Stepping From The Known Into The Unknown

Ever since I came to look after my nonagenarian father after the death of my life mate/soul mate, I’ve been looking forward to a time when I would be free of all responsibility and would be able to do whatever I wanted (within the bounds of my meager resources). I’ve daydreamed about living a nomadic life, traveling around in some sort of camper or van or even a car with a comfortable back seat. I’ve daydreamed about epic walks, imagining myself thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, the California/Oregon/Washington coastal trails, the breadth of the USA. I’ve daydreamed about just heading out and letting the path form before my feet as I journeyed into the unknown.

Ventura Pier at SunsetNow that my father is gone and I’m on the brink of that new life, I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly I expect to gain from an adventurous life (particularly since I am anything but adventurous). It wasn’t until a mentor left a comment on my A Little of a Lot of Things blog post that I realized what I wanted.

She wrote: Listing priorities is something you’ll be doing the rest of your life. You have plenty of time. Beginning with familiar things is a good step, as it’s always easier to step from the known into the unknown than to springboard into a whole life of new things all at once. You’re doing fine. Trust your instincts.

I realized I don’t want to start with familiar things. I want to jump off the precipice of the known and land gently in the middle of a whole new life filled with amazement, joy, and wonderful new things.

Such a childish wish! Not easy to do and probably not feasible, either. I know we take ourselves with us wherever we go, but I’d hoped an epic journey with all its challenges would change me into something . . . other. Other than what I am now, I mean. Other than a sad woman who has endured too much loss too fast. Other than a lonely woman who is neither jaded nor bored, just . . . tired. Other than an earth-bound woman who seems to have misplaced her power of uplift.

But life doesn’t work that way. We are always who we are. I’ve lived a creative life and lived life creatively. That will never change. But I’d like to be uplifted, amazed, excited, entranced by life once more. Cripes, it sounds like I want to be young again, doesn’t it? But I don’t. I just seem to have lost the power to feel the daily miracles. I can still be appreciative, still be grateful, but how many times can one feel totally uplifted and awed by a sunset before it becomes ordinary? A hundred? A thousand? Ten thousand? How many times can one feel the new grass beneath her toes and feel the wonder of being on this earth? After a while, it simply feels like . . . grass.

The older we get, the quicker things go from awesome and new to comfortable and familiar, from comfortable and familiar to entropy and stagnation. I’m sure my efforts at living creatively will stave off both entropy and stagnation, but I want more than a life spent staving.

The alternative to springboarding into a completely new life would be to take things one step at a time, savoring each new step into the unknown until it becomes comfortable, then taking another step into a  new unknown. And that is doable.

Today marks the beginning of a new year. Think about it, and you’ll realize it’s true. The calendar might not change, the year number might have already changed, but this is the beginning of the year 1/13/15 to 1/12/16.

So happy new year! Wishing all our dreams begin to come true, one step at a time.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter Am I. Bertram 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.