Serbia329
Czech Republic314
Mauritius312
Bulgaria310
China291
Morocco278
Kuwait275
Croatia264
Slovakia242
Puerto Rico236
American Samoa233
Colombia232
Bahrain219
Slovenia216
Oman196
Iraq186
Tunisia186
Albania181
Algeria176
Tanzania172
Chile170
Cyprus160
Bahamas158
Uganda149
Zimbabwe149
Palestinian Territories148
Myanmar (Burma)148
Lithuania147
Estonia135
Georgia126
Iceland124
Latvia124
British Virgin Islands123
Peru117
Macedonia107
Ecuador106
Costa Rica106
Venezuela104
Guyana103
Botswana102
Brunei98
Bosnia & Herzegovina98
Belize96
Panama93
Armenia92
Isle of Man90
Jersey86
Maldives83
Barbados83
Fiji82
Bhutan75
Luxembourg75
Azerbaijan74
Namibia71
Afghanistan70
Dominican Republic67
Zambia63
Syria62
Kazakhstan61
Yemen59
Antigua & Barbuda59
Ethiopia58
Moldova57
Grenada56
Guatemala55
Papua New Guinea53
Malawi52
Guernsey51
Belarus51
Macau SAR China50
Bermuda50
St. Lucia49
Uruguay48
Cayman Islands47
Guam46
Cameroon46
St. Vincent & Grenadines45
El Salvador43
Libya38
Senegal38
Laos34
Lesotho34
Curaçao33
Rwanda32
Montenegro31
Gibraltar31
Bolivia31
Honduras31
Paraguay29
Mongolia27
Aruba27
Nicaragua27
Swaziland26
U.S. Virgin Islands25
Mozambique24
Monaco24
Suriname21
Sudan20
St. Kitts & Nevis20
Dominica19
Côte d’Ivoire17
Seychelles17
Northern Mariana Islands16
Somalia15
Kyrgyzstan14
Åland Islands14
Uzbekistan12
Congo – Kinshasa12
Angola10
Vanuatu9
Madagascar9
Réunion8
Anguilla7
Liberia7
Guadeloupe7
Djibouti7
Solomon Islands6
Caribbean Netherlands6
Faroe Islands6
Sierra Leone6
Turks & Caicos Islands4
Cook Islands4
Haiti4
Benin4
Liechtenstein3
Burundi3
French Polynesia3
Iran3
Gambia3
Gabon3
Cuba3
Martinique2
Sint Maarten2
Tajikistan2
Timor-Leste2
Mali2
Micronesia2
Falkland Islands1
French Guiana1
St. Helena1
Vatican City1
Samoa1
Burkina Faso1
South Sudan1
Mauritania1
Netherlands Antilles1
Niger1
Congo – Brazzaville1
Cape Verde1
Kiribati1
Marshall Islands1
Montserrat1
Greenland1

***

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.

100 Days

There are one hundred days until the end of the year. What are you going to do with those days? Will you finally get around to the New Year’s resolutions you made and promptly forgot? Are you going to slack off, giving yourself permission to take a break from the breakneck speed of your life? Are you going to get going on that novel you wanted to start, continue, finish, or edit? Are you going to make inroads in the pile of to-be-read books on your nightstand, or finally read some of those ebooks you downloaded? Are you going attempt the photography project you always wanted to do? Are you going to blog every day?

That’s what I’m going to do — recommit to blogging every day. I’ve been blogging every day for the past 365 days, and I intend to extend that commitment to the end of the year. (I’ll try to make the blogs interesting because posting something just to post something sort of negates the “challenge” part.) Feel free to join me! We can help each other, offering encouragement or topics when the will begins to wane. And it does. When I was grieving, it was easier to come up with topics than it is now when I am in a more comfortable situation. It’s hard to find lesson in being at peace. I suppose peace is a lesson in itself, but what can you say beyond that you’re at peace?

