Practicing Ho’oponopono

I do not buy into the philosophy that everyone who shows up in our life is there for “a reason, a season, or a lifetime,” but maybe sometimes it is true.

Lately I’ve been talking about a woman in dance class who seems to be my character “Deb” from Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare come to life. Like my fictional Deb, this woman acts as if she is in competition with me, and her behavior follows the typical pattern of a narcissist. First, she tried to control me with patronization. When I put a stop to that, she tried to crowd me both physically and with small torments. When that didn’t work, she tried to turn the teacher against me. She made a couple of tactical errors there. First, the teacher and I are friends, though it might not seem like it at a casual glance, because she does not pay particular attention to me in class. Second, Deb started to forget herself and make disrespectful comments to the teacher.

Now Deb is aligning herself with another woman, and in doing so, is changing that woman’s attitude toward me.

If it weren’t such a ridiculous and stressful drama, I’d feel sorry for Deb and her need for attention, but it is not my responsibility to fix her, if that were even possible. Nevertheless, she remains a problem.

A new blog friend left a comment yesterday: Why is there always a Deb? And it does seem as if there is always a Deb bringing a dark energy with her. Another friend said that if I quit dance class because of this woman, another Deb would show up in my life.

Which makes me wonder if perhaps this woman is in my life so I can learn how to deal with the Debs once and for all. I have to admit the idea of never again having to deal with a Deb sure is a pleasant one, so I should try to get from this experience what I can.

One of the many reasons I took care of my father after Jeff died was that I wanted to resolve my old problems and lingering issues with him. I knew there would come a time when I was alone and needing to start a new life, and I didn’t want to start that life with any baggage from the past. It worked. By looking after my father, by reversing the parent/child roles, all those conflicts gradually disappeared. There were no father/daughter conflicts at the end, just a dying man and the woman who was there to help him pass out of this world.

Could there be some of this going on with my “Deb”? Am I supposed to learn how to deal with folks like her without reacting to their machinations? Or am I just supposed to be able to see the pattern and do with it what I will?

I do know that when I was younger such situations confused the heck out of me because I could not understand their fixation on me, their insistence on competing despite my dislike of conflict, their tendency to push me around when I did not fight back, and their attempt to get people to see me as they did.

Being honest with myself, as I try to be, I’ve explored the possibility that the problem is with me, but now, even if it is true, I no longer want to admit any culpability, which could be a step in the right direction. That I can see the pattern is perhaps another step. Knowing I can’t fix her is possibly a third step. The fourth step, maybe, is learning to step outside the confrontation so that it doesn’t affect me so much. If so, I have a long way to go, because this situation, like any conflict and unfairness, raises my hackles.

Today, in an effort to overcome the reaction to the energy she spews out, I tried to practice Ho’oponopono around her.

Ho’oponopono means “to make right,” or “to rectify an error.” Dr. Haleakala S. Hew Len says, “The intellect working alone can’t solve these problems, because the intellect only manages. Managing things is no way to solve problems. You want to let them go! When you do Ho’oponopono, what happens is that the Divinity takes the painful thought and neutralizes or purifies it. You don’t purify the person, place, or thing. You neutralize the energy you associate with that person, place or thing. So the first stage of Ho’oponopono is the purification of that energy.”

How you neutralize that energy is by repeating four phrases to yourself: I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.

So, that’s what I did today. It didn’t make any difference, but we’ll see.


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.

Letting Go

I spent most of yesterday sorting out a few boxes in my storage unit. I have no idea why, but I woke with the feeling that I needed to start getting rid of more of my stuff. I got rid of half of everything Jeff and I owned when I left our home, and a third of what was left when I left my father’s house, but I still have way too much stuff for someone who is somewhat of a nomad, moving from one temporary place to another.

Although I hadn’t intended to, hadn’t even remembered I still had them, I ended up tossing out my grief journals and the letters I wrote to Jeff those first years after his death. I’m sure there was much wisdom in those pages, but there was also too much sorrow and too many tears. No one needs to keep that sort of grief-laden memorabilia. And anyway, if ever I am interested in my thoughts back then, I have hundreds of blog posts and of course, my book Grief: The Great Yearning.

It’s odd, but I don’t feel anything — neither relief that the sorrow is thrown away nor regret that I got rid of the journals. I suppose that means I chose the right time to let them go.

I still have Jeff’s ashes, but it’s getting close to time to get rid of those, too. It might be nice to take them with me on my May trip, and sprinkle tiny amounts in all the places I know he’d love. (Shh. Don’t tell. It’s illegal to dump human remains without a permit, but a teaspoonful here and a smidgeon there spread over hundreds of miles shouldn’t upset the ecology of any area.) Still, the trip is still months away, and anything can happen before I have to decide.

I also threw away the handwritten versions of my books (the first four were completely written by hand, and even parts of the more recently published books were handwritten). I’d been saving them for . . . I don’t know . . . posterity, maybe. But posterity has passed me by, and so far I haven’t needed them to prove my claim that I wrote the books, so it was time to let them go, too.

