All I want for Christmas

Unlike you — or should I say unlike some of you — I did not go shopping today. I did get a burrito at a taco stand, though I don’t think that actually counts as “shopping.” Instead, I again spent the day at my storage unit, clearing out more of my things. After getting rid of three carloads of stuff, the storage unit looks even fuller than it did before. (Admittedly, a Volkswagen Beetle carload is not the same as an SUV carload, but there should have been some obvious indication of all the work I did.) I still haven’t gone through everything — I only managed to get to about a fourth of what’s in the unit. The rest is packed in tightly, but little by little, I will find a way to get to it all.

Next I have to clean my room. Much of the stuff I need to sort through I brought here, so the room looks like a mini storage unit. So unattractive, and such a mess!

But that’s a project for tomorrow.

Tonight I’m writing this blog and drowning my sorrows in sparkling apple/peach cider.

Not that I have any real sorrows at the moment other than the very sore muscles and aching ex-broken hand from all the lifting. There’s nothing I particularly want. (Lucky you! If you were thinking of getting me a Christmas present, you are now off the hook.) And, considering the amount of stuff I still have, there is apparently nothing I need.

The few things I do want are more for the future, and I am making a concerted effort not to worry about things I cannot (or will not) change right now. When the time comes to worry about money or . . . anything . . . then I will. So even though someday there will be things I need, I don’t need them now.

Of course, there’s still that impossible dream, but that’s not about wanting, either. It’s more about doing. Striving toward a goal. To that end, I got my backpack out of storage, and beginning in January, I plan to stash a gallon bottle of water in the pack, and see if I can walk around the block. (A great tip I read once — use water to weight a practice pack, that way, if you get too tired or sore, you can dump the water to lighten the pack. There will be no dance classes that first week in January, so if I destroy my feet carrying that extra weight, I’ll have plenty of time to recuperate before I need to use them again.

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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.

Packing

After I told a friend I was going to be leaving at the end of next week for a cross-country trip, she asked, “Are you packing?”

“Mostly finished,” I said. “Just have to pack the car.”

Another friend laughed. “She didn’t mean that kind of packing.”

A moment of confusion, then the light dawned. “No,” I said. “No gun.”

The second friend said to the first, “She doesn’t believe in guns.”

Rifle TargetThe truth is, I have no objection to guns or any weapon. I certainly don’t believe in gun regulation — there is too much government interference in our lives now. As for me, personally, I realize we have a right, perhaps even an obligation to protect ourselves from harm, but I don’t want to own a gun. (Though I did enjoy my experiences at a local gun range, shooting a variety of firearms. Was actually pretty good at it, too, for a beginner.)

Any weapon you have can potentially be used against you. Even worse, you carry a weapon and are so aware of carrying it, that it changes things, maybe even attracts unwanted energies; you don’t carry it at all, so it does you no good; or you become so used to carrying it that you no longer remember you have it, which brings about a dangerous situation as you fumble for your gun or knife or pepper spray. (Well, maybe you are different, but that’s how I am. I did think about getting pepper spray or hornet spray, but unless you know how the wind is blowing, in the confusion of a confrontation, you stand a good chance of having the stuff blown back into your own eyes.)

Even if I were able to do everything right and were able to protect myself with a gun, I doubt I’d shoot it. I do not want that sort of karma, even if it’s justified. Besides, knowing me, there’d I’d be, holding my puny gun on the villain, and wondering if it were cosmically correct. What gives my life more importance than his/hers? Is this really how I want to live my life? Is this how I want to die? And while my mind is going round and round and round, the villain would do whatever it is that villains do. And so that expensive bit of weaponry would be worth no more than a cap gun.

Still, I am going to be packing — packing a smile. A recent fortune cookie told me, “Your winsome smile will be your sure protection.”

And if my smile isn’t enough, well, I am taking a pen, and a pen is mightier than the sword.

So, see? I got it covered!

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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.”)

Letting Myself Begin Anew

“Let yourself begin anew. Pack your bags. Choose carefully what you will bring, because packing is an important ritual. Take along some humility and the lessons of the past. Toss in some curiosity and excitement about what you haven’t yet learned. Say your goodbyes to those you are leaving behind. Don’t worry about who you will meet or where you will go. The way has been prepared. The people you are to meet will be expecting you. A new journey has begun. Let it be magical.” –Melody Beattie, Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul

SunriseA friend sent me the above quote today. So very apropos! My brother and his wife came to help me move my stuff into the storage unit. It seems ridiculous to own so much stuff, but most of it is household goods and inventory from various businesses I’ve done over the years and may do again sometime.