Still, I do manage to find something to write about. My sincere apologies for the more mindless posts and my eternal gratitude to everyone who reads what I write. A special thank you to those who comment, and a heartfelt appreciation for the thought-provoking responses. It’s always good to have more thoughts in my head than simply those I put there.

Even in a year as difficult and as slow as this one, the days do pass. And in 100 days it will be over. I have no great belief that next year will be better, so it’s not as though I’m counting down to the end of the year in order to get rid of this one. It’s more about taking something besides fear and isolation out of this year. It’s about making this year count, or at least making the last 100 days count. How are you going to make your days count?

***

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

Keeping The Faith

I’m one of those who keeps the faith with language. I say what I mean and I try to live by what I say, though sometimes it’s hard because the inner voice of truth that comes out when I am speaking or writing is often wiser than I am.

I prefer other people to use correct language too, though I realize that’s an old-fashioned concept.

I just read an article that talked about Trump supporters spreading hate because they were getting in altercations with the protestors. So we’re supposed to believe that only Trumpers hate? That the self-proclaimed Marxist protestors who are burning and looting are doing it out of love? Oh, for cripes sake. Has the world lost its mind?

Words no longer mean what they once did. Peaceful once meant . . . peaceful. Free from disturbance. Tranquil. Not burning and looting, not screaming, not blocking emergency entrances at hospitals and chanting: “We hope they die.”

Words have always been plastic, meaning that they can be easily molded or shaped, not the way the word is now used, meaning something hard and indestructible. It seems words are even more plastic than I realized in this gaslighting era, where what we are told is the exact opposite of what we are seeing. For example, I had the misfortune to watch a television news broadcast the other day. They showed someone saying something, and then immediately afterward the newscaster told us the person had said something completely different.

In many cases, I’m one of last to keep the faith when it comes certain words. I say vegetables instead of . . . gag . . . veggies. I never use the outdated and so very sexist term “co-ed.” I don’t use permuted words like “styling,” whatever that means. (I assume it’s good because the other day someone told me my hat was “stylin.” Though with the plasticity of words nowadays, for all I know it could mean that I was wearing the ugliest hat the young woman had ever seen.)

I especially don’t say “love” when I mean “hate.” And I don’t say “peaceful demonstrations,” when I mean that people are rioting. I don’t say “taking what they need,” “expropriating property,” or “reparations” when I mean stealing. (Looting is stealing. To a person with a passing acquaintance with a dictionary, looting means to steal during a riot, and it’s a crime no matter how many people defend the act.)

It’s possible my adherence to words in their proper form and proper meaning is due to the intransigency of age, but it still doesn’t make the actions hidden in these plastic words palatable to me.

I think it’s time for me to pull in my head and channel my inner turtle for a while.

***

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

Signposts of Time

Last year sped by so fast that by the middle of January, I was already seeing the end, and within another month, the year was done. Or so it felt.

Not so this year. Slow. Slow. Slow. The year is progressing so slowly that something as unseasonable as an early snowstorm — not uncommon in Colorado — has thrown me off track. We went from almost a hundred degrees to almost freezing in a single night, and the rain turned to snow. Although it’s supposed to heat up to the eighties and nineties starting tomorrow, for now the dreary days are continuing.

I have an urge to dig out my Christmas decorations, especially my bowls of light and other lighted things like my small tree, because I keep thinking Christmas is almost here.

What a shock to realize that particular holiday is still one hundred and five days away! Halloween and Thanksgiving haven’t even come, and it’s too early to decorate for those days, too. Not that I celebrate any of these holidays — since I’m alone, one day is much like another. It’s more that they are signposts that time is moving along. (I did celebrate Christmas last year, or more accurately, I celebrated having my own kitchen and oven, but I doubt I will do the same this year — although I have been especially careful with my diet the past several months, I still haven’t been able to lose the cookie weight from last Christmas.)

Luckily, the sun will come out again, and though the brightness will dispel my feelings of an imminent Christmas, it won’t do much to speed up this interminable year.

