A Gift For You!!

 

Wishing you a warm and safe holiday weekend and a new year filled with possibilities.

 Click on the gift to open. Have fun!

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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.

Stepping From The Known Into The Unknown

Ever since I came to look after my nonagenarian father after the death of my life mate/soul mate, I’ve been looking forward to a time when I would be free of all responsibility and would be able to do whatever I wanted (within the bounds of my meager resources). I’ve daydreamed about living a nomadic life, traveling around in some sort of camper or van or even a car with a comfortable back seat. I’ve daydreamed about epic walks, imagining myself thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, the California/Oregon/Washington coastal trails, the breadth of the USA. I’ve daydreamed about just heading out and letting the path form before my feet as I journeyed into the unknown.

Ventura Pier at SunsetNow that my father is gone and I’m on the brink of that new life, I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly I expect to gain from an adventurous life (particularly since I am anything but adventurous). It wasn’t until a mentor left a comment on my A Little of a Lot of Things blog post that I realized what I wanted.

She wrote: Listing priorities is something you’ll be doing the rest of your life. You have plenty of time. Beginning with familiar things is a good step, as it’s always easier to step from the known into the unknown than to springboard into a whole life of new things all at once. You’re doing fine. Trust your instincts.

I realized I don’t want to start with familiar things. I want to jump off the precipice of the known and land gently in the middle of a whole new life filled with amazement, joy, and wonderful new things.

Such a childish wish! Not easy to do and probably not feasible, either. I know we take ourselves with us wherever we go, but I’d hoped an epic journey with all its challenges would change me into something . . . other. Other than what I am now, I mean. Other than a sad woman who has endured too much loss too fast. Other than a lonely woman who is neither jaded nor bored, just . . . tired. Other than an earth-bound woman who seems to have misplaced her power of uplift.

But life doesn’t work that way. We are always who we are. I’ve lived a creative life and lived life creatively. That will never change. But I’d like to be uplifted, amazed, excited, entranced by life once more. Cripes, it sounds like I want to be young again, doesn’t it? But I don’t. I just seem to have lost the power to feel the daily miracles. I can still be appreciative, still be grateful, but how many times can one feel totally uplifted and awed by a sunset before it becomes ordinary? A hundred? A thousand? Ten thousand? How many times can one feel the new grass beneath her toes and feel the wonder of being on this earth? After a while, it simply feels like . . . grass.

The older we get, the quicker things go from awesome and new to comfortable and familiar, from comfortable and familiar to entropy and stagnation. I’m sure my efforts at living creatively will stave off both entropy and stagnation, but I want more than a life spent staving.

The alternative to springboarding into a completely new life would be to take things one step at a time, savoring each new step into the unknown until it becomes comfortable, then taking another step into a  new unknown. And that is doable.

Today marks the beginning of a new year. Think about it, and you’ll realize it’s true. The calendar might not change, the year number might have already changed, but this is the beginning of the year 1/13/15 to 1/12/16.

So happy new year! Wishing all our dreams begin to come true, one step at a time.

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

The Extraordinariness of Ordinary Things

I’ve been invited to a New Year’s Eve party — nothing fancy, just pizza, salad, boxed wine, and sparkling cider. I’m looking forward to it with all the expectation as if it were a fancy dress ball because this will be my very first New Year’s Eve party. Even as I write these words, it doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true. In my entire life, I have never been to a New Year’s Eve party.

twists and turnsNew Year’s doesn’t meant that much to me. It’s a relatively arbitrary date, and mostly signifies nothing but a new calendar, which, I suppose, is something to celebrate. My new calendar has 365 blank squares, and there is the question of how I will use those squares. With notations of appointments and special days, of course. Perhaps with reminders of bills to pay and chores to do. But many of those squares will be blank. What will I do with those blank days? I can’t even begin to guess.

I know I will be leaving my father’s house, which has been both a place of refuge in my grief and a place of horror because of my schizophrenic brother and dying father. Although I have been thinking of this leaving for several years now, I still haven’t a clue what to do with my freedom. How does one choose where to go or what to do when there is no particular reason to be anywhere, no particular reason to do anything? (Well, there are dance classes here, and good friends, so those are important considerations, but I do not want to settle down, not here, not anywhere.)

But all that is yet to come. This is the last day of the old calendar, and for the first time ever I have the square filled in. New Year’s Eve party. 6:00pm.

Not only have I never gone to a New Year’s Eve party, I’ve seldom even stayed up to midnight to usher in the New Year, though for the past few years, ever since the death of my life mate/soul mate, I’ve made a point of toasting the brand new year with a crystal goblet of sparkling cider as a symbol of my commitment to living a full life.

