Dry January

I had to laugh at the blog prompt WordPress left for me today: What could you do differently? Sheesh, that’s not much of a focused topic. Anyone could do anything differently. I think a more important question is: do you want to do anything differently? Or perhaps: how could you do something differently? Or even: if you want to do something differently, would it change anything?

At the moment, I am doing something differently, at least differently than I did last year. I’m doing a “Dry January.” A relative does this — she enjoys drinking, especially wine, and so she uses January as a time to reset her body. I hardly ever drink — in fact, I’ve gone decades without a single sip of alcohol — so my Dry January is about getting me off the sugar kick. I don’t know why it’s been so hard the past several months — I’ve gone for years without indulging in sugary treats. I have a hunch it’s more that I don’t care, at least not all the time. I go from wanting to do the best for my health to indulging my every whim no matter how unhealthy. Unfortunately, I am not one of those who can take a few bites of something — a cake for example — and stick the rest in the freezer for a later time. Nope. If it’s in the house, it’s fair game. (I know for a fact that frozen cake is almost as good as unfrozen cake!)

Surprisingly, so far, I haven’t had a problem with my Dry January. It helps that I stopped beating myself up over my lapses, being kind to myself and accepting of whatever I do. It’s not as if I commit crimes (alas, not even fictional ones lately), so the things I do that I don’t like are minor infractions of health parameters more than anything else. I mean, there’s not a whole lot of trouble a person can get into while reading, and I read most of the time.

Not giving in to sugar cravings does change things. For one thing, it gets rid of the cravings. For another, I have a little more energy. Since this has been a dry January weatherwise so far, the streets are finally clear, so yesterday I went for a walk. Admittedly, a mile-and-a-half walk is rather paltry compared to what I used to do, but it’s a heck of lot more than I have been doing lately. What surprised me more than anything is that I actually walked. Not trudged. Not plodded. Not dragged. Walked! Upright, moderately fast, with not a twinge in my knees. That sure felt good!

There are many other things I could do differently. Although I tend to be a person of habit, habits come and go. I ended up with a Magic Bullet my sister wanted to get rid of, and I might actually use it. I do have a blender that I never use, but this small blender might be fun. And it would be good to be able to add a few new flavors to my life. I’ve never been interested in things like smoothies, but they might be nice for a change. Also, I’m considering trying different things that can be made quickly with the Bullet, like carrot ginger soup or broccoli soup.

Or not. It might be too big a difference. Still, you never know. As I said at the beginning of this blog, anyone can do anything differently, even me.


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 Special Treat

Such a wonderful treat today — I took a walk!

The past few weeks have been trying — first the fall that shattered my wrist, the hospital stay, surgery, and then the demoralizing discovery that things were worse than expected. The first surgeon told me my elbow was not broken, so I tried to use it as much as I could, which was a mistake. The elbow was in fact shattered, and the movement only served to dislodge the bone fragments, and those fragments in turn severed the ligaments. Because my wrist had been pulverized, I have some heavy piece of equipnent (external fixator) screwed into my bones to keep them in the proper position rather than melding and shrinking my arm. Not only do I still have to contend with that thing for another six weeks, I had additional surgery to replace the shattered elbow and to further repair my wrist.

At the post op visit yesterday, I found out that I would have even less wrist recovery than originally expected, the wrist will be deformed, and in about a year, when all this is healed and I have regained as wide a range of motion as possible, I will need additional surgery. As if that news wasn’t enough to cope with in one day, I had to make the rounds of pharmacies to get the pills I need to keep from screaming in pain. A couple of pharmacies didn’t have the drugs. (Someone said that because they are a controlled substance, the drug companies can only sell so much, and this time of year, the pills are hard to get.) One pharmacy didn’t trust me because they weren’t my usual pharmacy (I don’t normally take medication, so I have no usual pharmacy). And one pharmacy thought I was trying to pull something by submitting a prescription from a different doctor. (How is it my fault that the doctors didn’t want to do the delicate operation and were passing me around like a hot potato?)

But I got the prescription filled, dealt with the not-good prognosis, and survived the self-pitying bout of tears.

This morning I woke with but one wish. To go for a walk. Seems so basic and ordinary, doesn’t it? But with only one hand, it’s hard to put on socks and impossible to tie shoes. And there is a bit of cowardice involved — if one can fall with absolutely no foreshadowing of the traumatic event, it’s hard to trust one’s foot placement. And then, of course, there is the matter of being drugged into a fog.

When the therapist came to check on me, I asked if she’d help me with my shoes and socks. She did. She even walked with me. It wasn’t much of a walk, perhaps a half mile or so, but oh! It felt wonderful. As if I were alive again.

For tonight, I’ve pushed all thoughts of the future from my mind, and am concentrating on that one special joy.

I took a walk today!


(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.”)

Why Do I Continue to Dream of an Epic Walk?

Somehow I can’t get the idea of an epic walk out of my head, though the reality of such a journey seems beyond my capabilities and even inclination. I can walk, that’s not a problem, especially since there would be no speed or distance requirement. (My journey; my rules!) But carrying several days worth of food and water, along with sleeping essentials and emergency supplies is a bit much. Even though the backpacking products today are gossamer weight compared to products made a couple of decades ago, the packed pack, no matter how ultra light, would be more than I could deal with. The improbability of such a journey is what prompted me to get my car restored (or rather, try to get it restored. They are still working on it). If I am going to make a trip by car instead of on foot, I’d prefer to look like a near-classic woman in a near-classic car rather than like a bag lady in a rattletrap. At least, that was the plan.

desertSo why do I continue to dream of and research/prepare for an epic walk? For the longest time, I didn’t know the answer to that. I thought a desire for adventure was fostering the idea, but there are all kinds of adventures, one of which I am on now — housesitting for a friend and walking the three miles from her house to the dance studio every day. (It doesn’t sound like much until you add in the two to four hours of classes.)

The truth is (as I have recently discovered), I feel at home on foot. The easy swing of arms, the push/thrust of first one leg and then the other is comforting. I can feel each step as it connects to the earth (or sidewalk or road or whatever) and I know where I am even if I don’t know where I am. Seeing the world at a walking pace suits me just fine — I can feel the nuances of a place as well as see the small details. And, as Steven Wright said, “Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” (Well, it would be if there were bridges over the ocean and other major waterways.)

I especially like the simplicity of walking. There are no engines to start, no doors to climb through, no dashboards and rear view mirrors to watch. All I have to do is go outside, and there I am, walking.

What I don’t always like about walking is the return trip. I can’t go as far as I want because I have to save enough energy to get back to my starting point, but what if I didn’t need to get back to my starting point? What if I could keep going? It’s those “what ifs” even more than a desire for adventure that made me wonder about taking some sort of long distance walk.

I could always do a yo-yo hike, which is probably what I’ll do for a while — just go out to a national park or BLM land where I can camp by my car, walk or hike with a minimum of gear, and then return to my car camp site for the evening. That way I’m never far from access to civilization. But then, there would always be the return trip to the car, having to gauge my distance to make sure I could get back to the car where my camping gear would be. And so I dream . . .

Meantime, there are my small walks — the walk to the studio, grocery stores, out in the desert. There might not be any epicness to such adventures, but at least for the time I am afoot, I feel at home, and that is no small thing.


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.