An Insular Life

When I started with the internet, blogging first then signing up for various networking platforms, I had no patience for people who posted about the minutiae of their lives. I especially didn’t care what they ate — it didn’t seem to have any relevance in the grand scheme of a thoughtful literary life, and it certainly had nothing to do with my objective of making a name for myself as an author.

Well, here I am, a dozen or so years later, writing about my latest meal. In my defense, with the isolation, meals are basically the only thing I do of any value. And generally, if I stick to a healthy diet, my meals are boring. Salads get tiresome, as does any sort of vegetable eaten regularly for any length of time, and trying to find healthy proteins is a lost cause.

Today I decided to put some effort into making something different. (It was either this or ordering a pizza I really do not need). It might not look like much, but this spinach mushroom quiche alternative (baked eggs without a crust) turned out to be quite good.

I’m continuing to wean myself away from the computer, which leaves me with little to do but read. Since I finished my emergency stash of books, and since my email to the library with a list of books for me to pick up curbside resulted in no action, I’m in emergency-emergency mode — immersed in The Wheel of Time, a 4,000,000 word literary work that I’ve read many times before. The best thing I can say about it (besides its length — no need to look for books to read for a long time!) is that it has to be the quintessential good vs evil story. Or more accurately — sort of good some of the time vs, mostly evil all of the time.

It’s exhausting, not just the constant conflicts between the good and evil, the good and good, and evil and evil, but the sheer amount of activity. All the characters are always on the move, traveling from one part of their world to another, on foot, by horse, or by ship.

And the food they eat is even less interesting than what I generally eat — so often, they are on short rations of porridge, cheese, dried meat, and crusty rolls or bread sometimes flecked with weevils. (I must admit, though, that bread or rolls hot from the oven does sound wonderful. Minus the weevils, of course.)

I’m getting to the point where I can’t imagine a different life, though I don’t know if that is a good thing or a not-so-good thing. But it is what I have, at least for now.

And anyway, even if I couldn’t find anything more relevant in the grand scheme of things than my insular life to write about, at least I’m still writing every day.

That’s something to the good. At least, I hope it is.

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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.

Being Me

A handyman who does maintenance at the prison stopped by last evening to see about fixing my washer. (It gets stuck in the final spin cycle as if the basket is unbalanced, and then it won’t unlock, in case you’re wondering.) We wore masks and stayed apart, in case you’re wondering that, too.

His diagnostic checks took longer than he expected, so he apologized and asked if he was keeping me from going anywhere. I had to laugh at that. “I’m still in lockdown,” I said. I reminded him that although the state is loosening some of its restrictions, people over sixty are still supposed to be staying at home at all times except for essential errands. Then I mentioned how isolating being isolated was when you lived alone.

That seemed to startle him, and he said, “I never thought of that.” Then he added in a reflective tone of voice, “Isolation is how we punish the prisoners.”

We went on to talk about how this crisis has affected us, and he admitted it hasn’t affected him all that much. He still goes to work, still returns to his loving family in the evening. And me? Just about the only times I see anyone are the rare occasions someone comes to work here or the rarer occasions when I happen to encounter my next door neighbor.

We went on to talk about how strongly people hold to their opinions, and how they try to intimidate others to accept that opinion, if only by ridicule or scathing remarks. I mentioned that no one ever changed anyone’s mind, and it is true. Heated argument doesn’t change anyone’s mind, but sometimes . . . just sometimes . . . a rational discussion can help the other person see a different point of view.

Obviously, the handyman’s learning that for some people ‘isolation” is not just a word in an official order but a punishing lifestyle won’t change anything except his awareness, but it reminded me how necessary it is to continue writing, to continue telling my point of view. That it is my point of view is just that — my point of view. But it is also what makes the telling so important — no one else thinks exactly as I do or sees the world as I do because they are not me.

And being me, even in isolation, is what I am supposed to be doing.

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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.

Broken World

The garage door and opener were supposed to be delivered today so the construction guys could come do some more work on my garage, but the lumberyard now says they can’t deliver the door until next week. Apparently, they don’t have a driver due to The Bob. It’s just as well – it’s cloudy and cold with a good chance of rain, though I doubt the rain aspect of today’s weather — there has been so little moisture the last several months and the ground is so desiccated that I think the rain gods have forgotten how to find us.

Still, the wind is picking up, so who knows . . . Of course, if the forecast is at all correct, by the time the door gets here, we’ll be back up in the 90s, and that’s not good weather for building either!

