New Friends

I accidentally made a new friend today. The woman is a friend of a friend, and she’s taking on a full time (as in 24 hours a day, seven days a week) caregiving job, so she’s looking for someone to fill in a few hours a week to give her a break. Anyone who has been in such a position knows that no matter how much you love a person, those breaks are very much needed. The problem, from what I understand, is that there are too few hours to really tempt someone who needs work, and too many hours for those who need just a bit of money because the extra income might jeopardize their main income. Somehow, my name got bandied about. At first, I said no because . . . well, because I’m out of the habit of saying yes, which has been The Bob’s main effect on me.

As I got to thinking about the request, I realized it would be good to have a bit of income to help fund some of my house renewal projects. (I just contracted for a few tons of rocks, both ornamental and practical — some will go around the house and garage to protect the foundations, some will be used to create pathways about my micro estate to make walking safer in my old age, and some will be used for a driveway.)

Even more than that, I don’t see myself going back to the senior center to just hang around once the restrictions are loosened (although I really enjoy being around most of the people I met there, I don’t especially enjoy playing games, which was our main activity), and except for the Art Guild, I don’t see myself continuing with the rest of my volunteer activities. In addition, one of these days, the contractors will be finished with all the projects that we’ve slated, and then what? Total isolation forever? I don’t see that, either.

So I told the caregiver I was willing to take the job. She stopped by today to interview me, and we really hit it off. When she found out this is my forever home, she was delighted because that meant I would always be a friend. She also approved of all that I’m doing to help with accessibility in my old age. And she said she’d be willing to be my caregiver if it ever got to that point. (She’s the second person who has offered her services. I’m not really sure what that says about me. Maybe that I really am as old as I am rather than as old as I think I am?)

One thing that’s really fun about meeting someone from a small town, especially one who has lived here all her life, is that she knows everyone I know. I think she was a bit surprised because apparently, the people I’ve become closet too are among the best the town has to offer. Special people, for sure! And somehow they gravitated toward me. Pulled in by my tractor beam of charm, no doubt. I’m only being halfway facetious with that last comment because it truly is astonishing how many really good friends I’ve made in the short time I’ve been here.

And now I’ve made another.

The final decision about the job isn’t hers, though her recommendation will be given great weight. I still have to meet the woman I will be caring for (visiting with?). And I will need to talk to the daughter. (Though that might not be necessary, because all she has to do is google me or check out this blog, and she’ll know more about me than I even know.)

But I don’t see that they will have a problem with me. I mean, what’s not to like, right? Admittedly, I might sound cold, looking at the job from a practical angle rather than a personal one, but I haven’t met the woman yet, and even if I had, I wouldn’t want to invade her privacy by talking about her. Though I will say, she sounds like an interesting woman, has lived here all her life, and knows (figuratively speaking) where all the bodies are buried. We also have mutual friends, and since I won’t know any of her stories, I’ll be a new audience, so there should be plenty to talk about. And oh! She lives just a couple of blocks away. How perfect is that?

We’ll see what happens this weekend when I meet her. If nothing else, I’ll make another new friend.

***

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

Not Cowering, Not Courageous

What if there were hundreds of thousands of people dying in Colorado alone, not just the 987 who have died so far? Would you have the courage to live, to fall in love, to open your home to those less fortunate, to try to find out who unleashed the microscopic beast as my characters in A Spark of Heavenly Fire did?

Apparently, I wouldn’t. I’m following orders and staying home. Alone. Not much courage in that. No spark of heavenly fire, either, that’s beaming up and blazing in this dark hour of adversity.

I’m not exactly cowering, but I am paying attention to the stay-at-home order even though most people in my age group aren’t. Little by little they are claiming their lives, going out and doing non-essential things, getting together in small groups. If my knee were healed, I might join some of them, especially those who meet outside, but my knee makes me feel vulnerable. I’ve also spent so much time alone that I fear my immune system isn’t exactly in tip-top shape, so I’d be especially susceptible to any small illness that comes along.

So, not cowering, not courageous. Just pragmatic.

I do worry, though. I have spent so much time in the years since Jeff died trying to be sociable despite my inclination to not go out, that I fear this time of being forced into staying home will make it all but impossible for me to gain the energy to overcome my natural hermit tendencies. I used to say “yes” to all invitations because that forced me out of my nest, but now I find myself saying “no.” Eventually, people will stop asking.

Although I do believe that The Bob was never severe enough to merit the measures that were taken to keep us home and to “flatten the curve” to keep the ill from overwhelming hospitals (the projection of deaths was built on a flawed model that was discredited months ago), I would probably have stayed home anyway. I tend to catch things easily and be sick longer than most people — and did so even when I was younger — that I have learned to take extra precautions, though I admit, those precautions probably would not have been as strict as the stay-at-home orders.

