Coming to a H.A.L.T.

H.A.L.T.

Hungry
Angry
Lonely
Tired

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.

Nothing Important to Say

It seems odd to me that during the four years I blogged every day, I seldom found myself with nothing to say, but now that I blog only when circumstances allow, I have a hard time finding anything to say.

I suppose when one is involved in the discipline of daily blogging, it’s not the words that count so much as the discipline, so I felt free to expound on any topic, no matter how trivial or inane, but now I feel I should have something important to say.

And I don’t.

I could, of course, write about the silly book I read today by a brand-name author, where every character used “proverbial” clichés:

Capture the provesmileyrbial brass ring
Out like the proverbial light
Bite the proverbial bullet
Kick the proverbial bucket
Shining like the proverbial beacon
Deer in the proverbial headlights.

If only one character had used the word “proverbial” to preface every cliché-ridden speech, then I could chalk it up to a character flaw. But when all the characters proverbialized, then it was obviously author laziness. Prefacing a cliché with ‘proverbial” has been used so often it has become a cliché in itself. Even worse, it says that the writer is too lazy to come up with something original, but since she coyly admits she’s using a cliché, it’s okay. But it’s not okay, even if you are a multi-million dollar author.

Or I could write (again) how strange it’s been without my car, which is still being prettified. (He says I almost waited to long to have the body work done, but how was I to know the thing would still be running after 43 years?) I’ve been without my car for so long, it will seem even stranger when I finally get it back. But there’s really nothing else to say about the matter. The car will be done when it’s done, and then I might find something to say. “Hooray,” if nothing else.

I could write about all my recent insights. But . . . um . . . um . . . I can’t think of any.

I certainly don’t want to write about my loneliness. I’ve looked forward to being by myself this weekend with nothing to do, but along with the wonderful aloneness came the not-so-wonderful loneliness. I don’t want to seem as if I am feeling sorry for myself (even if I am) because I only have things to be grateful for. I’m grateful I have a lovely place to stay, even if only for a few more days. I’m grateful I have more than enough to eat. I’m grateful I have dance classes and feet to dance with. I’m grateful I have no debilitating illnesses or painful ailments. I’m grateful I have friends who take pity on my unvehicled state and give me rides.

Most especially, if you’ve read this far, I’m grateful for your indulgence. Maybe tomorrow I’ll think of something important to say.

***

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.

Feeling Like a Celebrity

Have you ever met one of those lonely old people who are willing to talk to anyone who happens to wander into their life? They don’t care if you had the wrong address and knocked on their door by mistake. They still ask you to come in, stay and chat awhile, have a glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade or a plate of homemade cookies.

Honey oatmeal cookiesUsually people find their way to this blog by googling such topics as things your mother should have told you, three on a matchdescribing a scene in an interesting way, or my soul mate died, but sometimes they find there way here fthrough topics that have nothing to do with this blog such as sex with sister tips. However people find their way here, I’m glad they came knocking on my blog’s door. I just wish I had some lemonade to offer them, or a plate of fresh-baked cookies. Probably would get more traffic if I did, but I have yet to figure out how to send such goodies through cyberspace.

Even better than having people stop by to read something I wrote is when they leave a comment. Getting comments from strangers makes me feel like a celebrity.  A person I had never met read what I wrote, and liked it enough to tell me so. Wow!

In the end isn’t that what we’re all looking for, whether we’re young or old, lonely or befriended? Aren’t we all looking for someone to acknowledge us? Someone to see us as apart from all the other billions of people in the world, even if only for a moment? We writers and bloggers spew out billions, trillions of sentences each day, and every single one of them says the same thing: “Notice ME.”

Well, when someone leaves a comment, it tells me that for a single blip of time, I was noticed.

***

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.

Three Years, Three Months, Three Weeks, and Three Days of Grief

It’s been three years, three months, three weeks, and three days since the death of my life mate/soul mate. With all those threes, this should be a mystical day, but it’s a day like any other. I’m not especially grieving, though I’m not ungrieving, either. It’s just me and my normal underlying sadness, my missing him, my wondering about the future.

I’m to the point where I need something more, something beyond the bleakness of my daily life, but that “something more” comes in small doses and is not enough to sustain me. I take quick trips, go out to lunch occasionally, write a little, go walking in the desert. Although my 96-year-old father is doing well and is still quite independent, I am on a short leash (or at least it feels that way) since he likes having someone around in case of emergency.

But, that is just an excuse. The truth is, I don’t know what to do and wouldn’t know what to do even if I weren’t here looking Low tideafter my father. I’d travel, of course, but it seems to me that taking an extended trip by myself would be terribly lonely and perhaps even feel pointless. I drove by the ocean the other day and couldn’t think of a single reason to stop. I’ve been to the ocean, so it wasn’t anything new. Just a lot of water. (In my defense, it was very late and I was very tired.)

I try to be upbeat, try to believe in endless possibilities (because of course, that is the nature of the universe), but I don’t yet see those possibilities in my daily life. I try to think differently, to feel differently, to open myself up to change, but I’m always just me. Alone. Waiting.

