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, August 31, 2016

Serendipitous Inspiration



Saturday morning I couldn’t decide if I needed a shower or not before taking myself out to lunch on a dark, raining day. Dermatologists don’t recommend daily showers for old people if you’re not doing stuff to get sweaty and dirty. Our thinning skin apparently is chronically too dry which exposes us to all kinds of nasty skin ailments, the least of which is wrinkles. I don’t care about wrinkles but I’d like to avoid cracking skin and eczema, thank you very much, so I listen to my doctor. I hadn’t been doing much but sitting at the computer so I stuffed my iPod buds in my ears and made a decision to get sweaty with music and exercise so I’d have a good reason to hit the shower. 

It felt good to listen to my old 'power walking' playlist. In my world that meant it was time to strut around inside my house, arms swinging and knees pumping high. I stop at certain places where I have something to hold on to to do a few leg lifts, squats or old-people dance moves---anything to get my heart rate up and my muscles working. My 'power walking' playlist includes: Stayin’ Alive, The 5th of Beethoven, The William Tell Overture, Night Fever, Gangham Style, Hooked on Tchaikovsky and All These Things That I’ve Done. As you might guess I don’t have any ‘50s music on my iPod and I dread the day when I’m in a nursing home and the activity director thinks she’s doing a good thing by flooding the place with Elvis, Pat Boone and Bobby Darin. That’s what they do---match the music to the era in which the majority of their residents came of age. Actually, I should have ended that sentence with, “I dread the day when I’m in a nursing home.” Well, I’m not there yet and I’d better not forget it!

Exercise is supposed to be good for your mental health, too, a perk that I could use right now. I haven’t been doing much since last spring which is one of the reasons why I dug out my iPod and put it on the charger a few days before resurrecting my old power walking routine. According to HelpGuide.com exercise “promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.” I’ve always hated exercise but I’m willing to get out that big ugly gun to ward off the winter blues that I’ve somehow managed to acquire in August.

As I do my power walking around my house the dog thinks I’m the Pied Piper and there’s a good reason for that. I leave a trail of dog treats as I move through the house so Levi will stay behind me instead of getting in front of me the way he does when we do “doggie dancing.” (And why I don’t play more music in the house is a mystery I need to solve. It does lift my spirits.) The only song Levi gets to hear is, Stand by Me. I used to play it on my computer every night as a way of entertaining my husband and exercising the dog with obedience commands disguised as dance moves---leg weaves, circles, standing up on two legs, walking backward and forward. We’re not good at it like you'd see in dog dancing competitions---I shouldn't even call what we do dancing---but my goal was never perfection but rather to have fun and giving the dog five minutes of undivided attention. Since last winter we’d only been doing it three-four times a month and I need to give that activity back to him more often, if only because he’s got a more boring life than I do. 

Do you believe that inspirational messages come into our lives when we need them in a serendipitous manner or do you believe they’re always out there like white noise, ignored until our minds and hearts are ready to accept the lessons they teach? After I wrote the first draft of this post I was on Facebook where one of my friends had just posted a video of a Chinese guy in his eighties. I scrapped the original ending so I could write about Deshun Wang, a man who took up doing an intense workout late in life. He also walks the fashion catwalk with kids a quarter of his age---his gray hair flowing down to his shoulders and looking full of life. His easy smile and kick-ass attitude earned him the nickname of the ‘hottest grandpa’ and he became an instant internet sensation.

He says in the video, “At 80 I still have something left in me. I still have dreams to achieve. Believe me, potential can be explored. When you think it’s too late, be careful you don’t let that be your excuse for giving up.” Now, that’s an inspirational message I truly needed to hear! I've spent my entire life working towards goals and dreams but since my husband died I’ve let my age limit my dreams. I don’t have enough time left to do such and such, I’ve told myself. What’s the point of trying? Watching one video, of course, can’t change the trajectory of anyone's life but Mr. Wang gives me mega much to think about. How about you? Do you let your age edit the potentials you could explore? ©


27 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. That video was too good not to share.

      I love that joke on your blog about the little boy and the preacher.

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  2. That is an inspirational video. I don't think I let my age get me down, but my health has surely been a drag for awhile. I am optimistic about this upcoming procedure, though. I have the ready-to-go attitude, I just need a little get-up-and-go.

    I like to shower too often, but I have dry skin, and I've started "skipping" if I'm not going out of the house.