My only choice then, is to take the days as they come. To look at the small picture and focus on the short term (even though my tarot card today told me to look at the big picture and focus on the long term). To enjoy the respite from the heat, and when the heat returns, enjoy the respite from the cold. Because truly, does it matter if last year passed in a flash and this year is moving at slow speed? What does another year get me except another year older and a completely different number for my age?

Come to think of it, that’s the number I don’t particularly want because it’s the one where a person can no longer pretend not to be old. So perhaps, after all, I’ll keep the Christmas things packed away. No sense in hurrying things along.

***

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

A Relative State of Ignorance

A friend texted me yesterday after reading my blog post. She seemed to take exception to my final sentence (Besides, nothing in this new world is more redundant than an old woman, no matter how perspicacious her thoughts might be) and sent me information about Maggie Kuhn, the woman who started the Gray Panthers, as an example of how important an old woman’s ideas can be.

My response? “And yet here we are, still redundant.”

I went on to say, “Actually, I should have qualified my half-facetious closing remark to refer to what’s going on today. In a war for the hearts and minds of the young, the old don’t matter. By the time their brave new world is operational, I’ll be dead.” Though, come to think of it, with the way things are changing so rapidly, I might still be alive enough to be affected by that world. Not a pleasant thought!

I also told my friend: “I have a hard time dealing with things today that I thought were taken care of in my youth, like civil rights, women’s rights, elder rights, environmental issues, and Russian conflicts. It was really a shock after living in the cocoon of Jeff’s illness and death and my grief to come out of it into a world that seems to have regressed tremendously. Russia an enemy? Really? What happened to Glasnost? And civil rights riots? Really? I thought that things had improved, but according to some sources, it’s even worse now than in our younger days.”

She responded: “I couldn’t agree more. The cultural information is not being passed down, I have felt for some time. And each newly read or watched program feels like another piece of who I thought we were as a country and any good memories I do have are taken away. So very hard to put it into words. And never have so many marched for so long in my memory and then I realize they can — because of the pandemic they are unemployed.”

My response: “Funny. I just came to that very same realization yesterday about protests and the pandemic. It’s hard for me to try to refrain from putting a conspiratorial slant on things.”

Her brilliant comment: “Isn’t it? The only thing that saves me is the thought that if we could work together to put on a worldwide pandemic successfully, SURELY we would have made a better world.”

Me again: “What worries me is that this is exactly the world we (they) want.”

The more I think about it, the more some sort of conspiracy seems to be a real possibility, and that the riots (oh, excuse me, the “mostly peaceful protests”) were spontaneously on purpose scheduled for this very time.

Beyond that, it’s not just about the information not being handed down or being unheeded. It’s not just that we thought things were progressing on all the various “rights” fronts and so we forgot about it.

There’s something more at work, and the only thing I can think of is that social progress was not just stalled but undone. Apparently, it’s hard to keep building a power base on the backs of the oppressed if the oppressed are no longer oppressed. So the plan seems to have been to re-oppress people so they can be re-unoppressed. Hence the déjà vu times we are living in. (Déjà vu to us older folks. Something brand new and radical to younger ones.)

Whether I’m right or way, way wrong, I’m beginning to see a bigger picture, big enough maybe, that I can stop thinking about all this, put it to rest in my mind, and go back to my relative state of ignorance, which isn’t as bad as it sounds.

Benjamin Hardy PhD believes that selective ignorance is a good thing. “It’s not the avoidance of learning. It’s also not the avoidance of getting feedback. It’s simply the intelligence of knowing that with certain things and people, the juice will never be worth the squeeze. It’s knowing what to avoid.”

And to me, a lot of what is going on the world today is best avoided even in my thoughts.

I just hope I can act on this resolve for ignorance!

***

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

Does It Matter to Anyone What I Think?

