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, June 18, 2016

From Sleeplessness to Unselfish Love



Many seniors have trouble sleeping. That point was driven home to me this week when I went to a lecture at the senior hall that was billed as a “sleep workshop” and nearly a hundred people showed up. If I had read the fine print when I signed up for this event I would have skipped it. It was presented by a guy who calls himself a ‘corrective chiropractor’ as opposed to one that gives pain relief treatments. Many people swear by chiropractors and I’ve been to one a few times but with my bad bones history I simply don’t trust them not to do more harm than good. 

He talked about common sense things: 1) having a clean, well made bed; 2) having a cool, dark bedroom; 3) having the right pillow and sleeping position; and 4) having no carbs, sugar, caffeine or alcohol in the evening because they all give you insulin spikes that interfere with sleep. But the majority of his spiel was devoted to telling us that everything that is wrong with humans can be traced back to how our spines lines up---or not. At the end of the lecture he offered a hefty ‘discount’ on a $425 diagnostic workup that would result in them building you a custom “roll/pillow” and setting up a course of spinal adjustments. It wasn’t a total waste of time---the snacks were great---but I was glad it was a free lecture because I don’t accept his premise that what ails me at bedtime can be corrected with back adjustments. 

The next day I went out for lunch with six Red Hat Society sisters before our bi-monthly meeting with the entire group. Parking in the tourist town where we met is limited and I had to park two blocks away. It was a sunny, dry day so that wasn’t a problem because the nature trail along a river connects the parking lot to the town square where all the restaurants are. Along the way I passed a bike rack and another rack I didn’t understand so I stopped, walked around it and finally figured out it was a place to park fishing gear so the fly fisherman (so common in the river) can grab some lunch or use the town’s public bathroom. I love that town. It’s quaint and progressive at the same time. I was early so I ducked into one of my favorite stores where I laughed while reading decorative plaques. My favorite said: “Okay, I danced like no one was watching and now my court case is pending.”

It was a good week for socializing. Friday was my Movie and Lunch Club and we saw a movie that I’ve been looking forward to since we saw the previews months ago. I went right home that day, ordered the book and wrote my blog review of You Before Me shortly after. “The storyline is about a quadriplegic in his early thirties," I wrote, "who decides he wants to leave England and go to a Swiss clinic for an assisted suicide. But he promises his parents he’ll give them six months if they'll respect and accept his decision when the time is up. He’d already attempted to take his own life before the promise, so his parents hire a quirky girl to essentially be on suicide watch and to maybe help him find a reason to change his mind.”

I already knew a lot about living life as a quadriplegic because my boss at a support website where I worked for several years was a quad. Before his brain-stem stroke he’d been an aerospace engineer. After it, he built the elaborated website and with the help of other volunteers like me it serviced countless stroke survivors and their families. I had enormous respect for what he’d accomplished but he was a demanding boss, always wanting more and more and MORE of my time. After I left there, I hung around another support site for a while, this one just for quadriplegics and their caregivers where I had zero responsibilities but from time to time felt that I did have something useful to add to the community. Why am I doing this walk down History Lane in the middle of a movie review? I guess it’s my way of saying that I don’t make the claim lightly when I say I can see all sides of the assisted suicide issue that was the underlying theme to the love story in You Before Me. I’d known a man who made valuable contributions to society while typing with a forehead pointer and others who would have given anything to check out of living. I’d witnessed the pain and hopes of their families. I’d experienced my own emotional ebbs and tides while helping my husband deal with the loss of his mobility and speech. Love takes many forms---wanting to hold on to or wanting let go of life is complicated.

Which was better---the book or the film? Hard to say. I loved them both. The film adaptation cuts out several sub-plots which was fine with me. The casting was spot-on perfect, the acting wonderful, the Wales settings enchanting and the storyline was believable, sweet yet funny, emotionally deep and it makes you think. Several reviewers called it a sob-fest, one panned it as a “disability snuff movie.” Book reviewer Liesl Schillinger wrote: “When I finished this novel, I didn’t want to review it; I wanted to reread it.” I felt that same way about the movie. Most of the seventeen in my Movie and Lunch Club were wiping their eyes when the credits rolled. I didn’t think I’d be one of them since I knew the story ended with Will choosing suicide over the love he and Lou shared, but I was. ©

Favorite Movie Quotes: "You've only got one life to live. It's your duty to live it as fully as possible" and "Live boldly. Push yourself. Don't settle."

