Being Right . . . and Wrong

I was right about being awakened at midnight last night by fireworks. At first, still groggy from being half asleep, I worried something was happening to my house. Being responsible for a house is still so new to me (even though it has almost been three years since I moved here) that I panic at every strange noise. Admittedly, there aren’t as many strange noises as there used to be since I have come to recognize most of them. Still, banging noises do give me pause. But then I fully woke, realized people were celebrating the new year, blew a few wishes for all of you into the wind, and eventually went back to sleep. But not before I noticed there was a bit of snow coming down.

It’s still snowing, and has been all day, so I was wrong about my guess that we’d get a negligible amount of moisture. It turns out I was right to make the effort to plant my wildflower seeds yesterday. Those that didn’t get blown away will be firmly bedded for the rest of the winter, especially since it won’t get above freezing for a couple of days, and then only for two or three hours before the temperature plummets again.

I was also right that despite having a feeling of finality for the end of the year, I don’t have a similar sense of beginning for this new year. I do have a new calendar, though, with empty squares to fill with plans for fun and adventure, so that’s a beginning of sorts.

I also started with a new deck of tarot cards, one I haven’t used before. I never liked these particular cards, which is why I haven’t used them. They seem too bizarre to me and unmagical despite their name “The Magickal Tarot.” [Apparently, I’m wrong about not having used this deck before. While adding tags to this post, I happened to discover a previous discussion of the deck on my blog here: The Magickal Tarot]

This change of decks isn’t a new year sort of thing but a new month thing — every month I change the deck of cards I use, trying to find one that speaks to me. The Magickal Tarot is not such a deck. In fact, it dislikes me as much as I dislike it. The cards it fed me today are the seven of pentacles (Lord of Failure) reversed and the five of swords (Lord of Defeat).

Yikes! Talk about a bad omen for the new year! The first card of my two-card reading denotes the situation, the second card is the challenge I will face. My question was “What do I need to know this year?” and apparently, the cards think I need to know that my hopes will come to naught, and my challenge will be to deal with sorrow and loss and treachery. Oh, my!

The interesting thing to me about this reading was the reversed card. I make sure to keep the cards always in an upright position; I’ve even learned to deal the cards so they always face the same way. And yet, somehow, this one card, for the first time in the 18 months I have been doing a daily one- or two-card reading, was upside down. You’d think that a reversed card of failure would be the opposite of the upright card, but that is not true. If the card were upright, it would mean only delay and success unfulfilled, but reversed, it’s even worse.

I’m not worried about the prognostication. Most of my readings don’t seem to have anything to do with me, so I’m sure this reading is the same.

I hope I’m right about that!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Wishes on the Wind

I didn’t know there was such a problem with wildfires in the towns of Boulder County in Colorado until I started getting messages from people online asking if I’m okay. Luckily, I am two-hundred miles from the fire zone. The only problem I foresee is that my house insurance will skyrocket again as it did last year in response to wildfires in other parts of Colorado, which seems unfair. Our rates here in my corner of Colorado are among the highest in Colorado and across the nation, and yet when anything happens in areas where people don’t have high premiums, my rate goes up too. In fact, the increase is in proportion to what I am already paying, so that means I end up paying more than my share. I guess I should be grateful — and I am — that I’m not one of those whose house has been destroyed, but if my insurance goes up much higher, I won’t be able to afford the dubious protection.

Other than learning about the fires, it was a good day. There have been high winds, of course, bringing in frigid temperatures and maybe even some snow for tonight. They are forecasting one to three inches, though I will be surprised if we get any moisture. Still, I took a chance on their being right about the possibility of snow and planted my wildflower seeds. I stamped them into the ground as best as I could to make sure that they don’t all get blown away. I do have more seeds, so can replant if nothing comes up next spring. Comes up in my yard, I mean. With the wind, there’s a possibility that my seeds are being planted all over the neighborhood.

I’m taking it as a good omen, though, that I planted the seeds on the last day of this year — the seeds of a new beginning as well as a way of perhaps bringing the best of this year into next year.

I’m hoping that the cold and snow will cut down the noise of tonight’s revelers with their firecrackers. If not, then I hope I’ll be able to sleep through the midnight commotion, but if I’m awake, I will think of you and send out wishes on the wind that next year will be your best ever.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Celebrating My New Year

We are five days into the new year, and it feels a lot like the old year. Nothing has changed except the calendar. There is a lot to be said for a nice, clean, new calendar — it speaks of hope that only good things will fill all those coming days. But as for a new year itself, it seems so arbitrary. It’s not even a universal new beginning. The Chinese New Year this year is February 12, the Jewish New Year is September 6, the Persian New Year is March 21, the Korean New Year is January 12, the Tibetan New Year begins on February 12, and various communities in the Hindu religion have different dates for their celebration.