Luckily, I have the choice. Luckily, I have a lovely house in which to stay home.

And luckily for you, for the next month, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available as a free download from Smashwords in all ebook formats. You can find the book here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842. Be sure to use the coupon code WN85X when purchasing.

I figure that by the time the world gets back to normal — or as normal as it will ever get — people will be sick of the very word “quarantine,” and won’t want to have anything to do with novel diseases or diseases in a novel, which is why I giving it away now. I hope I’m wrong about people not wanting to read about devastating diseases after this is all through because A Spark of Heavenly Fire is more than a story about a pandemic — it’s the story of survival in the face of brutality, government cover-up, and public hysteria. It is also a story of love: lost, found and fulfilled.

It certainly is not about a woman who stayed home. Where’s the story in that?

***

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.

Being Centered

After Jeff died, I feared I would stagnate, so I tried to get into the habit of saying “yes” to invitations and to following people’s suggestions about things to do. This led me to many interesting activities, including a short road trip along Route 66, learning to shoot various guns, and many meals with friends. (Going against people’s suggestions also netted me interesting activities, such as my cross-country road trip. Many people warned me of the dangers and said I couldn’t go alone, but I could and I did.)

More recently, ever since I heeded the suggestion to buy a house in southeastern Colorado, I’ve again been saying a lot of yesses. These yesses, too, have let me to interesting activities, including a train ride through the Royal Gorge, artistic endeavors such as painting gourds and making wreaths, and many, many meals with friends.

During the ten days after Christmas, there were no activities, so I spent the time by myself. It felt good. Centered. As if I were pulling my life back into my life.

It felt especially good to be able to structure my days. A bit of writing in the morning, walking around noon when the sun had taken the chill off the winter air, making raw vegetable salads and other healthy things in the afternoon. And reading in the evening.

I am so often torn — being disciplined or treating myself; being alone or visiting with friends; being structured or acting spontaneously. Being centered helps to mend the tear, to find a balance between what I want to do and . . . well, what I want to do. I want to do all of it, because obviously, if I didn’t want to be disciplined, I wouldn’t even try. If I didn’t want to treat myself, I wouldn’t give in. If I didn’t want to be alone, I would add to my activities, if I didn’t want to be with people, I’d say “no” more often.

Daily blogging began the process of centering me. It’s both a discipline and a treat, a way of being alone and visiting, a way of being structured and spontaneous. Writing has always been important to me, and it’s good to have an excuse to indulge myself (though truly, one needs no excuse to write).

A center needs to be held loosely — if you hold on too tightly, the pressure can blow it apart. If you hold on too loosely, it turns in “a widening gyre” and the center cannot hold. Still, without doing any harm, I can certainly be more careful what I say yes to. I’ve backed away from one of the clubs I joined, will back away from some shared meals, and am backing into a healthier regime.

Oddly, I no longer fear I will stagnate. Perhaps what I called stagnation was simply being centered.

***

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.

Twisting Time is Here: The Power of Saying Yes

A few years ago I developed a new philosophy: say yes. When people ask me to do something or invite me somewhere or suggest a course of action that I would not normally have considered, I try to say yes instead of immediately dismissing the idea as I once would have done. I’d hoped that by opening myself to diverse activities, I would spark new interests, maybe even twist off my usual path onto a new path of living. So, far, that hasn’t happened. I still don’t have much life in my life or spring in my step, though I don’t know whether these are lingering effects of grief or simply a sign that I haven’t yet found something to be passionate about.

One of my most recent yeses lead to yoga classes, something I had absolutely no interest in, especially since I had no interest in twisting myself into uncomfortable positions. The point of these particular classes is to open oneself up, to breathe, to be, which falls right in line with my latest outlook, which I found interesting. I’ve been pausing in my desert walks to do a few of the breathing exercises (the standing ones), opening myself to the universe, and then saying my affirmation: “I am happy. I am being me. I am where I am supposed to be.” And for a while, I am happy, or at least at peace.

Another yes landed me at twist party for Chubby Checker’s 71st birthday. It was actually a concert, but everyone danced in the aisles, and a couple of times Chubby Checker came down off the stage and joined us. We also sang happy birthday to him, and I found singing to a singer corny enough to be amusing. (Amazing — 71 and still able to perform for 75 minutes and more.)

Other recent yeses took me to see the top-rated Elvis tribute artist in the world and a war dance demonstration.

None of these yeses twisted my life around, changed my thinking, or added anything besides an hour or so of diversion, but still, I’ll keep saying yes. Anything can happen, and perhaps that possibility is the real value of saying yes.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy 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.”