Destination: Joy

I’ve been writing about my problems dealing with my emotionally unstable brother, and the writing has been helping me find peace and sanity in the madness of my current life. Normally, my brother wouldn’t be a major issue, but he is currently camping out in my father’s garage and seems to think I am here for his convenience, to be his scapegoat / sounding board / disciple. When my brother goes into one of his demanding (demented?) states, he continually bangs on my windows for attention. I usually respond to the first few raps, but when he gets abusive, I ignore him. bookHe does not like being ignored, and will pound on my windows until I respond. If I don’t respond, he keeps rapping. Relentlessly.

I’ve been keeping a journal of his actions. The other night he rapped forty-one times. Actually, it was more like 123 times since each time he tries to get my attention, he knocks on three different windows in two different rooms. Finally, he got so angry at being ignored, he broke a window. This panicked me. I was afraid that the patterns of childhood would repeat themselves, and he would be punished unmercifully for his actions.

I’m ashamed to admit, I screamed at him. Until he came here with all his emotional baggage, I haven’t screamed at anyone since childhood, hadn’t even known that it was still in me to raise my voice in such a manner, but I was furious, fearful, faithful to old conditionings I only vaguely remembered. My father had said that if my brother broke a window, he’d have my brother arrested, but when I told my father about the broken window, he just shrugged the matter off, which gives me hope that some of the old patterns of fear and punishment are finally being destroyed. At least in me. I truly do not know if there is hope for my brother because he doesn’t seem to see a need for change.

I came here to my father’s house to look after my aged parent, of course, but I also came for redemption, though I’m not sure what or whom I am trying to redeem. I just know I didn’t want to be carrying the same patterns of thought throughout my entire life, and I somehow felt that looking after my father and allowing him to be as independent as possible would help close the circle of the past. If the universe is unfolding as it should, it might not be an accident that my brother showed up here, too. (In fact, he has often told me he doesn’t know why he is here.) He is a big part of the puzzle of my youth. I’ve always felt torn between my brother and my father, as if I were the rope in their tug-of-war. Each seemed to want my total loyalty, though neither ever really did anything to warrant such loyalty.

The shackles of the past seem to be diminishing rapidly now. Oddly, I woke up this morning with an inward smile that has been with me the whole day. It could be that I really am doing some good here, perhaps even finding that redemption I am seeking, maybe even finding a bit of freedom.

I used to think that freedom came from being unencumbered by the past, that I could only be free when both my father and brother were out of my life, but now I see that one can be free even while cumbered. It’s a matter of gracefully and lightfully carrying one’s past and present as one travels into a more joyful future.

A friend sent me this quotation by Danielle La Porte in response to yesterday’s blog, I Come From a Narcissistic Family:

Freedom does not come from a checklist, and a ‘zero inbox’ is not a life aspiration.
If liberation is a chore, it’s not really liberation.
You can’t contract your way to freedom.
You can’t punish your way to joy.
You can’t fight your way to inner peace.
The journey has to feel the way you want the destination to feel.
Let me offer this again, in reverence to your life force:
The journey has to feel the way you want the destination to feel.
And again, with respect to your potential:
The journey has to feel the way you want the destination to feel.

Since my destination is joy (I didn’t realize until this very moment that joy is in fact, my destination), my journey also has to feel like joy. And my inner smile is telling me that it is possible.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter 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.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Online Dating: Shopping For Men

You can shop for anything on the internet nowadays, even a relationship. In the pre-electronic days, you met someone, fell in love, and hoped that your lifestyles, wants, and needs would somehow mesh or that you’d be able to compromise enough to find a mutually satisfying life. With online dating, you can bypass all that and look for someone to fit your lifestyle.

massesThe problem with shopping for a relationship when you are no longer young is that not only do you already have a lifestyle that works for you, you also have a lot of baggage — family, children, pets, and especially highly individual and possibly eccentric opinions or preferences. These things are a problem even if you’re not looking for a serious relationship.

In my case, I don’t have much baggage except for my 97-year-old father, but I do have a lot of crotchets. I cannot tolerate smokers (I am allergic to smoke.) Unpleasant odors make me nauseous. I have never owned either a pair of high heels or jeans. (This normally wouldn’t be an issue, but a surprising number of men want women who are as comfortable in heels as they are in jeans.) And I’m not fond of dogs. (There, I said it. It’s probably un-American, but it’s the truth.)

Even more problematic are all my dichotomies. Like most women, I appreciate men who make me laugh, but I seldom find self-professed funny guys to be funny. I have no interest in discussing politics — most men who discuss such things seem naïve at best, boring at worst — and yet I like people who look beyond themselves.  I like people who can write or at least express themselves well, but I don’t necessarily like writers. (But of course, I would never correct bad grammar. A friend once sent a love letter to her fiancé oversees, and he returned it with corrections in red. They still got married, but it didn’t last long.) I like people who are intelligent and think of more than their motorcycles or other toys, but I don’t particularly want to have deep conversations with them. I don’t like perfectly toned people (I actually find six-packs unattractive, which isn’t a problem since so few men of my age — or any age — have them), but I don’t like huge bellies, either.

Worst of all, when I am with someone, I like to be the center of their attention (and make them the center of my attention). I don’t like competing with pets and children, phones and televisions. This might seem selfish of me, but it’s not much of a relationship if one of the people can’t find time to pay attention to the other. The problem is that it’s almost impossible any more to find people who can focus their attention, and I don’t want to waste a minute of my life dumbly watching my companion having a relationship with a smartphone.

I suppose it’s no surprise that I’m sitting here alone tonight, but the truth is, I’m way past the stage of wanting to compromise. One woman I know who joined a dating site at an advanced aged could only get dates if she downplayed her intelligence, lopped a few years off her age, and posted a younger photo of herself. (Sheesh. We haven’t come far at all if women still have to play the “stupid” game to keep from intimidating the men.)

I suppose, if I really wanted to meet someone, I could fudge my statistics, but I am what I am, or rather, what I am becoming, and there’s no reason to hide it.

Besides, I don’t particularly like shopping for anything on the internet.

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