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, May 11, 2016

Famous Widows and Impossible Tasks




Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance.”
― Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono, in case you were born in the current century, was the second wife of John Lennon and if I have to explain who John Lennon was---well, then maybe that should be your summer research project because I don’t have enough time left in life to explain how deeply John, The Beatles and their music influenced an entire generation and from all accounts will continue to influence the world of music for centuries to come. I’ve never liked Yoko or tried to understand---until today---her multimedia art but the poem above does speak the truth. My problem is I can’t decide if I’m still in autumn or have I’ve crossed over the metaphorical bridge into winter. I want to hold on to my reverence for what I and the entire world has gone through in my lifetime until I turn one hundred. But that’s like wishing all yellow ice cycles hanging off fire hydrants are pineapple Popsicles. The odds are I won’t live that long and if I did, the odds are I won’t remember the seasons of my life much less which one I’d be in. More importantly, perseverance sounds so dreary. Like a WWII battleship turned into a port museum, still hanging in there and treasured for no other reason than it persevered through tough times.

It occurs to me that maybe I don’t like Yoko because after all these years---36---she still plays the widow card. Does that make me a judgmental old biddy, to say that? To be fair---and I should try to be---do widows like Nancy Reagan and Yoko Ono who were both married to famous men have any choice but to carry a flaming torch for the rest of their lives? The world wants them to preserve the legacy, to polish their famous husband’s pedestal and document their time together. We don’t want them to move on and be happy in another relationship. After all, our icons are irreplaceable. Sometimes I think of Nancy or Yoko when I bring my husband up in conversations. Am I carrying a torch, trying to pretend that others still cares as much as I do? Or do I talk about him because our lives were so intertwined that I can’t talk about my own life experiences without including my husband? Maybe a little of both but back to Yoko. My dislike of her is more basal and catty, something like she usually wears black and white and she does it so much better than me. And more recently I don’t like her because she claims to have had an affair with Hillary Clinton in the ‘70s while she was living with John. The only way I’ll believe that is if she produces a video of them French kissing and feeling each other up. To quote a Lee Ann Womack‘s country song. “…I really hate her, I'll think of a reason later.”

Did you know that Yoko’s daughter by a previous husband was kidnapped and kept hidden from the world in a religious cult for her entire childhood? John and Yoko searched for her with private detectives but money can’t buy everything and it wasn’t until after John’s murder, when Yoko wrote an open letter to her by-then adult daughter, did the girl slowly come back into Yoko’s life. Do you suppose Ono’s art can be explained by the losses in her life? Yoko believes art and music should never be finished like Schubert’s’ Unfinished Symphony. That seem counterproductive to me and would drive me crazy not to finish a creative endeavor on purpose, but maybe to someone who didn’t get to finish raising a child, who lost a husband in the prime of his life---John was only 40---it makes perfect sense. 

New York Times columnist Lisa Carver wrote this about Yoko: “Her paintings aren’t recognizable, her voice is not melodious, her films are without plot and her Happenings make no sense. One of her paintings you are told to sleep on. One of her paintings you are told to burn. One of her paintings isn’t a painting at all — it’s you going outside and looking at the sky. Most of her stuff is not even there. This is why I love her. This is why we need her. We have too much stuff already. It clutters our view, inward and outward. We need more impossible in our culture. Go out and capture moonlight on water in a bucket, she commands. Her art is instructions for tasks impossible to complete.” 

Ya, sure Yoko can do art shows like that. When you’re worth 500 million you could serve bunny turds for lunch and someone will agree they’re the best delicacy on earth. (Actually, my dog does think that!) But Carver inspires a good question: Do you have an impossible task that is calling your name? I do.  ©

“The regret of my life is that I have not said 'I love you' often enough.”
Yoko Ono

21 comments:

  1. Jackie O., married to a famous man, famously didn't carry the torch. I was just talking today with a colleague of how major life events, eg widowhood, leave a permanent mark. I don't think I will ever get over it.

    I like that: "I hate her.... will think of a reason later.". I have to admit I have known a few to whom I could apply that description! Yoko Ono leaves me cold; however, another famous lady, Nancy Reagan, I didn't like although I don't know why. Also don't like Hillary (although sometimes I admire her - why is she in the race at her age?!! doesn't really need the $ or fame, so can only conclude its for the nation's good, as opposed to say Trump's need for self-aggrandisement).

