A Time of Preparation

The lazy days are flowing one into the other, and it seems as if my life has come to a standstill, as if the stagnation I fear has already set in, but however I feel, the truth is, this has been a year of unprecedented adventure, change, and awe.

I started out the year in my father’s house, dealing with grief for all my dead while I cleaned out his “effects” and readied the house for sale. I gathered all my friends together for a Pre-Probate Party to celebrate the last days before his will went into probate, the last days I knew for sure I would have a place to live. Since then, I have never been without a place to live, though I stayed on couches, lived in a camper, house-sat a few times, and even rented a room for a couple of months. (Oddly, I am ending the year in this same precarious position as I started because my current room is in a house that’s for sale, and soon I will again be Stepping From The Known Into The Unknown.)

Sometime during those last days at my father’s house where I tried to imagine Unimagined Possibilities, I found myself with a new philosophy: Either Things Will Work Out Or They Won’t, which allowed me to stop worrying so much and instead let me enjoy the uncertainties of my new life. If things work out, obviously, I don’t have to worry, and if they don’t work out, there’s nothing I can do about it now because I have no idea in what way they won’t work out. Or things might work out in a way I couldn’t even fathom, which is what usually happens.

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And so I drifted through my days. I continued to take the dance classes, which I love, but I dreamed of . . . more. Something epic. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail or the as yet unfinished California Coastal Trail. Perhaps stepping foot on the Appalachian Trail (which a friend recently told me is pronounced Apple-atchian. Okay. Got it. Now I know the most important thing about the trail if ever I decided to hike a bit of it.) I also considered a more realistic venture since I do not think I have the ability to carry a heavy backpack for many miles — visiting national parks and day hiking to sample a variety of trails and terrains.

WANDERLUST

A friend, who knew my dreams of adventure, invited me to stay with her and volunteered to drop me off at trail heads and pick me up when I was finished with my hike so that I could experience adventure in a relatively safe manner. And so began two magical months of hiking along the ocean, losing myself in the forest (not getting lost geographically, more like letting the forest take me over), becoming one with . . . myself, perhaps. I am usually of two minds about everything, so I am often beset with doubts, worry, and internal discussions. But not up in the redwoods. Not by the ocean. There, I was simply me. Simply happy.

One of the things I had been of two minds about centered around my ancient VW bug, A Forty-Three-Year-Old Lemon. I considered replacing the iconic car with some sort of van I could turn into a mini-home, considered getting an automobile big enough to sleep in, considered, oh, so many possibilities, but in the end decided to keep the poor old thing a little longer. After all, how many people can say they have only owned one car in their whole life, a vehicle they bought new and kept going through the decades? And the way I figured, if I bought a new car now, in five years, it would be old. If I bought a new car five years from now, five years from now it would be new.

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Still, if I were going on a long trip to visit parks and meet online friends, I would prefer to look like a near-classic lady in a near-classic car rather than a homeless woman in a rattletrap, so I found someone who would do the body work. All I wanted was a couple of holes patched and enough rust gone so it could be painted, and six months later, six months of learning to do without a vehicle, what I found at The Great Reveal!! was a full body restoration. And because the outside looked so beautiful, I had to have the inside reupholstered because it truly looked pathetic in relation to the lovely body. And then, when I took it to my mechanic for a tune-up before my cross-country trip and he expressed concerns about the engine lasting for all those miles, well, now I have a new engine, transmission, and a lot of other new parts, and Oh, My, My Erstwhile Lemon Is a Beauty!

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Despite the awesomeness of this year, it seems to me as if it is . . . was . . . a time of preparation, not just for the coming year, but for a new way of living and thinking. I can’t go on a cross-country trip until I have put 500 miles on the new engine and have all the kinks worked out, but I am ready to meet the changes and challenges of both the trip and the coming year.

At least, I hope I am.

 

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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.”)

Either Things Will Work Out Or They Won’t

Quite unexpectedly, I seem to have developed a new attitude.

A couple of days ago when I told someone about my father’s death and his house going on the market soon, she kept asking, “What are you going to do?” Either to calm her or more probably to calm myself since her feigned concern was getting on my nerves, I kept answering “I don’t know. Either things will work out or they won’t.” After about the third repetition, it hit me — that is exactly how I feel. I’m not particularly worried about what I am going to do or what is going to happen to me. Either things will work out or they won’t. If they work out, then there is no point in worrying. If they don’t work out, then I’ll figure something out based on my circumstances at the time.

Of course, it could be that I’m stressed beyond all caring, but for now I like not feeling any need to worry about anything. I do think of possibilities, of course, and try to imagine what I might like to do, but it’s nice not knowing what the future holds. Right now, today, I have a place to stay, and today is all any of us have.

This attitude seems to be bleeding over into other areas of my life. I drive a vintage vehicle — I’m being kind. The thing is simply old. Very old. It’s the only car I ever had, and I’ve had it 43 years. (It’s so weird the way life works. I certainly never planned to keep it this long. It just kept chugging along. I guess that’s how I got so old, too. I just kept chugging along.) Lately, I’ve been having problems with the car — and with my mechanic. They lost their VW specialist, and no one there knows how to fix it. Or maybe it’s just that they can’t get parts for it any more.

Yesterday, on my way back from driving a friend to her house in the mountains, the poor car sputtered and backfired and stopped dead. This is the fourth time it happened, so when I called the emergency road service, I asked them to tow it to a different mechanic, one that specializes in Volkswagens. (Actually, it wasn’t that simple. My phone had died, too, but someone stopped and let me use their phone.) I would have had a ten mile walk back to the house since obviously I wouldn’t have been able to call anyone and ask them to pick me up, but I figured well, I’ve been wanting an epic walk and that seemed pretty epic to me!

As it turns out, the tow driver couldn’t tow the car to the new mechanic — that place is closed on Sunday, and the property is fenced in so there was no place to leave the vehicle. We ended up taking it to my old mechanic’s place.

Walking back to my dad’s house, I thought how nice it was not to have a car, which is probably a good thing since there is no telling when/if I will get it back. Still, there’s no need to worry — either things will work out or they won’t.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.