Maybe things will be different when I’m totally alone, when I am free of responsibilities, but I no longer know if that will make a difference. I feel self-indulgent at times even mentioning any of this, considering what terrible lives some people are forced to live, but I can’t live any life but my own. And my own feels empty.

If it sounds as if I’m feeling sorry for myself, there’s perfectly good explanation for that. Today I do feel sorry for myself. I have managed to get through three years, three months, three weeks, and three days since his death, and I will continue managing, but I wish I wanted something, was in love with something, felt something besides ever-fading sorrow.

***

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.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

I Am a Fourteen-Month Grief Survivor

Fourteen months sounds like a long time, doesn’t it? Plenty of time to get over the death of one’s lifemate/soulmate/best friend. And yet, those who have been where I am today know you don’t ever truly get over it. You deal with it, you get on with your life, but there is always that niggling feeling of something being not quite right.

I still feel bad for him that he’s gone, that he suffered so much, that he died too young, that he is no longer here to enjoy something as simple as eating a bowl of his chili. (Though the batch I made today in his honor wasn’t worth coming back from the dead for. The kidney beans were overcooked, the onions undercooked.)

I still feel sad for me, that I’ll never get to see him again in this lifetime, that we’ll never get to do all the things we planned, that his smile exists only in my memory, that I’m alone. I’m glad we had all those years together, but that doesn’t ease the loneliness he left behind. It is odd, but for some reason I never expected to be lonely. I’m used to spending time alone, I know how to entertain myself, and I’m quite capable of taking care of myself (though the thought of growing old alone makes me panic at times). I also have more friends now than I’ve had in many years. But still, I’m lonely — lonely for him specifically, and lonely in general. Perhaps my loneliness is another stage of grief rather than a character flaw. Perhaps someday it, too, will pass, as have other manifestations of my grief.

One stage of grief I am clinging to is anger. Not rage, just a quiet pilot light of anger. I accept that he is dead in the sense that I know he will never be coming back (though I still long desperately to go home to him, still yearn to see him one more time). But I cannot accept the rightness of his death. It seems so terribly wrong that death was the only resolution of his illness, the only solution to his pain. And that does anger me. Anger is generally considered to be a negative emotion, but during the past few months I’ve found that in small doses, anger is a positive thing. Anger can give us the strength to survive. Anger can give us the energy to do things we couldn’t do under normal circumstances. Anger can give us a feeling of control in uncertain times. Anger can keep us going when we want to give up. Anger can give us the courage to live with the injustice of death. Anger can motivate us to find solutions to problems, can motivate us to undertake dreaded tasks, can motivate us to change our lives. So, yes, I’m clinging to whatever vestige of anger I can. It’s the only way I can get through these lonely days.

I am now more aware of the years looming in front of me than the years behind me, those years we shared. I’ve been saying that I don’t know who I am now that he’s gone, but I do — I’m still me. Still the person I’ve always been, just older and sadder. I’ve mostly untwinned our lives, no longer see me as half of a couple. And yet, something is missing. I don’t cry much any more, but sometimes I find myself crying for . . . I don’t know what.

It’s a relief to be telling the truth. I’ve been keeping upbeat the past few weeks — preparing for my presentation at the writers’ conference, traveling, being around people who only know me as an author, posting photos of my adventures. It was wonderful, but it’s only half my story. The adventure ended, and now here I here I am. Fourteen months of missing him, and still counting.

Knocking on my blog’s door for lemonade and gingersnaps.

 Have you ever met one of those lonely old people who are willing to talk to anyone who happens to wander into their life? They don’t care if you had the wrong address and knocked on their door by mistake. They still ask you to come in, to have a glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade or a plate of homemade gingersnaps, to stay and chat awhile.

That’s how I feel when I check to see how people found my blog. I don’t care that they found their way by accident while looking for something completely different. (Usually they are searching for Omar Khayyam’s quatrain about the moving finger, but why are so many people interested in that, all of a sudden? And why come to me? I did finally post that quatrain for these visitors so they wouldn’t go away empty-handed or empty-headed, but still, there are other sites where they could have found it.)  At any rate, I’m glad that someone, anyone came knocking on my blog’s door. I just wish I had some lemonade to offer them, or a plate of fresh-baked cookies. Probably would get more traffic if I did, but I have yet to figure out how to send gingersnaps through cyberspace.

In light of this, I’m sure you can imagine how I felt when I got a comment about one of my posts. Like I was a celebrity or something. A person I had never met read what I wrote, and liked it.

In the end isn’t that what we’re all looking for, whether we’re young or old, lonely or befriended? Aren’t we all looking for someone to acknowledge us? Someone to see us as apart from all the other billions of people in the world, even if only for a moment? We writers and bloggers spew out billions, trillions of sentences each day, and every single one of them says the same thing: “Notice ME.”

Well, for a single blip of time, I was noticed.