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

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Loneliness, Isolation and Dollhouses


In the comment section of a website I visit daily, someone wrote this: “Loneliness, by my definition, is in your head. It's a decision you made that justifies your own homemade isolation. My advice? Don't allow that thought to enter or cross your mind.”

For several days I’ve been pondering this opinion and wondering if there is any validity to it. Is loneliness just a state of mind that we can change through pure willpower and thought control? I do believe in---and try to practice---the power of positive thinking but I don’t agree that loneliness and isolation are necessarily of our own making. Sure, we make the decision not to go out into the world and socialize. But socializing with others doesn’t automatically make you feel less alone or lonely. Maybe it’s just a widow’s point of view but to me, it’s not having that one person in your life who knows you better than you know yourself that makes you feel lonely and isolated. A sea full of acquaintances, neighbors and co-volunteers can help fill the void but it doesn’t replace the closeness you crave. That I crave. I also question if the people who believe that loneliness is all in your head have ever truly had an intimate relationship with another human being. How’s that for judging (maybe misjudging) a person I’ve never met? It takes time to transition from metaphorically walking two-by-two up the plank to the Ark to thinking of yourself as an island onto yourself.

Another person commented on the same article words to the effect that in order to make friends you need to stay current with the daily news so you have interesting things to talk about when you go out and about in public. I’d agree with that. My husband was a well-read person with a high IQ and he could strike up a conversation with anyone on the face of the earth and hold his own on a wide variety of topics. I watched him do it for 42 years. He was the original Chatty Kathy who never forgot anything he’d ever learned, read or saw. I know the technique for engaging strangers in conversation, I’m just not as good at it as he was. I was the observer who threw a wise-crack in from time to time, then went home and wrote about the encounter as an observer, not a participate. I can’t change my whole personality in the name of building new friendships. Can I? Can any of us? Friendships need to be built on honesty, not bait-and-switch techniques. But I am trying to be more outgoing as I interact with the outside world, Jeez, I’m making myself sound like an alien from another planet. I promise I don’t have purple antennas under the hats I wear out in public.  

Changing gears. For the past few weeks I’ve been trying to teach myself how to crochet. I’ve tried other times in my life to learn without much success. My mom was good at it and I still have the miniature hats and doilies she made for my dollhouse. I also have her set of hooks and the smallest one, the size 14, .50 mm, is so small I had to get a magnifying glass out to even know it was a hook. Most of the hooks in her set have prices stamped in the metal of twenty-five cents---that’s how old they are. Now, Jo-Ann’s online store is selling the size 14 metal hook for $9.99.  A few days ago, quite by coincidence one of my cousins posted a crochet supplies website on Face Book and lo and behold it has tutorials for left-handers. Now I’m starting to make progress! I so want a little hand project like this that I can take to the museum when I start volunteering there again in March. Last year I was the only docent who didn’t have something to keep my hands busy when we manned the not-so-busy front doors. I’ve been thinking about volunteering on Sundays when the museum has its peak number of tourists and lowest number of volunteers, but the tradeoff is I wouldn’t be able to pick volunteer days that match up with the people in the Historical Society that I’d like to get to know better. Decisions, decisions.

I absolutely can’t wait until spring! I freely admit to being isolated and lonely this winter but the weather, not a self-imposed mindset, has had me imprisoned for most of the season. And some of you reading this are probably quoting Hamlet right about now: "The lady doth protest too much methinks!” Maybe so, maybe not. We humans are good at judging others we don’t know, aren’t we. ©


Note on the photos. The one up above is one of the dollhouse hats that my mother made when I redecorated my childhood dollhouse in the 1970’s. It measures around ¾ of an inch. The first photo below is of a dollhouse carpet she crocheted. It measures 6 ½ inches square.  She made the pink bedroom rug in the bottom photo as well. My dollhouse is going to be one of those hard things to give up on my next downsizing. The house itself was made before WWII from a pattern that appeared in a magazine and it still has the original stenciled vines, hedges and shutters on the outside. I couldn't bear to cover them up after learning the house's history. My parents found the house at the Salvation Army and it was a Christmas gift from Santa. I found the magazine article and pattern decades later. I have a lighting kit and baseboards for it but I never got around to installing them.





14 comments:

  1. I was widowed about the same time you were. My husband had 16 years of failing health before he left. I have been walking the same road you describe so well, rebuilding a life in my 7th decade. In regard to loneliness, I see it as two having two faces. It is definitely not "In your head" in my book. It is in your heart. The first face is actually aloneness. The feeling that if something happened, there is no one to care. I have known that one. The other face is the one you mentioned in this post. It is the longing to have someone to hold and to be held. This is the one I feel now. I am moving along and have old friends, children, new friends, and a surprising ability to make small talk with strangers (men as well as women) that I never had before. I am so glad I found your blog as my social circle is quite small and I don't have anyone who has the same challenges to talk to. It helps to know I am not alone.