Oddly, I’m not that disappointed about the garage, but I am disappointed not to have the workers here. It would add a bit of excitement to my life and I wouldn’t feel quite so isolated. They might try to get the door here themselves later in the week, but if not, well, there is one thing to look forward to — a picnic at home. The director of the senior center will be visiting each of us for a few minutes this Saturday to check to see how we are doing and to drop off a picnic lunch. It will be good to see her, though maintaining social distancing requirements means no hug. Too bad — I’m feeling touch-starved. Even though all of us seniors won’t be in one place, we will be enjoying a meal together. Even better, it will be a meal I don’t have to fix!

A few friends have been gathering occasionally to play dominoes, and I’ve considered joining them, but I can’t wear a mask for that long, and anyway, although I would like seeing them, I don’t really enjoy playing. Next month, though, regardless of the state of The Bob and the whatever continued requirements there are for us seniors, the Art Guild will be meeting. It will be outside on someone’s patio so we don’t get too close to one another, but oh, such a treat!

Meantime, there is today. I’ve done my stint on the elliptical, am finished writing this blog post, can’t take a walk since I overdid it yesterday, don’t have any urgent yard work to do. I guess I’ll make a cup of tea and escape into The Wheel of Time where some people have the power to heal and some have the power to break the world.

I just realized — that’s what this whole Bob thing feels like: a broken world. Hopefully, by the time I finish reading the saga and that fictional world is put right, our real world will also be put right.

***

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.

Missing Jeff

I’ve been missing Jeff — my deceased life mate/soul mate — not in a grief-stricken, yearning, lonely sort of way, more like a missing puzzle piece sort of way.

Health, geography and various other circumstances isolated us. During the last decade or so of his life, we seldom saw other people. We only did our errands once a week and if we forgot something, we didn’t run out and get it, but did without until errand day came around again. We didn’t eat out — there were no nearby restaurants, and besides, we tried to stick to a healthy diet with lots of salads and stir fries and home-cooked meals of our own devising. Even the occasional baked goods or desserts we ate were our own creations. We tried to be as self-sufficient at possible, doing many things ourselves that people have others do for them, even to the point of my cutting our hair. We didn’t do car repairs or major things like that, but for the most part, we were on our own.

Sound familiar? Like sheltering at home? Like quarantine?

It’s as if he and I spent our lives together preparing for a crisis.

The crisis is now here.

But he is not.

During the first nine years after his death, although I was on my own and felt alone, I didn’t actually live alone. The first years lived with my nonagenarian father so I could take care of him. After he was gone and the house sold, I visited friends, traveled, house sat, and rented rooms.

When I moved here, I was out and about a lot — getting to know the town, meeting people, joining groups, volunteering, going to the library, walking to do errands. Now all that is temporarily suspended, and I am back to living the way Jeff and I had always lived. It feels wrong. As if he should be here with me. After all, he is part of the puzzle of my life, and we did prepare for these times together.

At the beginning of the stay-at-home order, I tweaked my knee to such a degree that I couldn’t walk. I spent the night on the daybed in my office/media room because the metal framework gave me something to grip to turn over or to sit up. I don’t need the bars so much now, but I’m still there. I don’t really know why I am hesitant to go back to sleeping in the bedroom, but perhaps with his photo there, I’d feel his absence more than I do where I am. Or maybe it’s that subconsciously I now think of it as his room and don’t want to have to confront that ever-present reality of his being gone.

It doesn’t really matter though. No matter where I spend nights — and days — I am aware he is gone. And I am missing him.

***

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.

Adventurous?

A friend recently complimented me on my adventurous spirit, but last night while driving back from the ocean, I had to wonder if, in fact, I have the spirit of an adventuress. I was cold, tired, hungry, driving in an insane amount of traffic for a dark Sunday night. I felt desolate and isolated, and very grateful to be headed for a warm house and a familiar bed.

I tried to imagine what it would be like if there was nothing familiar on the other end of my journey, and all I could imagine was even more desolation and isolation than I already felt. Despite all those miles of civilization alongside the road, I didn’t see motels, camping spots, or even any place to pull off and hunker down. Even worse, though my poor ancient VW had zoomed to the beach without a single hiccup, it began backfiring and sputtering (something to do with the spark plugs, I think, even though they’d just been replaced).

Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about being stranded on that six-lane highway. The car sputtered and coughed and fought me all the way back but didn’t completely die until it was safe in the garage. I was safe, too, and a few minutes later, I was also warm and fed, but still, the thought lingers about my suitability for an adventurous life. I like comfort too much to enjoy being cold and alone in the vastness. I’m also too much of a natural hermit — I could (and probably would) surrender to isolation, which would be even worse than the stagnation I fear would ensue from a more settled life.

It’s strange to think I once dreaded coming here to my father’s house to look after him and stranger to think that now I dread leaving. But I don’t have to worry about that tonight. Nor do I have to worry about possible isolation or stagnation, adventure or inertia. For now, I still have a familiar place to stay and tomorrow I have dance classes.

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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.