    The Emperor's New Clothes (i.e. the bunny turds praised as delicacy) - that thought came to me a few times when I went museum hopping a few months ago. There were some artists whose work looked like a toddler's scrawl, hung on the museum walls and highly praised by serious experts as great art. I thought it was bull****. Anything hung on those walls, in that beautiful enviornment of vast space and great lighting would have looked fantastic. When I expressed my sentiment to my guide, she diplomatically responded that art was in the eye of the beholder. (She probably thought I was a complete philistine).~ Libby

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    1. I did not think of Jackie when I wrote this. She knew what the general public did not at the time of his death that he was a serial cheater so she's in a different of class of widows, in my view, than Nancy and Yoko who from all accounts loved their husbands. Her second husband, it's been said, was picked because he was the only man rich enough to protect her and keep her safe. What a sad life she had! But I get your point.

      Love your last paragraph. I don't get why some artists are considered great either.

      Hillary's my "horse" in this race. She's the best qualified, best prepared and she's tough as nails. Bernie and Trump are in the same age bracket so it's kind of sexist to say she's too old unless we're going to say they all are too old.

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  2. Oh my, this post is too thought provoking for my brain this early in the morning. Yoko Ono is pretty much a blank space in my brain. I've never given a lot of thought to widowhood until recently. Perhaps that goes with my stage in life. I'm very curious to see how I will handle widowhood if it ever comes to me. My husband's twin died last year and I'm very close to his widow. I'm watching and learning from her. I don't do well with fantasy, a lot of art like Yoko Ono's, or anything too cerebral and open ended. I need something to touch.

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    1. I don't think anyone can predict how they will handle widowhood. But being a caregiver like you are it's only natural that you mind does go there because, let's be honest here, caregivers watch their loved one die in stages, or at least parts of their relationship dies gradually.

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  3. Agree re the age of all the candidates. (oh! the contradictions - aged candidates in a country that worships youth!).

    Also agree with Yoko Ono's sentiment re regrets about expressing love. Although, after being in the company of a newly married couple whose every other sentence was "I love you", I thought: does it HAVE to be said, when surely it'd be better expressed through say the care shown to your partner? Sorry, reached the age where I'm often not sure about anything. ~ Libby

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    1. My husband and I weren't the kind who said "I love you" all the time either. (Actions often speak louder.) We had friends who would never end a phone call without saying it or walk out the door. It was funny sometimes, hearing them argue on the phone then say "I love you" to end the call. If you over use it, it's just as bad as never using the sentence in my opinion.

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  4. Or--Yoko could just be a real nut case?

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    1. Could be. LOL I read a lot of bio and background stuff on her before I wrote this and I got more confused than I was before. I still can't say I like her but I did come to respect her journey more.

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  5. Who knows why a particular form of artistic expression or a particular artist speaks to some people and not others? I confess that much of the rock and roll music beloved of my generation leaves me cold. I've also had the experience of standing in front of an abstract expressionist painting in a museum moved almost to tears by it and hearing someone behind me say dismissively, "What crap! My 3-year-old could do this!" -Jean

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    1. Abstract art is so subjective. I remember a long time ago when friends had us over for dinner and to see their new print which was an abstract. After saying all the the required complimentary things about it I then told said, "But you know you've hung it wrong. It's a vertical painting not a horizontal." They knew I have an art degree so they demanded to know how I could tell which way it goes. "Simple," I said, "artists always sign it at the bottom." They thought his name was part of the painting and hadn't really seen it until I pointed it out. We all had a good laugh over that and in all the years they had that print I'm the only one who pointed it out that it was hung wrong. (It really did make more sense the other way, too.) They liked the colors and needed a horizontal painting to fit their space. Every time we'd go over there, the four of us would stand in front of that print with our heads cocked sideways. It was a standing joke.

      Rock and roll is okay but I never listen to it by choice anymore. I love the story telling in country and the progressions in world beat.