P.S. I didn't completely spoil the ending for anyone who wants to see the movie or read the book. I didn't tell you how Will's parents and Lou handled Will's assisted suicide.

Even this movie trail makes me smile.

21 comments:

  1. My tip for good sleep: fresh air and gardening, especially weeding. Works like a charm each time.

    I thought you'd already seen the movie? I remember commenting on Jojo Moyes, the author (she's beautiful, in addition to being a writer). ~ Libby

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    1. No, it was the book I wrote about back on March 2, 2016 titled "Books on Cold Winter Days - One Plus One."

      Those are all good tips. Got any tips for dreams waking you up?

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  2. Enjoyed reading your take on the movie and book. Book club I'm in had this as a selection last month. One of the questions raised was whether or not the quad guy was romantically interested in his young caregiver. Some envisioned they would wed and be together happily ever after if he had chosen to live. My view was that while he cared about her, what he wanted for her was to realize what opportunities there were in life beyond the little world that had existed in her mind, but I don't think he was romantically interested in her for the long haul.

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    1. I'm a romantic at heart so I like to believe he loved he enough to let her go, not tie her down to a life that she might grow to hate over the long haul. Also I saw Patrick as giving the greatest clue when he said Will tried to hide his pain from Lou. I don't think he would have done that if he wasn't romantically interested in her. Quads often do that with people they love. There is no happily ever after for someone in his condition. They can find meaningful things to do like my x-boss but they deal with so much pain and drugs that happiness is hard to sustain without an extremely hard will to get through the ups and downs. Then there is the whole religion as aspect that Lou's mother represented in the film and book. His family wasn't religious but many families are which adds more conflicting emotions. And many time guilt for what they are putting their loved ones through is hard to bear.

      If he had been a paraplegic where he could have still taken part in sports like wheelchair basketball, swimming, climbing, work, etc. he might have been able to deal with the emotional and physical pain of his condition enough to want to stick around for Lou. Some would say he took the coward's way out. I will never, ever judge like that. But I also don't believe in assisted suicide for the simple reason I think too many elderly people and people like Will will think it's their obligation to use it. And because depression over a newly required disability (not as severe as Will's) can cause major depression for up to a year before most of them find acceptance, meaning and happiness in their lives again. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem in so many cases. So I don’t want to see it mainsteamed.

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  3. Sleep is not usually a problem for me and I seldom remember my dreams once I wake up. Pretty clueless about dreams. Living in Oregon I am a big supporter of our assisted suicide law (Death with Dignity). I doubt I will ever use it but I certainly like knowing it's there if I should need that choice. I think it's been documented among all the records kept on this law that upon death they frequently find the drugs for assisted suicide unopened on top the refrigerator or in a cabinet. The choice seems to be enough to see many people to the end, never actually using the drug.

    The law has been put to popular vote twice in Oregon and upheld now by the Supreme Court so it's here to stay. A few states are beginning to pass such a law. Washington state I believe has already passed it.

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    1. Finding the drugs in cabinets and refrigerators, to me, seems like tragic accidents and intentional killings waiting to happen---and not necessarily to the person the drugs were prescribed to. Heck, paid caregivers and grandkids steal enough of drugs from houses to sell on the streets already!

      I like the Swiss method, if it's going to be legal you have to go to a clinic (not sure if that's by law or just the way it was presented in the movie) but it seems like the safest and most sane way to do it. I also think there should be a waiting period and reviews of the patience's condition by a panel. And some people should be turned down say in the case of people with newly acquired disabilities that a lot of people can recover quality of life back in time. Interesting topic to discuss with no real right or wrong answers.

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  4. Jean :

    I will watch that movie with hubby when it comes on dvd. I am very conflicted about assisted suicide cause I know right after my stroke & in my paraplegic situation I would have prefered that, & in my despair thought about doing it too, only thing stopped me was my young son & thought of hubby remarrying & kido suffering in process lol stopped me from doing anything stupid I am so glad I persisted & found great support system where I found others far worse off than me & still handling situation gracefully. today after 12 plus years on this post stroke journey I m thankful to be still around & have found my disability is just speed bump in our life it allowed me to slow down & enjoy scenery along the way. life is so much more meaningful today than it ever was. I feel my stroke made me better, aware & more present mom & wife.

