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 double-ass ugly. Comments welcome! Jean

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Widow's Story


I started physical therapy on my hand and wrist this week for the residual pain and stiffness left over from the fall I took in May when I broke my arm. My therapist is a young guy who reminds me of a peppy puppy---cute, friendly, full of energy and playful. The receptionist at the place nicknamed him ‘Fabio’ after the romance cover model and I can see why. Tom has long hair and he does the same kind of ‘head toss’ Fabio does that’s designed to make his hair fall free when it catches on his shoulders. It’s a very model-like character tic that makes Tom look endearing while Fabio just looks vain when he does it. Fabio doesn’t pair it with a killer smile. Did I mention I actually met Fabio? He was at a Romance Writers of America convention that I attended back in the days when I devoured historicals like popcorn at the movies.

At one point I was on my back while Tom was kneading the muscles in my arm when he asked, “So what’s your story?” My first thought was the question sounds like a corny pickup line you’d use at a bar but, thankfully, the filter in my brains kept me from blurting that out. Instead, I launched into a monologue that covered the last 50 years of my life. Jeez, where did that come from? I usually don't talk that much. Then I asked him what his story was and as he talked I decided it might be a corny line to use on a stranger you’re trying to get to know but it cuts to the chase in a big hurry. Score one for the new puppy in my life; he taught this old dog a new trick that I will use the next time I’m stuck for an ice breaker. It works!

Also this week I attended my 3rd meeting of the historical society. We’re in the process of organizing a fund raiser auction to support the new museum opening up this fall. The excitement and energy in the room was palatable and it’s starting to get interesting. Some of these people are real go-getters and seem to know how to wrangle all the components together it takes to pull off an event like this. I signed up for another committee, the ‘where ever’ committee, to work the day of the auction where ever they need extra help. I’ve been on the bidding side of auctions hundreds of times in my life so this should be fun working at one. Little by little I’m learning everyone’s names and, no, I didn’t ask anyone “what’s your story?” but after the museum opens and I’m being trained to be a docent or a researcher, I’m sure I’ll have the opportunity to do so.

My future in the social networking department seems to be coming into sharper focus. The Red Hat Society will add three events to my monthly calendar---one gad-about town field trip, one afternoon tea and one planning/work meeting plus they go on two long weekend trips a year. The senior hall takes up two to five afternoons a month depending on the combination of luncheons, lectures, day trips and classes I want to attend. And the historical society will add one evening lecture to my monthly schedule, two work-at-the museum afternoons and whatever short term committees I want to wade into. I need a new day planner! My old one is too small to keep track of all this stuff.

I couldn’t fall asleep last night thinking about all of this. Am I really ready to take on so much interaction with the outside world after so many years of it just being Don, me and the dog? When Don was alive I was happy being a somewhat spoiled woman/wife. I could read, write and study to my heart's content and I prided myself on being a great caregiver to my disabled husband. I had a purpose and a self worth that I never questioned. That all changed, of course, and now I’m starting all over again to find myself. When I was young and looking for the real Jean it seemed easier, fun. I had a life time ahead of me to search. Now, the pressure of being in my 70s overwhelms me at times. Don’s death made me face own mortality in a way I’d never done before and the fact is I have to say goodbye to dreams that are no long attainable. Deep down, I’m a realist so I will do what I have to do to forge this new chapter in my life. It’s just hard when you no longer feel relevant and all your goals have to be short term. No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus and I’m too damned old to be aerospace engineer for NASA or what ever other crazy notion pops into my head.

A recent widow who was on the bus trip I took said her dying husband had told her to enjoy the rest of her life, to go out and have fun. “That’s just what I’m going to do!” she declared with a confident and upbeat voice. She’s on a mission. She has a mandate. I envy her. I’ve come to view my future as pigging out on pleasant time wasters, marking time before I die. And that’s an unhealthy attitude I have to lose. People like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton who both started foundations that keep them working around the world----it’s easier for me, now, to understand why they do it. We like to think of retirement as earned leisure and it is, but to still feel relevant as we age is a whole different can of worms. Relevance isn’t a gift you've earned by doing well when you were younger, it comes to you from a different place…through the people who love you and/or the contributions you continue to make to society. Thank goodness the dog still thinks I’m relevant to his life and right now he’s asking, “What’s your story widow lady? Are you going to feed me today or what?” Oops! ©

8 comments:

  1. AHA--you gave me the word I have been trying to find for months now. I keep saying 'needed", or "useful", but relevant is the word! and...no I don't feel I am. You had so many years when you WERE relevant, taking care of Don. When he died, your whole "career" was gone. You now have the opportunity to "get out there" and become relevant to others!! YOU GO GIRL!!!

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  2. That's just it, Judy. To become relevant to people I don't know is different than being relevant to family and loved ones. Even being relevant in the work place where I functioned to please a specific need of others is a whole different ballgame. I don't know whether to be scared to death or excited or to draw back into my woman cave. On any given day I might give a different answer if asked.

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  3. Jean :

    after my stroke I struggled to find my relevance again. we all want to feel that there is bigger purpose to our life than just day to day existence. hope you know you matter big time in this world, your blogs and writings have helped countless including me. I would not have reached to this serene place in life without support of all of you angels on the internet

    Asha

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  4. What a sweet thing to say, Asha! Back when we first met on the stroke support site I watched your struggle and growth as I learned how to be a caregiver to my husband. (I think we had a mutual admiration society going between the two of us. LOL) What others on the internet gave to you back when you needed it, you now give back to others. I do struggle in this new phase of my life to find relevance but I'm marching ahead, looking for my new place in the world.

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  5. I'm clearly not using the correct criterion for choosing my doctors. I "knead" a Tom of my own.

    "all your goals have to be short term"
    I think about that sometimes. So many goals have been ruled out and that's just a fact. I keep thinking I'll find something when I have a little more time, but wait. Time is getting short. Sheesh.

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  6. Bella Rum....That's the hardest thing for me to make peace with as I age. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one.

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  7. I'm glad I went back and read posts I've missed. I hope physical therapy is helping. Sounds like Tom, aka 'Fabio', is doing his part :-)

    Young or old, we all want to feel welcome, and asking "What's your story?" is a great opening line. While I hope your new activities bring lots of lifelong friends into your life, I hope you don't stop writing!

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  8. My physical therapy is helping and it will end next Friday. Thanks for asking. The more I see Tom the more I wish I could adapt him for a son. It's like a little therapy puppy.

    I've been writing diary style since I was 9 or 10. I don't know that I could quit even If tried.

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