Where to Go from Here?

Lately I’ve been wondering where to go from here. I don’t mean geographically — I’m settled here in my house for the duration. It’s more about wondering what to do next with my life, if I want to keep doing what I’m doing, and if I need to do something more satisfying.

I am still blessed with a job that adds some structure to my life, and come spring and summer, of course, I’ll be spending a lot of time on my yard, an activity that makes me too tired to wonder if there is anything else for me.

But now, in the dead of winter, when I probably spend more time than is healthy inside — reading, playing games on the computer, and blogging a bit — I can’t help but question my life.

Reading is becoming problematic — too many novels are way over the top. Years ago, I used to enjoy Lee Child’s books, probably because contrary me had read a review that said women wouldn’t like the books, but also because Jack Reacher reminded me of a harder and less focused Kwai Chang Caine from the 1970’s television series Kung Fu. Whatever it was that appealed to me about Child’s character has completely disappeared. I’d given up reading the series long ago, but out of curiosity, I picked up the most recent book, and yikes. There is absolutely no redeeming virtue to either the badly written story or the character. Reacher has become a thug, pure and simple, a villain as bad or worse than any of those he tries to vanquish. The next book I read (by a different author) was just as bad, though in a different way. The characters’ actions seemed quixotic, unmotivated. They just did things, flashed back to the past way too often for any sense of story continuity, and yapped endlessly. Still, there are plenty of books that have enough of a plot to keep me reading, but it’s possible there will come a time that I give up reading again. Although reading often seems to be as necessary to me as breathing — and as effortless — I have gone through periods where I don’t read at all, once when I was young and depressed and books made me even more depressed, and again after Jeff died.

I could, of course, go back to writing my own fiction, but that is anything but effortless. Besides, I have yet to think of any characters that would keep me interested in their plight for the year or more it would take me to write the story. Oddly, although I am a writer, I have no real yen to write another book, probably because blogging scratches the writing itch and keeps me satisfied.

As for the game I got addicted to — I’m becoming unaddicted. It’s not as compelling as it was in the beginning, but I still play because it gives me a break from reading. And from thinking.

My knees are doing well, but not quite well enough to allow me to do the hours of roaming I used to do. I still have hope that my roaming days will return, but only locally. I used to spend a lot of time hiking, traveling or at least thinking about where I want to go, but my wanderlust, like my writinglust, seems to be sated.

Where I am falling short is on the social front. When I moved here, I jumped feet first into the social scene such as it is — going to the senior center for games and an occasional lunch, attending community dinners, joining various groups. When The Bob put a stop to all that, I reverted quite happily to my natural quasi-hermit state. Eventually, I started back in with one of the groups, but although I know I need the social interaction, I’m not sure I want to continue. The group is growing, which is good for them, but not so much for me. I get claustrophobic around too many people, and it takes all my energy to keep from running away. (The only reason I don’t is that generally I get a ride when the meeting is out of town and so have to wait until the end before I can leave.)

I am aware that my life is already too restricted, yet I’m secretly thinking of restricting it even more. Even if I don’t voluntarily make changes to restrict my activities, age and circumstances will eventually change things. For now, I am quite content with my quiet days, but it’s certainly not surprising that I’m wondering what’s next.

Luckily, it’s only two months until spring (though almost four months until spring planting), and then I’ll be too tired and too busy gardening and taking care of my yard to wonder where to go from here.

***

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.

Changes

Jeff and I kept our expenses to a minimum by stocking up on things when they went on sale, and really loading up on items that had been deeply discounted. I don’t see those kinds of sales any more, which is good because I no longer like keeping a lot of things on hand. Having to get rid of cases of food and paper goods when I packed up after he died was just one more stab in the heart, especially since I couldn’t find a place to donate them. The churches didn’t even want them. I don’t remember what I ended up doing — I think an older woman found me crying and said she’d find a way to distribute the items. (She also understood my tears since she’d been widowed three times and admitted that she still cried for all of her husbands.)

The wheel of time turns, and now here I am, once again stocking up on certain items like paper towels — not because paper towels are on sale for twenty-five cents a package (the sale price Jeff and I paid), but because large packages of paper goods are the only sizes available to me right now.

I’m still not stocking up on food. I prefer to eat fresh vegetables and those don’t stay fresh for very long. I don’t use many canned goods or frozen foods. And the last time I looked for meat, I walked away without buying any because the prices were more than I wanted to pay — double what they had been a couple weeks ago. Luckily, proteins like tuna and eggs and cheese continue to be within my budget. I’m grateful I can still make it to the local grocery store once a week, and things I can’t get around here, I’ve been able to get online. I might continue shopping this way even when I feel more comfortable going to a bigger town to visit bigger stores — when shipping is free, it makes more sense to order online than to pay for gas, even when I have to stock up to get the free shipping.

I’m sure there will be other changes to my life — or maybe what I mean is I’m sure I will keep the changes I have made to accommodate these times. I will have to become sociable again, of course, at least to a small extent, but I doubt I’ll ever go back to having a full calendar. I’ve become so used to being by myself that it will take more energy than I have to get myself out of the house. (Though it will be nice seeing friends again.)

For all I know, even when the library reopens, I might keep rereading The Wheel of Time series as I did once before when there wasn’t a library available to me. It’s not that the work is so great, it’s that it is so vast. By the time I reach the end of what is essentially a 4,000,000-word novel, I’ve forgotten many of the connections and relationships that led to the final confrontation, so I need to reread the books to see what I missed. And by the end of the second read through, I’ve forgotten other connections.

And so it goes, the wheel of time. Around and around and around.

***

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.

 

A Kinder, Gentler Grief

A few days ago, I posted an article on this blog saying that a story begins when the world becomes unbalanced. If this is also true in real life, then my story began when my life mate/soul mate died. Nothing else I have ever experienced unbalanced my world the way his death did. It rocked me to my very core, and I am just now recovering a sense of equilibrium.

In a story, as the character strives to restore the balance, matters get worse. That usually happens in the case of grief, too (though generally not because of anything the bereft did — it’s simply the way life is). In some cases, the bereft had to move soon after the funeral, sending them further into grief. In other cases, more losses followed, leaving the bereft feeling as if they were drowning in death. Sometimes nothing happened, which at times is even worse, since it leaves the bereft alone in a limbo of sorrow.

I am on my way to finding a new balance, but I am not there yet. I still have upsurges of grief, though for the most part the surges are gentler and easier to handle. A few nostalgic tears, a brief indulgence of remembering, an acknowledgement that I miss him and want to go home to him, then I continue on with my life.

My most recent upsurge began on Saturday, always a sad day, and culminated in a walk in the desert. I haven’t called out to him in a long time, though I still talk to him, but today, I desperately needed to feel some sort of connection, so I yelled, “Can you hear me?” He didn’t answer, at least not in any way I understood.

I’m not sure how one finds a new balance after such a devastating imbalance as losing a life mate. Perhaps it’s a matter of making additional changes, the way small controlled fires can help put out major fires. Maybe it’s a matter of continuing to take one step at a time and waiting until the world rights itself. Or it could be a matter of being present, of being in one’s body, of simply being.

I’ve had to make changes, of course — I had to leave our shared home so I could look after my father — and I will be making other changes when this part of my life comes to an end. Meanwhile, I am trying to take life one step at a time, to capture each moment as it comes, to be present in my life, to be. In a story, of course, such passive actions don’t create a compelling plot, but in real life, sometimes “being” is the best we can expect at any given moment.

And anyway, my story hasn’t ended yet. In some respects, it feels as if this new story hasn’t even begun, as if I’m still in the first chapter, sorting out the imbalance.