Some things I did not throw away, such as the binder filled with maps and information about places I’d planned to visit on my cross-country trip two years ago. The most astonishing fact about those pages is that so many were about long-distance hiking trails, including maps. I vaguely remember planning to hike and backpack in the various national lands along the way, figuring that when I hit North Carolina, I’d be ready to hike part of the Mountain to Sea trail. Unfortunately, by the time I got to North Carolina, I could barely walk up stairs. (I’d wrenched my hip in ballet class before I left, and the hiking I did in the beginning and all that driving only made things worse. I’ve been doing piriformis muscle stretches ever since, and maybe this next adventure, though shorter, might be more active.)

One piece of torn paper that I tossed in the trash yesterday while working was picked up by the wind, and so I went dashing after it. (Although I might not have a problem with littering the wilderness with Jeff’s ashes, any other sort of littering is anathema to me.) I have that dusty, wrinkled bit by my side as I type this blog. It was a quote I’d found and jotted down with pencil:

“Let go, trust and just take the first step. The pathway will unfold before you.” That advice comes from The Peace Pilgrim, a 44-year-old woman who set out to walk for peace carrying only a pen, a comb, a toothbrush, and a map, trusting to those she met to supply what she needed, though she never asked for anything. I wish I had her trust, her courage, her zeal. Could I ever just head out on foot with nothing and wait to see what happens?

It’s one thing to let go of possessions that no longer have value, but another thing to just . . . let go.

But maybe . . .

Someday . . .

Meantime, most of my stuff still needs to be sorted, and more gotten rid of. Do you notice I’m using the passive voice? That’s because I don’t want to have to face the reality of who is going to have to do all that work.


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.

Upsurge of Unbelonging

Still feeling the effects of yesterday’s upsurge of unbelonging. This living at the mercy of others has made me realize how alone I am in a coupled world. I’d pretty much come to terms with my situation, but that acceptance has deserted me momentarily. Exacerbating the situation, I’ve been researching various possibilities of non-automobile trips to take if I don’t have my car back in two weeks, and all of a sudden, the thought of taking a train to Seattle and then an Alaska cruise sounded wonderful. (Anything to escape this intense heat.) And then came the reality — cruises are based on double occupancy. Couples.

WANDERLUSTIt astonishes me the breadth and depth of grief. Whenever I think I’m done with it, there comes I day when I didn’t sleep well, didn’t eat well, and the sorrow settles over me again. I thought I was okay being around couples — after all, this is a coupled world — but these days of vulnerability show me . . . well, they show me I’m still vulnerable.

I hope I don’t sound as self-pitying as I feel. There’s no real reason for feeling sorry for myself. I’m reasonably healthy, still have friends who welcome me into their homes, have dancing and blogging, and perhaps one day soon, I’ll have my car back. I bet seeing that rejuvenated VW bug will make me feel rejuvenated, and if not it will certainly make me feel free.

But free to do what? That still is the question, isn’t it?

I have lost the habit I once had of telling myself, “I am where I am supposed to be.” Perhaps it’s time to start reminding myself again of that simple truth (or hope?). Maybe I am where I am supposed to be. Maybe the unsettledness and unbelonging I feel are symptoms of letting go. I’ve had to let go of so much over the past few years. My life mate/soul mate. Our home. My brother. My parents. My parent’s house where I found refuge in my grief. I’ve even had to let go of my grief. It’s in the letting go that we make room for what is to come, so I can see that my current state is necessary but oh, why does everything have to be so hard?


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.

Letting Go

My first out-of-town adventure in this new rootless life of mine was going to be a pilgrimage to dispose of Jeff’s ashes. (For those of you who are new to this blog, Jeff was my life mate/soul mate who died five years ago, catapulting me out of our shared life and into a life of accepting whatever comes my way.) I’d been taking care of my nonagenarian father, but now that he’s gone, too, my stuff is in storage. And, I am appalled to admit, so are Jeff’s ashes.

It’s past time for me to dispose of those cremains (as the funeral industry do quaintly calls them), but I don’t know quite where to release the ashes. Disposing of them is more a matter of myth and ritual than reality. I know he is gone and that they have nothing to do with him or his life, but they are his last earthly remains, the inorganic part of his body that was left behind when he was cremated.

I’d planned to take the ashes to northern California when I went to visit a friend, to scatter them in the ocean near the Redwood Forest because he loved both water and trees, but since neither of us had ever been there, it seems wrong, somehow. Disposing of this last vestige of his life should feel right to me —- I am the one left to deal with his goneness. But I don’t feel right about any of it. I don’t feel right about his being gone, though when I subtract him out of the equation of my life, I’m fine. Happy even. I certainly don’t feel right about keeping his remains in a rented storage unit, but they’ve been there five weeks already, so I don’t suppose it matters if they are there a while longer.

People tell me I will know when the time is right, and this time does feel right. It’s the place that confuses me. Do I take him out to the desert on a windy day and let him go where he wishes? Do I take him back to Colorado, back to the creek where we talked about our future, or maybe back to where we lived? Do I take him to Minocqua where he’d dreamed of opening a mom-and-pop store on the lake? But oh! He’d feel so far away. As if he isn’t already so far from me.

