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, September 5, 2015

Tales from the Widow’s Basement



Back in my ancient past I tried my hand at writing fiction. I gave up after a few years, telling myself and anyone who’d listen that I can’t plot my way out of a paper bag. But I’m a saver so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I had a box of creative writing projects in the basement and as part of my purging mission that box was moved up to the garage this week where I spent an afternoon reading. Judging by the homework assignments I read, apparently I took a creative writing class in the ‘80s. I don’t remember the class but I do recognize my own handwriting so I can’t deny I took it. I also read a half-finished manuscript about a college girl who once had a promising future as an Olympic level ice skater and a Vietnam vet who lost a leg in the war. Yup, you guessed it. That book was intended as a romance novel and therefore it was doomed from the first page. Romance heroes---at least back in those days---had to be molten hot, hunks of physical perfection and mine was deeply flawed. It was a dark story, poorly written, and I could see why I couldn’t make it work.

I put that manuscript aside and started reading another half-finished historical romance that I vaguely remembered doing the background research for---the suffragettes in my hometown---but when I read the first chapter it was like I was reading something written by another person. Unlike the above mentioned book, this one had characters I liked right from the get-go. The heroine was a stereotypical, “spunky virgin” type who on a re-write would need to have some of her school-girl silliness surgically removed to be believable as a suffragette. (Stick a figure down my throat, that girl was naive!) The hero of the romance was the stereotypical successful, confident, gorgeous, take-charge guy who enjoyed flustering the virgin. (Be still my heart.) I’m thinking about finishing that book for NaNoWriMo coming up in November. Maybe as a comical spoof on romances, camp it up. Be ridiculous. Have fun. 

If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo here’s what their website says: “National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.” It’s not all online either. Lots of cities have meet-ups over the month so you can interact in person with others working on novels. At my Write and Share Meet-Up last month a guy in the group said he organized a NaNoWriMo gathering last year. They took over a coffee shop and all sat around with their laptops, or with pen-in-hand J.K. Rowlings style.  

In 2013 I took part in NaNoWriMo and while I truly enjoyed the writing experience---the energy of hanging around the NaNoWriMo website---it was too soon into my widowhood for me to be working on a book about my husband’s struggle with post-stroke language disorders. The resulting manuscript is still waiting for me edit and that’s one book I truly do want to finish someday. All the more reason why I want to live to be 100. I’ll need that much time just to finish all my past projects. (Have I mentioned the box of half-made teddy bears in the basement?) I was prolific and productive back in the day. Not much got purged out of my “writing” box, by the way, most of the contents went back downstairs. I did throw out the research material for the suffragette book but I’m seriously considering fishing it out of the trash before the bag goes out to the street. 

The universe works in strange ways. Last night I was reading Stephen King’s book, On Writing, when I got to the part about where he talks about plotting books. He wrote a light bulb moment that seemed tailor-made for little-old me. “I distrust plot for two reasons,” he wrote,” first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.” A plot, according to Mr. King, is the writer’s last resort! Jeez, I wish I’d read that before I gave up on myself decades ago. I could have saved myself a lot of hand-wringing thoughts regarding failure. He likes to put characters into a predicament and watch them try to find their way out. A simple but dare I say God-like concept all rolled into one. Our lives really aren’t plotted, are they. We struggle, we thrive. We find love, we lose love. We’re down, we’re up and at the end of our days we’re lucky if we can go out singing, “I did it my way.” ©

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I'll say it clear,
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain.

I've lived a life that's full.
I've traveled each and every highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets, I've had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.

I've loved, I've laughed and cried.
I've had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that;
And may I say - not in a shy way,
"Oh no, oh no not me,
I did it my way".

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows -
And did it my way!
Yes, it was my way.

(Lyrics written by Paul Anka, popularized by Frank Sinatra)

22 comments:

  1. One of the things I do every year at the New Year is go through my draft files, and toss out anything that's more than two years old. My assumption is that, if it hasn't claimed my interest in that amount of time, it's better to get rid of it and work on something else.

    I've never been drawn to fiction, so NaNoWriMo never has appealed. I wrote a sort-of-tongue-in-cheek post about it very early on in my blogging career, called NoMoWriMo. I guess I pretty much still stand by what I wrote, but only for myself.
    I can see how it would be an especially good jump-start for people who can't settle down to actually write, and that's important, since the only way to learn to write is to write. And you're right, that sharing the experience with others is fun, and supportive.

    You're also right about life not being plotted. I never, ever could have predicted any of the significant events in my life, both good and bad. Maybe that's why they say life is lived forward, but understood backwards.



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    1. I will no doubt toss out most of the stuff in my "creative" box one day. But for now it's like looking at an old photograph album only instead of images of my physical appearance and changes as I age, my drafts are like looking at images of the changes in my crafting of words. If and when I no longer have the space to keep the box, I'll let go.

      I will never seriously try to write fiction again, but for fun and just my eyes, yes, I'd do NaNoWriMo again. The discipline of writing x-number of words every day was good and exciting.

      I love your last line about life lived forward, but understood backward! I've never heard that before and it sure is true.

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  2. I think our lives are mini plots. They they go off track until the next mini plot. Some things are planned and others just happen.

    Have a fabulous day and long holiday weekend. ☺

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    1. That's a good way to look at it, Sandee. I do try to plan my life, but it often goes off track in big and small way.

