People often say, “You get what you deserve.” They don’t say it to me, necessarily; it’s just one of those meaningless phrases people use to try to find meaning — and fairness — when there is none.

A good example of the phrase meaning what it says is when a person picks on someone and that someone retaliates. As I have observed, though, bullies never see the retaliation in terms of their actions; they see the retaliation as the victim picking on them. So even though the bullies might deserve what they get, the bullies do not see it.

It’s the same with smokers who get lung cancer; people assume the smokers get what they deserve, but non-smokers also get lung cancer. My mother was one of those — never smoked, was never around smokers — though in a bizarre twist, her death certificate states that she was a lifelong smoker. She neither “deserved” to die of lung cancer nor to have a falsified death certificate, but those things happened. And speaking of death, did Jeff “deserve” to die at 63? Did my dad deserve to live to 97? Those are questions I have no answer for, nor does anyone.

What has made me think of this matter of deserving is something else, something more pleasant. My current living situation to be exact.

Here I am, living in a lovely house surrounded by a lovely yard with a fabulous garage and a delightful outdoor room (aka a gazebo). I do not know how I got to be so lucky, especially since it wasn’t that long ago when I was worrying about ending up on the streets. I had a small amount of savings that was rapidly being depleted, and I had no idea what I would do when it was gone. (I wouldn’t have lived “on the streets” as such — naively, I figured I would live in the national parks, going from one to another. If I had to be homeless, that seemed a more interesting way of living.)

Instead, following advice from a relative, I used that money to buy a house in the poorest county in Colorado, only a couple of hundred miles from some of the most expensive real estate in the country. It was the only place I could afford, but it turned out to be a true boon. The perfect place for me — not just the house and neighborhood, but the town itself.

Do I deserve my good fortune? I doubt it. (Did I deserve all the bad luck I’ve previously had? I doubt that, too.)

I also ended up with a lot of friends — some close friends, some close acquaintances, and some casual acquaintances. (This seems to be a good town for making friends — one such friend recently mentioned that they’d never had so many friends. Neither have I, to be honest.) I might deserve these friends because as far as I can tell, I am a good friend in return, and I do try to do things if not for these people, then for the community. (Such as my most recent donation of brownies for a local event.) But whether deserved or not, I do cherish each friendship.

But the rest of it? As far as I can see, my good fortune has little to do with my deserving it. Perhaps I deserve to have a pretty yard since I am putting a lot of effort into it, but so much of the beauty comes other from people’s labor as well as nature’s work. (Many of the flowers reseed themselves, so I reap the benefit without having any blisters and calluses to show for it.)

I wake up every morning amazed that I am living in such a house on a mini estate. And I am eternally grateful for my good luck, especially since deep down I truly doubt I did anything to “deserve” it. Though I am doing what I can to try to deserve what I’ve been given.

Still in the end, perhaps it’s not about deserving, but about making the best of whatever life hands us.


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.

The Nature of Nature

I was frustrated yesterday at how slowly everything moves when it depends on nature, whether human nature or . . . nature. Trees and bushes grow slowly, humans work slowly, at least sometimes. That’s their nature. About the only things that move fast when it comes to a garden or landscaping are weeds.

Generally I don’t mind that the contractor has me at the bottom of his list of priorities. So much of his work is seasonal or comes from county contracts, so I understand those things have to come first. I also understand that workers come and go. When he has a lot of workers, he takes on extra jobs to keep them all busy, and then when his guys take off in the middle of a job, he’s left playing catch-up. I’m also mostly okay with their sporadic work because that way I can keep up with my part of the landscaping, working small areas at a time.

Besides, my yard was never supposed to be a quick project. I’ve always known it would be a life-long endeavor to find plants that will grow under my care and to wait for flowers to spread and bushes, shrubs, and trees to fill out and grow to a pleasing height.

Despite knowing all that, sometimes I find it hard to accept the human nature part of this endeavor. I suppose, of course, I could find someone else to do the work, or rather a lot of “someone else”s. These people do it all, whether home repair, concrete work, building, plumbing, landscaping, whatever. And if I have an emergency, they come immediately, which is important since I’m a first-time homeowner with not a clue how to do anything or even how to find someone to get things done. Still, I get frustrated.

But that was yesterday.

Today I’m back to being patient and waiting for things to work out in their own time, though I do reserve the right to nag when necessary.

I think it also helps that the people I bought the greengage plum trees from were helpful. As it turns out, one tree is doing great. One is mostly dead except for a bit of growth just above the graft site. One is alive but barely. They gave me credit for the dead tree and told me how to deal with the still dormant tree. Mostly it reminded me of the importance of patience when it comes to the nature of nature, because the truth is, when something does finally work out, like the lilac bush pictured below, it’s worth it.


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