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, July 27, 2016

Labeling my Moods and Missteps


I’ve spent the last hour-and-something trying to put a label on how I feel, how I’ve been feeling for the past few days. Bored? Lazy? Hopeless? Depressed? I can’t put a finger on my restless mood and the longer it goes on the more frustrated I'm getting with myself. Woo-is-me! If you're looking for a happy-little-widow post pass this one by and stop back when I'm in a better mood.

BORED. Actor Viggo Mortensen was quoted in Vanity Fair as saying, “There’s no excuse to be bored. Sad, yes. Angry, yes. Depressed, yes, Crazy, yes. But there’s no excuse for boredom, ever.” Easy for him to say. Just reading through his list of movie credits makes me tired---over thirty including Crimson Tide, G.I. Jane, Walk on the Moon, and The Lord of the Rings series. He's also an artist, poet and photographer. How does a person manage to stuff so many things into one life time? Where does that kind of energy come from? I know what he means, though. He’s saying that there’s a whole world of interesting things out there. Grab on to something, explore it, and the awe and inspiration will follow. Okay, if I’m not allowed to be bored, then am I lazy?

LAZY. I admit I waste a lot of time. I spend several hours each morning on the computer and I don’t budge from that until mid-to-late morning when I shower for my afternoon appointments, social engagements, errands or tasks around the house. I end my day the same way---my fingers on the keyboard, my ears half listening to the television. If Levi, my mighty Schnauzer, wasn’t of stubborn German descent he’d probably never get fed; I get so lost in inside my head that I forget things without him and my handy kitchen timer to keep me on track. He knows his schedule and he holds me to it: 10:00 AM outside for his morning eliminations, fresh food and water at 11:00, dental stick snack at 4:00 and walk at 7:00. I swear he tells time by the program intros coming from the television. Judge Judy? Oh, boy, it's time for a Milkbone brushing chew!  

Playwright and novelist Paul Rudnick once said, “As a writer, I need an enormous amount of time alone. Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It's a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.” Hey, Paul, can I use that excuse for me being lazy? Most of my computer time is spent reading, researching and posting at various sites before I get around to ramble writing my blog posts late at night. If I can borrow Paul’s procrastination excuse, then ‘lazy’ is not a label I need to wear. What’s left---hopelessness? Depression?

HOPELESSNESS. When Macbeth found out the queen was dead he mumbled a passage that essentially says there is no purpose or meaning in life: “Life is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Shakespeare might have been a smart guy but that doesn't make all his words sage or true. However, in this case I do wonder why I’m here, what’s my purpose? Why do I often feel like I’m just filling up time waiting for something? Jeez, I need to set my sails, shake things up. I’ve been thinking about going back to water aerobics at the YMCA or yoga at the senior hall. I don’t get enough exercise. I don’t like the weight I’ve gained since the beginning of the year and that does not add to my happiness coffer. More importantly, I have no muse which begs the question: Do I have no muse because I'm restless or am I restless because I have no muse? And why can’t I give myself the same kind of approval and praise I used to get from all the dead people in my life? Have I spent my entire life just being a Pavlovian Dog responding to conditional stimulus?

DEPRESSION. Melissa Cole (and I have no idea who she is and Google isn’t any help sorting through all the Melissa Cole’s on earth) wrote, “I feel like I’m in the ocean with big waves and small waves, just trying to keep my head above water and not drown — but the waves come and go and I’m alone without a life preserver trying to stay afloat.” I found that quote on a site that says it lists the twenty-five best descriptions of depression. And nope, I’m happy to report I don’t feel like that. I feel more like a dinghy adrift in that ocean; I can see Paradise Island on the horizon but I lost the paddle needed to help get me there. So, I’m back to square one: I'm restless without a label to explain it! It didn't help that I've had four days in a row with no place to go and nothing that needed doing except to clean the garage which I’ve been avoiding because it’s a heat stroke zone.

Thankfully today I have a haircut appointment with a 28 year old kid who gets the same memos as I do with bullet points on what topics to discuss. She may be young but we have a lot in common. And tomorrow I’m going to an ice cream social. Three cheers for hot fudge sundaes with nuts and cherries on top! Maybe I’ll luck out and someone will spill chocolate on her blouse and I’ll be able to whip a Wipe & Go out of my purse to save her day. Ding! Yup, that little bit of praise I'd get for that would have me salivating and happy. Levi and I have way too much in common. ©

37 comments:

  1. She stands in front of the open door of the refrigerator of life. Nothing there seems to be what she craves. She turns and says, "I want something else!"

