Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What Is It Going To Take To Make Me Happy Again?

 
“I can't go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”
 Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

When you wake up in the morning knowing the most exciting thing you have to do that day is unload the dish washer you know you’re in trouble. If not for the dog rattling the library door, I would have pulled the covers over my head and stayed in bed until noon. But he has a schedule to keep that includes dog walkers to bark at as they pass by the house so their four-legged companions can leave early morning pee-mail at our box. There is something pathetic about being jealous of your dog’s schedule but, darn it, it must be nice to have a purpose in life like he does. If I start barking at the rabbits as they feed in the back yard in the late afternoon I hope the neighbors will call Social Services because that will mean I’ve gone over the edge and into the land of kooky old people who, like Lewis Carroll did when he wasn’t teaching and writing about mathematics, find our imaginations more fun to live in than the here and now. Just call me Spot, your faithful Springer Spaniel.

When ever I bellyache about not having a sense of purpose since Don died, volunteering gets suggested. I duly note and appreciate the fact that often times the obvious answer to a dilemma is the correct answer. I’m not dismissing that suggestion although it doesn’t excite me. Call me naïve but I want to be on fire with passion over the direction I go next in life the way I used to be in my younger days when a project or idea would consume me. But is that even possible after we’ve pushed the envelopes of pain and happiness that come with living a long life? What is it going to take to make me happy again? Is it finding other people to connect with, finding a cause to fight for or a project to prime my creative juices---a combination of all three? And how is my search for happiness in my age bracket any different than at other crossroads through out our lives? Is fear of failure more or less an issue as we age and are contemplating a major life-style change? As we age do we become so afraid of missteps that we forget that missteps sometimes lead us to our greatest joys?

“Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle.”
 Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland 

One thing, of course, that will make me happy again is getting my dominant arm out of the sling at the end of the month. When I get the sling off, though, I will probably need some therapy. I can’t get my hand up close enough to my face to eat and my fingers wouldn’t stretch out fully yet. This has been a major setback in my pursuit of happiness in the post-Don era of my life. Breaking a bone at any age can bring a wave of depression into your life but I’m discovering that at my age it can also scare the crap out of you. Accidents happen so quickly and just as quickly they can cause you to end up in a nursing home when you have no one at home to help you. And this is where I need to remind myself about the Rule of Living in the Moment, and not to borrow trouble from the Department of What If This or That Happens. If I was inclined to get a tattoo it should read: DON’T BORROW TROUBLE. IT WILL GET HERE SOON ENOUGH!

Broken bone or not, I suspect that all widows eventually ask themselves the make-me-happy-again question. The pink elephant in the room is the fact that a lot of us would secretly say the one thing that would make us happy again is to rewind our lives back to a time when we could have done something to change the outcome we are now living with---the death of our spouse. But that possibility is in the realm of Alice in Wonderland going down the rabbit hole and try as we might, we can’t turn our lives into a fairytale where anything is possible. We can imagine turn-back-the-clock scenarios, though, and in the end they have the power to help us heal, make peace with the past, and that’s a good thing. I thought I had moved past the worst of my grief…until I broke my arm and then the “poor me” feelings came rushing back, and now the stress of not knowing where the future will take me is nipping at my heels again. Or maybe---just maybe---it’s too early in the timeline of widowhood to expect my mojo back. ©

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don’t much care where--" said Alice.
"Then it doesn’t matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"--so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you’re sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


7 comments:

  1. Sorry if I added to the cliched suggestion to volunteer. I never implied that there'd be passion for it. Hell, I do a bunch of beautiful things everyday that I don't give a damn about; I just know that they're the things I should be doing. At some point, the synapses will fire, the brian chemistry will kick in, and I guess all that right stuff will result in happiness. For now, it feels bad. It pretty much always does these days.

    Hang in there, Jean.

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  2. So many things to think about and comment on. First, I dearly wish you lived down the street because you sound like the woman I'd have such fun paling around with.

    Secondly, our age counts for something. IF I had 'little to do' I'd maybe volunteer, but goodness, you, or I, may want to create a path in another way. Our radar is fixed on passion, something intrinsic to our being; ideally we haven't time to fritter away; this may be the time to immerse ourselves.

    Thirdly, you're open to discovering that passion, and we need whatever it is you offer that will put a spring in your step. Please find it!

    Fourth, widowhood scrambles out hearts, our confidence, our hope. It strips from us our comforts, and consolation. Maybe it is also stripping from us impediments to reaching for stars we trust are there?

    Sorry I've gone on so long. I identify with you. Besides the obvious, I am also down to one arm. At least it's not my dominant arm. But I wish I could accept this down time more gracefully. Oh, well.

    Do you know what a secret longing of mine is? To use this camper I have parked in my driveway to explore this country of ours. I've not found a kindred spirit that would like to follow where the spirit leads and has the time to do so.

    We all have secret passions that may have a chance to bloom now. I hope you give yourself a chance to find out what really makes your heart sing.

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  3. Finchreader...I was worried you'd feel bad about suggesting volunteering. Please, please don't! It's such a common cliche and it comes at us from so many different directions. Heck, I've even suggested it to myself and probably to others at one time or another. One blogger reaching out to another blogger is the warm take-way here and that's what counts....doesn't matter if our suggestions hit the mark or not. It's the fact that others care enough to offer one.

    GoWitheFlow...Did you know there are RV camper clubs just for women? One is: http://www.rvingwomen.org/ but I know there are others you could research. I read an article about traveling in RV caravans like this a few years ago and it sounds and they have a lot to offer. This particular club has 16 chapters and one is in the Great Lakes covering MI, IN, OH and PA which I believe would be near you.

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  4. I don't know how relevant this is to your situation, but a number of years ago when I was doing research on single women, I learned about what is called "the age 30 crisis" for never-married women. This is the decade when women who have been thinking of themselves as "not married yet" start to consider the possibility that they may never find Mr. Right. The age 30 crisis is a time of great unhappiness as these women can imagine only one path to true happiness (the one our culture tells us is the path to true happiness) and begin to think that path may not be accessible for them. The "Age 30 Crisis" tends to resolve itself in two ways: (1) the women make it a project to find a husband, using dating services, being "less picky" (their words) and finding a Mr Right to marry; (2) they begin to embrace the possibilities of single life, stop worrying about finding Mr. Right, and find a version of happiness very different from what they had ever imagined. Both paths usually lead to happiness, but they are very different versions of happiness -- and both take time. I'm wondering if there is a similar process for widows. I would imagine that, for those like you who found great happiness in marriage, seeing possible paths to happiness that don't look at all familiar might take more time than you've had. -Jean

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  5. stepintofuture: I was 27 when I met Don so I'm very familiar with the never-married crisis leading up to being 30 that you wrote about. I think you may be right about there being a similar process that widows go through as "the age 30 crisis" where we have to come to terms with changing our idea and definition of happiness and/or approaching our pursuit of happiness like a project. You, being a sociologist, I really value your opinion that I might need more time. It's what my instincts tell me but that's in conflict with the message widows get elsewhere. At a year out we're suppose to have it all behind us. Thanks for sharing the above!

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  6. Jean-
    I had no idea there were RV clubs for women. The Northeast Network includes my neck of the woods. Many thanks!

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  7. Have fun exploring their website and maybe researching other groups. I remember from the article I read that one of the groups was started by a few widows who didn't want to give up RVing when their husband's died but were afraid to go it totally alone.

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