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, September 3, 2016

Sharing Secrets and the Vulnerability to Connect



Did you ever have your mood change so fast from bleak and dark to sunny and light that you had to go back and dissect the reasons why that happened? If I were thirteen or forty-five when puberty or menopause could explain things I probably wouldn’t have even noticed my U-turn because, well, hormone induced craziness often escapes its victim’s attention. It’s the rest of the world that’s wrong. 1-800 Waa-Waaa and if I had an eye rolling icon, I’d use it here. I don’t know about other women but if I could go back and give my parents and my husband trophies for surviving my puberty and menopause, I would. The catch-phrase “cry me a river” was probably inspired by my older brother back in the days when my hangnails took on the same importance as a pile-up on the expressway. And I think I’ve already written about the time my husband found me balling my eyes out over a broken pencil lead and in a naïve sweet guy way, he thought sharping the pencil would fix what ailed me. 

As I examined my changing mood this week it would be easy to assign a Bermuda Triangle-Like mystery explanation but on closer examination that wouldn’t be true. I can point to several things that converged on point A to bring me to point B. One was The Gathering at the senior hall on Monday, the new start-up group for people who are looking for friends. Again, we played a get-to-know-each-other game. With this month’s game we had to reach into a bag without looking and pull out an object, then tell a story about how that object tells something about our personalities, ending our talk-time by sharing a secret. One lady pulled out a wooden spoon with a hole in the center and she joked that it was her brain and the older she gets the bigger that hole grows. Another woman’s object led to a story about how she ended up living in Cairo, Egypt for twelve years. One woman confessed to streaking across a lawn to ring a bell and she made us promise that her secret would stay in the room. Oops, I guess I’m not good at keeping secrets. I love how these games help us carry conversations beyond the norm for strangers getting to know one another.

When it was my turn to share a secret I said, “I only have one secret”---I was thinking about how I blab my every thought in the bloggers’ world---“but I’ll tell you half the secret: I once slept overnight on a gravesite and the reason why is the half I won't share." I also didn't share that I dated a newly minted Vietnam veteran for a year before I met Don and until that guy dies I probably won’t talk about the pain he caused me which includes the reason for the night in the cemetery. I think about doing it, writing about that era of my life but it would be a complicated story to tell and I’m not sure it’s worth revisiting in my head. I've googled him a couple of times and know our paths could easily cross again and it would be interesting to see if the attraction is still there after all these years. You see human interest stories on the news about old people who were sweethearts in their youth reconnecting fifty-sixty years later in a nursing home and getting married. Ohmygod, I can see how that happens if you're both the kind of people who only carries the happy memories forward and leaves the rest back in the past.

Back on topic: The second thing that factored into turning my mood around was going on Facebook and reading a post by an acquaintance that on some levels mirrored my own thoughts. “It occurred to me,” she wrote, “that in the realm of friendship, I have pretty much wasted mine because of shyness (often mistaken for being ‘stuck up’) and, yes, shame. I have many friendly acquaintances, but no one to have mini-reunions, girl getaways and the like. When I see posts of women laughing in restaurants, or touring places I love, I feel a great deal of self-pity, which is not noble.” Let me tell, this woman is someone I never, ever would have guessed could feel that way. She’s poised, well spoken, warm, extremely interesting and is someone I have admired from afar. I pictured her with many close friends. We chatted back and forth on her public Facebook post---my least favorite format for sharing feelings---but we ended up making plans for an outing this holiday weekend. 

“In order to connect we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.” That’s a quote from New York Times bestselling author Brene Brown and I realize that's what my Facebook acquaintance was doing in her post, she was having the courage to be seen---insecurities, flaws and all. Ms. Brown also says, “Connection is why we are here. It’s what give meaning and purpose in our lives.” If you’ve never seen her Ted Talk on the power of vulnerability it's well worth watching. It's funny, insightful and you'll probably see yourself or someone you know in the stories she tells. ©


18 comments:

  1. Happy that your mood has lifted, and also for the cause - hope the friendship develops. Its good to have a companion for outings. Enjoy your long weekend. ~ Libby

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    1. Not sure if you have a Labor Day over there but hope you have a good weekend too.

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  2. Isn't it interesting how shyness factors into life?

    I mistakenly interpreted some situations with a friend/neighbor and we have not been friends for almost a year. She was still included with a group of ladies, so our paths still cross. I finally decided to have a conversation about what I did wrong. Long story short, she is just SHY!

    Slowly but surely, we are rebuilding a new friendship!

    Keep reaching out! It works!!

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    1. Shyness is a word you don't often use on senior citizens, is it. You are a nature at making friends, just the opposite of shy.

      Stay safe with the hurricanes.

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  3. I think I've mostly been pretty good at being vulnerable. Sometimes unwisely, but mostly with positive results. Still, as an introvert, I'm often labeled, "stuck up" because I find it hard to make small talk or be in large groups of people I don't know. I think the Gathering you describe and games played to break the ice are good, but I always cringe initially and want to sneak out of the room whenever I've been in these situations. There is constantly the push-pull of wanting connection and rejecting the process of finding it. Maybe that's why when I find friends I hang on for dear life. I envy my younger son, who is a total extrovert, and loves meeting new people -- he sees everyone as a potential best friend and approaches people with an openness of spirit that is a joy to watch. But we are who we are, right?

