Quantum State of Grief

It’s kind of funny that after all these years after Jeff died, after all the years of grief and then the subsequent years of no grief (at least not more than a momentary pang or two of nostalgia), I still sometimes fall into the magical, quantum state of grief where Jeff seems to be both alive and dead.

I know he’s gone. I feel it in the very depths of my being. But sometimes, when I’m going about my daily life (that doesn’t seem anywhere near as ill-fitting as it once did), I find myself thinking one of those quantum thoughts.

Last night, as I wandered from room to room preparing for the night (checking to make sure the doors are locked, turning down the bed covers, making sure I have a glass of water on the nightstand), I thought that I should call his mother to find out how she’s doing, so I can let him know the next time I see him.

The realization of the illogicality of the thought didn’t send me into a spiral of grief, it just made me wonder why that thought, and why now. (Come to think of it, a friend called and mentioned that a mutual acquaintance inherited the care of her hated mother-in-law, which is probably what put the thought in my mind.)

It just goes to show that even when the pain is gone, the habits of grief and grief-thinking linger. That’s not the only stray thought — on more than a couple of occasions, I have found myself wandering through the house, wondering how and where Jeff would fit when he got here.

Hmm. I see a pattern here. I tend to think these thoughts when I am simply wandering from room to room, but that’s no reason to stay put. I do like wandering around my house, feeling the “home” of it. For so long, after he died, I never felt at home anywhere in particular (he had been my home), though I did learn to feel at home wherever I was because . . . well, because that’s where I was. Back then, I had to break myself of the habit of saying I was going home when I returned to one of the places I was inhabiting because it wasn’t home, just a place to roost. I still catch myself editing out the word “home” until I realize that hey! I have a home! It’s not just a place to go back to, but a place to settle into. A place to make my own.

I do wonder what Jeff would think about all this — my moving here, my owning a house, my getting old. (In three days, I will have lived six years longer than he lived.) But mostly, although he’s in the back of my mind and the back of my heart, thoughts of him and his death and my grief no longer dictate my life. Others things dictate the terms now, such as keeping up the house, keeping up my health, trying to hold back the infirmities of an aging body as long as I can. You know — life. Even though I knew from the beginning (odd that I still call his death and my ensuing grief “the beginning”) that the business of life is living — or do I mean the business of living is life? — I never really felt it. I felt the nearness of death and the winds of eternity more than the importance of my continued life.

But here I am, living, despite the occasional and brief lapses into the magical realism and quantum state of grief.

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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

At Home No Matter Where I Am

When one moves to a new house or apartment, it seems to take forever to get settled in, but when one lives more of a nomadic life, it takes almost no time to become entrenched.

I’ve been housesitting for about seven weeks now. The owners will be returning in a few days, so I spent yesterday morning clearing out the bulk of what I’ve had here with me and settling the items in my cleanstorage unit. Admittedly, many of the things I stored were purchases for my upcoming camping trip, such as my tent and camping lounge chair rather than items I’d removed from storage for personal use. (BTW, that folding lounge chair is huge!! It folds up way bigger than the specs said, and barely fits in my car but will be a great camp cot.)

It feels funny buying things. I don’t like shopping, don’t like “things” and yet, my upcoming road/camping/hiking trip is so far out of my normal lifestyle that I have very little that translates from a sedentary life to a mobile one.

I’ve been getting most of the stuff I need online. Whenever I go to a sporting goods store, I can’t find what I want and can’t find anyone to help me. But I can research online without trudging down huge aisles of stuff that I don’t want and that wouldn’t fit even if I did want. Besides, some of my gear comes from specialty companies, such as Pacerpoles and Solo Stove, a camping stove that uses bits of twigs for fuel. Not that I plan on cooking (I don’t cook now, at least not much), but it will be nice to be able to have a warm drink on a cold night and to have a hot water bottle to warm the bed. (I’m chilled at night now, and it’s a torrid 72° in the house. But then, I’m adapted to the heat, and — fingers crossed — I’ll adapt to the cold.)

I’ve been spending so much time preparing for my trip that it didn’t really hit me until last night that I’m planning on camping in the winter. Winter? I must be out of my mind, especially since this will be my first attempt at such an escapade, and most especially since this will be an El Nino year. Even along the southernmost border, the weather could get very cold and very wet. Eek.

And yet, why not? I will be staying with friends along the way, and in between, if it’s too wet for camping, I can get a motel. Besides, it’s all about the adventure. Seeing what I can do with what life throws at me and seeing what I can throw back at it.

Still, I will be prepared for emergencies, if not mentally, then physically, with a carload of warm clothing and survival gear. And, of course, I’ll have my phone, along with a solar charger (assuming there will be some sun somewhere) and an external battery. With a phone, I should be able to keep track of the weather, even if only sporadically, and make plans accordingly. Adventure is one thing. Danger is something entirely different, and it’s not on my agenda.

