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, June 22, 2016

Making Friends - Mission Possible?



Have you heard the acronym, FOMO? It stands for ‘fear of missing out’ and it’s usually sparked by reading social media like Facebook postings and if you’re not careful to check yourself that spark can turn into a raging fire. Since becoming a widow, I’ve had FOMO more often than I care to admit, mostly on holidays like Father’s Day when friends and family share photos of their get-togethers. Those glowing faces smiling for the camera seem to say the whole world is with someone special while I’m sitting in front of a computer screen with a cup of coffee for company. 

Envy isn’t a nice quality to have and I wouldn’t characterize my FOMO as envy. Hold on, you're probably saying, envy is the root cause of FOMO! Okay, that's a good point. But there is envy as in I-hate-you-for-what-you’ve-got and there’s envy as in I’m-sad-that-part-of-life-truly-has-passed-me-by. I’m in the latter camp. Never having had children and grandchildren makes me different than most women and that significantly impacts the stereotypical assumptions of what I should be/could be doing at my age. At my Movie and Lunch Club and my Red Hat Society meeting last week, for example, most of the chatter was about running around to events involving families and boasting about the accomplishments of grandchildren. What could I add to those conversations---the fact that my dog had oral surgery to the tune of $527.14? Nope, nothing I do dovetails with “my grandson is going to Stanford in the fall.” I interject the appropriate platitudes like “his parents must be so proud” yada, yada, yada and while I have gotten to know these ladies and their life styles well they probably couldn’t pick me out of a police lineup. 

Woo is me. I’m in a funky mood. I go days without hearing the sound of human voices except on TV. In the summers I only have to go a week in between hugs---one of the perks of hiring my nephew’s lawn care service---but in the winters, hugs are few and far between. I think about moving to a place where higher numbers of retired people are plopped down in one place. (My neighbors are all young, working families and rarely home.) And as tempting as that sometimes sounds, I fear I’d get neighbors like one of my blogger friends whose neighbors frequently drop in unannounced and stay for several hours. I would hate, HATE that! My husband used to have a neighbor who did that. Don would come home, go directly into the bathroom and by the time he finished peeing the doorbell would ring. He got frustrated by the infringement on his time and would complain to me, but he would never go to the door and say, “This isn’t a good time.” Maybe that’s why he always had more friends than me. Just sayin’.

Monday was a busy day. The dog had an appointment at the doggie foo-foo beauty parlor which meant I had no choice but to take him on a long walk ahead of time. Well, I had a choice but he and/or the groomer would have paid a price if I skipped it. While Levi was getting beautified I went to the bank, the vitamin store and to another Gathering at the senior hall. The search for friends was back on again!

The Gatherings are billed as events for people who are looking for friends. It was the third Gathering in their pilot program and I’ve discovered I love get-to-know-each-other games. This month’s game involved taking squares of toilet paper off a roll, enough “to get the job done” but the facilitator wouldn’t clarify which "job" she was talking about. The lowest number of squares taken was four, the highest number was eleven. Then we were asked to tell the group as many things about ourselves as the number of squares we took. No one person dominated the conversation, no one was ignored. It was interesting, enlightening and many fascinating details and common threads were revealed.

One lady made a comment that she has lots of acquaintances but few friends. Where have I heard that before? Oh ya, inside my head. Another woman built on that statement by saying you can’t turn acquaintances into friends unless you share yourself. (Do you think she got that from Oprah?) If only it was that easy. If it was I’d print out some of my blog posts, hand them out at the next Gathering and say, “Here’s a study guide to getting to know me.” I’m kidding, of course…but it’s not a leap in logic to say that total strangers do know me far better than people I actually interact with in person. Like someone with the stomach flu, I vomit my every thought all over this blog, but sitting with a group of others? Well, let's just say I often feel like a fly on the wall pretending I'm Superman when in actuality I'm an unassuming, mild mannered Clark Kent type sitting at the table. ©

24 comments:

  1. It's still a work in progress for me. LOTS of acquaintances. Not one BFF. Some acquaintances want more, but I am not as inclined. Today the widow group met for coffee and it was fabulous. Lots of them have closer relationships and I enjoy some extra time with some of them. But always good time in the bigger group. We are going to try to meet once a month.

    One of my closer Maui friends just got back together with boyfriend, so she will be scarce. Today I actually researched Life Alert systems. Since I don't have one person to whom I speak or text or email every day. So I will hire a stranger!

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  2. I like groups, too, from 7 to 15 people. Sometimes it's like pulling teeth in one-on-one situations to get the other person to talk! Or the opposite happens and they talk non-stop.