    I'm glad your mood has lifted. I relate completely with the mercurial nature of those mood shifts!

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    1. Isn't it interesting that you could raise an outgoing son who loves to meet new people but you, not so much. I'll bet, like many others, you project a different persona than the one you feel inside. The wanting to connect and fear of being rejected is more common than we think.

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    2. I do project a persona that is often different than what my insides are going through. People tell me I'm funny, friendly, and outgoing. Yes. I am all those things too. I think we all have a basic "default" personality or tendency and mine is toward introversion and a little social awkwardness in large groups, but I have learned to override the default when needed or appropriate and can turn on the charm (for awhile) even when I'd rather just go home. LOL. Also, I think we have the ability to change if the way we are in the world is not serving our highest need (such as for connection with others). I have worked hard at self-esteem issues, self-acceptance...it's not easy and often exhausting, but every day I am becoming more and more who I want to be -- and accepting that I'm not all one way or another, but tapping into the various parts of me when I need them and they all make up a whole that is "me".

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    3. Maybe that's why so many people who by the time they reach their 90s say they like themselves better than they ever have---we accept ourselves and become who we really want to be, no matter what others thinks.

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  4. I love Brene Brown's messages.

    What your acquaintance wrote about shyness and shame, I could've written. And I'm probably viewed the same way - as poised and articulate and warm - by my acquaintances. So difficult being vulnerable! Last night, when I went to the art opening and didn't see my friend, I told myself to connect with anybody...Connect as if I had utterly no fear and no shame. Worked for nearly an hour, until F and S snuck back onto my shoulder.

    I hope for you and your new 'friend', that F and S get the boot at your get together. Have a lovely time! You have a lovely spirit anyone is blessed to mingle with.

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    1. Poised, articulate and warm but carrying shyness and fearful---All of those qualities come out in your writing. Being at the art show for an hour was better than not going at all.

      Our outing was today, I'll probably write about for my next blog post.

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  5. I have never had any gal pals that I would vacation with! Except maybe my sister. Maybe I am just selfish? Want everything my way? I do enjoy hearing about sorority sisters who still get together after 30 years and go on trips. Or a friend who joined Red Hat groupS (maybe 5 of them?) and travels to other states with them and must have a million outfits as well. And now she belongs to some other friendship groups as well. I just need more alone time than that. Nor do I have the funds!!

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    1. I know a woman in 5 different Red Hat groups, too. I couldn't be THAT busy either. I have another friend who vacations every year---and has been for the past 30 years---with 4 others from her high school class. Nice but I'll bet it's rare. Sisters are different. Your pecking order was established a long time ago. LOL

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  6. What I find hardest is initiating invitations; I tend to feel rejected if the other person doesn't say yes. I've been working on this, but it's still a struggle. This is probably why I like regularly scheduled social events -- like my monthly lunches and book discussions with my group of retiree friends. Next week, I will start up my weekly dinners with my next-door neighbor for another year. This has turned into a fun way to turn a long-time acquaintanceship into a friendship. -Jean

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    1. That seems to be my problem too because I just don't initiate anything, I wait for others to do the inviting. I got invited to a sewing and knitting club this month---city wide and lots of members. I'm going to give it a try. Going could be called Operation, Turn an Acquaintance into to a Friend. Your neighbor dinner idea was brilliant. Glad it's working out so well.

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  7. I've been thinking about the reason none of this clicks with me. I've decided it's because I've always done things alone. Never think about taking someone else with me. Bob and I are married but we share very little in common. We've never had the "best friends" kind of relationship. I worked days & he worked nights so we didn't attend many social activities. Can't imagine attending a group where I would have to tell a secret of mine. I'm not a joiner so the Red Hat groups never appealed to me. I've never wanted to belong to a book club. I suppose rather than joining groups I'm more of an events person. I prefer to attend events where I don't have to become socially involved. I'll have to think on this but I can't imagine my life would be different if I were widowed. Of course I can't know that until that time comes.

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    1. My husband and I worked different shift for a lot of years, so I understand what you're saying. Going places alone is really not that big of an issue with me except for traveling. I won't be doing that alone. What myself and other widows miss (I think) is the conversations, the knowing that someone has your back if needed, someone who'd know if you fell off the face of the earth and who shares all your memories. It's a very different kind of lonely when the one person who knows you better than anyone else is gone. Maybe since you say Bob and you were never "best friends" it will be different for you but, like you said, yo can't know until the times comes....

      And you're in the blog world so whether or not you know it, you're sharing secrets (feelings, insecurities, etc.) already.

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  8. Isn't that interesting about your FB friend? We never know, do we? I met a new neighbor today. I had a good vibe about her, better than anyone I've met here so far. I hope you enjoy/enjoyed your outing with her. Hope you let us know.

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    1. My blog that goes live at 12:30 tonight is all about our outing.

      Glad to see your blog today. I miss you when you're not around.

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