I’ve been thinking about what I wrote yesterday, my being afraid to say what I think. I’m not sure it’s fear, like hiding-under-the-bed fear, that keeps me from talking about the things that worry me. It’s a healthy sense of self-preservation, but even more than that, it’s that I don’t think it matters what I think. It is interesting to talk to people, to get other points of view, to broaden one’s outlook, but when such a discourse is not available, when all people want is to propound their own point of view (emphasis on “pound”), talking doesn’t advance any cause. (Nor does burning buildings, or even oneself, but that’s a discussion for a more benign and less uncivil era.)

In a gale force wind, a puff of breath is not noticed, and certainly won’t help to calm the forces creating the wind. In a ship violently crashing from side to side because of insanely high waves, nothing one can say will rock the boat any further, and certainly won’t help to steady the craft or the people in it.

If what I said (or wrote) really mattered, I might be courageous enough to tell my truth, but when so many people have already made up their minds, locked their mental door behind them, and pulled up the drawbridge against critical thought, a single word or a thousand will not batter down those fortifications.

A greater problem than closed minds is that people hear what they want to hear, filtered through their own value system. They hear a slogan, process what it means to them, and then head out to defend that slogan without ever finding out what that slogan means to the people who wrote it and what their agenda really is. Which means sometimes well-intentioned people fight against their own interests without knowing it.

This is a relatively short blog. I’d written a lot more, even going so far, despite my reservations, as to talk about many of the issues at stake, but in the end, I deleted all that because I realized it truly doesn’t matter what I think. I’m not sure it even matters to me. Nothing I think will change anything. Nothing I say will change anyone’s actions, so is there any point in even thinking about the current situation? It’s not as if I’m young and still have a whole lot of ideological formation ahead of me. I’m pretty much a done deal. I’ve mostly lived my life in my own head, and a lifetime of thinking and reading and researching and studying and writing and being can’t be undone by new/old emotionally-charged slogans or radical groupthink.

Besides, nothing in this new world is more redundant than an old woman, no matter how perspicacious her thoughts might be.

***

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

Being Afraid to Say What I Think

Malcolm R. Campbell, author and fellow blogger, posted an article yesterday entitled, Are you afraid to say what you think?

He mentioned, among other things, penalties imposed on people for exercising their right to free speech, the lack of civility, allowing violence under threat of more violence, and mob-enforced political correctness. He was also brave enough to say that most of us see and hear enough stuff daily to know how and why the problem is larger than what can be put in single blog. And he admitted that he no longer felt safe enough to say how much larger the problem is.

I responded to his blog: I’m certainly afraid to say what I think. I study everything, including both sides of an issue, and often my views end up being on the quiet end of the spectrum rather than the burning-down-buildings end. When I was on FB and shared something interesting that a conservative non-white said, people accused me of being racist rather than seeing that I had just found an alternative point of view interesting especially since it didn’t follow the official narrative. Some people don’t mind causing conflagrations, either real or virtual, but I don’t have the stomach for it. I brood too much. In fact, I’ve been wanting to write a blog mentioning some of the ironies of the current situation, and I simply don’t want to have to deal with the backlash. Or even worse, the quiet condemnations that I don’t hear about until much later. Even more than that, mobs scare the hell out of me, and I certainly don’t want to bring myself to the attention of a flame-wielding, rock-throwing, gun toting mob with but a single mind.

This being loath to speak my mind started long before the current volatile situation, and was a direct result of Jeff’s death.

Jeff was the only person I ever met who I could talk to without censoring myself in some way. No matter how outrageous my opinion might have been, no matter how much it went against the current belief and what we were taught, he always treated my remarks with respect and in fact could come back at me with a clarifying point, a different way of looking at the situation, perhaps even the title of a book I could read that would take my points a step further.

I hadn’t realized how spoiled I was being able to say anything, think out loud, express what to others might be unpopular opinions. It was a freedom I hadn’t found before Jeff and certainly have never found after him.