    Exercise is definitely good for the spirit. When I lived with Dad, I tried to walk outside as often as possible. It helped. I also had an exercise video that I used when I couldn't get out of the house.

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    1. I'll bet it won't take long after the procedure to get your old mojo back. Not feeling well is definitely a drag on everything we try to do. Stay optimistic!

      I try to keep my sponge bath days for stay-at-home days as well. Daily showers is a hard habit to break.

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  3. I don't have an iPod, but I like your music selection! Of course, I would add "Cecelia" by Simon and Garfunkle - that is one of the songs that really gets me revved up. :-)
    Loved the video, he's right and oh, yeah, he is sexy at 80!

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    1. At one point in my blog I had labeled Mr. Wang 'sexy' but then edited it out because I decided his appeal is so much more than physical looks and I didn't know how to describe it and stay within my word count. It's his attitude and laugh that got to me. He's also got kind of a Willie Nelson look going as well.

      I'm off to see if I can find "Cecelia" to sample online. Thanks for the suggestion.

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  4. Thank you Jean for today's post and all the others. I look forward to your blog because you are honest about how you are feeling. I read and I feel I am not alone. I am not different in this painful journey. Sunday it will be 6 years and I've been struggling all summer. Way too hot and humid to go walking (near 100) and I know the exercise would help. I keep telling myself it will get better in time but I've been kidding myself. What I believe now is we get better at recognizing the lows and we get craftier at dealing with them. Your blog is wonderful and I enjoy all the comments. We are a community and we continue to survive. Age is only a number on a paper not a description of who we are...

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    1. Hey, I'm glad you commented today! I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who struggled with getting exercise this summer. Even the weeds in my yard thrived from my lack of wanting to be outside.

      You aren't far ahead of me in our widowhood and I think you are right in what you're saying about recognizing the lows and getting craftier in dealing with them.

      Now, if I could just talk myself in to believing that age is only a number. I really need to work on that one which is probably why this video touched me so much. Thanks again.

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  5. Certainly sounds like you've done something good for yourself. Amazing how exercise helps us mentally.

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    1. Let's hope so. I've never been one to stick to any exercise routine.

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  6. Good for you for getting up and MOVING! I need to get back to the swim aerobics ... It's now M/W/F 11:30 - 12:30 which isn't the best time of day to work around ... but at least twice a week would be good. I do get up at every commercial and putz around a bit, but never to keep my heart rate up for a decent period of time.

    Mr. Wang is a great example for us all! It is NEVER too late!

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    1. The 11:30 swim aerobics would be perfect for me. I'm not a morning person though I loved pool aerobics. Here, in the summer they meet at 7:30. Haven't checked the fall schedule.

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  7. Your note regarding daily bath for elders was indeed fortunate for me. I love to get out of bed and into a L-O-N-G REALLY HOT shower daily. And of course it dries my skin. So, on my own, I'd thought of missing a shower some days. I never knew it was recommended for elders! (The other solution of having a lukewarm shower does not appeal.)

    I go to gym classes for a few weeks in winter. It gets me out of bed in the mornings. The actual benefit is the half-hour walk to and from the gym, rather than the exercise class - but it all helps!

    Agree it is never too late, and age is only a number. The start to any journey begins with the first step. ~ Libby

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    1. I don't like lukewarm showers either, but I have gotten used to alternating sponge baths with showers every other day. Sponge baths being defined as the smelly parts and your face. LOL

      You don't have snow in your winters, do you? I know your seasons are the opposite as ours though.

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    2. No snow, but winter temperatures fall below freezing point some nights so we get hard frosts. Yes, our seasons are opposite to yours. ~ Libby

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  8. I must confess, I'm looking forward to this year's birthday. I'm going to turn 70, and I think it's the coolest thing ever. I have some plans for "celebrating" that will extend through the year -- the first is my training in September to be a volunteer at our local nature center. I'm not sure yet what I'll do first, but the opportunities are varied: work in the native plant nursery, trail guide, working with children in nature classes. There are other things on tap, but incorporating new activities into my schedule has to be done carefully. I don't want to cut into the time I have set aside for writing and photography!

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    1. Having new things to look forward to is great.

      You hit on something in your last sentence that I struggle with---balancing getting out of the house with time for art and writing which are important to me.