I seem to be getting far from my original premise of this blog about how quickly I manage to get settled in now that I’m sort of nomadic, but perhaps I’m still on target. After all, no matter where I am, there my home will be, and it will be nice to feel at home wherever I am.

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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.”)

Why Do I Continue to Dream of an Epic Walk?

Somehow I can’t get the idea of an epic walk out of my head, though the reality of such a journey seems beyond my capabilities and even inclination. I can walk, that’s not a problem, especially since there would be no speed or distance requirement. (My journey; my rules!) But carrying several days worth of food and water, along with sleeping essentials and emergency supplies is a bit much. Even though the backpacking products today are gossamer weight compared to products made a couple of decades ago, the packed pack, no matter how ultra light, would be more than I could deal with. The improbability of such a journey is what prompted me to get my car restored (or rather, try to get it restored. They are still working on it). If I am going to make a trip by car instead of on foot, I’d prefer to look like a near-classic woman in a near-classic car rather than like a bag lady in a rattletrap. At least, that was the plan.

desertSo why do I continue to dream of and research/prepare for an epic walk? For the longest time, I didn’t know the answer to that. I thought a desire for adventure was fostering the idea, but there are all kinds of adventures, one of which I am on now — housesitting for a friend and walking the three miles from her house to the dance studio every day. (It doesn’t sound like much until you add in the two to four hours of classes.)

The truth is (as I have recently discovered), I feel at home on foot. The easy swing of arms, the push/thrust of first one leg and then the other is comforting. I can feel each step as it connects to the earth (or sidewalk or road or whatever) and I know where I am even if I don’t know where I am. Seeing the world at a walking pace suits me just fine — I can feel the nuances of a place as well as see the small details. And, as Steven Wright said, “Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” (Well, it would be if there were bridges over the ocean and other major waterways.)

I especially like the simplicity of walking. There are no engines to start, no doors to climb through, no dashboards and rear view mirrors to watch. All I have to do is go outside, and there I am, walking.

What I don’t always like about walking is the return trip. I can’t go as far as I want because I have to save enough energy to get back to my starting point, but what if I didn’t need to get back to my starting point? What if I could keep going? It’s those “what ifs” even more than a desire for adventure that made me wonder about taking some sort of long distance walk.

I could always do a yo-yo hike, which is probably what I’ll do for a while — just go out to a national park or BLM land where I can camp by my car, walk or hike with a minimum of gear, and then return to my car camp site for the evening. That way I’m never far from access to civilization. But then, there would always be the return trip to the car, having to gauge my distance to make sure I could get back to the car where my camping gear would be. And so I dream . . .

Meantime, there are my small walks — the walk to the studio, grocery stores, out in the desert. There might not be any epicness to such adventures, but at least for the time I am afoot, I feel at home, and that is no small thing.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels 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.

Living Light and Free

When I first started writing about my idea of living on the go after my current responsibilities end, I got many emails, comments, and messages suggesting a Winnebago, fifth wheel, or any of a variety of houses on wheels. Not so coincidentally, I’ve been noticing a plethora of such vehicles hogging the road, and frankly, I have absolutely no interest in that means of travel. (Though I do appreciate the interest in my plans.)

I know people love the convenience of taking their home with them, but such vehicles have always appalled me. They seem like civilization at its worst, the ultimate in conspicuous consumption and arrogance, dabbling in nature while not giving up comfort or technology. The only thing more appalling to me is the RV culture that has grown up around such a lifestyle, and I want no part of it.

The wRoute 66hole point of my journey is to travel light, being free to go where whim and circumstances carry me. To find home inside me or perhaps in the journey itself, to feel at home wherever I might be, whether it is a small town, a big city, the open road, or beside a mountain stream. There is no place in this vision — this vision quest — for a lumbering vehicle with a high environmental impact.

Besides that, a home on wheels screams loudly and clearly, “I am not of you. I am just passing through.” And for however long I stay in one place, I want to be of that place, a part of it in any way I can, to experience it not as a tourist, but in some more intimate way. It’s possible I’m just fooling myself, but still, this journey is supposed to be on my own terms, and my terms are that less is best. I’ve never really owned much, not even real furniture since I prefer empty rooms, and I sure don’t want to start owning things now.

To begin with, I will have enough of my past that I can’t get rid of — things that I made or were made for me, household goods my life mate/soul mate and I shared, belongings that remind me of who we were — and so I’ll need to rent a storage unit. Someday maybe even these few possessions can be disposed of, and then I really will be light and free.

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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.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing. Connect with Pat on Google+