    I have a device like a Life Alert from Great Calls. I'm not signed up for the daily call (costs an extra $4.00) but I will if I develop a health issue. Is it a real person who calls? I just assumed it would be a computer generated call and if you didn't answer then the computer would call the people on your contact list. I'll have to ask the next time I talk to customer service.

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  3. I used to be a social butterfly, but no so much anymore. Friends have moved, died, drifted, etc. I find that it's hard to meet people now. I did check on a Gathering in our area. I think I may have found something similar.

    I just heard about FOMO the other day. I'd never heard about it before.

    Levi has a good life!! :)

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    1. It would be worth trying a Gathering.

      You must have seen the same info on FOMO that I did. I can't remember where I saw it but it was only a week or less before I wrote this.

      Levi does have a good life but I still feel sorry for him. He loves other dogs and I don't take him to day care anymore. We used to drop him off, go get pizza and come back an hour later. He loved it.

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    2. P.S. Someone recently was talking about how expensive it was to get her teeth cleaned and I said, "that's nothing. My dog's vet just charged over $500 for working on Levi's teeth." She was appalled that anyone would "waste" that much money on a dog. Ya, like I'm going to leave puss pockets in his mouth.

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  4. Right now my closest friends are the ones I've met through my blog ... Sometimes I wish they lived closer to me so we could be "in-person" friends!

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    1. I feel the same way! It makes me understand, better, how people in past centuries could get to know one another through letters before they met in person.

      That wild turkey on your blog today is really cool!

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  5. BTW--having kids and grandkds does not always mean you will be busily involved in their lives. Yes, my grandson is going into medical school. I did not get invited to attend his college graduation nor his "white coat" ceremony. I rarely talk about my family to "live" people, but a lot on my blog. Speaking of which--I feel I have REAL friends that I have never met--from my blog. Easier to vomit our feelings out on here and less of a chance of criticism. My blog friends always seem to be supportive. I have very few real, live friends. My closest real-world friends have died!!!

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    1. I think our blog friends ARE true friends. If they didn't connect with us they'd move on...that's my opinion. We may not agree with everything we each write BUT we understand where they're coming from and respect each other's point of view.

      I should quit thinking about what I missed, not having grandkids because I know from reading your blog that it's worse to have them and not be included in their lives.

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  6. Since my church imploded in conflict and I decided to take an unspecified timeframe hiatus, I've realized that all the dozens of "friends" I thought I had were mere acquaintances. I have a couple of really good friends, yet I know in the hierarchy of things their partners/families come first. I don't know how one finds new BFFs as we grow older. So much is based on history and shared experiences. And I am basically an introvert who most values conversation with a limited number of people at a time. I'm terrible at small talk so I'm often left out of the chat at social gatherings. My fake smile muscles become so rigid I just want to go home and be alone. I did meet a woman recently who I found to be down to earth and funny and thought to myself, "I wonder if she could ever be my friend?" I was curious. But not enough to pursue a stranger who lives some distance away. Not convenient. I feel for you; having a friend to count on is a good thing. And it's a rare thing. And I agree that those of us who find each other online are just as much (or more) friends to each other than if we lived in the same town. I can't tell you how often I refer to "my friend, Jean" inn conversation. :)

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    1. I think we've all had that happen, where we thought we had friends only to find out they were actually situational friends who fall by the wayside when our situation changes due to a variety of things. It hurts but when we think about it, it makes sense.

      Finding new friends as we age is not unlike dating. Like you with the woman you thought might make a good friend, I've met people like that, too, but it's hard to make that next step, because we might get rejected.

      I just accidentally went to a beer tasting so if this reply doesn't make sense you'll know why. I'll probably write about it for my Saturday blog.

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  7. I came over from Linda's blog (Two Fixer-Uppers)

    First, I'll say that having family and grandchildren doesn't necessarily mean you will be involved with them, as Judy says. I have 5 children, (maybe) 17 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. Most of them within a few hours drive. I see two of the grandchildren 3 or 4 times a year. I see my one son (their father) maybe 6 times a year. They live 10 miles from here. I am as close to house bound as a person can get without actually being that way. By the time I get ready to go anywhere, I'm ready to forget it because I am so worn out. Most of what the kids are doing, I read on facebook. Sometimes, I get a little bitter about the whole thing.

    My social interactions are mainly here on the blogs. I do have 3 friends who would help me bury the body, but we have been friends around 60 years and the closest one lives about 7-800 miles from me.

    My best friend, Ruth, was widowed 4-5 years ago. It took me until last year to bring the shy out of that girl. She brought my cousin down for a visit and they drove the thousand miles to get here. I guess that gave her some gumption to spread her wings. She has joined a sewing group, started a painting class, began volunteering at the local food shelf and she works with the Boy Scouts. I can hardly find her at home anymore and I am so tickled for her! She has made several good friends to do things with and she is so much happier. (Her family had kind of left her by the wayside as well.)

