A Palliative for the Brokenhearted

warriorThree years ago, a yoga teacher and fitness instructor living in Holland got tired of the cold, and so her husband put in a transfer to a warmer climate.

Three years ago, I was living a thousand miles away from the high desert in another state, watching my life mate/soul mate die.

Six months ago, that teacher’s life and mine crossed paths. A friend asked me to accompany her to an introductory therapy yoga class (a class geared toward each person’s abilities and disabilites), and there I met the woman from Holland, who was teaching the class. (She wasn’t from Holland originally. She was actually from California, but she’d living all over the world for the past two decades.)

At that yoga class, I began to come alive. Grief pulls you into yourself, huddling you against the pain, and the thrust of her classes was to open us up to the universe, to new experiences, and to ourselves. My friend dropped out after those introductory classes, but I was hooked. Coincidentally, all the women who remained in the class were in various stages of recovering from the deaths of their husbands, and we formed a bond with each other and with our globetrotting teacher. It was a rare and magical experience, the electric highlight of my week, but magic has a way of dissipating. The teacher was offered a wonderful job in another city that used all of her skills (and paid her a phenomenal amount of money), and she couldn’t turn it down.

Although I felt devastated when she made her announcement, I am trying to consider the ending of the class as a graduation. When a student is ready, a teacher appears, or so it said, and in my case it was true. So perhaps it is also true that when the student is ready, the teacher disappears. Perhaps I have learned from her what I need to know to continue on to the next stage of my life.

But this is all prelude to what I really want to talk about. Whenever I have mentioned how distressed I was at the loss of this class, the response has universally been, “Find another yoga class.” Ummm. Yeah. Find another confluence of people and events that come together from thousands of miles away to create a magical, electric, and life-affirming moment. Sure, I’ll get right on it.

This seems to be the response for every loss. Get a new class, a new life, a new soul mate. Is it really that easy for people to do? Or is it simply that it’s easy to say, a palliative for the brokenhearted?

I realize that soon I will need to find a new life, but as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, it’s not as if I can go to the mall and search the aisles at Lifes ‘R’ Us until I find a new life that fits properly and looks good. I’ve never really wanted anything or anyone, but out of the blue, my life mate/soul mate dropped into my life, bringing (for a while anyway) radiance and excitement, and then later companionship, but now that he’s out of my life, I’m back to not wanting anything. If I did want something, I’d go after it, but I don’t want what is out there to get. (Or maybe I mean I don’t want what I know is out there to get. For example, I’d never considered doing yoga, had no interest in it whatsoever, and yet out of the blue, the yoga teacher dropped into my life.)

Mostly I’m taking the need for a new life in stride. Whatever happens, happens. Wherever I go, there I go. It doesn’t seem to really matter — something will drop into my life or it won’t. Either way, I’ll deal with it.

The only thing I know (or rather, suspect) is that I will not remain here in the high desert. Because of the yoga teacher and her class, for the first time I’d been contemplating staying in the area so I could continue taking instruction from her, and her getting a new job seems to be a clear sign that my future doesn’t lie here. But then again, I don’t really believe in signs . . .


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+

Allowing Myself to Dream

warriorYesterday I wrote about Living Each Day We Are Given and how there will come a time when I am free from my current concerns. People think I should be preparing for that future, planning what I am going to do, where I am going to go, and how I am going to live. Each person has his or her own suggestion as to what form that preparation should take, such as my going back to school either to situate myself anew in the job market or to take advantage of student loans. Others think I should be researching places to live, but the truth is, I am tired of planning. I’d like to be bold without being foolish, adventuresome without being reckless, but most of all, I’d like to be spontaneous without being flighty. In other words, I’d like to stretch myself to see what I’m made of without putting myself in danger, and I can’t do that if I immediately go from one planned life to another.

Still, I am preparing for my future, though it might not seem like it. I am exercising and trying to eat right, taking yoga classes and going for long rambles in the desert. And I’m pitching ideas, trying them on for size.

I’ve always had a sense of my strengths and weaknesses, but I don’t want to take those strengths and weaknesses into consideration. I want to throw myself wide open and envision a life of endless possibilities, at least to begin with. It won’t be long before the realities slowly creep back in. I’m not elderly, but I’m not young, either. I’m not indolent, but I’m not athletic. (I’m smiling to myself as I write this. I had to rewrite the word indolent a half a dozen times because each time I inadvertently wrote insolent. I’ve never been insolent, never liked hurting people, so I have no idea where the subconscious desire for insolence came from.)

I’m not much of a daydreamer, living fantastic adventures in my head. I’ve always been too practical and pragmatic to want what is unattainable. Never been one to want much of anything, to tell the truth. Many women in my situation gave up their own dreams when they got married, and now that their husbands are dead, they are picking up those original dreams and running with them. I have no such abandoned dreams, but many things will be open to me in my new life that would have been inconceivable in the old one, and I need to allow myself to dream so I can become receptive to those possibilites.

Do I want to hop a plane and fly to Britain, with no real plans of what to do when I get there, just see what happens? Do I want to hole myself up in a garret and write incredibly wise and witty books? Do I want to enroll in classes — Tai Chi or calligraphy perhaps? Do I want to get rid of my stuff or put it into storage, and take to the roads? Do I want to . . . ?