    Been there, done that, have a little button for my shirt. I think, as we age, we tend to want that indescribable something else, thinking there has to be more. Maybe the haircut and the ice cream and companionship will take the edge off. I hope so, anyway.

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    1. I love that metaphor! It fits how I feel perfectly.

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  2. I had five days last week without Internet (the company decided I needed a new modem/router and it took five days to send it via a company called Next Day Express!)
    I found those five days unsettling, unfocused and frustrating mostly because I don't have a tv and had to resort to the radio to get my news. Normally I read New York Times on line and watch a lot of the satirical news programs but I was getting my news from NPR which I found unsatisfactory especially as it was the week of the RNC.

    I am more focused now that I have Internet again but there is still a great unsettling feeling that is looming large, not because of any individual situation but because it is possible that in 4 months this country will be destroying itself. How can that not be unsettling and affecting all of us?
    I watched Michelle Obama's speech the other night and I thought: That woman should be President. I don't think I was alone in thinking that. Come on Hilary it shouldn't be that difficult to win against an orange racist. The state of the world is impacting us.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I do wonder if the state of the county is part of my mood. There is so much hate, distortion and deliberate lies being spread in this election that it's are to stay positive. Michelle's speech is a good example. Her speech was so classy and was well received by the left, yet she gets panned by Trump people who can't see past her color and they never will. I don't understand that kind of hate.

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  3. This could come across as a little critical or snarky or something, and I don't mean it that way at all! It's just a report of what finally helped me, some decades ago, when I was experiencing that same restlessness. I stopped thinking about how I felt, and started thinking about what I wanted to do. Then, I started doing it. Voila! I've been pretty content ever since, even in the midst of some relationship problems, caretaking for my mother, etc. etc. All those things brought some ups and downs, but the boat never flipped. :-)

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    1. No offense taken. One of my goals for this blog is to be honest with myself, not sugar coat my ups and downs. Hopefully, that will connect with others who may (or may not) experience some of the same things and do like you did, share what worked for you. Another one of my LIFE goals is to become a better writer thus the commitment to blog twice a week, so it could be said that I am doing what I want to do. It has the side benefit of forcing me to get out of the house more often so I'll have stuff to actually write about. At times I'm adrift but I'm not in danger of flipping my dinghy.

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  4. I could have written these same words! I have felt this way for quite a few months. The heat and humidity certainly do not help our moods, but I think all that is going on in this world is the true reason we feel this way. I have renounced the two hours in the afternoon when I used to sit and watch News channels. I have blocked a couple of friends on Face Book that ONLY posted political links or rhetoric. I only watch the half hour local news and national news at night AND if, while I'm watching, RHC or Donald J. appear screaming on the TV screen, I click over to HGTV for a few moments. I refuse to watch any more than an hour of either convention. I might click on the Fact Checker the next morning to see who lied the most--right now it's a tie, but.............

    I am a Christian and I mantra myself everyday that, "God is good. God is in control:, but even with all my faith, it is becoming increasingly difficult to remain positive. Perhaps that might be why I stay in my Cave a lot of the time--at least here I can control my environment? I think it has been a really tough year for people like you and me. Being the political junkies we have been all our lives.

    Ennui--I love the way that word sounds as it rolls out of my brain. I just don't like being in that state, and I sure am.

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    1. After the convention I'll be cutting back on my news watching, too. How often do I say that and then something happens to draw me back in? The world is screwed up. And FaceBook! I've been shocked at some people I thought I knew well! The Victorians were right---we should never talk, money, politics or religion in public. I have lost respect for some FB contacts, though I have not unfriended anyone.

      You ramble write too and that's one of the things I like about your blog.

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  5. Your post really rang true for me. I'm a 3 yr widow and feel like you do. I get bored and lonely and feel I must force myself to get out...do SOMETHING! But I often can't muster up the motivation and can easily become lazy. I have tried many things in the last three years, but nothing has really stuck. I do like to garden, but after awhile, it just becomes maintenance. I use to love to travel, but not now alone...just isn't the same. I want "something else" too, but I just can't seem to find it. I also get discouraged by the push I feel from society to find new purpose, stay busy busy and try on-line dating (not interested). I'm healthy, but maybe my older age (70) contributes...don't know. As for politics, I've lived in two places since my husband died (NC and FL) and find I'm surrounded mostly with Trump supporters and Hilary haters. I just don't get it. Maybe my age group is trying to live in the past when the view is that life was simpler and safer and they view change as a threat to that fantasy...this morning when watching the news, I decided it's not republican vs democrats, but negative vs positive. It's about attitude and for some reason it's easier for lots of folks to give into negativity.