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    1. Joan, thank you so much for the comments! I have experienced and written about the other face of loneliness you mentioned...worrying that something will happen and there is no one to care. It really helps to know we're not alone in our widowhood challenges and accomplishment, however hard earned those accomplishments are. I, too, am getting better at small talk with strangers. It's like being a teenager again. Thanks again, for making your presence known on this blog. I really appreciate it.

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    2. To Twin City Joan - I, too, am a widow, going on 6-1/2 years. Our wedding anniversary is the day after tomorrow, May 22. That's twenty-two years married on the 22nd, had he lived. A lengthy illness that gradually worsened over the years took him away. I choose to be alone, but most of the time, I don't feel lonely. Except when I'm trying to fall asleep, that's when I miss him the most. I have a small circle of friends and do go out with them occasionally, but I have not dated. I do miss the companionship of someone to hold me while I'm trying to fall asleep. Take care, be well. Contact me through here if you want to. Sincerely, Lorraine.

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    3. Welcome, Lorraine. I'm not sure if Twin City Joan would check the replies on a post this old but I wish you luck trying. Perhaps a request for her to do so posted on a more current post would work better?

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  2. I love your dollhouse. The only toys I have left from my childhood is a Chatty Cathy doll and my Barbie doll. Chatty Cathy doesn't chat any more, and Barbie is stored away, in a case, in a closet. My daughter had 3 Barbies, all of with long blond hair, and my tiny granddaughter recently took one home to play with as her mother as not been one to buy her dolls.

    As for talking, being that Chatty Cathy, I'm very much like that. I can talk to anyone, and usually do.

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    1. Thank you! I have quite a few of my childhood toys. It comes from buying the house I grew up with from my folks and that house having a large attic. My husband was always undressing Barbies at the flea markets, hoping to find one with a the high collector value, which only happened 3 or 4 times.

      Thanks for the comment! I wonder if your husband is/was like me to my Chatty Cathy. Opposites often do attract.

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  3. After dealing with a pretty serious illness last year, I now think about the "closeness we crave" and how it must feel not to have it. I was so dependent on my husband during that time, and I can't imagine having gone through all that without him. I know that day will come for one of us.

    The commenter's comment you write about in the first paragraph sounds like someone who hasn't experienced great loss or old age or ever visited a nursing home. Wouldn't life be grand if we could only will ourselves to be this or that? The other thing I think about is touch. I read somewhere that humans need to be touched a certain amount of times a day, and studies have shown that they will actually start bumping into furniture to simulate the feeling of touch. Sounds crazy, but... I think it's hard for those who haven't experienced the loss of a spouse to truly know how much is lost and the challenge of hitting the reset button. This was such a great post.

    That's one neat doll house. I keep thinking about taking up crocheting again, too. Judy's influence.

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    1. The website the quote came from is written for senior citizens so it would be hard to imagine a person attracted to the site not being old enough to have never experienced loss. But anything is possible.

      That's an interest study you read about touching!

      Judy influences me too. She is so handy and ambitious with her time!

      Thanks for adding your voice to this discussion.

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  4. I don't think loneliness is a state of mind, but...we sure can make it worse by thinking about it all the time. What I miss the most is the physical contact--the hugs and kisses. Sometimes I just want to walk up to a man and say, "Could you hug me for a few seconds?" Jean--I shall go and post a pix of the dollhouse that my Mother made for my 4th Christmas. It sits in the corner of my bedroom--I won't let it go until I die and then...it will go to my little sister.

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    1. Judy and Jean

      Sometimes I just want to walk up and say "Could you hug me" too. Thank God for furry pets :-)

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    2. I wish my dog was the cuddling type. He's got a personality like no other dog I've ever had. He reminds me of a cat.

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  5. I'll bet you'd get a lot of hugs if you did walk up to guys and ask for a hug. That's what's fun about going to family parties for me...all the hugs.

    Love your dollhouse! I'm jealous that you've got outside walls that fold in and out.

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  6. I find it interesting that the commenter said that allowing 'loneliness' to cross our mind can result a home made isolation. Well, maybe I'm not wrapping my head around the comment as it was meant. For me an admission of loneliness was a step out of denial. The next thought was "What am I going to do about it?"

    What I want is a lifelong companion who is perfect. LOL

    I'd like to think that what I lack as Chatty Cathy I can make up for in sincerity. Since I do really like people, I enjoy keeping in touch (not literally, unfortunately) with strangers as well as true blue friends. This solo state has taken me on a voyage of self discovery where I'm starting to see myself as a 'have [fun]' person rather than a 'have not {husband]' widow. But I still lie at the edge of that social sea groping my way toward swimming with the sweethearts who are in there.

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    1. I just checked the 'loneliness' article where the above comment was quoted. There are now 27 comments and no one has challenged that opinion...not that it's a proper place to do so which is why I wrote about it here rather than being (or being perceived as) antagonistic on someone else's blog. Those were the only words the commenter wrote so it's kind of hard to know exactly what he/she meant but it sure feels like a put down to those of us who admit to being lonely.

      I agree with you that an admission of loneliness is a step towards finding a solution to the problem.

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