A Palliative for the Brokenhearted

warriorThree years ago, a yoga teacher and fitness instructor living in Holland got tired of the cold, and so her husband put in a transfer to a warmer climate.

Three years ago, I was living a thousand miles away from the high desert in another state, watching my life mate/soul mate die.

Six months ago, that teacher’s life and mine crossed paths. A friend asked me to accompany her to an introductory therapy yoga class (a class geared toward each person’s abilities and disabilites), and there I met the woman from Holland, who was teaching the class. (She wasn’t from Holland originally. She was actually from California, but she’d living all over the world for the past two decades.)

At that yoga class, I began to come alive. Grief pulls you into yourself, huddling you against the pain, and the thrust of her classes was to open us up to the universe, to new experiences, and to ourselves. My friend dropped out after those introductory classes, but I was hooked. Coincidentally, all the women who remained in the class were in various stages of recovering from the deaths of their husbands, and we formed a bond with each other and with our globetrotting teacher. It was a rare and magical experience, the electric highlight of my week, but magic has a way of dissipating. The teacher was offered a wonderful job in another city that used all of her skills (and paid her a phenomenal amount of money), and she couldn’t turn it down.

Although I felt devastated when she made her announcement, I am trying to consider the ending of the class as a graduation. When a student is ready, a teacher appears, or so it said, and in my case it was true. So perhaps it is also true that when the student is ready, the teacher disappears. Perhaps I have learned from her what I need to know to continue on to the next stage of my life.

But this is all prelude to what I really want to talk about. Whenever I have mentioned how distressed I was at the loss of this class, the response has universally been, “Find another yoga class.” Ummm. Yeah. Find another confluence of people and events that come together from thousands of miles away to create a magical, electric, and life-affirming moment. Sure, I’ll get right on it.

This seems to be the response for every loss. Get a new class, a new life, a new soul mate. Is it really that easy for people to do? Or is it simply that it’s easy to say, a palliative for the brokenhearted?

I realize that soon I will need to find a new life, but as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, it’s not as if I can go to the mall and search the aisles at Lifes ‘R’ Us until I find a new life that fits properly and looks good. I’ve never really wanted anything or anyone, but out of the blue, my life mate/soul mate dropped into my life, bringing (for a while anyway) radiance and excitement, and then later companionship, but now that he’s out of my life, I’m back to not wanting anything. If I did want something, I’d go after it, but I don’t want what is out there to get. (Or maybe I mean I don’t want what I know is out there to get. For example, I’d never considered doing yoga, had no interest in it whatsoever, and yet out of the blue, the yoga teacher dropped into my life.)

Mostly I’m taking the need for a new life in stride. Whatever happens, happens. Wherever I go, there I go. It doesn’t seem to really matter — something will drop into my life or it won’t. Either way, I’ll deal with it.

The only thing I know (or rather, suspect) is that I will not remain here in the high desert. Because of the yoga teacher and her class, for the first time I’d been contemplating staying in the area so I could continue taking instruction from her, and her getting a new job seems to be a clear sign that my future doesn’t lie here. But then again, I don’t really believe in signs . . .

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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+

Finding a New Life that Fits Properly and Looks Good

dancingIn a conversation with a friend about my father, who is still going strong at 96, I said, “I take after my mother, which is good because there is no way I want to live to such an advanced age, particularly since I won’t have a widowed daughter to come stay with me. It’s kind of spooky thinking of having to grow old alone.”

She said, “You never know what will happen. Maybe a new love will drop into your life. I can imagine you at some writer’s festival and a distinguished stud with salt and pepper hair and a sweet smile flirts with you. He asks for your number and the next thing the rest of us know, Pat’s out dancing and dining every Saturday night and she’s suddenly submitting romance novels for publication…”

I laughed. “I love the ‘sweet smile’ part. Who knows, with or without a stud, I might go out dancing every Saturday night. I desperately need a new life.”

She responded, “I think you need a new life too. I’m afraid you’re just wilting away. So — how do you get a new life? What do you want your new life to be?”

And that’s where the conversation stalled. How do you get a new life? It’s not as if you can go to the mall and search the aisles at Lifes ‘R’ Us until you find a new life that fits properly and looks good. (Though that does sound like an interesting concept.)

What-we-can-become is dependent on whether what-we-are is an integral part of our genetics, keeping us always “us,” or if we are infinitely mutable and can become whatever we wish to be despite our inborn proclivities. In other words, can we really get a new life or are we always “us”?

For me to go out dancing every Saturday night, I’d need a personality transplant. I’ve always been drawn to quiet activities, such as dinner and conversation that dances from one topic to another. If somehow I did overcome my natural inclination for such sedentary pursuits, where would I go dancing? I’m too old for nightclubs and too young for senior citizens groups.

Still, I will need a new life of some sort. My father will not live forever, and I will need to decide where to go and what to do. And the truth is, I haven’t a clue.

Current research by Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert shows that while we can see how much we have changed in the past, we never think we will change in future. (Hence that ill-advised tattoo you got when you were young and now wonder what you were thinking.) But this isn’t always true. I know how much I have changed in the past. I have a photo of me as a baby, and I can see the vast changes between me and that poor befuddled creature. I can also see how different I am today from what I was four years ago when I watched my life mate/soul mate’s slow descent into death, and I can see how different I am from what I was almost three years ago when grief catapulted me out of that shared life into a new one. I can extrapolate from those experiences of change that I will also drastically change in the future.

I always feel the same, of course. — just me. (There must be some sort of mechanism, like an internal gyroscope, that keeps us “us” no matter how we change.)

The point is that I cannot figure out now what I want my life to be when I am free to pursue that life because I don’t know who or what I will be at the time. Maybe by then, I’ll miraculously have developed grace and style, and will have become a dancing queen. Or not.

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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+