Thrilling and Not-So-Thrilling Developments

The most thrilling new development is that my contractor came with a couple of his workers yesterday and finished framing my sidewalk and stoop. He’d hoped to have the sidewalk poured today, but apparently, all the concrete guys are up in the northern part of the state installing or re-installing windmills. I’m not really sure what the story is. All I know is that no one could come do my job until Monday. Meantime, I can enjoy the esthetics of the framework, especially since, as you can see, it used up a bunch of scrap lumber leftover from other projects.

If all goes as planned, sometime next week, I will actually be able to go out the backdoor. Even better, I will be able to go directly to the garage. Yay!

Now I just have to figure out what I want to do with the island between the sidewalks. Plants of course, but do should I fill in the hilly area with dirt and then do some sort of ground cover? Do I do a container garden? (I will be doing a container garden between the house and the ramp at the bottom of the photo, so perhaps that will be too many containers.) Should I put in a bush or some sort of fancy boulder? Or do I leave as is, and just plant whatever and see what happens. So many choices!

On the middling thrilling front, I should be getting a few plants next week that I’d ordered from a desert nursery, in an effort to see what will grow in this alkaline, dried-out clay soil. I could put some of those plants in that island, but I think I’d like to something less haphazard since it will be the most visible and visited garden spot in my yard.

On the not so thrilling front, I’d ordered some protein bars to add to my scant emergency food supply. (As of now, that supply consists of a couple cans of beans, a couple cans of tuna, and three freeze-dried meals leftover from my camping days.) The bars were supposed to be low carbohydrate, but it turns out they were high carbohydrate. Apparently, they did some sort of shady math to subtract out the carbohydrates. They didn’t subtract out the carbohydrates themselves, you understand, just played around with the numbers to get a “net” figure. Luckily, I hadn’t paid a lot for these bars — they were a sample pack that I somehow got for half price. And anyway, they are just for emergencies. (You notice that I use the full word — carbohydrates? No “carbs” for me!)

But truly, those bars are a minor non-thrill. Greater by far is the thought of finally getting some of the necessary work done on my back yard!


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

Acknowledging Pain. And Pleasure.

Sometimes I wonder at what point telling one’s truth becomes self-indulgence, but I don’t suppose it matters. Writing helps me process my various traumas, and if anyone gets tired of my tales of woe (I am a Wednesday’s child after all) he or she can move on to sunnier blogs. I do know that in the scope of world events, such as wars and other horrors, a disabled and deformed arm is of little consequence, but in my world, the injury continues to loom large.

Still, I don’t suppose anyone really needs to know that yesterday I shed tears of pain, frustration, and fatigue. It’s amazing how much energy it takes to deal with chronic pain and even more amazing that the ensuing exhaustion does not lead to easy sleep. If I sit quietly and don’t move my left elbow, arm, wrist, or fingers, the ache is minor and can be easily ignored, but remaining immobile is a good way of ensuring that my left limb will remain permanently immobile.

Normally massaging an atrophied limb makes it feel better, but I have so much scar tissue to be massaged, that kneading makes the pain worse. Unfortunately, I need to knead, so this pain, too, I have to endure. Ignoring scar tissue is dangerous. (Recently two friends have undergone major surgeries because of old scar tissue) and I have enough problems without worrying about scar tissue eventually impeding the flow of blood.

There’s no therapist cracking a metaphoric whip to make me do the necessary work, just my own undisciplined self trying to put myself back together again. Some of the pain is inadvertent, such as when I absently reached out to grab something with my left hand, but that is all to the good. After all, the whole point of gaining as much mobility and flexibility in the limb as possible is to be able to use the arm without thinking about it.

The very idea of having to live with such pain and effort for a year or two (and possibly the rest of my life) is daunting, so I try not to think — just do. I could take pain pills, and I did take one last night, but although they sometimes take the edge off the pain, they cause additional problems such as vertigo, so I only take them as a last resort. During the months when I absolutely had to take the pills, I couldn’t bend over without feeling as if I were falling, couldn’t walk without feeling as if I were off balance. (I still use a trekking pole as a cane, though now it is more of a precaution than a necessity. But come to think of it, it is a necessity. Any fall could cause more damage to that poor pulverized wrist.)

At the moment, I feel more hopeful than I did yesterday, maybe because I have not yet been reduced to tears. I do know I have to take each day as it comes without trying to negate — or exacerbate — my pain, frustration, and fatigue.

Although I have not yet learned to ignore the wails of the passing trains at night (during the day, the wind blows the sound away, so it’s not as much of a problem) and have not completely eradicated the smell of stale cigarette smoke from my room. I do feel that this new place is more conducive to healing than the old one. I have more privacy inside and a nicer area to walk outside. Being a creature of habit, I often take the same route — winding through the neighborhood, looping across the desert, and returning by way of the longest sidewalk I have seen since I left a city grid. That anachronistic sidewalk pleases me as much is the open space of the desert does.

So, see? I am not all doom and gloom, though sometimes it does feel that way.

Here’s to healthier and happier days for all of us.



(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.