There is a chance that I will move back to Colorado and settle down, but now that I am on my own, settling down seems too much like stagnating, and stagnation terrifies me. I don’t want to end up like one of those old woman who sits in her dark apartment, alone, with the whole bright world outside her door. And yet, and yet . . . there is the small matter of a lack of funds and the large matter of a laid-back nature more suited to a life of contemplation than a life of action.

So now I’m throwing my heart out into the world of possibilities in the hopes that someday the rest of me will follow.


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+

Opening Myself to the Power of the Universe

I’ve never had an interest in yoga, though as it turns out, several of my morning stretching exercises are yoga poses. But now I’m hooked and mostly because of a single pose called Warrior. (I can’t even pronounce the Sanskrit name: Virabhadrasana.)

The pose seems to open me up to the universe and myself, makes me feel strong and potentially invincible, as if I’m tapping into hidden sources of power. I have no idea why the pose has this effect on me since the others in the class don’t have the same affinity for the pose that I do. All I know is the effect it has on me. I feel the power even more when I am out in the desert, alone with the sun, facing the mountains.

“Warrior 1” is shown here, with the arms extended over head. In “Warrior 2”, the right leg is foremost, the right arm is extended straight out in front and the left arm is stretched out behind in line with the legs, and the head pointing toward the right thumbs (You can find images of the pose by Googling “Warrior 2.”) You also do the pose in reverse, with the left leg foremost.

It will be interesting to find out what happens over the course of the months by doing this exercise. If the effect isn’t an illusion, and I’m really gathering power, then watch out! Who knows what I will become.


Twisting Time is Here: The Power of Saying Yes

A few years ago I developed a new philosophy: say yes. When people ask me to do something or invite me somewhere or suggest a course of action that I would not normally have considered, I try to say yes instead of immediately dismissing the idea as I once would have done. I’d hoped that by opening myself to diverse activities, I would spark new interests, maybe even twist off my usual path onto a new path of living. So, far, that hasn’t happened. I still don’t have much life in my life or spring in my step, though I don’t know whether these are lingering effects of grief or simply a sign that I haven’t yet found something to be passionate about.

One of my most recent yeses lead to yoga classes, something I had absolutely no interest in, especially since I had no interest in twisting myself into uncomfortable positions. The point of these particular classes is to open oneself up, to breathe, to be, which falls right in line with my latest outlook, which I found interesting. I’ve been pausing in my desert walks to do a few of the breathing exercises (the standing ones), opening myself to the universe, and then saying my affirmation: “I am happy. I am being me. I am where I am supposed to be.” And for a while, I am happy, or at least at peace.

Another yes landed me at twist party for Chubby Checker’s 71st birthday. It was actually a concert, but everyone danced in the aisles, and a couple of times Chubby Checker came down off the stage and joined us. We also sang happy birthday to him, and I found singing to a singer corny enough to be amusing. (Amazing — 71 and still able to perform for 75 minutes and more.)

Other recent yeses took me to see the top-rated Elvis tribute artist in the world and a war dance demonstration.

None of these yeses twisted my life around, changed my thinking, or added anything besides an hour or so of diversion, but still, I’ll keep saying yes. Anything can happen, and perhaps that possibility is the real value of saying yes.


Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy 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.”

There is No Journey Through Grief

People often talk of the journey through grief. (I myself have iterated this adage.) During the past few months as my grief is waning, I’ve come to see that there is no separate journey through grief. There is only the journey through life. Grief accompanies us part of the way, maybe even most of the way, though not always with the intensity of new grief. Grief, in fact, has driven me through the steep rocky path of my life during the past few years, first a numbing grief at my life mate/soul mate’s dying, and then later, a soul-shattering grief at his death.

Like many bereft, I was not always sure I want to continue living, but I wasn’t particularly ready for death, either, so I did the only thing I could do — continue my journey, taking each day as it comes, trying new things, finding comfort in knowing that nothing lasts forever.

By sheer waves of happenstance, I’ve been temporarily beached in a residential area that borders the desert. (If you have been following the Second Wind online collaboration called Rubicon Ranch, you will be familiar with this community, though so far, unlike my hapless alter ego, widow Melanie Gray, I have not yet stumbled upon body parts out in the desert.)

Someday, those waves of chance might sweep me into other climes, so I am making sure I use this opportunity to get to know my desert self. There are few frills in the desert, no vibrant colors or showy flowers (though brilliant cactus flowers do bloom in the spring). There are just stark hills, creosote bushes, hard-packed sandy soil. The bleak landscape suited me when I first came here, sodden with tears and steeped in pain, and it suits me still. There is peace in starkness — no particular sight rivets my attention, no exotic sounds or aromas tantalize my senses. There’s just me, the hills, the air I breathe.

Other waves of happenstance landed me in a yoga class. The teacher has a different approach, focusing not on the forms so much as breathing and being. That, too suits me.

I’ve added a few of those exercises to my morning perambulations. I stand out in the desert, away from the things of humankind, open my arms and breathe in the desert. In that moment, I am happy. There are no shadows of grief, no sad memories or niggling fears. There’s just me, believing I am where I am supposed to be.