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, September 3, 2014

Beating Dead Horses and other True Confessions from a Widow



I have yet to meet a widow who doesn’t eventually get around to admitting that she still thinks about her husband often and/or she still misses him. It might be a fleeting thought or an all day long cry but it’s there waiting to judge us, if others found out. It doesn’t seem to matter if he died one or fifteen years ago, and no one should be surprised by that. They really shouldn’t! After all, something in our travels through life can remind us of parent, sibling or a best friend growing up and no one gets their dander up over those kinds of memories. But let a widow reveal she still thinks about her deceased spouse from time to time---even long for the old days when life was more idyllic---and that’s often viewed as “unhealthy” or “living in the past.” So we clam up from sharing what is going in our heads with people we know don’t understand and that puts a wedge where it shouldn’t be. (By idyllic life I mean we look at the past through the prism of time that filters out the petty quarrels over dirty socks on the floor, who forgot to lock the door, and farts in the dark with your head held under the covers. Why do guys think that’s funny?)

I’m sure there are exceptions to my unscientific observations about widows---the widows who were in unhappy marriages and may still remember but not in the I-miss-the-closeness kind of missing I’m writing about today. I’ll bet their memory triggers lead to rejoicing he’s gone or regrets about wasted time or memories they wish they could forget like in case of women who were abused. Memory triggers are everywhere. I once saw a yellow GM on the road that brought a flood of vacation “snapshots” in my head. Songs on the radio were big triggers in the first year. Even pot holes remind me of the summer I worked on Don’s parking lot maintenance crew. Thankfully, he gave up anything to do with asphalt after a few years because it was hard, dirty work and we were both still holding down other full-time jobs back then. Don was a workaholic, a byproduct of growing up poor with bill collectors pounding on the door.

I was a bit of a chameleon when I first met Don. We were 27 and 28 and I'd been in three serious relationships between high school and us meeting. And with each of the three relationships I hid my light and likes under a basket, so to speak, and became of fan of whatever those three guys liked. One was into tennis. I learned to play. Another was a skier and I took lessons. One was into playing cards with his unbearably boring family, and twice a week we went to the family card games. Sure, I still became interested in what Don liked doing BUT he also took the time to figure out what I was interested in and he encouraged me to follow my dreams. It was a regular mutual admiration society we’d formed. Looking back, I realize the three other guys didn’t know the real me, didn’t even try to peel away the chameleon layer. I was a Barbie Doll of their making. Hey, it was the early sixties, don’t judge me. Isn’t there a Bible scripture somewhere about a woman's role and place in a coupling that I may have misconstrued back then?

Back to the present: I’ve turned the corner on the mild depression that grabbed me by throat over the Forth of July. I’m walking again and have lost the weight my funk put on my hips. I’m back to healthier eating. I’m not listless anymore, not running on auto-pilot. My mojo is back! Hallelujah and praise the gods who look out for elderly women who don’t want to be swallowed whole like a guppy in a goldfish tank. That’s not to say the loneliness of widowhood is no longer there. It is. And it probably always will be. I also still worry about that day when I’ll need someone to take me to get a colonoscopy or cataract surgery and I have no close friends or relatives near-by to impose on or to call just because.

I like to believe there is a solution for every problem and I hope to find the answer to my no-close-friends dilemma next week when I’m taking a three hour seminar through a local college’s Olli Program titled, The Vulnerabilities of Aging: Laughter amid the Tears. I might still be lonely but I’m keeping busy and having some enjoyable days. My Fun with Metaphors class also starts next week so expect my writing to improve by the end of the month. I have high hopes I’ll no longer be beating a dead horse (aka a widow's unending lament about secret thoughts) when I write---and if you understand the first part of this sentence, you know more about metaphors than I do. ©

14 comments:

  1. Your observation that people have no trouble with someone missing a dead parent or friend, but are intolerant of widows missing their spouses is very interesting (and I think it's also spot on). Do you think this is a variant of our fear of aging? You can lose a parent when you are still quite young, but we associate widowhood with aging. Is the idea that a widow (or widower) should "move on" another way of saying that they should act younger?? -Jean

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    1. From the widows blogs I've read that are written by younger widows I get the impression that their friends and family are even more intolerant of their talking about their dead husbands than with us older widows. So I'm inclined to think it's not a variant of our fear of aging. I think it's more a thing where some people think a widow should just move on. And we should move on and rebuild do but that doesn't mean we don't experience the same kind of loneliness we did years ago before finding our mates. I know I was lonely before I found Don...even when I was in relationships. In my mind I can separate loneliness into different categories, not all related to widowhood.