    Well, now, I don't know where I'm going with this ... Just don't let it get you down about the kids thing, it's not all that it's cracked up to be. (...and who knows, maybe those ladies are embellishing their life.)

    Wishing you the best,
    Sharon

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    1. Sharon, Thanks for popping over to read and comment! And, of course, for the words of encouragement. I know what you're saying about family not always being there even if you have kids and grandkids. It's a different world than when we were growing up and the younger generation supported the oldest generation.

      Your friend Ruth seems to be right on schedule for the average widow rebuilding her life.

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    2. True, Sharon. Too bad, but true (and sometimes I get bitter about it also!) Judy

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  8. Being an introvert and moving to MI with no family or friends around I became a situational extrovert and succeeded quite well. If I'm actually in town I have or can make social plans 6 nights a week. The problem with this is the weight gain. Right now all my best friends here are women.

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    1. "Situational extrovert"---I like that term and think I've tried to be that at times, but it feels unnatural. I guess like anything else, the more you do it the easier it gets. I have one week a month when all my reoccurring social events take place and I know exactly what you mean by weight gain coming with social plans.

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  9. There are so many conversations and events that attract you, Jean. Only sometimes do I hear you dragging yourself through your days. I'm SO glad you share both sides. You sound so approachable, but maybe that's because you're behind this screen.

    Don't most of us find it tough, after living with someone who attracted us ( and I mean intellectually, personally, spiritually as well), to find other company as well trained and nourishing? On blogs and forums - if we let our hair down - it's nourishing. Pains in the butt disappear with the click of a button. But if I'm whizzing by, here or anywhere - forget real contact.

    That toilet paper ruse sure does break the ice. Not sure I'll try that at home LOL

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    1. Writing IS where I let my hair down and show all sides of myself. We all have our ups and downs and I'm betting that most of us have a "secret life" going on inside our heads that isn't necessarily in sync with our public image. My goal in blogging is to share The Secret Life. I never thought about it terms of being "nourishing" but I think you're right. It's cathartic to work your feelings and thoughts out by writing. Sometimes I start a blog, having no idea what I'm going to write about and my inner thoughts surprise even me.

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  10. +1 to Judy, and Sharon's comments regarding kids. We've all agreed before that kids have their own life, and no time for oldies.You haven't missed out. Libby

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    1. I know you three are right. Once in a while the what-ifs get the better of me, but most of the time I'm fine.

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  11. You're not the only one sitting in front of the computer with a cup of coffee - although in my case, it's tea. At the end of the day, if I can't have a true friend that I respect, trust and like, I'd rather have none. I like my own company. Libby

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  12. Libby, I agree. It's not the number of friends anyone has. It's the quality of the friends that we have.

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  13. My kids are grown and have families of their own. They all live hundreds of miles from me. I do hear of some of their exploits through FaceBook, but just bits and pieces. I remember writing long letters to my mom and to my mother-in-law every week, but evidently that activity disappeared with the arrival of the internet -- even an email is too long for today's younger generation to take the time to bring me up-to-date. So, it's really like not having relatives at all nowadays.

    I do have a few cousins and out-laws living in this town, but I prefer having advanced notice if someone wants to stop by and they all know it -- so they don't stop by. They can't seem to plan ahead more than a day at a time. Everything is spur of the moment. I'd rather have no company than to just have people drop in unexpectedly. Our house is usually tidy enough for company, but I don't always have appropriate snacks (many are diabetic or on special diets), so if they just drop in, I have nothing to offer them to drink or eat. Or they may bring their grandchildren and I have nothing for them to play with and my house is not really "toddler safe." And I hate having to follow the child around to ensure their safety and the safety of my belongings... The parents or grandparents seem to just let the children wander at leisure and don't supervise enough to keep my things from being destroyed or the child from getting hurt. It makes for awkward moments during what could have been an enjoyable visit between adults. I guess I have become a curmudgeon...

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    1. FaceBook is such a strange thing. I have a hard time with the concept of being invited to parties that way. But it's happened several times. Younger people have no concept of what it was like to grow up in the letter writing era. As much as they post on FaceBook the quality kind of keeping in touch just isn't there.

      I tell everyone to call before coming over. Even ten minutes ahead of time works for me. I don't care if I don't have anything to serve unexpected or last minute guests but I tend to be messy at times and I like to pick up.

      I have a lot of antiques and breakables and know what you mean about toddlers that need to be followed around! Hopefully, they visit in the summers so we can go out of the deck. :)

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