Some of the things I want to say to people I am conversing with aren’t full-fledged ideas, but rather the beginning of a complex thought buried somewhere in the back of my mind, but even the most intelligent person seldom can get beyond my inciting comment, so we end up arguing a point I didn’t even wish to make until I finally tell them to forget it, to ignore what I said, and let’s agree to disagree. This makes them uncomfortable and leaves me with a nest-full of half-formed ideas with no place to fly.

After a few such misunderstandings during the first years of being without Jeff, I’ve gotten good at gauging what ideas people will accept or not accept. Sometimes, I put a toe (or a claw if I want to keep up with the bird metaphor) in the conversational waters, and quickly draw it back if I find resistance, so generally, I end up listening to people way more than I speak. Because of this, not only can I gauge what people might be willing to accept, I also learn how they think. And all too often how they think is an indication that they don’t think at all; they simply react.

If people today can get killed by doing nothing but wearing the wrong hat or the wrong tee shirt or the wrong smile, then it’s no wonder so many of us are afraid to tell the truth even in our personal online spaces. (Because when it comes to an online space, there is no personal space with unbounded freedom from rancor to say what one wills.)

If I weren’t fearful of hurting people’s feelings or having hatred rained down on my head, I really would like to write a blog discussing some of the ironies of the minority rights issue, such as the way successful minorities, especially conservatives, are called “Uncle Tom”s, as if a person can’t be anything other than the color of their skin, which itself is the basis of racism, right? Adding to the irony, the original Uncle Tom wasn’t an Uncle Tom in the sense it’s used today, meaning a racial sellout, but was instead based on a real life heroic character who died to protect two runaway slaves.

There are many such instances where anti-racists turn out to be more racist than proclaimed racists, sometimes by infantilizing minorities as if they can’t think or do for themselves, which makes it even harder to say anything about the melanin issue without being tarred with the “r” word.

But oops. I’m straying from the point, and perhaps disproving my point in the process, which is being afraid to say what I think.

***

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

Imagined Future

I’ve been continuing my practice of picking one tarot card every day, not so much to learn what is in store for me in the future or to delve into the secret places of my soul, but simply to get familiar with the idea of the tarot. I mean, I have all those decks of cards that my deceased brother collected, so I should do something with them, right? Besides, it’s a way of honoring him and all he wanted but was never able to accomplish.

The most interesting thing I’ve found while doing this exercise is how often I get one of the dire cards one day, such as the nine or ten of swords, and one of the most fortunate cards the next day, such as The Sun.

So far, I haven’t learned much about the cards themselves or myself, just that I refuse to see bad in the bad cards, though I do enjoy seeing good in the good cards. If I get a card that seems to spell disaster, then I keep searching for meanings until I find an interpretation that portends something better. For example, the ten of swords can mean violent accident or death or misfortune on a grand scale, which I won’t accept. It also means that no matter how much we try, we cannot control everything, which I will accept. Not being able to control everything is a truth that can be applied to any situation and a lesson that behooves us all to learn.

Beyond that, I hadn’t realized why I objected to anything to do with foretelling the future until I read this quote:

People didn’t want to know their real future. They wanted to know their imagined future, the one they cherished instead of fearing. — “The True Secret of Magic,” a short story by Joe Edwards

I realized then that foretelling the future is like writing a story. Every story, taken to its logical conclusion leads to death because we all die. If we write the story all the way to that end, the story is a sad one. To make a happier story, we end at a pleasant time in the character’s life. Perhaps a wedding and a belief in happy ever after. Or the solution to a crime and justice for a victim.

Telling the future would be the same. Almost any fortune that doesn’t include specifics, such as telling someone they will be divorced within the year, will fit practically any situation. Almost any future will include happiness and sorrow, success and failure, sickness and health, betrayal and forgiveness. And every future, no matter how sunny and felicitous, ends in death. At least an earthly future does, and that’s what concerns us: how our life will be.

We want the pretty story, a belief that no matter how bad things are, things will work out to some sort of satisfying conclusion. (Isn’t that what we want from fiction, too? A satisfying end to a story, a belief that all the horror the character went through was worth it in the end?)

