Doing Not Much

It’s been a long time since I’ve done nothing. Every day, there is a compelling item on my calendar — either dance classes or backpacking practice — but ever since I popped something in my thigh on Friday, I haven’t done anything. Well, nothing physical, that is. I’ve been taking it easy, reading and writing. Mostly writing.

I still don’t know what happened to my thigh. The tiny pop I felt/heard was definitely some sort of tear, but it doesn’t seem to have caused major damage. There is no bruise, no pain, no limitation of movement except for the limitations I’ve put on myself. I was concerned about exacerbating the tear, but with no real effects from the pop, I don’t suppose it’s necessary to continue resting. Too bad. I’ve really enjoyed these two days of doing not much.

If all continues to be well, I will go to my dance classes this week and hope that by Friday, I will be able to practice backpacking again without ill effects. Unfortunately, I will probably have to reduce the weight in the pack, so that will set me further back in the conditioning process than I want to be, but better such a setback than shouldering the same poundage and destroying my thigh permanently.

Even if I couldn’t go hiking today, I can do it vicariously through my poor benighted (and gaily bedighted) hero since, oddly, he is setting out on a journey across the desert. (Well, not so oddly considering who the author of this journey is!) Luckily, when I go out to the desert for real, I get to wear clothes that cover almost all exposed skin. My poor hero is clad only in that silly pink and lime green polka-dotted loincloth.

Maybe I’ll write an oasis to give him a break from the relentless sun.

But first . . . more of doing “not much.”

I hope you are having as enjoyable day as I am, and with as little to do.

***

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.

No One to Do Nothing With

When my life mate/soul mate/best friend died two and a half years ago, people often compared my loss to the death of a pet or an aged grandparent or a sibling (all the while snug in the comfort of their own marriages). Some people compared my loss to their divorce. A couple of people even mystified me by comparing my loss to their struggles with alcoholism. Although these comparisons seemed insensitive at the time (I had previously lost both a sibling and my mother, and those losses in no way resembled what I felt after my soul mate died), I now understand people were reaching out to me, trying to comprehend my grief and to put it into a context they could understand.

The wound where his presence was ripped from my soul no longer gapes as widely; the feeling of his total goneness doesn’t haunt me quite so much; the anguish and physical distress has ebbed to an underlying sadness. This easing of grief has unmasked more subtle feelings of loss, and suddenly I can see how this itch to see him once more is comparable to the struggles of an alcoholic. We both  have to live — forever —with a deep craving that can never be satisfied, both have an empty feeling that can never be filled, and we both live in a world where others routinely enjoy what we can’t. (Like all comparisons, this one falls short since those who give up drink have to do so from sheer force of will, while my lack is simply a result of fate.)

I hadn’t realized until after he was gone how much I counted on his very presence.

The sound of his voice filled my ears and my mind. From the moment we met until the cancer metastasized into his brain, we talked and talked and talked. We talked about everything — history, books, health, truth, all the many and various things we researched over the years. Though we said everything we needed to say, I still wish for one more word from him.

During silent times, his smiles nourished my soul. Even at the end, in his moments of lucidity before either the pain or the morphine swept him away, he still managed to smile at me. And oh, how I wish for one more smile.

A couple of days ago I wrote about my growing soul hunger, an indefinable need his presence had once satisfied, and now I wonder if that need is . . . nothing. Although we worked and played and talked for more than three decades , we often did nothing together. Were just there, a presence in each other’s lives. As his dying became the focus of our lives, and we couldn’t do much of anything together, not even carry on a conversation, we could still do nothing together, and we often did.

Although I am finding others to fill some of the roles he played in my life, this last is the role no one can fill. I have people to do things with, but I have no one to do nothing with. And, like an alcoholic, the one thing I need is the one thing I can’t have. He was a presence in my life first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. He was a presence in the kitchen when we fixed meals together. He was a presence when we watched movies or ran errands or did chores. He was a presence in my thoughts — because we had spent so much time together, discussing history and current events, our ideas developed in tandem. And we didn’t have to explain ourselves or our state of affairs — we were there and saw the effects life had on the other.

I understand that this sort of companionship is rare, and I feel greedy and perhaps insensitive for even mentioning the lack of his presence in my life, but this is my truth, my experience, my sorrow. No matter how much I wish things were different, these circumstances will never change, but I will. I am becoming more accepting of my situation, more respectful of the soul hunger, more grateful for what I once had. It’s possible someday I will even get used to having no one to do nothing with.

Nothing For Christmas

I never have enough time for all the nothing I want to do, so I decided to do nothing for Christmas. I am such a procrastinator that I will do anything to keep from doing what I’d planned to do — even if that something was nothing. On Christmas morning, to keep from doing the nothing I had planned, I decided to bake made-from-scratch carrot cake with yoghurt frosting so I would have something to eat when I finally settled down to doing nothing.

Leafing through my cookbook, I came across a recipe for cranberry sauce, and I was surprised to discover how simple it was — boil sugar and water and add cranberries. Seemed like a nice nothing thing to do, so I made the carrot cake and set the cranberries to cooking. Then it dawned on me I didn’t have anything to eat with the cranberries. So I cooked chicken and gravy, and since I just happened to have some stale bread, I made stuffing to go with the chicken and gravy and stuffing. I had to make a salad, too, because a meal is not a feast without fresh vegetables.

While all this was cooking, I happened to notice that the living room needed to be vacuumed, so I . . .

Vacuumed? Of course not. It was Christmas. And I’d procrastinated enough. I grit my teeth, gird my loins, got pumped, and did what I’d planned to do.

Nothing.