Taking a Leap Into the Impossible

leapOnce you make the mental leap from where you are today to where you want to be, then suddenly, the impossible seems possible.

Several times when things in my life became untenable, I considered getting rid of everything and just living day by day, but there have always been obstacles, some quite out of my control, such as taking care of someone who is ill or dying, and some only in my mind and personality. I’m basically a creature of habit, and when I move somewhere I tend to stay where I end up even if I hate the place. (Staying is not always about habit; sometimes staying is about not being able to find a better place or not being able to face the upheaval, expense, and aggravation of a move if you do find a place.)

Ever since the death of my life mate/soul mate, I’ve been afraid habit will trap me in a life of loneliness and stagnation, and I simply cannot bear for that to be true.

In various blog posts, I’ve tried to figure out what to do next, and I’ve often talked about settling somewhere and then taking trips. But the other day it occurred to me that I don’t have to settle anywhere. I can simply store my stuff and live on the road. (Figuratively speaking, that is. I wouldn’t actually live on the road. That’s a sure way of ending up as road kill.) The beauty of such a plan is that I could stay as long as I want in one place and then move on with relative ease.

At first this idea was just another cerebral meandering, but now it has taken hold. I’ve made the mental leap into such a lifestyle, and suddenly it seems possible.

I’ve been considering the logistics of what I’d need to bring for six months to a year of travel, including emergency supplies and of course boxes of my published books, and I’ve come to see that such a trip is doable. (Financing it might be a problem, but that’s the “wits” part of being a “wanderer, living by wits and whim”.) These past three years of taking care of my father, when most of my stuff has been in storage anyway, has shown me what I use and what I don’t. And I don’t use many things at all.

Moving from place to place could be a mental adjustment, leaving me feeling as if I were dangling in space, unconnected to the world (not an unfamiliar sensation since my mate’s death gave me that same feeling), but this would be one time where habit would be a good thing. I could continue my morning routine of floor exercises and weights, (luckily I’ve just been using dumbbells because carting around my barbells and weight bench would be a bit much), a long walk, and a protein drink for breakfast. This routine would help me feel “normal.” I could also bring a few small items that had no value other than that they would connect me from place to place, such as a photo of my deceased life mate or a silly figurine or my dictionary and thesauruses — something to make the place feel familiar. And then, of course, I’d have my computer. I’ve looked at this same screen for seven years now, and many friends lie beyond the images I see. To a certain extent, my life on the road would be the same as it is now, but there would still be plenty differences to savor.

I don’t know if I would ever be able to make the leap if I were mired somewhere, but in the not too distant future, my life will be turned upside down once more, and I will be forced to make a choice. And I will take the leap.

***

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+

Figuring Out Where to Go From Here

Route 66During the past three years, ever since the death of my life mate/soul mate I’ve been trying to figure out where to go from here. Currently I am taking care of my 96-year-old father, but someday this responsibility will come to an end, and I will have to find somewhere to live.

Or do I?

By nature, I am a quasi-hermit who easily settles into routines, and now that I am alone, that very nature could become a problem. Unless I do something to prevent stagnation, years from now I could end up being one of those forgotten old women, living behind closed curtains in a dingy apartment. Doesn’t seem like a healthy way to live, but to be honest, I’m not interested in another long-term committed relationship, either. Still, there is a world of opportunity between those two extremes.

When I met the man I was to spend thirty-four years of my life with, I become the most spontaneous I’d ever been. His being in the world made it seem as if the world were full of possibilities, and I grabbed hold of life with both hands and ran with it. Years later, as he got sicker and life took its toll on our finances, the possibilities shrank. Our lives became staid and minutely planned to take his infirmities into consideration. He told me once he regretted that the constraints of our life destroyed my spontaneity, and he was sorry to be the cause of it.

It’s not something I like to face, but the last years, and especially the last months of his life were terrible for both of us. And, something I like to face even less is that his death set me free. The best way to honor my mate’s life and his great gift of freedom is to take back the thing he thought he stole from me. So, to that end, I’m considering becoming a wanderer, living by wit and whim, at least for a while.

When I mentioned this idea to one of my grief-group friends, she said she’d love to be able to live such a life, and she’d do it in a flash if she had a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

Two hundred thousand dollars? Would it really take so much? I hope not, because I don’t have that kind of money — or any kind at all, to be honest — and unless my books became a belated overnight sensation, I have no way of getting it. On the other hand, if I don’t have rent or a mortgage to deal with, if I don’t have utility bills and other standard expenses every month, if I don’t drive all day using up tankfuls of gas but take short jaunts from place to place, then all I’d have to deal with is motels and food, and I might be able to swing that for a few months. I might even be able to find ways of extending the wandering, such as staying with friends and relatives for a few days, or perhaps even try some sort of crowd-funding such as Kickstarter.

