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, January 6, 2016

Future Plans and Past History




When the senior hall newsletter comes out we have a week before members can make reservations for events taking place over the next two months and if you’re a non-member you have to wait two weeks. At 9:00 AM precisely on the date that RSVPs are accepted you can email or call yours in, not a minute earlier. It’s a new system for taking RSVPs and I hate it. With over 1,500 members most reservations fill up quickly and with the old system I never had a problem because I’d sit right down the minute that newsletter came and take care of business. Of course, those who lived farther from the post offices claimed they’d get their newsletter later than their friends so the new system is supposed to level the playing field. Boo-hoo for me, I think it does.

Monday I set my alarm for RSVP day and I managed to get mine in and time-stamped for nine o’clock and ten seconds. Later in the afternoon I got an email that all eleven of my RSVPs were confirmed. Yeah! If I don’t get snowed in, I can look forward a tour and lunch at brewery, tours of a Buddhist temple and the “First African Episcopal Church” (part of a How We Worship series) plus four luncheons, four lectures (on lake shore dunes, Nazi prisons, local history and great reads) and a fancy-mancy, five course lunch and tour at the culinary arts school downtown. You should see the list of things I didn’t sign up for. The place could keep me busy every day of the week, if I wanted.

Yesterday I was sorting some stuff that came out of the closet in my newly created art studio/guest room. All the boxes were placed in there over a decade ago and never looked at again. Under it all is my sewing table and machine which I’d like to maybe use again. I had our builder put a plug and light in the closet so it could be a used as a sewing or computer center. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to do an archaeological dig in there. Mostly, I’m finding what I expected to find: sewing and teddy bear making supplies that I need to organize and downsize. But I also found a box labeled: Personal Writing to Sort. I should have opened that box last instead of first.

I sat in the living room for the better part of a day and night reading just three things from the box. 1) A journal my brother and I kept to pass notes back and forth about my dad in the last six weeks of his life---we were taking turns seeing him every day---and when I finished reading the journal I was no closer to throwing it away than I was a decade ago when I put it in the box; and 2) A journal I kept as an assignment for a college class I took the year I turned forty called Woman in Transition. We had to make observations about what went on in class and our reactions to homework assignments, then each week we handed the journal in for the professor to read and write notes in the margins. I loved that class. It made an important imprint on my life, giving me the confidence I needed to go back and get my degree. When I finished reading the class journal, I was no closer to throwing it away than I was a decade ago when I put it in the box. The third thing that I read from my past was a manuscript of a novel I wrote twenty-two years ago. Oh, my God, it actually didn’t suck and it had some (intentionally funny) dialogue that made me laugh out loud. When I finished reading it, I was no closer to throwing it away than I was a decade ago when I put it in the box. Can you see a pattern here?

I have another box of diaries and journals in the closet, written between ages ten to thirty (see the photos at the top and bottom). The plan was to read them and pull out the passages I want to keep then destroy those old books. But after my marathon day of reading my other writings I’m a leery and weary thinking about how much time this diary project will take. What are my alternatives? Destroy the old diaries unread or keep them intact until I die when they’d probably end up in a tag sale? I’ve certainly seen enough old journals and letters at estate sales to know that could happen. On one hand, I wouldn't care because anyone who buys and/or reads old diaries probably enjoys separating the wheat from the chaff. But it’s my wheat and my chaff and who better than me could tell which is which? On the other hand, my ghost would be embarrassed if all that could be found is chaff. ©

 "An editor is someone who separates the wheat from the chaff then prints the chaff."
Adlai E. Stevenson

20 comments:

  1. Good for you for getting all the activities that you are interested in! No easy feat. So far there have not been any events at our senior center on Maui that are of any interest to me BUMMER!

    Sidetracked. Story of my life! At least we (usually) have the time to go through our stuff at our own pace.

    Keep at it! Can't wait for more pics of The Everything Room!

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    1. When I do a post about the room, I may include a poll on what to name the room. I still can't decide. The Everything room really fits its purpose but saying it doesn't roll off my tongue well...yet.

      Our senior hall wins awards for their forward thinking and growth. Nothing else like it in the near-by townships.

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  2. Oh yes! The old journals. I have 30 years worth and think I should burn them! Do I really want my kids reading them? Would it help them understand me better? Personally, I love reading journals kept by the Dearly Departed. I am a natural born snoop! I read Fred's Mom's journals, he wasn't interested--and I learned a lot more about his past then he probably would have liked me to know. I never told him what his Mom had written about her only child. LOL

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    1. Don's mom kept diaries, too, and both of us read them. No red meat, just mash potatoes and gravy kind of writing though. And lots and lots of weather reports!

      If I had kids I'd be more likely to keep my journals for the very reason you sighted. But for mine, I wrote in a lot of "code" because when I first started I had a snoopy, older brother. I did things like put baby powder and threads in between the pages so I could tell if my diary had been read...as if he wasn't smart enough to replace those things when he was done. LOL

      It just dawned on me that maybe Don's mother's weather reports were code for something. I'll never know. I passed them on to Don's brother after he died.

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  3. How fun. I'd read them all and see how much I've grown over the years. I never had journals. Never appealed to me when I was young. Too bad too. Writing is okay, but getting my degree was enough writing for me. Reams of writing.

