Grief and a Need for Adventure

For the past few years, I’ve had an overwhelming desire for adventure, especially some grand and epic journey that would change me forever. I’ve noticed this same trait in others of my grief “age group,” those of us who lost our soul mates around the same time. Apparently, our psyches believe that only something great and powerful and life affirming (or death defying) can offset the terrible loss we suffered. This feeling isn’t reserved for just our group of course, but since we’ve suffered a similar loss within a few months of each other, the phases we all go through are more apparent to me.

For some people, the desire for an epic adventure dissipates as their grief dissipates. For example, I have a friend who’s been grieving the end of a love affair for the past couple of years, and although she’s been going through this same need for adventure, she now seems to have reached both an acceptance of her loss and a readiness to resume life on a more prosaic level. She wants to write and do art, which are adventures of their own, but both seem to demand some sort of settled life so the artist can pursue those adventures on art’s own terms.

campingMe? I’m not there yet. Although it seems as if I’m unequipped physically for great feats of endurance, such as an epic walk, I’m not ready to accept the idea of a settled life. In my case, I’m not sure it’s still about a need for adventure so much as a need for a simpler life. What could be simpler than taking a walk? One foot in front of the other. That’s all you need to do. At least, that’s the way it appears on the surface. The more I research, the more complicated such a life becomes. A gallon of water weighs eight pounds. In desert states, sometimes you have to walk fifty to a hundred miles before coming upon a water source. At a half gallon of water and five to ten miles a day, that means a minimum load of forty pounds just of water. Add to that food, shelter (tent), sleeping system, rain gear, emergency kit, change of clothes. No wonder people who walk across the country push or pull carts so they can haul the necessities. Or they walk with nothing, and trust in the journey to supply what they need. I have no interest in a cart, and no ability to surrender to trust, so here I sit, journeying on my computer, dreaming as yet impossible dreams.

People keep asking me if I had inherited this house if I would continue living here. I always say no just because owning this house was never an option, but the truth is, I probably would stay out of inertia. If you have a place to live, it’s much harder to uproot yourself than if life uproots you. But eventually I’d have to leave because I don’t have the wherewithal to keep up such a house. Nor could I handle the stress of upkeep. Most of my recent stresses and dramas have centered around this house. Alarms chirping, things breaking down, things needing to be fixed, replaced, cleaned, packed. Things. Other stresses and dramas have centered around my computer and car. More things. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life as a caretaker of things. I want more from life than . . . things. (I’ve considered joining the tiny house movement, but again, although on the surface, owning a tiny house seems simple, in the end it’s as complicated as owning a big house. )

I have dance commitments through the end of May, so whether the house sells or not, I’ll be staying in this area at least that long. (Jazz and belly dance performances in March, Hawaiian and Tahitian performances in May.) And then? More dancing, probably. I still have much to learn that dancing can teach me. I’m considering renting a room in a house, which would give me more unsettledness than an apartment lease. Besides, considering the non-credit I have, never having borrowed money or owned a credit card, it’s almost impossible for me to rent a place.

I have way too many things for a simple life, but to simplify my life, I’ll be putting it all in storage. That way I won’t have to be burdened with those things, but will have them whenever I need them.

I do know I will do something. I’ll have to. My mother died at eighty-five and my father at ninety-seven, though there’s no saying whether I will live as long as either one of them did. (My immediately younger brother died nine years ago from brain cancer.) Still, there is a possibility of my living for decades still. I will have to do something during all those years, and whatever that something might be, I’m sure it will be an adventure because life itself is an adventure.

***

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.

Stepping From The Known Into The Unknown

Ever since I came to look after my nonagenarian father after the death of my life mate/soul mate, I’ve been looking forward to a time when I would be free of all responsibility and would be able to do whatever I wanted (within the bounds of my meager resources). I’ve daydreamed about living a nomadic life, traveling around in some sort of camper or van or even a car with a comfortable back seat. I’ve daydreamed about epic walks, imagining myself thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, the California/Oregon/Washington coastal trails, the breadth of the USA. I’ve daydreamed about just heading out and letting the path form before my feet as I journeyed into the unknown.

Ventura Pier at SunsetNow that my father is gone and I’m on the brink of that new life, I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly I expect to gain from an adventurous life (particularly since I am anything but adventurous). It wasn’t until a mentor left a comment on my A Little of a Lot of Things blog post that I realized what I wanted.

She wrote: Listing priorities is something you’ll be doing the rest of your life. You have plenty of time. Beginning with familiar things is a good step, as it’s always easier to step from the known into the unknown than to springboard into a whole life of new things all at once. You’re doing fine. Trust your instincts.

I realized I don’t want to start with familiar things. I want to jump off the precipice of the known and land gently in the middle of a whole new life filled with amazement, joy, and wonderful new things.

Such a childish wish! Not easy to do and probably not feasible, either. I know we take ourselves with us wherever we go, but I’d hoped an epic journey with all its challenges would change me into something . . . other. Other than what I am now, I mean. Other than a sad woman who has endured too much loss too fast. Other than a lonely woman who is neither jaded nor bored, just . . . tired. Other than an earth-bound woman who seems to have misplaced her power of uplift.