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  6. My opinion of Yoko changed 4 or 5 years ago when, on a visit to NYC, we happened upon a John Cage festival at Julliard. We attended several concerts and they were really interesting. Reading the program notes and other articles gave me time to understand some of what he was trying to do with the music he was creating. That piece he wrote that was seven minutes of silence was originally performed outdoors and the intention was to get people to listen to the birds and the rustling of the leaves. In popular culture it was made to seem absurd. Yoko was part of that group of experimental musicians of the 50's and 60's. I don't understand much of what they were trying to do, but I admire them. And the older I am, the more I realize how much we were influenced by the perceptions of the media. She was taking John in strange directions and he was becoming experimental. At this point in my life, it is all interesting! And I have read, over the past few years, of good projects that she has been doing working for peace and justice. She had an eightieth birthday that was public. She has a clothing line, she is an artist and musician and she is outrageous in her expression. She is a cool lady!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. Yoko has stayed true to herself all these years with her experimental music and art. They say any piece of art that can get us talking and thinking is good and has served its purpose and Yoko certainly has done that. Yo-Yo Ma is as experimental as I want to listen to in music or Herding Goats neither of which is experimental, of course.

      I read about Yoko's peace and justice work but I did not know about her clothing line. I'm glad I took a few hours out of my life to learn more about her, though. If nothing else, she inspires people to think outside the box if only for those few minutes while viewing her stuff. We tend to put famous people in little boxes when we're young where they stay in our minds and sometimes it's good to examine why we did that. That's what my Yoko essay was all about.

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  7. So, Jean, if you ever get to the winter of your life, you'll be an old battleship?

    Now that I've read about Yoko, I don't know what to think about her, except she, too, may have her version of a messiah complex. However, through broken vessels, light shines. Her poem is pithy, and I agree with what the New York Times columnist wrote about her work. I, too, am drawn to impossible tasks that cannot be completed, because they open me to the wonder of life. (Must be in the reverent stage of life.)

    I am SO for ditching the Widow Card, even though it's like ripping Duck Tape off our skin. Too soon and you have blood, too late and the duck tape has killed the skin beneath it.

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    1. Some mornings I feel like an old battleship...and probably look the same. LOL

      If you're happy about ditching the Widow Card---and I know you are---then I'm happy for your. But for me, it's just a label that explains a part of my life like 'daughter' 'wife' 'friend' 'floral designer' and so on. I don't have to rip it off myself because with one word it says, "She was married, her husband died and there's a story there." It's a shorthand label, not a way of life.

      Perhaps some women use the Widow Card as an excuse for not moving forward, for not getting out and doing things, for being stuck in raw grief. But that does not describe where I'm at.

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    2. I like that - using 'widow' as an entrée to a story, just as a former vocation does. I agree that being stuck isn't your story, but it was-is?- mine. I'm all for getting unstuck LOL Being FUSED to an identity, whether it's 'widow' or wife... especially when it's erroneous,, like a childhood identity, doesn't do justice to the wonderful 'us' that is alive and well beneath the changing seasons of our lives.
      Whew! I've discovered something I feel passionately about :-)

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    3. A good exercise is to write a list---as long as you can make it---of all the labels that apply to yourself. (Sister, artist, daughter, wife, widow, etc., etc.) They all tell a story and widow is just one of the MANY stories a label tells. It might not be a label newly minted widows want but at some point in time, moving the label to "The List" takes its power away.

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  8. Now my job is to find an appropriate occasion to whip out that "bunny turd" phrase. I also like the quote, "I'll find a reason later." Isn't that true sometimes. I've felt that way about people before. Sometimes you just know there's something bad under there. I also have a hinky meter for crazy people. I knew Mel Gibson had issues long before they bubbled to the surface in the news.

    I didn't know anything about Yoko's daughter or the Hillary rumor. What a strange - tragic in some ways - life. She's a bird of a different color. That's for sure. Now I'm compelled to go find a bucket to fill with water. :)

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    1. You could come when my dog gets to run in the backyard. He finds bunny turds quite often and tries to eat them. LOL

      I trust my instincts about people and, it's true, many times we don't know why we don't like someone..just a second sense.

      Yoko did/does have a live a life no one could really identify with. And I wouldn't want to go through the pain she must have experienced. While John's music and poems will be around for centuries, I double hers will be out live her.

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  9. I've been offline and missed this post. What a delight to read about Yoko. She's always been an enigma to me. I am neutral about her. Intrigued on one hand, but mostly don't "get" her. I do appreciate experimental art forms, however, just for their ability to challenge our perceptions. Thanks for the jolt.

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    1. I love your description of how you feel about Yoko---intrigued but neutral. I feel that way about a lot of artists who I don't understand.

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