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  3. Jean :

    I love this blog & love the line from someones comment life lived forward but understood backward. husband is planner & I just go with flow.I do believe in planning & going after dreams I feel worth going after. I feel choices I took in my life created my destiny some were very good choices some were bad but I am happy for all experiences in my life it has made me the person I m proud to be.

    Asha

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    1. I'm goal orientated, too. Don was more like you, going with the flow, the current opportunity. We balanced each other. All of us have made bad choices and if given a chance we'd probably do them over, but on the other hand our bad choices contribute to the person we became. Learn from our mistakes, move on and don't let them define us. That's the key.

      What are you going to do now that you have an empty nest? Any plans?

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  4. no plans just going with flow & enjoying my retirement might take some classes or something which might interest me in . though might travel first & get some spots out of my bucket list, then think about what next. right now just living one day at a time.
    Asha

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    1. Nothing wrong with that! It all sounds good to me.

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  5. When I went through old writings of mine last winter, I didn't even recognize the style or the language usage. I easily could have been reading someone else's writing. That in itself was interesting to me. I was just in a different place. I was going through a lot of stuff and eventually I took a lot of it to the wood stove without even looking at it!
    It wasn't so much that I wasn't interested, it was more "too much stuff". I'm still clearing but I am circling around the stuff that is difficult to decide what to do with...little things like the beaded flowers that my mother spent so long making when I was a kid. I remember her sitting on the couch and threading the individual beads! All that kind of stuff.
    Good luck with all yours!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I find that interesting, too, that you (and I) couldn't recognize our writing styles from years ago. I think that means we've grown in our craft? I will probably get rid of more from my writing box but I didn't have time to go through it all and wanted to move on to using a broader brush approach to purging things I could sell or donate.

      I can identify with your issue of deciding what to do with your mom's beaded flowers. I have a box of my mother's crochet stuff that I haven't opened yet. I'm thinking of taking it to the next family Christmas party and seeing if anyone of the younger generation wants anything from the box. My great-nephew's wife went crazy over blue fruit jars so I packed mine up and give them to her. When I can't decide something like this, I pick out my favorite three and find homes for the rest. Three still makes a nice display. Taking photos works, too.

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  6. I like that you are taking your time with this next downsizing adventure. All of my plans to get much done here have flown out the window. Scanning photos is solitary and BORING after the first ten minutes. Now I'm looking at sending them out to have them scanned. That will free up a lot of space in my little nest here.

    I've had a few friends do that 50,000 word challenge! I can't even imagine!!!

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    1. Scanning that many photos would take forever but the services around here charge 65 cents each. I've got huge boxes of slides---hundreds---but I'm waiting until winter to deal with them when I'll get snowed in. I'm just going to do a rough sort in a light box and send just a fraction of them off to get put on CDs and toss the rest.

      50,000 words in a month sounds overwhelming but it's only 1,666 words a day times 30 days. It's really pretty doable if you set your mind to the discipline of it.

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    2. FInding the topic will be the hardest for me!

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    3. Writing under pressure doesn't always require a topic. You just start writing and see what happens. Some of my best blogs are made that way.

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  7. In my reading, it is characters not plot that captivate me. I can even re-read murder mysteries that I love because I don't really care who done it, I care about the development of the characters. How nice to have an award-winning writer absolve you from being stymied by plotting. -Jean

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    1. I'm always amazed at how often connections are made like the timing of me reading King's book on writing within days of me going through decades old stuff and being reminded why I made the switch from fiction to non-fiction and memoir type stuff.

      I always say I'm going to re-read favorite books, but it doesn't happen often. Not true with movies. There are a couple I've seen 6-7 times and know I will see them again. I'll have to do some thinking about whether it's the story or the characters I like the best.

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  8. Very inspiring - your writing efforts, and Paul Ana's lyrics. Finding our unique way through life is a story worth telling. I do hope you finish your book about Don's predicament. Did he himself write after his stroke, or did it prevent this? I was amazed at the content of my husband's private journals after he was gone. It's like he shoveled his secrets in there to keep my spirits up; he struggled with so much more than he shared with me.

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    1. Nope, the type of language disorder Don had prevented him from using the written language, sign language or verbal language. It would be comparable to a car with a broken transmission. The motor (the brain) and the wheels (the muscles in the mouth and one hand) work fine but the transmission in the middle doesn't work to get the car to move or the thoughts from the brain to get to the muscles required to make language in any form.

      That's really neat they you have your husband's journals! How special is that. Don didn't write much at all before the stroke. He liked to talk and did it from morning to night. LOL

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  9. My adopted daughter Chris, gets into the NaNoWri--whatever thingy, every year. She loves it. BTW--I couldn't write a romantic novel if my life depended on it.

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    1. It's amazing how huge NaNoWriMo is. I run into people all the time who have taken part, people I didn't know even had an interest in writing. I guess we are a secretive group.

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  10. I've tried fiction and I suck at it. I wish I was one of those novice novelists (one in a million, zillion) who was banging away at some little story in my den for 10 years and suddenly it's a behemoth best selling series: JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Diana Gabaldon, et al. But no, I just do my couple of blogs and think what might have been.... I love your idea of doing the NaNoWriMo in a jokey way. I knew a guy who did that once and was super serious. It didn't look like fun.

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    1. You dreamed a little higher on the talent scale than I did. I just wanted to write a few romances....throw away books with my name on the covers. I did end up having a couple of characters named after me, done by well known authors back in the '80s when I was a super groupie editing a groupie's newsletter. LOL

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