It truly was a magical day, a day of synchronicity. A friend drove me to get the truck and sign the papers for my storage unit. When I returned, before I could even turn off the engine, my brother drove up. When we finished loading the truck, my father’s caregiver came to pick up some of the furniture (I know my father would be delighted that she wanted it), and so we loaded up her truck. Adding more magic — the weather is perfect.

Now I am keyed up and not ready to settle down into this almost empty house (Nothing to do anyway, my movies and books are packed away, and it’s hard to perch on a kitchen stool for very long to play games on the computer.) But a friend from across the city is conducting business only a few blocks away, so we’ll go out to dinner together.

Magic. Synchronicity.

I’m trying to believe in the magic of my life’s journey, too. I’d like to believe there is no need to worry, that the way has been prepared, that people will be expecting me, even if we don’t yet know each other. I’d like to believe I have a magical life ahead of me, a life of wondrous adventures, lovely people, new friends and favorite places.

I have ten days left in this house, and afterward, a couple of places I can stay in an emergency. I always thought when the house was sold, I’d take off, but I have people in my life, dance classes, a performance at the end of May. And then . . .

My journey is taking shape. I am going to fulfill my New Year’s resolution to visit a friend up near the Oregon coast. I have a lunch date in Ohio with a friend who is also in a state of transition. And I am being offered an opportunity to go to the Amrit Yoga Institute in Florida and write a series of articles about my experiences.

In between, of course, I’d like to come back here to continue taking dance classes, but I’m leaving my life up to the magic and synchronicity of the journey, and let myself begin anew.

***

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.

Different Tomorrows

I’m hunkered down in the carpetless kitchen, waiting for the carpets in the rest of the house to dry. I should open the windows to help the process along, but since the neighbors are outside burning meat, the windows remain shut. (Yeah, I know, they’re having a barbecue, but it smells like all they are doing is burning flesh.)

SunriseNo, I didn’t do the carpets myself. My dad’s “estate” paid to have them done. (Estate sounds so grand, doesn’t it? But it consists of little more than this house.) I didn’t even feel guilty lolling around while they did the work, though I did spend part of the time outside to stay out of their way. I certainly didn’t need to worry about them taking anything — there’s nothing to take. Although I still have some sorting and packing to do — clothes, computer accessories and other things I use every day — almost everything I own is stacked in the garage ready to be moved into a storage unit when the house is sold. And except for furniture, all my father’s things are gone.

I spent most of yesterday and last night getting ready for the carpet cleaners, finishing last minute projects, clearing tables, couches, and buffet to make them easier to move. When I took a break and looked around at my almost empty living room, I felt weird. And sad. And lonely. And a bit scared to realize this is really happening.

Next week the house goes on the market, and I will be one step from . . .

There are those dang ellipses again. I don’t know what I’m one step away from. Well, the future, of course, but I haven’t a clue what is in store for me. None of us do, of course, but we assume that tomorrow will like today, more or less, and for me, one of these tomorrows will be completely different.

I should be used to such different tomorrows by now. Almost forty years ago, I walked into a health food store and my tomorrows were forever changed. When the man I met that day died five years ago, my tomorrows were again forever changed. And now once again I am on the cusp of forever-changed tomorrows.

Sometimes I feel excitement at the thought of starting a whole new life, but more often than I care to admit, I feel the way I did last night. Sad. Lonely. Scared.

So many of my plans for adventure (well, ideas — I never actually got to the planning stage on any of them) have withered unborn. Although generally I am healthy, there are many things I can no longer do and others I never could do, such as walking the Pacific Crest Trail, so I am trying not to plan, but to just keep dealing with each of my todays.

And today is adventure enough for now.

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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 Joys of Packing for Long Term Storage

Packing for long term storage gets complicated, especially when it comes to small items. For example, I have a ball of cord that I use to make i’i for dance class. (I’i are Tahitian hand tassels, sort of like small cheerleaders pom-poms.) So, do I pack the cord with string, or do I pack it with dance costumes? It doesn’t really matter except for when I need it again. I’m not going to like having to unpack two or maybe even three boxes because I couldn’t remember where I put it. Normally, when you pack for a move, you find everything — or almost everything — when you unpack. But what if you aren’t going to unpack? What if you forget what your system for packing was? What if you can’t decipher the inventory notes on the boxes?

boxesThe smart thing to do, of course, would be to throw away the string and buy it when I need it again.

But sometimes the solution isn’t so simple. When I moved from the house I lived for twenty years before coming to take care of my father, I found a couple of buttons in a rummage drawer for a sweater that I’d already packed. I put the buttons where I knew I’d find them, but I didn’t — not for four years, and then by accident as I was again packing up. I wondered where to put those dang buttons so I’d be able to find them again. To show you the level of stress I’ve been under, it took me more than a week before “duh” hit me. Sew them on the dang sweater!

