Fabulous Fall

Today was an astonishingly beautiful day, the sort that makes up for the summer days of blistering desert heat.

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It was an especially nice day because I was able to share it with a friend I haven’t seen in over a year. There’s been too many traumas for both of us, which shouldn’t surprise me since trauma was always something we had in common. We met at a grief group at the absolutely worst times of our lives. I still remember the look on this woman’s face the first time I saw her — absolutely disbelieving, eyes wide with indescribable pain,  clutching the arm of a friend as if afraid grief would swallow her.

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Well, grief didn’t swallow either of us. And today, the sparkle in her eyes along with her easy smile was, I am sure, matched by my own.

And the day smiled at both of us.

We walked twice around “our” lake, the place we’ve most often gotten together, and afterward promised each other we’d do it again.

It might even be so.

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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.

Another Terrible Day at the Beach

You know I’m being facetious, don’t you? There’s no such thing as a terrible day at the beach. Unless, of course, a tsunami hits, or you turn your back on the ocean
and a sneaker wave pulls you under or . . .

Well, I guess there is such a thing as a terrible day at the beach, but today wasn’t one of them. The woman I’m staying with, her husband, and a mutual friend who was passing through, met me for a fish fry at an oceanside restaurant. Invigorating conversation, wonderful food, great ambiance — who could ask for more?

I could, of course, ask for more, such as a timely finish to my car restoration, but I’m not going to. Today was a lovely day, so very marine, and I wouldn’t want to dilute it with thoughts of more.

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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.”)

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The Strangeness of Friends

(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.”)

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One half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it.” ~ Sidney Howard (1891-1939) American playwright and screenwriter, best known the screenplay of Gone with the Wind.

I’m not exactly sure what I want. Adventure, of course. Experiencing life in a way I never have before, for sure. Becoming more deeply connected to the world, if possible. But those are all just nebulous ideas. I have no specific idea of how to achieve that or what I will be doing except going with the flow.

I expected to be heading towards even more of a solitary existence, but oddly, what I am giving up, at least for now, is time alone, and that is fine. People are treating me well, insisting I have not outstayed my welcome, but I don’t seem to be able to find long empty stretches to keep up with this blog. That too is fine. I have no new insights, no incredibly awesome or incredibly awful experiences to talk about. Just an unsettled life that is rapidly beginning to feel normal.

I imagine that when I finally set off for points unknown, that too will feel normal. The changes are happening now while I am so uncharacteristically depending on the friendliness of strangers. Or should I say the strangeness of friends? It does seem strange that these people are being so kind to someone who appeared in their lives such a short time ago, but I am so very grateful for their kindness.

And grateful for these unexpected few minutes alone.

A Close Encounter of the Unhomed Kind

(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.”)

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I’ve been sort of joking about being homeless, and I suppose I sort of am. (How is that for a noncommittal sentence!) And anyway, I consider myself ‘unhomed’ rather than homeless. (I’m laughing. I’m using my phone since I don’t want to be dragging my poor old computer from place to place, and the phone has a mind of its own. I’d written the word ‘unhomed’ but the word ‘unhinged’ appeared instead.)

My stuff is in storage, and at the moment I am living off the kindness of friends, but this is due more to my lack of a vehicle and a need / promise to continue with dance classes at least until the end of May than to destitution. I have resources and plans, just a strange set of circumstances coupled with a growing need for adventure.

I’d planned to rent a room for May, but couldn’t find anything within walking distance of the dance studio so I will need to continue relying on friends for another few weeks. The distance wouldn’t have mattered if I had my car, but it’s still at the body shop. The original estimate on my car was that it would take three weeks to be de-dented, de-rusted, and painted. Four weeks have gone by, and now the auto body guy says three more weeks. Luckily, my friends don’t seem to mind my company. And if they did? Well, I’d figure out something. Use my vehiclelessness as an excuse to go on some sort of adventure by bus, perhaps.

I am learning something during this time — the foolhardiness of my making plans. Every time I make any sort of plan, it changes. Not just concerning my living situation but about taking off on a trip. I’d planned to leave June first, but a friend asked me to housesit the first couple of weeks in June, so I’ll be staying around here a bit longer than I’d originally intended. Makes life interesting, just going with the flow.

And for now the flow is toward . . .

