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

Sunday, April 6, 2014

So, What’s Widowhood REALLY Like?



Don’t you just hate it when you can’t fall asleep? Every once in a while I’ll have a night (or two or three in a row) where every fear or fright from the past, present and future makes it presence in my brain and no matter how many tricks I use to try to clear my mind so I can asleep, they don’t work. Last night I was up wandering the house several times with only the soft glow of a nightlight in every room to keep me company. First it was three o’clock in the morning, then four, and earlier I’d ready tried meditation, mindless games of solitaire, counting sheep (there were 200 in the bedroom when I gave up), making warm milk, and raiding the refrigerator. Thank goodness I made sugar-free chocolate pudding earlier in the day.

At one point in the night I concluded that I’m profoundly lonely. Yes, Virginia, a widow can look like she’s doing all the right things to go on with her life but looks don’t always tell the whole story. I can take care of business of living like every other person on earth. I can go to one social event after another and make small talk with the best of them but that doesn’t stop the emptiness of knowing that everyone who knew me inside and out is dead. Everyone who loved me unconditionally is dead---well, except for the dog but he’s a schnauzer and they are not known for having affectionate personalities. Levi is no exception. If I want to hold him, he has a three minute rule, and then he’s off making the rounds of the windows. Varmint patrol---searching for birds, rabbits, cats and squirrels that might attack the house---is his life and no widow’s woes are going to stand in the way of his destiny and sworn duty as the Dog of the House.

The rational side of me knows there are other people besides the dog who care about me and my well-being---a brother, nieces, a nephew, in-laws and a few life-long friends but their lives are busy and full and we only see each other in the rhythm assigned by the gods of family and friends to those types of relationships. But rational thought does not rule a sleepless night and then there is Facebook. Like a voyeur at a window you get to see firsthand how crazy busy and/or happy your Facebook contacts are and if the stars are lined up just right that can make you feel even lonelier than you were before tacking your happy little notes at the bottom of their postings. I have one niece who refuses to use Facebook and guess what, she’s the one person who will text or call me for no reason at all. If the math works, you must condemn social media and pronoun it guilty of being bad for one-on-one human contact.

At the culinary college luncheon I went to last week there was a classy looking woman at my table who’d been widowed about the same time that I was and she was happily chatting up her “significant other” a guy who apparently takes her to a LOT of nice places and loves to cook for her. On my left was another woman who’d been divorced for several decades and still seems to be carrying around a lot of anger about it. The other three women sharing the table were all in various stages of widowhood. Sisters in Arms, all acting happy and companionable as we traded small talk. Small talk. I get so tired of small talk. I want a REAL conversation someday. Even in the last twelve years of my husband’s life when his language was limited to a couple of dozen words I could actually have better, in-depth conversations with him than with all the people I’ve met since his passing. And that came from decades of knowing how he thought. I could literally put words in his mouth for him to verify or reject.

What’s it going to take to make me happy again? Not fake happy like so many of us widows pretend to be when we’re out and about trying to form new friendship or are interacting with family and friends. Real happiness that helps you sleep at night and wake up in the morning knowing that you are loved and will be missed when you are gone? Of course we all know that happiness has to come from within, you can’t hang your well-being on another person. It’s a hard and fast rule written in stone and as old as the other rules written on stone tablets. And a rule that is hard to swallow in the middle of a long, sleepless night. ©

6 comments:

  1. Hate those kinds of night--I don't have many anymore--now I am into falling asleep fast and then waking up an hour later with nightmares! I can't tell you what helps. I have been alone since Fred died. I don't go out at all--unless it is a walk around here or a nice drive out into the country. I don't want to make any new friends. I am practically incognito at church--been going steadily for two years and only know about 4 people--and that's the way I want it. I think because of this, or in spite of it, I have become very comfortable, content and happy with myself. I can honestly say I love living all alone, for the first time in my life, and I don't feel I really need or want anyone to make life any better. To me..new friends or social groups would be more of a nuisance to me than a help. They would expect things from me--why I didn't show up at the last meeting, or why I didn't come to lunch--on and on. I want to do exactly what I WANT to do, without having to make excuses to others. Or--on the other hand--maybe I am just weird!

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    1. That's what I do, too-fall asleep fast then wake up after a half hour or so and can't go back to sleep. Very annoying!

      I lived alone a lot of years before getting married and it doesn't bother me to do it now. I don't need quantity of time with other humans, I need quality time. But I do know what you mean about new friends and social groups wanting things from you. That thought has crosses my mind when I meet people who are older than me. I want younger friends. LOL

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    2. Curious! Of course, I still take Ambien for sleeping so that I don't wake up too early with worry and anxiety. Besides being without my life partner, I think once we hit 60 we start to think things through TOO FAR. It's hard to live in the here and now ... we had a small earthquake last night and many, many of my older friends began their talking of the end is coming.

      I'm fortunate to have a few younger friends and honestly, it is helpful. Perspective! Some are former neighbors. Some from Kate's friends moms, some from work. I don't know how I'd meet younger ones now ... take classes, I think!

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    3. I take Ambien only when I absolutely must get up with an alarm the next day....and no more than 2-3 times a month. I just don't want to get dependent on it because I love it too much---take one, and 10 minutes later I'm out like a light.

      Right up until 19 years ago when my caregiver's role started (first with my dad and then Don) I used to be a class taking junkie and I can honestly say I've never met anyone who became a close friend afterward. But they are a good way to meet people you have things in common with. I'm planning on taking two this summer, one of chalk painting furniture and easel painting neither one I really need a class to do but it will be good for me to be around other with similar interests.

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  2. Amen. Nobody knows me inside and out and loves me to boot. It's hard to remember how terrific and funny and 'whatever' we are when there's no person in the room digging us like that. I'd like to act as if he's in the room; you know, have an imaginary friend like I did as a child? Though I wonder if I wouldn't be assigned to the insanity league of ladies who hear murmurs and chuckle about inside jokes.

    I don't know what it takes, Jean, to replicate this easy familiarity. It does mean doing what you're doing, here and in real life. I believe in you and cheer specifically for you. Like you, I have family who love me yet are on a different track. I write occasionally on my blog, in the hope that others will bear witness to what's important to me.

    I'll bet any one of us commenters would make a great friend in the flesh. Perhaps this'll happen sooner than later.

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    1. Too bad we don't recognize how important it is to have that "mirror" in the room while it's in our lives. At least I didn't always appreciate how important that aspect of being half of a couple was.

      And I agree, anyone one of us our little circle of blog commentators would make a great friend. We all make me think about a time in history when people used to write letters back and forth and become good friends through the mail. Like the time frame of John and Abigail Adams.

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