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    1. Mary, I love you for validating my feelings and sharing your own. Widows do (without words even being used) feel the push by society to find a new purpose, probably because there really isn't another healthy choice. I see a lot of widows at the senior hall and for the most part, I believe most of us 'seasoned' widows do stay busy. But that doesn't mean we're content 100% of the time.

      I think you're right about the politics of Trump vs. Hillary. It is a negative vs positive view of the world. In my offline life, it's not the people in my own age bracket who hate Hillary, it's the people around 50. I truly believe Trump is a threat to democracy.

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  6. Jean - Every time I read one of your posts (with my dog at my feet and the TV news playing in the background) I find myself nodding my head in agreement and understanding. However, today’s post was unsettling yet reassuring. Why? It described, low and behold, my daily life right down to avoiding the heat stroke zone in the messy garage! Your post gave me chills and left me wondering if you are somehow watching me through my computer - that’s a joke ;-) The search for a muse is something that particularly hit home. Feeling uninspired these days…these months…this year (?). I too ask if I spent my entire life being a Pavlovian Dog. Something to think about. After 3 1/2 years as a widow I have resolved to see this time in my life as a chance to really understand exactly who I am and what my true purpose is. Most days I see that as an opportunity. Some days it stops me dead in my tracks. Thank you for your willingness to be so transparent. Have fun at your haircut!

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    1. It's comforting to know that my spilling my thoughts wide open has connected with someone else who 'gets' what I'm saying. I have the same goal as a widow as you, "to really understand exactly who I am and what my true purpose is." Well said!

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  7. Geez Louiz. You're the only one who can make society's Four Deadly Sins interesting. I will not advise you to pop a pill, die your hair pink, sign up for FDS boot camp, or join the club of 'woulda coulda has been's. Nope. I believe you're having a good old existential crisis, which, should you be so bold, is your gateway to ______.

    Play detective, Jean! Sometimes it's easier for us to see the fire in you, than for you to see it in yourself. Pursuing the question "why can’t I give myself the same kind of approval and praise I used to get from all the dead people in my life?" is leading me to the occasional self-generated approval and praise. I may be blissed out on caffeine at the moment, or be spending too much time navel-gazing, or 'pushing the river', but I'm beginning to relish one quirky nature - mine! Got a river or a navel nearby?

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    1. I can promise not to pop a pill or join the woulda, coulda club---not my style---but the pink hair is still on the table. I'm having an existential something but it's not a crisis depth---just a temporary whiny thing. Navel-gazing sounds good!

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  8. I'm not quite sure how to respond to this post. My life is very limited right now but it's always been much less social than most of the blogs I read. We've never been very social I suppose. Bob always worked nights and I worked days so that pretty much cut out social activities. Sometimes I look around and wonder what my life would be if I lived alone and I doubt it would be very different than it is now.

    I think I might like a dog as a companion if I lived alone. I have no desire to join groups. I don't feel depressed or lazy. Sometimes I feel a little bored. Mostly I'm pretty happy as is. I have no idea how I will be if I'm ever widowed. I don't expect to have a lot of regrets. I don't expect to spend a lot of time reliving the past. I expect I'll continue on without a lot of change but I have no way to know.

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    1. We have something in common, Don worked nights and I worked days for about half of our time together before I went to nights, too. So I know what you mean about social activities being limited. I also know it made me more independent than woman who always had a guy around to solve all the problems.

      I don't think there is a predictor anyone can point to to know how someone will handle widowhood. I never thought much about the topic until I was one. A lot of people think that long term caregivers like you are and I was frees you up. They see the workload lifted without factoring in the long standing friendship that is gone.

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  9. Oh boy! I so relate. When Bill was listing Hillary's accomplishments in his speech last night, I turned to my husband and said, "Sheesh. I have done absolutely nothing with my life!" That's not true, of course, but I bet she doesn't sit around like I do (and you too apparently) scrolling Facebook, shooting out emails, thumbing through magazines, watching way too much TV (only GOOD TV, but still....) and generally not getting so very much accomplished. Right now I'm telling myself to get at my own blog. It's almost the end of the month and I've barely posted anything. But instead I'm commenting on YOURS! I look to my left, here at my desk, and see a cartoon I taped on the side of my file cabinet hears ago -- a woman at her desk, feet up, gazing into space, blank page in the typewriter, with the captain: "Loafing is the most productive part of a writer's life." I've totally mastered that!

