Coming to a H.A.L.T.



Whenever I get discouraged or afraid, all I have to do is take a quick assessment of my situation, and generally, I fall into one or more of the above states. (Loneliness, though, doesn’t really count in my case because to a certain extent I am always lonely, and being hungry, tired, or upset exacerbates the loneliness.)

fearI teeter between looking forward to a great adventure and being afraid. (Oddly, I’m equally afraid of uncertainty and the stagnation of certainty.) When I am well fed and reasonably well rested, I am open to the challenge of exploring the many places I’ve never been, national and state parks I haven’t visited, streets and trails I haven’t trodden. When I am hungry and tired, fear gets the better of me, and I wonder what the heck I’m doing. I have no experience in camping/backpacking, have no great source of income or savings to fall back on, and worst of all, I’m torn. Though I would like to stay here and continue taking dance classes, I have an equal desire to head out for parts unknown.

It truly wouldn’t be such a terrible thing to do what others suggest: settle down, continue taking dance classes, maybe start writing again, and head out occasionally for a vacation, but I have always played it safe and now it’s time to trust in the benevolence of the fates, the universe, divine providence, or whatever, and just make the leap into uncertainty. Let the future take care of itself. Hope that when it’s time to return for a while and catch up with my friends and classes that I will be able to find a place to stay.

I could so easily ruin what could be a grand adventure by giving in to my fears and worries about what will happen in a month or two, or even a week or two.

Last night I had a couple of setbacks that made me panic. I’d planned to rent a room as a fallback position, a place to come back to, but the only place I found seemed unsafe, not a place I would ever want to be. And I received part of my tent — the footprint — so I could see the size, and oh, my. It’s tiny!! How the heck am I going to live in that?

Today, reason prevailed. I’m not going to live in that miniscule tent. I’m going to get a bigger tent for car camping; this small lightweight tent is for backpacking emergencies. (And if I ever do long distance walking/hiking.) The real benefit is that I could be cozy with a backpacking quilt rather than a sleeping bag. And I don’t need to worry about a more permanent living solution for a few weeks, maybe months. (I have a tentative housesitting job for the late summer/early fall.) And after that? Well, that’s not a problem for today.

At the very least, assuming I don’t come to a H.A.L.T., the next few weeks should be interesting.


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

Putting a H.A.L.T. to Grief

It’s been eighteen months since my life mate — my soul mate — died of inoperable kidney cancer, and I’m still chugging along. I do okay most days, but still there are times when the thought that he is gone takes away my breath. His death was so final, his absence absolute. He never responds when I talk to him, never sits down to watch a movie with me, never seems to care when I get angry at him for rejecting me. (I know it’s not his fault, but still, death is the ultimate rejection.)

During this past year and a half, I’ve learned a lot about grief. I learned the importance of facing the pain head-on, accepting it as part of the process, and waiting for it to diminish, which mine has — significantly. I’ve learned how to find peace in the sorrow (or perhaps despite the sorrow). I’ve learned that grief cannot be hurried, that months or even years might pass before we bereft find ourselves again. And most of all, I’ve learned the secret of H.A.L.T.

People who make major life changes, such as alcoholics who give up drinking, smokers who give up cigarettes, diabetics who make diet and exercise changes are often urged to watch themselves so they don’t get Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. That’s what I mean by H.A.L.T. Did you think I actually meant putting an end to grief? You should know by now I’m letting grief wear itself out, whenever or however that might be.

Hunger, anger, loneliness, and exhaustion make us vulnerable, which makes it easy to backslide into old behavior patterns.  I recently noticed that grief often surges when I am tired, so I’ve been trying to steer clear of these vulnerabilites, but the trouble is that all of those states are effects of grief, so exhaustion and loneliness and anger causes grief and grief causes exhaustion, loneliness and anger. A sad cycle. But now that I’m aware of it, I can try to be more careful. Although I’m willing to let grief take its course, I have no intention of letting grief rule the rest of my life. I intend to be as bold and as adventurous as possible, a wildly inappropriate woman who just likes to have fun. But not quite yet. I still have some sadnesses to deal with.