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 10, 2017

First World Problems and Trump Era Conversations


My Red Hat Society chapter did their annual thrift shop crawl this week, an event where they carpool to a sting of secondhand stores with a break in the middle for lunch. I’ve been on the go so much lately that I am burning out so I just met the group for lunch at a Mediterranean grill. The service was so slow I think I grew an inch long chin hair while waiting for my chicken shawarma. (I’m quite sure it wasn’t there when I left the house.) And if I’m being entirely honest here, I’m not fond of carpooling with other drivers my age and older. Once in a carpool, the driver was running on fumes---that point where your dashboard says you only have one mile to find a gas station. I’m too old for preventable stress, I get enough of the other kind. Another time the woman driving joked that her family wanted her to stop driving and I could see their point. Still another time the carpool driver hit a cement pillar in a parking garage. Car size is an issue with carpooling too. I recently learned I can’t fit a walker in my Chev Trax unless I put the back seat down. One problem with that: The back seat won’t go down without pulling the driver’s seat too far forward for me to get in and drive.

My problems are so first world, middle class that I feel guilty writing about them, but it’s my life and I can’t write about someone else’s who may be living with incurable diseases, violence in the streets, famines, water shortages, in refugee camps, touched by natural disasters, etc., etc. I can empathize and some might say my empathy runs too deep and that’s why it seems hollow to me when we wear our colored ribbons of support and solidarity, hold candlelight vigils, maybe donate some money then we go about our middle class lives believing we did all that we could, effectively pushing our caring thoughts aside until something else happens that primes the pump and spills our empathy all over the place, muddying up our comfortable lives again. These days, we are getting fewer and shorter periods in between those pressure-cooker-blew-its-top moments around the world. And now we have the pressure cooker sitting on the stove in Washington D.C. 

Sitting with some friends recently the Trump tweet criticizing the mayor of London was brought up and one lady was quick to announce that she is firmly behind the president and all he wants to do and she saw nothing wrong with his tweet. Shocked by that, I made a joke about looking for devil’s horns on the top of her head because, I said, “I thought all Trump supporters had them.” She laughed as I knew she would, but it didn’t lessen the tension in the air as another woman made an anti-Trump remark. Since I was the one who brought up the tweet---I honestly thought the five of us were all democrats---I felt it was my responsibility to avert a heated conversation. I took out my imaginary pen and notebook and announced that we should make a list of topics we shouldn’t talk about. “Shall we put politics at the top?” I asked and several others at the table quickly agreed. “How about religion and money?” I joked, the three Victorian no-no topics of conversations in mixed company. The Victorians meant ‘mixed’ as in men and women but in this decade, in this country mixed company is quickly getting redefined as politically mixed. 

I’m beginning to wonder if politely avoiding these kinds of conversations among friends and family isn’t a mistake. Maybe by not talking it out with people we otherwise like and respect aren’t we encouraging the polarization that is driving our country off the cliff? It’s easy to visualize devil’s horns on no-name strangers but not so easy when we know and like someone. How can we ever understand where each other is coming from if we don’t listen to one another? I was brought up to find a way to lessen tensions that come up, not encourage them, so I’m a fish out of water to do anything different than what I described above. But as the British statesman, John Morley, once said, “You have not converted a man because you have silenced him.” So maybe people like me who try to avert or avoid potential confrontations are just as guilty of intolerance as the people who shout others down into submission. We each get the same results: We are silencing the voices of people who don’t have a carbon copy view of our own. The danger in that is, of course, we are eroding a fundamental building block of democracy, of civilized societies---our ability to compromise and build a consensus at all levels of human interaction---as messy, annoying, maddening, exhilarating and wonderful as that process is. ©

“Intolerance is the most socially acceptable form of egotism, 
for it permits us to assume superiority without personally boasting.”  
 Sidney J. Harris

46 comments:

  1. Good Morning!
    I've noticed that people don't really listen to what I say. (Or understand what I write) I believe they respond to my saying a positive comment, when it really isn't. I don't always agree with what they have to say.
    It has been a while since I have been shopping, I think I'd like that. Have considered taking my walker or getting one of these little hoveround things and trying it. I had to think about your problem with getting your walker into the car. Hmm, I don't remember how mine breaks down for travel.