I was going to say the flow was toward homelessness, but the truth is, now that I don’t have a permanent place to stay, I feel less homeless than at any time since Jeff died. He was my home, and I knew that to ever be happy I’d need to find ‘home’ within myself. To be home wherever I am. And if I am home, I can never be homeless even if I don’t have a set place of residence.

If you’re one of those who are worried about me, I truly appreciate it, but there’s no need to be concerned. I’m just experiencing a close encounter of the unhomed kind.

Thank You, My Friend

Of all the things I am grateful for today and every day, my friends (both online and off), rank the highest. You, my friend, have made these years of transition a special time for me, showing me that grief isn’t just about sadness and broken connections, but about growth, wonder, and new links to life.

Table settingIt’s odd to think about, but if my currently deceased life mate/soul mate were somehow to return whole and healthy, I’m not sure I’d go back to him — I’d be leaving too much behind. Oh, heck, who am I kidding? I’d go back to him in a minute! But the truth is, I’m glad I don’t have to make that decision. I still have dances to learn, friends to enjoy, places to go, adventures to undertake.

I panic at times about the uncertainty of my future, but even that uncertainty is something to be grateful for — uncertainty hides a plethora of undiscovered joys, friends as yet unmet, and untold possibilities. More than that, by your friendship, you have taught me that the future is not an unfriendly place. Once upon a time, you were part of an unknown future of mine, and now you are a significant presence in my life.

Thank you, my friend, for the blessings you have bestowed on me.

Wishing you a very happy day of thanksgiving, even if you don’t celebrate the American tradition of Thanksgiving Day.

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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.

Becoming Who I Need to Be

For a long time, I lamented that I hadn’t been changing, and I thought I should have been.

After the death of my life mate/soul mate, I was totally blindsided by grief. I’d lost my mother a couple of years previously, and a brother the year before that, so I thought I understood what grief was. Besides, I knew my mate was dying. We’d spent the last three years of his life disentangling our lives and severing the connection so we could go our separate ways — he to death, me to life alone. I truly thought I’d moved on, yet after he died, I experienced such agony and angst that it shattered me, my identity, my understanding of life . . . everything. An experience like that should change a person, yet month after month I remained . . . just me.

Now, two years and four months after his death, the changes are occurring on an almost daily basis. I’m still just me, but the person I am today is not the same as the one who screamed the pain of her loss to the uncaring winds. Nor am I the one so connected to another human being she still felt broken more than a year after his death. I left those women out in the desert somewhere. I’ve walked about 2,000 miles since he died, and a bit of that me evaporated with every step.

I am stronger than that person was, maybe even wiser, certainly more confident and open to whatever comes, willing to accept life on its own terms.

I no longer fear growing old alone as she did. I might not live to a great age, and if I do, I might not be alone, but even if I am, that woman will not be the me of today. She will older, used to dealing with the infirmities that come with age, perhaps even experienced in the ways of dying. She will have lived her life to the fullest of her ability, and might even be able to wake each morning feeling the joy of living one more day, no matter how painful. Or not. But the point is, I am not in that place today, and the person I am today will never be in that place. So there is no reason to be afraid.

For so long, I’ve been worried about what will happen to me now that I am alone. I worried that I’d become the crazy cat lady (sans cats) or the pathetic, lonely old woman that everyone whispers about (when they remember her at all). If I end up alone and lonely, so be it. I’ll be okay. I am quite comfortable with being alone. (I always was, to be honest. Grief skewed things, made me desperately fearful of loneliness.)

But I am not alone now. I have friends to go to lunch with, online friends to plan trips with, siblings to talk to now and again, an aged father to look after. I thought it would bother me no longer being part of a couple, but the other day at lunch when some women my age were talking about maybe meeting guys and falling in love again, I asked, “Why?” All of a sudden it seemed strange to want such a thing. Three of us had mates with compromised health, and now that they are gone, we are free to simply be. It’s not out of any loyalty to my deceased mate that I find myself unwilling to pursue a hypothetical relationship right now, but out of loyalty to me.

And that brings me to the biggest change of all. It bothered me that no matter what happened, I was always just me. Now I see that as a good thing. No matter what happens in my life, no matter what challenges I face, I will always be there, becoming who I need to be, even if it takes longer than I think it should.