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

Monday, March 3, 2014

Gilda Radner’s Legacy of Laughter

 

I’ve been re-reading my blog posts from last year, getting them ready for Blurb to slurp them up into a hard copy book that I can put on my library shelf and I’ve come to realize that I use the word ‘damn’ entirely too often when I write. At least I did during my second year of widowhood, and probably in my first year as well, Back then, I’m guessing I even used a few more colorful swear words along with the damns. In my offline life, when I’m around “real people” I check myself from saying things that might offend others. I might accidentally slip with the D word on occasion but never the F or P word. Let’s back up here a minute: I’m not saying the people who might be reading this online aren’t real people. It’s just that readers have the option to quit reading at any point. When you sit next to someone out in public it’s harder to just walk away or to tell them that you don’t appreciate their “colorful” language. I’m not a language prude, don’t get me wrong, but on the other end of the scale I also don’t like comedians who depend on blue or crude language to get their laughs. To me, it’s like listening to a band that only plays two notes over and over again. Get a dictionary. Learn something new!

For the next ten days my city is hosting its 4th annual Laugh-Fest, a festival of laughter that includes over 260 events spread out over 65 stages in the area, half of them free and many of them child-friendly. The whole event is billed as a “Laughter RX series, a prescription for emotional health” and the proceeds all go to the local Gilda’s Club. This year the headliners are Jay Leno, Jim Gaffigan and Lily Tomlin and in past years we’ve had Lewis Black, Betty White and Bill Cosby in town performing their acts. There are amateur stand-up comedy competitions as well as professional acts plus films, bands, open mike joke nights, storytelling and a ping pong competition with some weird twists. Even a 5K race takes place where you have to wear your underwear over top of your running suits to participate. Heck, even I got an invitation in the mail to see a standup comedian doing old people humor at a retirement village.

Gilda Radner, for anyone not old enough to remember her from Saturday Night Live, died of cancer and afterward her husband, Gene Wilder, and her cancer therapist co-founded the first Gilda’s Club in New York City, a place where cancer patients and their families can get free support. The movement to establish a Gilda’s Club to my city was started by one of the pillars of the community after her own bout with cancer and, boy, is it successful. This local club house gave birth to the very first festival of laughter in the U.S.A. and its grown every year. It’s sad that until this year I didn’t appreciate what is going on right in my own back yard. But I do now, and yesterday I read through their schedule of events looking for something free I’d like to see. I found an art exhibit at the local art institute billed as ‘humor in craft’ that I may go to if the snow ever stops messing up the roads. The whole city wants to make us laugh. Even the libraries are displaying books known for their humor.

I love the following Gilda Radner quote: “Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”

I rarely do that but it sure is a good goal to work towards, don’t you think? In our Western culture we can get obsessive about planning the future and micro-managing our days, and we think we can know where we’ll be in life five years from now, even ten or twenty. But something comes along like cancer or the death of a spouse or a disability and we have to rearrange our thinking in a big, hard hurry. Suddenly, we start lamenting the fact that we didn’t take more time out of our hectic schedules to watch a sunset at the beach, appreciate the sounds of a summer evening, or even to play connect-a-dot with our freckles and an ink pen. 

“Taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what will happen next.” Jeez, half the time I can’t even enjoy my first cup of coffee in the morning without looking over my job list for that day. How do we get to that point where we can quit worrying about what will happen next and just live in the moment, find things to laugh about and love that are right before our eyes? We can all name times in our lives when living in the moment happens spontaneously, or when something grabs our attention and won’t let go like Gilda’s legacy of laughter is bringing to town, but is it realistic to think we can truly maintain living in the moment on a daily basis? Is it even necessary for us to so? Or is it good enough just to seek balance---the yin and yang---the calm after a storm, and laughter to balance out our tears? That darn Socratic Method I learned decades ago in college sure taught me how to ask questions, didn’t it, but it did nothing to help me learn how to sort out the conflicting answers I receive. ©

 French comedians..........




 

19 comments:

  1. "we have to rearrange our thinking in a big, hard hurry."
    That's it exactly. Bad stuff happens, sometimes not even bad... just change, and we have to rearrange our thinking in a big hard hurry.

    I loved Gilda and read her autobiography back in the... um... which decade was it? Nineties I think. I remember that she wrote about going to the beach with her family and how she would go off exploring, but when she returned, all the beach umbrellas looked the same. Her mother tied a pair of sneakers to their umbrella so she would always be able to find them. Jump forward to when she was in the hospital and not in a good way. Gene Wilder came bounding through the door, holding an umbrella with a pair of sneakers tied to it so she would always be able to find him.

    Hop you enjoy the art exhibit if you decide to go.

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    1. I think her memoir, It's Always Something, was published in 1989. I didn't read it but I do have Gene Wilder's memoir, Kiss me Like a Stranger, on my to-read list. I can just picture him in all his 'Blazing Saddles' glory bounding in the hospital with that umbrella. Thanks for sharing that!

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  2. Ah yes--the wonderful Philosophy college classes--how I loved them--always the ponderer/questioner am I. "I think, therefore I am" has never been lost on me! One thing I have FINALLY learned--there is so much of life I cannot control and the phrase that I oft speak is, "Whatever..it is as it is and I can't do anything about it." I do hate change--especially the unexpected, but...whatever, it is as it is.

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    1. I have a very similar saying: "It is what it is." I wonder if we both learned a version of that (or your saying) in some forgotten class years ago. LOL I, too, loved the philosophy and logic courses.