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  2. i completely understand. i wrote tonight that will publish at midnight about moving on a bit. am i ready? i think so. not sure but maybe. we'll see won't we? anyway i can always go back to where i am today, lonely every night if i don't make it.

    hugs, bee
    xoxoxoxoox

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    1. Now I know why no matter how early I get up your daily blogs are always there to usher in my day. You schedule! i will be following and cheering you on in your venture into "moving on."

      It's funny but the nights don't bother me as much as the day times. Probably because Don worked a lot a years on the night shift so I was more used to entertaining myself at night than other widows.

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  3. I'm pretty sure I will always think of him. Hopefully, like you, it will be momentarily and not a weekend worth of crying and eating potato chips. The only good part of this widow journey is that there are no "rules". It is what it is ... just like any relationship.

    My Walk with Ease class started yesterday. Twice a week. And we got a pedometer. 10,000 steps was not hard for me. Which I find INCREDIBLE! I had no idea I moved around that much.

    Love your blog! You are my heroine!

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    1. Oh my gosh! 10,000 feet. I thought I was doing good to average 8,000 daily.

      The no "rules" part of the widow journey is what we each need to focus on the most.

      I had my Balance/Tai Chi class today. I love that class but will have to miss them the rest of the month because of the Metaphors class. But I start Zumba on Friday, which is another drop in and pay as you go class at the senior center.

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  4. Jean,
    I don't know how you would stop memories from popping into your head. Sometimes it's as if people think there's some imaginary timetable that dictates what "healthy" is. And I suppose everyone has their own idea of what "healthy" is. Too much judging and it makes me wonder if it's their own fear of the day they will be in the same position. It's funny how people protect themselves sometimes by telling themselves they would not suffer the same fate or would not handle it the same way. Walk a mile in my shoes, I say.

    I'm looking forward to hearing about the metaphor class. I could use that.

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    1. I think their own fear has a lot to do with it. I'm having lunch next week with an old friend from out of town who told me at Don's funeral that I'd "have lots of time for fun now that he's was gone." I knew she meant free of the caregiver roll but it felt like a dismissal of all the grief that had to work its way out before the so-called fun could start happening. Some people are inept at talking with grieving people sometimes.

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  5. Good thing that secret thoughts can't exist on the internet. LOL. Along with porno, widows' memories seem to be one of those taboos for folks, so underground they go. Must have gotten them out of my system on my blog, since I don't think of my late hubby much at all. Almost forgot his birthday and our anniversary this year. Good news is -The sheer number of new experiences - nearly ten year's worth for me - overlay the old ones, and the fickle brain gets mesmerized by current projects.

    Glad you grew out of your social chameleon phase in your twenties. That's one of my current projects - and believe me, it's work!

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    1. I'm glad I left the chameleon behind in the past too and she is never coming back. It's all about being authentic, isn't it and that really is hard to put yourself out there. I can do it in the blogs but in my real time life I tend to go with the flow in the name of social graces. Not that that's such a bad thing though...we need give and take in relationships. It's when you come across a someone who takes and never gives that things get strange and I will walk away.

      99% of my memories of Don don't come with sadness, regret or tears. He was such a colorful presence in my life right up to the end that I know I'll never meet another person who can be as important in my life. If it takes ten years not to think of him at all---like you with yours---well, by then I could be senile and it won't matter at all anyway. LOL

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  6. I think that widows of bad marriages still get sad. Not so much by remembering the abuse, but in the wishing and knowing that it could have been better, but was not. Maybe they miss the high anxiety (excitement) that came with everyday of not knowing if their husband was going to be sane, or beat them. When I left my abusive husband, my life became very boring- It had been so stressful and scary for so long, that a peaceful and calm life seemed like something was missing. I check the obits everyday to see if he has died, and when he does, I suppose I will feel a certain amount of sadness. Not because he is gone, but because there was never a time to make things right between us. Does that make sense?

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    1. Judy, that makes perfect sense and you came up with a much better description of what a widow of an unhappy marriage may go through than I could have come up because it comes from life experience. I'm you so sorry you had to go through all that. But it did make you the strong woman we see today if that is any consolation.

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  7. Jean, I love your positivity. I can relate to so much of what you write about. I get the memory triggers often, good or bad...learning to deal with them I suppose. I'm glad you are back to exercising and healthy eating...I go back and forth myself but have been on a pretty good kick for awhile now (other than some naughty indulgences on my recent trip...lol).

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    1. I got my positive, the-sun-will-shine-brighter-tomorrow attitude from my dad and my worry-wort side from my mom. The years have taught me my dad was right most of the time, especial if I have a proactive plan to change things around, thanks to my mother's influence. LOL

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