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  9. Yes and no to the age question...yes it is only a number but it is a number that signifies something. It signifies that I have lived for 65 years. Now that in itself may not have much depth to some people but when, for instance, I look at my hands and fingers and think that these body parts have been moving and functioning for a long time, I find that profound! And equally when I consider all the history that we have lived and all the emotional changes in our lives, then, numbers begin to mean something. It's a quantity but a quality as well.
    As for your question about white noise, in my experience, it is there but we don't hear it until we want or need to. From my experience in playing flute as an adult, I am fascinated by all the sensible and wonderful things people are saying about techniques to help improve my playing. I've become convinced that they are not all saying these things now, but they have been saying them all along and I am hearing them now because I am at the stage of learning where I am ready to understand them.
    Life is such a learning experience isn't it! We just think we are beginning to understand it and poof!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I love the word serendipity and I use it a lot but, like you, I actually believe in the 'white noise' theory that inspirational opportunities are always out there but we have to be a point where we're receptive to understanding them.

      Love your last paragraph. So true!

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  10. I have been exercising regularly (first jogging and then walking) since I was in my mid-twenties, so I know how important it is to my mental health. Even so, I "fall off the wagon" sometimes and don't get out to walk. During my working years, I solved the problem by walking to work (a little over a mile each way), but I no longer have that option. I find that the more days/weeks that go by without getting out to walk, the harder I find it to get myself moving. Then, when I finally do get out, I am reminded how good it makes me feel and wonder why I let it go. Since one of the reasons I choose not to exercise is that it will take too much time, I've given myself permission to do shorter walks as a way to get myself out and moving. -Jean

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    1. You've found what works for you. One of the challenges I have with walking is the bone structure in my feet is so bad that walking is often painful. My first pair of baby shoes were custom made as where most of my shoes through my mid twenties when I flatly refused to wear ugly shoes that laced up the sides anymore. In my fifties I went back foot doctors and was able, then, to get custom shoe inserts instead of ugly shoes which helps. Ideally I need to do all my exercise in a pool.

      By the way, I bought a sleep mask after reading your last blog and I think it's helping me get more sleep. It's only been four days, now but so far I've gotten 45 to 60 minutes more per night according to my Fitbit.

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  11. I also saw that video on my Face Book. Coolest thing ever. Maybe when I'm 80, I will take up exercise. I think it's this damn, long election that has us in a mild form of anger/stress/depression. Maybe, when it's all over, we can all take a breath and say, "QUE SERA, SERA. and relax and get back to normal--or whatever normal is nowadays.

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    1. Oh, my gosh, the election IS stressing out a lot of us! I see it everywhere the topic comes up. I can't wait until it's over.

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  12. Grrr...I wrote a long comment yesterday only to discover I'd lost my WiFi connection and it didn't post. Technology! Anyway....I DO think he's sexy! LOL I have never been a big goal setter; I tend to passively wait around for inspiration to come my way and then I pursue whatever interests me. This hasn't changed as I grow older. At 65 I'm still delighted to find new things to explore and assume this will be the case until I'm on my death bed, exploring THAT experience!

    As for exercise. I started practicing Yoga about 8 years ago. It's keeping me flexible and balanced and helps with strength too, but I decided to up the muscle building and recently signed up for "senior" weight resistance class. It's pretty easy, so the instructor invited me to join a "personal training" class she does for a few older folks and I went yesterday for the first time. It kicked my butt! I'll stick with it for the month of September since I've already paid. I've always hated anything aerobic and "hard", but I just have to remind myself to go at my own pace. We'll see how it goes. I'll likely blog about it.

    I love the image of you dancing and moving around your house to your playlist. Good idea!

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    1. I hate with the tech fairies steal our posts!

      Yoga looks too hard for me and those yoga pants scary me...look sort of like Spanx in colors. I did sign up for an eight week Balance class, 2 hours each, and I'm guessing that will include some yoga poses. A personal trainer does sound like a good way to keep you from backsliding or falling off the exercise wagon.

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  13. Hi Jean. I just got home from the cottage and read your blog. Very interesting. I hope that I can reach 80 and even more but will see. I fell outside trying to put a large umbrella in a wind and it took me out. I'm OK but got scraped
    on my arm, my ribs were bruised, arm twisted a little bit but other then that I'm still alive. Ha,ha,ha. We enjoyed some rest & relaxation but now I'm just waiting for my cruise in January. I hope you are doing well my friend. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Fighting an umbrella in the wind could take anyone down, no matter the age. Glad you didn't break any bones. January isn't that far off anymore...got to stay out of casts, my friend!

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