    Glad you got all your RSVPs in and confirmed.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. I think that's always been the reason I've kept the books---to see my growth. I used to randomly read through the older books on New Year's Eve before writing a list of resolutions in the front of the next journal, but I got away from that after we moved here.

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  4. Let us know where you come out on that decision - to keep or toss? I had three boxes of journals, and faced the same quandary. When was I going to ever read them? Besides, it'd be a good thing I'd already be dead when people picked through them, because otherwise I'd die all over again, of embarrassment.

    Most went into the recycling bin. The rest, a couple hard case diaries, went into the trash. The trash went out. Meantime I saw my Friendship Counselor, and I happened to mention my diary purge. "WHAT??! How can you give away what is most intrinsic to you?" ( or some such words) She made the point to me, and I'll pass it on that that's YOU in those records, more so than in your family heirlooms. What's more valuable? The record of you, or inert objects?

    I am so delighted you were near the front of the RSVP line. Yes, that system does level the playing field, as long as everyone has a computer that's working that day!

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    1. Supposedly the people who take care of RSVPs go by time stamps whether they came in by phone or computer, it makes no difference.

      Interesting what your Friendship Counselor said. Thanks for passing that on. Though I don't see any difference between my old journals and family heirlooms in terms of their value. Family heirlooms more so because they'll have broader appeal to more people when I'm gone. Like the wicker suitcase my grandfather brought all his earthy possessions in when he came to America. How do you put a value on that in a loving family? If he had a jerk that passed down bad traits, no value at all but he wasn't. "Inert objects?" No way. They tell stories, they evoke memories and day dreams the same way my diaries do.
      Besides, my journals are mostly filled with school girl crushes.

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    2. Good point about family heirlooms like furniture and suitcases, IF their stories come along with them. Family photographs and written mementos tug on my heartstrings the most.

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  5. I wonder if those of us who keep journals hope that someday, after we're gone, someone else will read and be fascinated by them. I'm not a big collector of stuff, but I could never throw any of that stuff away, either. -Jean

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    1. I don't believe diaries will ever be important in the future as diaries that came from past centuries. We have too many ways to study the average life now through over sharing on social media. The exception would be the journals of people who went on to be famous for one reason or another. But we don't all journal for the same reasons so who knows you could be right.

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  6. The only time that I ever kept a diary was the first time I went traveling abroad after I graduated from college. When my mother gave it to me many years later, I burned it without even looking at it! Similarly when my mother died, she had all my airmail letters from my travels abroad and I brought them to my house and burned them without even reading them. A few years ago, my sister handed me some letters of mine that she had saved from years ago and I refused them and told her I didn't want them. I know who I was but I don't care to revisit my past in fine detail. And I don't care to examine why that is either!!!
    Interestingly, when a cousin handed me some letters between her father and mine from WWII, I was really interested in reading and trying to hear the voice of my father when he was young. I guess I'm not interested in doing that with myself. Somehow I feel that it is a bit of an intrusion.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. How interesting how we all view revisiting our old journals, diaries and letters so differently. I doubt I could ever burn them unread---and you've done more interesting things than I ever did with all your traveling. But it wouldn't be the first time I rereading mine either. Whenever I have in the past they made me laugh. I was so naive.

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  7. I think you put your finger on it...I don't want to read about all my imperfections and immaturity and youthful arrogance!
    Regards,
    Leze

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  8. My mom once offered me the letters I had written to her over the years -- I told her to just throw them away. The reason: she had always been so critical of me that I "spun" everything that happened in my life to make it all seem much better than it really was.

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    1. How interesting. I think I always spun things better to my mom, too. Not in letter form but just in general.

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  9. Oh dear...old journals! I have a trunk full and I am loathe to get rid of them, but also a little afraid that they will outlive me and my descendants will believe i was a grumpy, bitter, resentful, depressed, sad miserable woman. LOL I guess I am most motivated to write when I am feeling overwhelmed and need a catharsis. There are good times in those journals too, and they are a record of whatever was going on with my/our family life at the moment, but there's a lot of critical stuff too that should be destroyed. Some day....

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    1. I honestly believe everyone who keeps journals does so more often when they are unhappy about something. It's like having a friendly bartender to tell your troubles to. Maybe just a black marker to block out the critical stuff is really all we'd need to do? I have written notes in the margins explaining the out come of stuff years later which is another option.

      Pioneer women never dreamed their diaries would be of value when they were written. Any diary is if it's kept long enough. I have no doubt yours will be valued by your grandchildren. Warts and all.

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  10. I wouldn't be able to throw any of them away. I have old journals around here somewhere and a large box of letters that H's parents wrote to each other during WWII. My most precious finds before we moved were the letters my mother wrote to me one summer. I can only get through one at a time... so emotional. I guess the kids will have to decide what to do with them.

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    1. I think you have the best plan for the letters and journals----let your kids decide someday. Letters are getting increasingly rare with the invention of email. Even handwriting will be in the not to distant future. The WWWII letters would easily find a home in a museum. And your grandkids when they are older would cherish our writing---you're so good at it and you build such great memories with them now.

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