And what about the little tool that pulls snags to the wrong side of knits? For reasons I don’t remember, I’ve been keeping that tool in a bathroom drawer along with stray buttons and safety pins. (I suppose it makes sense. It’s when I’m dressing or standing at the mirror that I discover needed repairs.) I put the gadget with sewing tools because that’s where it belongs, but I know I’ll never think to look for it there.

Although I’ve gotten rid of more than half of what Jeff and I owned jointly, and half of what I owned, I still have an insane number of possessions.

In the coming years, I’ll be working on paring things down even more.

But not now.

Now I have to figure out where to put my small pliers. Where will I think to look for them when I need them? In with the tools? Or in with my craft stuff?

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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.

We Are Not Our Stuff

Strange day today. I packed what was left of Jeff’s things, both the items he asked me to save and the items I still can’t get rid of such as the sweater he was wearing when we met and his “new” jacket. I’ve had his antique perpetual perpetual calendarcalendar and several of the smaller items on my dresser ever since I got here to my father’s house. They brought me comfort then, and I thought I would feel sad now that they are packed away, but it just seems part of the process of my moving on.

Only two things caught me off guard. I have two original copies of his death certificate, and I opened the envelope to pull out one so I could put it with my papers to make it more accessible if I need it, and in the envelope I found the certificate of cremation. Did I ever read it? Did I ever know it was there? I can’t remember, but oh, the pain when I read those stark words today. “This is to certify that the remains of ____________ were cremated by authority of Pat Bertram.” Cripes. Even worse was the label they gave me to put on the urn if I ever traveled with those remains: This package contains the remains of _______________ whose body was cremated on March 31, 2010. Apparently, it’s illegal to travel with unmarked human remains. Well, that’s just too bad. One of these days, I will figure out what to do with those remains, and I sincerely doubt I will be labeling him (it? them?) like a commonplace parcel. (Unless you are on the human remains regulatory committee, then of course I will be labeling them.)

But the pain of dealing with his remains is reserved for another day. Today, after I packed up what is left of his possessions, I hesitated, not sure how to label the box. If he were alive, of course, I’d just put his name on the carton, but I didn’t want it to seem (even to me) as if he were inside that box. We are not our stuff. In the end, I just wrote, “J’s things.”

One amusing note (amusing to me, anyway). When I came here after Jeff’s death, a local mover gave me a great rate since his driver was going to be passing this town, and he had empty space in his moving van. I asked him if he would come pick the stuff up when I was ready to leave, and mentioned that there would be less to move back. He laughed and said, “That’s what everyone says, that they are going to get rid of things, but they always end up with more.” Not me. I have done a good job of getting rid of stuff. By the time I figure out where I want the stuff moved, I hope I will have gotten rid of even more.

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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.

Sorting and Storing and Stewing

I’ve spent the last couple of mornings sorting through my stuff, disposing of some, repacking the rest.

It’s hard because I need to be hard on myself. Do I really need three sets of pots and pans, a dozen assorted knives, and two sets of flatware? (His and mine.) Do I really need six lamps? (All ours.) What do I need to pack for long-term storage? What might I need in the next few months?

And it’s hard because I don’t know what life I am packing for. I plan to stay in this vicinity for a while longer, though I have no idea what that “stay” will involve since I don’t know how long I will be allowed to live in my father’s house, and the very thought of renting an apartment and settling down for the duration of a lease gives me the willies.

[Just spent an hour looking for the origin of the phrase “gives me the willies.” Apparently, it’s been around for hundreds of years since it shows up in print in the nineteenth century. Though there is much speculation about the origins of this particular phrase, no one knows for sure. One possibility comes from William Morris, the Word Detective, who speculates that willies might come from the name of a Slavic sprite called a vila (plural vili “sprites”) sometimes translated as wili.]

Nor do I know what my life will be like a few months from now. Will I give in to the need to be mobile and deal with the discomforts and dangers of being a nomad? Will I give in to the need to be warm and comfortable and deal wstewith the stagnation and entropy of being settled? If I opt to be a nomad, will I get a camper, or set out on foot? If I opt to settle down, will I find a place here or in Colorado?

Still, despite the difficulty of sorting through my stuff (and despite detours to look up unfamilar etymologies), I am making progress. I figure several months after the house is sold and the new people have moved in, I’ll be ready to leave here. I wonder if the new people will mind that their guest room comes with a ready-made guest. I’m thinking yes, they’d mind, so I’d better get back to my sorting and storing and stewing over my future.

The way I figure it, though, however things turn out, I’ll be okay. It’s the uncertainly of getting to where things have turned out that gives me something to try not to stew over.

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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+. Like Pat on Facebook.