    Asha

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    1. I know your story well, don't I, and it's people like you who were able to make it through the acceptance process, beat the depression and find meaning in life again that makes me believe access to assisted suicide should not be easy to obtain, if it does become legal more universally. I think the romantic in you will love the love story in this movie but the survivor in you might find the medical/moral choices glossed over a bit too much. The book went into those with more depth.

      You are a testament to the concept of doing the hard work of reaching within to find the strength it takes to endure the hardships of the storm to find the rainbow when it's over. I admire what you and Don achieved.

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  5. I went to a chiropractor for a bit and he was a nice enough guy but he said similar things about us mortal beings and it was emphasized with his tale of how fortunate he was because he grew up in a home of chiropractors and always understood good alignment. I felt that clearly my upbringing was wanting although, until that point, I had always considered myself very fortunate to have grown up with two loving parents!

    Your commenters today (and you) have given me food for thought concerning assisted suicide. Interesting.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. After my next to the last treatment with a chiropractor, my eyes got blurry and that concerned the heck out of me. On my last appointment with her I asked about the blurriness and she said treatments can make eyesight better but she'd never heard of it making it worse. Google turned up people with my same experience. I'd never let anyone treat my neck again. I know people who swear by them and go all the time, though.

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    2. Does your chiropractor know that neck cracking is 40% of the force of hanging and stops in time? Does your chiropractor know how stiff your vertebral arteries are? Not to throw too freezing water on your use.

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    3. Dean, I doubt I will never go back to a chiropractor. When I voiced my concern over the blurry eyes I voiced my concerns about having strokes during neck treatments and she admitted that one of her clients did have one on the table but, she said, when that happens it only means a stroke was going to happen soon anyway and by having it on the table could probably save a person's life as opposed to having one while all alone. You, I'm sure, would know better than me if that's true or bull. All I know is no one will ever treat my neck again.

      I have a good orthopedic doctor now and anything bone related from here in I'll have him treat.

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  6. California, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington all have death with dignity laws. Many more are almost there. In Oregon, you have to have six months or less to live ... so that might rule out quads. Two physicians must sign off on that diagnosis. One will write a prescription guaranteed to do the job.

    And absolutely your view of "I couldn't possible live like that" changes as we age. Maybe at twenty you wouldn't want to live confined to a wheel chair. At 90 you might think well ... that wouldn't be so bad.

    Yet the Oregon law is just for terminal illness.

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    1. I didn't know so many states have the Death With Dignity laws! I don't recall it ever being discussed here. The six months to live clause seems unrealistic when you think of how many diseases that last of years but leave people in so much pain and/or disabilities.

      You bring up something I wouldn't have though of...how our views do change with act.

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  7. I see Mr. Carson is in the movie. I'd rather go see "Finding Dory". LOL

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    1. I'm not a Downton Abbey fan so I don't get the reference to one of its characters. In this movie the actor played a nice guy father.

      You will not see me at a 'Finding Dory' movie. LOL

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    2. Why not? Something light and not so emotionally draining. :-)

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    3. I'd feel silly going to a kids' movie without some little kids with me. On TV, maybe, but going to the movies is expensive and I prefer films that make me think about them long after I leave the theater.

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  8. Sounds like the ‘corrective chiropractor’ lecturer was drumming up business. :) I had a friend whose husband was a chiropractor. Some people swear by them, but I've never been to one.

    I didn't realize so many states offered assisted suicide. I have heard something about people who are terminal moving to a state that offers it. There will be more. Things like this move long once one state offers it.

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    1. Drumming up business was exactly what it was about and that's something...like a bait and switch.

      Sounds like all the states that offer the Death With Dignity pills are out west. I wonder if assisted suicide is defined differently where someone actually helps you with IV's like in the movie? I can't image red states (heavily right-to-life) not fighting against the idea no matter what form it takes.

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  9. Oh, assisted suicide is different? Yes, I guess it is. I cannot imagine red states going along with this.

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