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    2. I wonder--would the correct grammar be: it is as it is? or, it is what it is? Questions--always questions.

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    3. Google the two phrases and I "think" you'll get your answer. Mine gets 836,000 hits and yours gets 25,270. Mine shows up in the urban dictionary and yours was last seen on a stone tablet. LOL Seriously, I don't know the answer to your question. Maybe a grammar aficionado will come along and settle it for us.

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  3. That person who was snow bound and turned her window into a giant tv screen to watch the squirrels last week? That was someone living in the moment. You've got the answers. And don't worry, there's no test!

    The description of our town's events made me laugh. Instant success! It also reminded me of this wonderful piece by Bill Murray. There was a party in NY attended by "like the funniest people in the world." Gilda was there, sick, and when she left for the night they knew this might be the last time they'd ever see her. Read for yourself how they said goodbye: http://oldloves.tumblr.com/post/15108872901/bill-murray-on-gilda-radner-gilda-got-married

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    1. You're right, that day of the big storm I was living in the moment! How quickly we forget. Actually I struggled with using the word " 'rarely' living in the moment" because it was a bit over stated, but I couldn't come up with something else at the time so I just let it go.

      Thanks for the link. I'll check it out.

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  4. Breaking news! Just after leaving my comment, I resumed my morning internet surfing and came across a Bill Murray discussion, which led to this Charlie Rose interview. I haven't finished watching it, but he has this nice line about being "available" in life--life is happening, and you can jump in if you're available. It's a funny man's way of talking about being in the moment. Given the way that Murray has remade his late career, and is so well-regarded and still so funny, I recommend it as part of your Laughter theme. http://gawker.com/heres-bill-murrays-candid-hour-long-interview-with-c-1521595445

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    1. Thank you again! I know how I'm going to spend my morning now. Sounds like a good way to start off my day. Already I love the phrase "being available in life" and I haven't even check out the interview yet.

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    2. Fishereader - I just finished watching the Charlie Rose/Bill Murray interview and it was great. Very candid. Near the end when he was talking about how his goal is "to be here, alive in the moment" and that we have it in our bodies to do that, we have the mind, spirit and soul to get there, I though, wow, so simple and so true. I didn't think he had the depth of character I saw in the interview. Lots of food for thought in his words. Now I want to watch Lost in Translation.

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  5. I'm so glad you enjoyed, it, too! Yes, the ending was so moving. I listened to it as I got the kids ready for school. I couldn't hear all of the end, so I ate my bowl of granola on the stairs, close to the speaker, and replayed the ending. I've heard about him crashing parties or pick-up games and whispering, "No one will believe you" when these people will tell their friends that Bill Murray crashed their party or joined their pick-up game. It was neat to hear the same stories from his perspective. When he pulls these pranks, he's having as much fun as the non-celebrity person.

    Okay, let's get out there--or stay in here--and have some fun! Or just be open to it!

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    1. "Be there, be in the game." "Be available for life." were some of my favorite quotes from the interview. And I liked the conversation about it's hard to be yourself. Thanks again for sharing the link. It was a great way to start the day. I hope others who read t his will be inspired to watch the interview.

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  6. I hope you laugh your heart out at this Laugh Fest. You're primed for it this year. Have a great time. Maybe snap a few pictures of the craft show and post them?

    Sometimes I wish I could unplug this meter in my head that compares fun here and now to fun I experienced yesteryear. The highs now aren't nearly as high. But the lows aren't nearly so low. Back in early widow days I was so low that I burnt a black hole in my seat.

    Like the other commenters and like Bill Murray, I'm a big believer in being available to life and to fun. That's my babe, the "You're Welcome!" project . I love the idea of wearing underwear over our running outfit. Pink, pink, pink!

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    1. If nothing else, our nightly news and newspapers have interviews of people who make others laugh. I'm looking forward to be reminded for ten days straight how important it is to do so.

      I don't know what the You're Welcome Project is, so I'm off to Google.

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    2. I took a look myself. I see there are many neat sites around this. I'm referring to my own "You're Welcome ___ Project" that I began a year and a half ago when I faced down my fear about living life 'alone' from now on. I wrote a poem. See the post http://postwidowhood.blogspot.com/2012/08/in-emptiness-i-meet-my-architect.html

      My "You're Welcome ___" project is about injecting courtesy where fear, or judgment would live if given the chance And it's changing my life. I personally need this jumpstart because I'm insecure and lonely and the world feels like a scary place sometimes. It's become my spiritual practice, and I repeat it as a mantra often. Saying it is love in action, unconditional love. I've discovered that the way I treat myself, I treat others. With courtesy. Such a simple concept, yet it has become the wind beneath my wings.

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    3. Nice poem! isn't it great when we can look back and see clearly identify our light blub moments in life. I also believe in the power of have mantras. Glad you found one that works for you.

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  7. What a delightful idea for a late winter festival -- laughter as the best cure for cabin fever. I was a Gilda Radner fan; and my favorite quote from her is the phrase she used as the title of her autobiography, such a pithy reminder of how life is always happening to our carefully laid plans: It's always something. -Jean

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    1. It really is perfect timing for a laugh-fest, isn't it. Just having the coverage of events on the daily news has had the power to uplift moods and get your silly side on.

      I like Gilda's book title saying, too, and I love that her husband has made her sense of humor immortal through establishing the Gilda's Clubs.

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