Despite all my devastating losses, I am living fully. Well, partying fully, anyway. I’ve never gone to so many parties in such as short time as I did these past few weeks. Thanksgiving dinner, birthday party, pizza/taco party, Christmas party, Christmas Eve party, Christmas dinner, luncheon, three tea parties (those three I hosted).

And now a New Year’s Eve party.

It’s ironic when I think of it. I’ve spent the past couple of years dreaming of exotic and impossible adventures (impossible because they are beyond my physical capacities) in the hopes of finding transcendence or at least a new way of looking at life. Maybe, for me, transcendence will be found in the ordinary. My life has been counter to most people’s lives. I’ve lived a life of the heart and mind — loving profoundly, grieving deeply, reading profusely, thinking enormously — that the ordinary everyone else takes for granted is, for me . . . truly extraordinary.

Wishing you an extraordinary New Year’s Eve.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels 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.

Coloring My New Year

I’ve never really celebrated New Year’s because it doesn’t mean much to me. It’s a relatively arbitrary date. The calendar numbers change, but that’s all. It’s not a universal new beginning. The Chinese New Year this year is on January 31, the Jewish New Year is on September 24, the Persian New Year is March 20, the Korean New Year is January 31, the  Tibetan New Year begins on January 31, and various communities in the Hindu religion have different dates — January 14, March 31, April 14, April 15.

calendar_2014January 1 is not even the beginning of a new season or of a solar cycle such as a solstice or an equinox. Nor is there any personal demarcation — no black line separates the old from the new. The world is no different today from yesterday, nor are we. We carry the old year with us because you have the same problems, sadnesses, hopes, fears.

There is a newness to January 1, though, and that is the newness of a new calendar.

Like school kids with stiff new clothes and a satchel full of crayons, unread books, and blank paper, we are ready to set out on an adventure, trembling with both trepidation and excitement. Our new calendars have 365 blank squares. How will we use those squares? With notations of appointments and special days, of course. Perhaps with reminders of bills to pay and chores to do. But many of those days will be blank. What we will do with those blank days? Will we search for happiness or a new love? Will we recommit to an old love? Will we strive to attain a better level of health? Will we experience new things, meet new people, visit new places, sample new foods?

I do feel that particular newness today, that hope.  I’ve had marvelous adventures the past past year — going to Seattle to see Shen Yun, riding in a limousine, hiking with the Sierra Club, making new friends, attending parties and performances. I’ve walked hundreds of miles in the desert, posted 500 bloggeries (365 on this blog alone), learned dozens of delightful new words (my favorite is eupathy), shared many meals, laughed untold times, and exchanged thousands of smiles. It hasn’t all been wonderful, of course, but somehow I found the strength and courage to deal with the trying times. I cried when I needed to, threw my grief into the blogosphere, talked about (or rather, talked around) a heartbreaking family situation. And I survived. Even thrived.

And now I have 365 blank days on my new calendar. I plan on getting out my box of crayons and coloring those days brightly.

I hope your days will be filled with wonder, new adventures, and much joy.

Happy New Year.

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

My New New Year

desert knolls2013  began with tears. I’m still not sure why, though it probably has to do with a deeper acceptance of my life mate/soul mate’s goneness coupled with the slide toward the third anniversary of his death. You’d think with such a sad beginning to the year that things would ony get better, but my life went downhill from there until I felt as if I were drowning in sadness. So, in an effort to change my outlook, I decided to start the year over.

Last night at midnight, I toasted in my new new year. It seemed such a silly thing to do, yet almost profound at the same time, that it made me smile. I have to admit, I did mist up briefly a little later when I put his photos away. Sometimes seeing them bring me comfort, but sometimes they only serve to remind me of what I have lost, and there is no place for the past in this new new year of mine. (At least not yet. I’m sure there will come a point when I need the small bit of comfort those photos can bring and will set them out again.)

I have to focus on what is, and what “is” is me alone. It’s hard to carry on any kind of relationship with someone who is dead. He doesn’t respond when I talk, doesn’t offer comfort when I need it, doesn’t hug me or smile at me. Not a very fulfilling relationship!

I’m not being entirely facetious, just trying to face the truth.

I’ve read that people who manage to have a relationship with their deceased loved ones are happier than those who shut out any memory of those who are gone, but still, it’s a one-sided relationship. And, to be honest, for me it’s better that way. Since I have to find my own path through the rest of my days, I’d just as soon not have a ghost hanging around, hampering whatever fulfillment I might find. (Hmmm. Is there a story in that?)