Although I would be living by whim, the wandering life, for however long it lasted, wouldn’t be entirely pointless. I could visit bookstores and try to get them interested in my books. I could chronicle the journey, taking pictures of the places I visited, interviewing people, noting differences from place to place (if there are any. For all I know, one place could look the same as any other with a McDonald’s, Dairy Queen or Sonic, and Walmart wherever I went). I could even end up with a new book!

At the very least, I might be able to figure out where to go from here.

***

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+

Leaving on a Jet Plane

My bags are packed, I’m ready to go, but I have a few minutes before I have to start donning my traveling togs, so I thought I’d say good-bye. Unlike Mary Travers, I do know when I’ll be back again — late Sunday night. I’m going to take notes and photos to show you, but most of all, despite 100% humidity (yikes!!), I’m going to have fun. It’s been so long since I’ve had fun, I’m not even sure what the word means any more, but I intend to find out.

I had an interesting revelation today, and oddly, it wasn’t even my revelation. I showed the preparations for my Scribbler’s Retreat Writer’s Conference presentation to a couple of people at different times the past two days. One said, “You have enough here for a book.” The other said, “This would make a good book.” And it would. I’m surprised I didn’t think of it, but sometimes we’re too close to things to see the truth. So, I haven’t even left for my conference, and I already have what I hoped to gain from it — a new direction and the confidence to go where it takes me.

Knowing I have something to do after my grief book is published will give me the impetus to type and edit the writings from my year of grief. My first year of grief. I’m still not over it, though I am healing every day. And perhaps I’ve outlived my stay at my grief support group. One woman brought a poem to read today, purportedly from our loved ones on the other side. At the end, everyone was wiping away tears but me. I was horrified by one of the lines: “everyday is the same here.” When I mentioned my horror, it sort of broke the mood. Ah, well. I’m mostly there for the hugs and to help the newly bereft however I can. They (whoever “they” is) say that grief brings strange blessings, and mine appears to be the ability to put into words what others are thinking.

The past few days have been so busy, I’m looking forward to doing nothing but sitting back and letting the plane take me where it wills. And even the five hour layover in Atlanta is even looking good. I was on top of the situation the whole time until Facebook decided to archive my old groups unless I acted immediately, so I couldn’t wait till I get back.

I have a favor to ask. If you belong to one of my facebook groups, and if you have time, will you go to the group, scroll down the wall (and click “older posts” when you get to the botttom of the page), look for discussion threads and make a comment? That brings the discussions to the top of the group page, and is a way of keeping them from getting lost. I’ll do it when I get back, of course, but any help will be appreciated.

My facebook groups: Suspense/Thriller Writers, Genre Book Club, and Second Wind Publishing.

I already did Help Support Independent Publishers,, but feel free to stop by and comment in a discussion anyway, especially the one where we are posting the first sentences of our books.

My ride is here. Gotta go!

Grief Update: Looking For Adventure and Whatever Comes My Way

In exactly one week, I will be on my way to St. Simon’s Island, GA to speak at the Scribbler’s Retreat Writers’ Conference. It’s been a long time coming — I was originally scheduled for last August, but I had to postpone due to the illness and then the death of my life mate. These past months I’ve been looking to this conference as a borderline of sorts, a life-changing experience, maybe because it’s something concrete to plan for rather than a hazy future of aloneness to drift into.

And now the conference is only a few days away.

Several people asked me recently if I’m excited, others asked if I’m scared, but the truth is, I’m just tired. I’m tired of grieving, tired of trying to make sense of life, and most of all, I’m tired of shopping.

Shopping? Yep. Of all the subjects I never expected to discuss on this blog, shopping would head the list. I’ve never liked shopping for clothes, and the truth is, I never had to. When one is a virtual hermit, one doesn’t need very much. But a world-class author (according to the Scribbler’s Retreat people, anyway) does need more than a simple top to throw over comfortable slacks when she is being introduced at a banquet, giving a presentation, attending a reception. I’ve been lucky in that a couple of weeks ago, two friends took me shopping to pick out the clothes they think I look best in, and then this past week, my sister came and picked the things she liked on me. This leaves me with a wardrobe that is not me. Or at least not the pre-death me. Perhaps it’s who I’ll become — a bit classy, a bit dramatic, a bit arty. Not a bad image if I can pull it off. And there’s no reason I can’t. I’ve survived fifty-eight weeks of grief. I can do anything.

It’s strange to think I’m going somewhere my life mate never visited, stranger to think I’m going without a single article of clothing he ever saw. There will be nothing on this trip (except my lingering sadness) to remind me of what I lost. There will be just me, heading out on an adventure, accepting whatever comes my way.