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    1. My niece and I were just talking about Hillary's accomplishments today. She didn't let any grass grow under her feet. She's been a political pragmatism right from the start. And pragmatists get more done than dreamers or people too stubborn to compromise.

      I like the cartoon taped to your desk. I've read a lot of books on writing and it's a common theme that "loafing" and "procrastinating" are a part of the package. I'm often shocked and intrigued at how quickly blogs come off my keyboard after procrastinating for hours about seemingly unrelated topics.

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  10. Thank you, as always, for your honest blog. And for unfailingly, and promptly, responding to each comment. (You're usually an upbeat person so I suspect its inactivity and being confined at home for a few days thats causing your temporary feelings.)

    I share your sentiments, and that of the commenters. I wish euthanasia is legalised in my time. There are people who in their 70s who want to strive on - witness the current political contenders - and good luck to them. I don't. Perhaps its a temporary thing, I don't know. But sometimes, when I face the thought of a growing older and lonelier, I wish I had the legal/medical option to escape. I suspect the very fact that I had a legal/medical escape option, would make me want to live just because of my contrary nature. But it would surely make living longer easier.

    The above said, I will continue to live on so as not to fail my family. I have lived through many personal battles - now wonder how I did - so I tell myself this is an easy road now.

    To prove that nothing is without a silver lining: Mr T and his antics sometimes have got me out of bed in the morning - to get on the internet and discover what's been happening overnight. I will "miss" him (who knows? he may continue). My ire is most at the GOP high command that have allowed his nomination, who are complicit in his actions: "accessory to political mayhem". ~ Libby

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    1. Not so prompt today. I was gone all day doing something fun and unexpected that I'll probably blog about on Saturday.

      I don't share your wish for legalized euthanasia but I'm glad you feel safe to express your thoughts here on the topic. I'm generally a glass half full kind of person (though it doesn't show in this blog entry) Even when I have an occasional bad day, week or month I have to believe it will turn around.

      If Trump loses he won't go away. He's talked about buying a cable news channel and if he did, I'll bet he'd be promoting his son to go into politics. The one that loves the canned hunts of exotic animals.

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    2. I didn't mean to imply that you or the comments supported euthanasia. However, I strongly do. I don't talk about it secretly; I advocate openly for it. To me it defies logic that I can get my sick dog euthanised but can't claim for the same mercy. That's whats good about democracy, every one can have a viewpoint.

      If any of T's offspring are to be sprung into public life, suggest it would be Ivanka as she generally gets a positive feedback.~ Libby

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    3. Oh, I know you didn't mean to imply that. It's me. It just bothers me to see the words 'euthanasia' and 'depression' discussed in the same blog entry. The "it's a permanent solution to a temporary problem" argument. I don't want anyone to read into comments that suicide/euthanasia is acceptable for mild and/or temporary mood swings because there is help out there in the medical community for that, if needed.

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    4. Anonymous, I agree with you completely about legal euthanasia. I often feel if I had a simple pill or the means to simply contact my Dr. for a prescription, it would give me enormous peace of mind. Just knowing I had that option would be so freeing for me that I could almost relax and begin to enjoy life.

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  11. I go through this as well and have chalked it up to the ebb and flow of my tide of life. Maybe that's why I love just watching the ocean. When the tide is going my way, I make the most of my energy. When it's not, I just hold on tight and wait for the tide to change. No sense swimming against it!

    It's hard to not compare myself to others who seem to accomplish more in a day than I do in a week. I'm a work in progress.

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    1. I had a widow of twenty years describe grief as waves on an ocean, ebbing and flowing, like you just did. She says she still experienced them only not as often as in the beginning. Just hang on and not swim against them is good advice. Things turn around as fast as the hit us.