But life doesn’t work that way. We are always who we are. I’ve lived a creative life and lived life creatively. That will never change. But I’d like to be uplifted, amazed, excited, entranced by life once more. Cripes, it sounds like I want to be young again, doesn’t it? But I don’t. I just seem to have lost the power to feel the daily miracles. I can still be appreciative, still be grateful, but how many times can one feel totally uplifted and awed by a sunset before it becomes ordinary? A hundred? A thousand? Ten thousand? How many times can one feel the new grass beneath her toes and feel the wonder of being on this earth? After a while, it simply feels like . . . grass.

The older we get, the quicker things go from awesome and new to comfortable and familiar, from comfortable and familiar to entropy and stagnation. I’m sure my efforts at living creatively will stave off both entropy and stagnation, but I want more than a life spent staving.

The alternative to springboarding into a completely new life would be to take things one step at a time, savoring each new step into the unknown until it becomes comfortable, then taking another step into a  new unknown. And that is doable.

Today marks the beginning of a new year. Think about it, and you’ll realize it’s true. The calendar might not change, the year number might have already changed, but this is the beginning of the year 1/13/15 to 1/12/16.

So happy new year! Wishing all our dreams begin to come true, one step at a time.

***

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

Trying to Imagine a New Life

It’s amazing the convoluted paths one’s brain takes when one needs to start building a new life.

Technically, I suppose, it’s never possible to start anew since we always drag ourselves and our experiences with us, but still, for me and others I have recently met, our old life has expired, become unworkable, or no longer exists. In my case, my shared life with my life mate/soul mate no longer exists. He no longer exists, at least not here on earth. I still have many of our shared belongings, but even if I wanted to, there is no way to retrace my steps. Not only that, my current life has expired. When my old life ceased to exist, I filled an interim niche looking after my nonagenarian father. And now he, too, is gone. Even if by some stroke of good luck (or bad) and I were allowed to stay here in my father’s house, it would not be workable because I simply would not have the resources to keep up such a huge place.

And so I am trying to imagine a new life.

I often think of living on foot, at least for a while. Although it seems physically impossible for me, I can’t get the idea out of my head. Could I? Would I? Should I? It’s possible that life itself would dictate my taking the massive first step. For example if my ancient VW were to break down in the middle of nowhere, I would need to start walking. And perhaps I would simply keep on walking.

trailsOr, my latest harebrained idea — a friend has broached the subject of my visiting Florida. A long shot, and only in the first stages of consideration, but my thoughts immediately glommed onto the idea of walking back across the USA if the trip came to fruition. Supposedly, if one is going to make a cross-country trip on foot, east to west is best — probably because there are more resources in the east, such as close-flung towns and more water sources than in the dry west.

I would like to visit a friend in Louisiana, a very dear friend I have yet to meet. Could I walk to her house from deep in the Florida panhandle? There are roads, of course, mainly highways, but then I checked the national trails map, and oh, my. There is a Florida National Scenic Trail for hikers. (Click on the map, and then click again to zoom out if you’d like to see a higher resolution image.)  The Florida National Scenic Trail is not finished, but there are connecting spurs via rail-to-trail paths and other such footpaths from completed section to completed section. (Rail-to-trail is a system of abandoned railroad tracks and rail beds that have been converted to various trails.) And so my mind spins wonderful possibilities as well as even more wonderful impossibilities.

I have been thinking about some sort of trek for so long, some day I will have to attempt . . .  something. Even if I manage a single day and night, that would still be an adventure.

Meantime, I’m also considering the possibility of some sort of van conversion for an extended road trip. Should I buy something already outfitted like a mini camper? Should I get something inexpensive in case I end up hating the idea? (I’ve been researching renting such a camper van, and the cost for a year is more than the purchase price of a decent used model.) Or should I buy something that would also serve as a city vehicle, and just a throw a mattress in the back to start? Would I want to live in a van for any length of time? (That old Saturday Night Live sketch about living in a van down by the river comes to mind.) And if so, would I want to design and build my own interior as a couple of people have suggested?

I like the idea of living large in small spaces — there seem to be a growing trend to miniscule homes, 300 square feet or less. I considered such a house, even went so far as to check out the feasibility of building one myself, but to tow the finished product would require a stronger vehicle than I have or would want to have. Still, the idea of designing my own place based on my basic needs is an interesting concept. What do I need? A bed, of course. A computer and electricity to run it. Some sort of potty. Maybe cooking facilities, maybe not. Maybe a lovely and lovingly furnished interior, maybe not. Maybe a shower, maybe not. (Yeah, I know, “maybe” includes “maybe not” but I liked the alliteration and the emphasis.)

Some people who have chosen such a lifestyle have omitted bathing facilities from their tiny space, instead opting for a membership at a national health club where hot showers would be available. An interesting solution.

People caution me about planning too much. They keep telling me I have no idea what might happen, and that is true, so I am simply playing with these ideas. Maybe, contrary to my gut feeling, my father’s house won’t sell right away. Maybe someone will offer a suggestion that I fall in love with for my next step, something I didn’t imagine. Maybe . . . well, I did say I have no idea what might happen so it’s foolish to continue listing maybes.

But I will continue to wonder what it is I need from life, what it is I need for life.

***

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.