In the days after Jeff’s death, a minister friend advised me to save some of the cremains, which was good advice. I’d never planned to keep them but having them with me brought me comfort. But I don’t feel right about keeping some and getting rid of the rest. It would feel so . . . scattered.

Though I have his ashes with me, it feels as if I left him in Colorado. I left his car there. (I donated it to hospice.) I think I would feel better if his ashes were there, too, for no other reason than that is where I picture him. We never talked about what to do with his ashes, but once when I mentioned I was considering taking them to the North Fork a mile or two from where we lived, his eyes lit up.

It will be a while before I get back to Colorado — I have a dance performance coming up, housesitting jobs, and a New Years resolution to keep. (I promised an online friend — my first and staunchest fan! — that we would meet this year for sure, so with or without Jeff’s ashes, I’ll be heading for northern California first chance I get.)

I never thought it would be hard to scatter his ashes — after all, they are doing no earthly good sitting in a storage unit — and now I realize it’s going to be immensely difficult, that final letting go.

But it has to be done. Doesn’t it?


(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.”)


Summer of Relentlessness

re·lent·less /riˈlentləs/ adjective — oppressively constant; incessant; inflexible; unyieldingly severe, strict, or harsh; steady and persistent; unremitting.

This is a summer of relentlessness: the relentless heat, the relentless wind, the relentlessly oppressive air; my relentless exhaustion; my father’s relentless decline and his relentless needs, my brother’s relentless onslaught of verbal abuse, paranoia, and demands.

We are trying to get my brother out of here, but there seems to be no real help from the “authorities” whoever they may be. The cops have been here several times and have done nothing, only explained why they could do nothing. The social worker from my father’s nursing service has done nothing. My efforts to cajole my brother to leave by offering to drive him back to his home state have come to naught. My efforts at offering incentives have only incited more relentlessness.

fireTo be honest, I never cared whether my brother was here as long as he left me alone. I still don’t care. The trouble is he won’t leave me alone and I need peace, so I try to go along with the advice of others on how to get him to leave. Complicating matters, I don’t want him in jail just to get him off the streets. Don’t want him on the streets around here where he can still inflict his relentlessness on me. Don’t want to be constantly arguing with others about the best way to deal with him. There is no best way. Maybe there is no way. I don’t know.

Even without my brother’s presence, this situation would be hard to handle. People who are trying to help add their own relentlessnesses, whether offering advice or expressing frustration at my inability to take their advice. I grew up in a large family, but I never did learn how to deal with conflicting and relentless needs. The swirling relentlessness of it all confuses me, so although I’m doing the best I can, my best isn’t good enough.

This relentlessness is teaching me one thing, though — the power of letting go. There is nothing one can do to stop the unyielding, unremitting, incessant onrush of unpleasantness. That is the very definition of relentless. If relentlessness could relent, it wouldn’t be relentless. And if there is nothing one can do, one can only let go of any hopes for a resolution and simply accept what comes.

And so it goes, this summer of relentlessness.


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.

Nothing is Trivial When Dealing With Grief

It’s amazing to me how the most trivial things can take on significance when it comes to the loss of the person who connected you to the world.

Yesterday I was clearing out a mini in-basket where my life mate/soul mate kept stamps and related items, such as postage rates and receipts. Up until now, I’ve just left the basket intact. In those first months after his death, I couldn’t bear to use the last stamps we ever bought together, so I set the basket aside and ignored it. Enough time has passed that those stamps now seem like ordinary, insignificant postage, so I dug them out, sorted through the papers in the basket, and threw away the outdated rates and receipts.

One of the things I found in the basket was a simple note he had written: 44¢. That’s all it said. He wrote it in green ink on yellow paper about two-and-half-inches square, so that despite his worsening vision, he could see at a glance what the current postage rates were.

I hesitated a moment before tossing out the note. As unimportant as the paper was, it seemed to be a symbol of how bit-by-bit, his erstwhile place in the world and my life was disappearing. Most of his things are gone now, and attrition has eliminated many of “our’ things — towels worn out, spoons lost, cups broken.

The first time I broke a cup, it about devastated me. I remember crying as if it were my heart and not a piece of crockery that had shattered. As I wrote back then, “I broke a cup today, one more thing gone out of the life we shared. Our stuff is going to break, wear out, get used up. I’ll replace some of it, add new things, write new books, and it will dilute what we shared. Is there going to be anything left of ‘us’? I feel uncomfortable in this new skin, this new life, as if it’s not mine. As if I’m wearing clothes too big and too small all at the same time.”

Still, I did throw out the paper. It seemed foolish to keep it, especially considering that postage rates have gone up since then. And I’m no longer newly bereft, clinging to anything of his to bring me comfort.

If the paper had remained in the trash, there would be story, but a little later, I retrieved the paper and put it back in the basket. My rationale was that someday, perhaps, I’d like to know what the postage rate was on the day he died. But grief has no rationality. I simply could not let go of that newly significant slip of paper.


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.