I know my end, perhaps not the specifics of my expiration date, but that there will in fact be an end to me. Meantime, I try to create my fortune — my future — every day. Even knowing that I can’t control everything, I try to control something — my attitude, my actions, my interactions with people — in such a way that I will have a felicitous fortune.

I don’t need to be told a bright future, and I certainly don’t need to be told a bleak one. Both will happen. Both will affect me. Both will be processed and I will move on to another day, another future.

I suppose if I were young, I would want to know if I’d be pretty, if I’d be rich, if I’d find love and happiness, but those wishful, youthful days are long gone. I once loved greatly, once was loved. I once felt immense joy and experienced vast sorrow. I once shared my life with someone. And now I don’t.

But just as I shy away from foretelling, I shy away from backtelling. In the first case, whatever will be, will be, though my actions today can affect what will be. In the second case, whatever was, was, and my actions today won’t change any of it.

But neither case really matters. What matters is . . .

What matters is . . .

Hmm. I’m not really sure what matters. That I am determined to cherish whatever my future might be rather than fearing it? That right now I am living a future I could never have imagined even a couple of years ago? That I am trying to imagine a comfortable future for myself? (Though if a great present came from nothing I ever imagined in the past, would anything I imagine in the present affect the future?)

Maybe what matters is that I am living as fully as I can, which, apparently includes picking and learning about one tarot card every day.

***

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

Stocking Up

I was talking with friends the other day about our various philosophies of stocking up on food and other necessities. Some of them prefer a huge walk-in pantry, full of all sorts of comestibles. Me? I have a shelf in a small cupboard. I suppose that’s not entirely accurate if you include spices and seasonings as pantry items because that sort of thing resides in a separate cupboard. But for actual foods, those are all but missing.

My refrigerator is mostly empty, too, as is the freezer, which could be why it doesn’t work all that well. In the summer, it’s hard to keep the temperature in the refrigerator compartment below 45 degrees, and in the winter, it’s hard to keep it above 35 degrees, but I am careful about what I keep in the refrigerator so that it doesn’t really matter. I do keep some things in the freezer, but there have been too many times in my life when the electricity went out and food spoiled, so I’m careful not to keep too much frozen food on hand.

Although I think I do have enough food in the house to last me a week if a major storm hit (apparently, storms have closed up the town before, with snow so high people couldn’t get out of their houses), but just in case, I stocked up. Bought two whole cans of beans and two of tuna. (Besides, if I could get out of the house and walk just a bit, I know someone who has a whole larder full of food!)

Apparently, the last such major storm that hit here blanketed all of Colorado. This was a couple of years before Jeff died, and I don’t remember having a problem with food. (Though we did have a problem with the horrible neighbors who plowed the lane and dumped all the snow in front of our driveway so it took us a week to dig ourselves out.) But back then, we did stock up. It was after he died, and I had to try to find a place to donate all the food I couldn’t take with me, that I developed an aversion to excess food storage. The senior center didn’t want the canned goods, the churches didn’t want it, it was the wrong time of year for food banks. I finally found an old woman who said she knew people who could use the food.

Even if the worst happened and I couldn’t get any other food but what’s in the house, I wouldn’t starve. I have a peasant metabolism that is the result of centuries of systematic starvation — the people who survived such times were those whose metabolisms slowed way down when food intake was reduced. Such a metabolism is a curse in times of plenty, but a blessing in times of scarcity.

Despite all this, I wouldn’t have stocked up even to the extent that I did, but this weekend we are going to have record high temperatures followed immediately (immediately meaning within a twelve-hour period) by record lows. A fifty to sixty degree temperature drop. Yikes.

I still have a couple of days before this historic occasion in case I want to stock up even more (maybe buy some mayonnaise to go with that tuna), but I figure I’ve been dealing with The Bob all this time without stocking up, so I’m not worried.

Just out of curiosity, do you stock up or do you just sort of wing it?

***

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