January 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 we have the same problems, sadnesses, hopes, fears. We don’t simply leave all that behind, along with our old selves, at the chime of the clock on midnight, December 31. We drag the past into the future.

The sun doesn’t count the years. It doesn’t even count the days; from its point of view, there is no sunrise and sunset. It’s always there, always risen.

And so, in a way, if we ignore the calendar aspect of the new year as well as the number we have assigned to it, every day begins a new year. For example, the year beginning today will end on January 5, 2022 rather than on the first. This way of looking at years makes as much sense as the other. Come to think of it, our personal new years begin on our birthday, and that makes even more sense than calendar years. We have an established beginning for our first year We even have an established hour for the beginning of that year.

In my case, at 7:27am one day in the months to come, my personal new year will begin. Of course, the effects will be the same as our western calendar year — there will be no dumping of the previous year’s baggage at 7:26, to begin anew at 7:27. One year flows into the other, with only an occasional event that truly does create us anew at a moment’s notice, such as falling in love, the birth of a child, the death of a spouse. In each of these cases, we are instantly different.

I suppose it’s just as well we drag our baggage along with us from year to year. To leave it behind would also mean leaving the memories behind. I certainly wouldn’t want to wake up every January 1 completely washed clean of the past!

As for the problems we carry with us, ours and the world’s, the only way to stop carrying them is to solve them or to make friends with them.

Unlike most people, last year was not at all a bad year for me. I might not thrive on being a total hermit since I do need some contact with people (which I have been getting), but normally, I don’t go out to eat, don’t do social gatherings, tend to stay away from sick people no matter what their illness might be.

So, come to think of it, this new year being like the old one is rather nice, so whether it started on the first, or starts today, it’s worth celebrating.

***

“I am Bob, the Right Hand of God. As part of the galactic renewal program, God has accepted an offer from a development company on the planet Xerxes to turn Earth into a theme park. Not even God can stop progress, but to tell the truth, He’s glad of the change. He’s never been satisfied with Earth. For one thing, there are too many humans on it. He’s decided to eliminate anyone who isn’t nice, and because He’s God, He knows who you are; you can’t talk your way out of it as you humans normally do.”

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

Celebrating the Newness

I’ve never really celebrated the New Year 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 25, the Jewish New Year is on September 18, the Persian New Year is March 19, the Korean New Year is January 25, the  Tibetan New Year begins on February 24, and various communities in the Hindu religion have different dates for their celebration.

January 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 — buying a house, settling into a new home and community, making new friends. 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 with the glow of a smile, laughter shared, and moments of appreciation for the world around me.

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

Happy New Year.

***

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.

It’s Never Too Late to Make a New Year’s Resolution

Only 8% of people keep their New Year’s resolutions until the end of the year. Most people abandon them in the first month or even the first week.

This sad state of affairs makes us seem wishy-washy at best and lazy at worst, but there is something more at work than simply a lack of . . . well, a lack of resolve.

I’ve come to realize that instead of losing our resolve, we lose the clean-slateness. After only a few days, the sense of a new beginning dissipates. We become used to writing the new year on our checks. We’re back into the routine of our lives, probably more tired, more broke, and fatter than we were before the holidays. And somehow, in the comfort of our old lives, we forget the idealism we had when embracing a new year. We forget that for a moment we believed anything was possible, that we could become better, stronger, healthier, wiser, richer, more beloved if only we . . .

I abandoned the practice of making resolutions when still a child after I realized that by the end of that first week, I’d completely forgotten my resolution. (I only remembered when the next new year rolled around and I tried to, once again, make that same undoable commitment.)

Too many things happen during the year to make us either forget our resolve or to make us stop caring. So perhaps another reason we can’t keep New Year’s resolutions is that we make them too early in the year. What if we made the resolutions after birthday celebrations, Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, summer, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas are passed?

Today seems a perfect day to make New Year’s resolutions for 2019 — especially since I started these resolutions yesterday. So from now until the end of the year, I resolve eat more vegetables, drink more water, and do a bit of exercise.

Now I have to remember those resolutions.

Oh, the pressure!

***

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 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!

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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+