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  12. Maybe your purpose in life began three years ago when I couldn't sleep because of the sudden death of my husband. Family went back home, friends went back to work, kids went back to college. I was feeling crushing sadness, yet everyone around me felt I was "so strong". I didn't feel strong at all, quite the opposite, but I didn't want anyone to be disappointed. So in the middle of the night, I Googled "blogs written by widows". Up popped The Misadventures of Widowhood. I figured a blog title like that must match my need for humor combined with real stories about life as a widow. You are a little older than me and your husband's death story is different than mine, yet I connected to your folksy writing, your references to politics, and the fact that you seem to be well-informed and well-read. I also enjoyed reading the comments of your regular readers as they too seem to be a witty, intelligent group. Three years later, I still check in regularly to see if you have written a new entry. I don't comment much, mostly because I read on a small device as opposed to the computer and typing is harder for me there. But you HAVE a purpose and I bet you are unaware of the actual regular readers who stop by often or occasionally, just to get some hope and real talk about the everyday life of a widow who loved her husband very much. I am going to challenge any other "silent readers" to chime in with just a simple comment of "Me Too" or "I am here too" right now to let Jean know that she HAS a purpose and it may be as simple as writing this unique and faithful blog. Thank you.

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    1. Carolyn, Thank you so much for chiming in today with a message that really means a lot to me! And one I needed to hear right now. I often wonder who comes here to read, I see the view counter go up but why is the mystery.

      When you wrote the following sentence, I think you expressed something that 99% of widows could write about their first months/year: "I was feeling crushing sadness, yet everyone around me felt I was "so strong". I didn't feel strong at all, quite the opposite, but I didn't want anyone to be disappointed."

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    2. Me too. Am a 2+ yr. widow after 37 yrs married to my best friend. So relate to what you write, Jean. Thank you for writing. Helps a lot.

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    3. Thank you! Sorry you had a reason to seek out a widow's blog.

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  13. Me, too. … Thank you, Jean R. Have long admired you in your web log and in your comments at other sites.
    … and thank you, Carolyn, for what you did.

    Always Wordless, and very grateful to those who are not.

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    1. Awww, you guys are making my day brighter! Thank you.

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  14. I have periods of restlessness that I think of as "being at loose ends." It's not that I don't have things to do, but that I don't know what it is I want to do. Usually, if I just go with the feeling, I figure out that the problem is that I'm really not in the mood for doing any of the things on my to-do list, but for doing [fill in the blank] instead. The feeling resolves itself when I give myself permission to do that other thing (e.g., pouring out a glass of ice tea, settling into a comfortable chair with my feet up, and reading a new mystery novel cover-to-cover).
    But I have a feeling what you're experiencing is something deeper than this. I've just begun reading Susan Braun Levine's Inventing the Rest of Our Lives: Women in Second Adulthood (Viking, 2005) and she describes an unsettled and unsettling period that women go through in the transition from first adulthood to second adulthood as a "fertile void." Here is an interesting description: "The Fertile Void is a necessary, albeit bewildering, hiatus. Paradoxically, ... it is a place of change in which one sometimes feels 'stuck.' For a proactive woman, the response to being 'stuck' is to expend more energy, make more lists, go to more seminars, try to muster more will power, make more decisions. But the result, she often finds, is spinning her wheels. The solution, ironically, is not more movement, but less. The cure for 'stuck' is 'still.'" (p. 59)
    I was surprised by your description of your time at the computer as "wasted." Why? As a person who spent a career as an academic, being paid very well to sit at a desk or a computer reading, writing and thinking, these seem to me very productive activities and hardly a "waste." I wonder why you attach such little value to activities that you enjoy and are very good at. -Jean

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    1. I'm putting that book on my Amazon Wish List. The passage you quoted makes sense to me. I also connect what with you wrote in your first paragraph. I always appreciate your insight and prospective.

      I think I often feel guilty while spending time on the computer when I know there are other things I should be doing and don't really want to do---like cleaning the garage last week that still isn't done. I can't seem to shake that feeling that I'm wasting time.


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    2. I wonder if it would be helpful to figure out whose voice it is in your head telling you that cleaning the garage is a more valuable use of your time than reading, writing and thinking. I wonder if this is a gendered thing; if it would seem obvious that the latter would be more valuable things for a man to do than the former!

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    3. I'll have to give that some thought. I've always been a goal orientated person but the goals in my work life and my leisure time life (before widowhood) involved producing something concrete a person could see and hold. But now that you mention it, I can remember my mom telling me to quit daydreaming and get my work done. Isn't it always our mother's fault? LOL

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  15. I was depressed most of the time I lived with Dad. You are not lazy. It's hard to get excited about doing anything when you're in the dumps. I'm late reading this. I hope you're feeling better by now.

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