I started my new new year in an effort to gain a new focus (or do I mean a new new focus?) And so far, this new new year is going great. Not only can I still feel the effects of that midnight smile, but the weather is gorgeous — blue skies, warm air, the faintest of breezes — which was perfect for my long walk in the desert.  Even better, I can feel a slight shift in my outlook, a turning away from the way I wish things were to the way things are and maybe even to the way things are meant to be.

I’m hoping I can continue this new new year the way it has begun, but if I begin drowning in sorrow again, I’ll just start over with a new new new year.

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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+

New Year, New Beginning?

I’ve never put emphasis on the new year because it’s a relatively arbitrary date. The calendar numbers change, but that’s all. It’s not a universal new beginning. The Chinese New Year this year is on February 3, the Jewish New Year is on September 28, and various communities in the Hindu religion have different dates — January 15, March 22, April 14, April 15, August 17, October 27. January 1 is not even the beginning of a new seasonal cycle. Nor is there any personal demarcation — no black line separates the old from the new. You carry the old year with you because you have the same problems, sadnesses, hopes, fears. In other words, you are still you. 

There is a newness to January 1, though, and that is the newness of a new day.  Unlike the year, each day is a new beginning. You wake up, and for a second everything is untouched — like new fallen snow — and you almost believe you can be anyone you want to be, do anything you want to do. Then the truth hits you.

Still, there’s hope, so I make daily resolutions instead of yearly ones. I have a list of a dozen do’s and don’ts that I would follow in a perfect world. I’m lucky to do about half of them each day, but it varies. Two days ago I did only a couple. Yesterday I did all but two. Today, of course, I resolve to follow everything on my list. The list includes such things as weight lifting and stretching, walking, writing, blogging, promoting, eating a big salad, drinking lots of water, staying away from sugar and wheat. As I said, in a perfect world . . .

Despite that, I did toast this new year, more as a symbol of newness than the reality of it. I’ve learned that since nothing seems important any more, I have to make something important every day. And toasting the new year seemed as good as anything to importantize.  (Yeah, I know — there’s no such word as importantize, but just for today —  this new day — there is.)

Building Hopes and Creating Dreams

And so ends the worst year of my life.

Last year was a time of soul-shattering loss, grief, and strange blessings. It was a time of despair and self-realization, transition and adjustment. But of course, you know all that — I’ve made no secret of my ordeal, chronicling every painful stage of my journey. Many people endure worse traumas than the death of a soul mate, and they continue living without whimpering, which has made me feel a bit self-indulgent and whiny with my grief bloggeries, yet that was never my intention. The impact of grief after a major loss seems to be one more thing that has been discounted in our discount culture, and I simply wanted to tell the truth.

Oddly, I still don’t know the truth of it. It seems unreal at times. Was I really that woman? That woman who watched a man slowly die, who wanted the suffering to end, yet whose love was so ineffectual she couldn’t make him well or take away a single moment of his pain? That woman so connected to another human being she still feels broken nine months after his death? That woman who screamed the pain of her loss to the winds?

I’ve always considered myself a passionless woman, so how can that woman be me? During periods when I don’t feel the weight of his absence (I never feel his presence, though sometimes his absence feels normal, as if he’s simply in another room), during periods of emotional calm, my stoic side rules, making my grief feel fake, as if it’s something I’m doing to make myself seem important. Yet other times the desperate need to go home to him, to see him one more time, claws at me, tearing me apart.

Making the situation even more unreal, I can barely remember what he looked like — I do not think in images, so it’s understandable (though distressing) that I have no clear image of him in my mind. Even worse, I don’t have a photo that matches what I remember of him. (The only one I have was taken fifteen years ago.)

Nor do I have a clear sense of time. Sometimes it feels as if he died just a couple of months ago. Sometimes it feels like years. The demarcation between our shared life and my solitary life was once so stark it was like the edge of a cliff. All I could see was the past and what I had lost. The living I have done in the past nine months has blurred that edge, adding to the sense of unreality.

I have learned much this year. I learned the importance of importance. If there is nothing of importance in your life, you have to find something and make it important. I learned the importance of goals, even if it’s only the goal of getting through one more day. I learned the importance of hope, though hope for what I still don’t know, but that is part of the journey – building hopes, creating dreams, finding reasons to live.

And so begins a new year.

A Gift For You!!

Wishing you a warm and safe holiday weekend and a new year filled with possibilities.

 Click on the gift to open. Have fun!