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    1. I don't use a walker but have been with a woman twice now to art and crafts fairs while she was using one. It's really handy for carrying stuff (we all loads it up) and for sitting once in a while. Lots of people shop with a walker, you should give it a try. If I was all alone I could get a walker in the backseat but it takes up the whole seat so it doesn't work for carpooling with someone with a walker.

      What you said about people not really listening is a problem I think we all face as we age. Plus the older I get the less fluent and precise my verbal language skills are and I trust myself less and less. When writing, I think I do a better job of saying what I want but I still experience people misunderstanding me...not so much on this blog but else where on the net. Very annoying and I don't know if it's them or my writing.

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  2. I agree fully with the sentiments expressed by you that by not speaking (in order to maintain civility) we are in effect as guilty as those who will not let others speak. I don't know the solution. I am reminded of the time I criticised a government policy, and to my surprise my adult children agreed with the policy. I gave my reasons, and they theirs, and there it ended - each with our opinion intact. But I know sometimes, knowing the rationale, we have understood better and if not altered, amended our view point. Its important to talk, to get 360degree viewpoint, and listen to all respectfully. I have been at work meetings where the chairperson skilfully brought all attending into the conversation, and did not let a few dominate. It was often surprising the value a normally quiet member brought to the meeting, in terms of experience and knowledge.

    I don't understand Trump-supporters at this stage when they've seen his boorish behaviour on the world stage, his lies (yippee, they're now using that word rather than euphemisms), his hypocrisy, and well, seemingly working to build up his personal brand more than anything else. I am angriest at his enablers, the GOP. I look at the Speaker genuflecting in front of him and, knowing from #45's past that he always settles personal snubs, I think: wait till he kicks you in the backside (and the front!).

    Please do continue to narrate your first world problems - its comforting to not be alone! I just think that even Diana, then the future Queen, had them too! ~ Libby

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    1. It's funny that you should mention the chairperson's ability to draw everyone out and let no one person dominate the narrative. I had written a paragraph about how nice it would be if we could have a trained mediator at all tables where politics are discussed but I had to cut it to keep the blog the right length. I admire that skill.

      There was a segment on one of the talk shows this week that I think explains a lot. It showed the coverage of the Comey hearings as shown by FOX and alt-right sites and the coverage shown by main stream media. It was if they were covering two different hearings. I wish we could bring back the Fairness Doctrine which required the all media to give equal time to both sides of issues. (Can't happen in this era of cable but I can still dream.) We have way too many pundits and not enough actual newscasters and some people can't tell the difference, and we all tend to pick the pundits we like and refuse to listen to anyone who isn't saying similar things.

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  3. The conversations of different political views is a difficult one. I live among mostly Trump supporters, but I do have two close friends that aren't. Because two of these Trump supporters are so outspoken and their beliefs are dug in deep, it's best with them to talk about other things, as I consider them friends otherwise. But I am probably contributing to the problem.
    A good example is the remark from the London mayor. The right posted a small bit of his total statement out of context, but unless you watched what I call "real" news and NOT Fox or Rush Limbaugh, they could have heard the whole thing in which he first talked about the large increased police presence in the city and the people should not be worried because of this or perhaps in seeing more presence to not feel something new was up. Either way, he was identifying the problem and offering reassurance in the hopes that the increase would help. To me it's obvious, that people who support Trump on his Tweet against the mayor, are perhaps prejudiced against the mayor's ethnicity. And so it goes. Will this divide ever end or get better? I have my doubts.

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    1. The careful editing of the mayor's remarks to suit the president's agenda is something the Trump fans don't hear and trying to explain it to them would probably fall on deaf ears because they're minds are already made up. To me, it takes an evil mind to purposely misrepresent that mayor's comment like Trump did.

      As for will the divide ever end or get better? I sure hope so because the alternative is going to result in a national mental health crisis in my opinion.

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  4. Hi Jean, you make a very good point on discussing topics like politics, I try my best to steer clear of it on my blog, and Lord knows you don't discuss it on Facebook, but face to face it does come up and I will join in.

    I have written a post that I hope to share next week that touches on this. I agree with you and believe with all of my heart that people can be friends and get along in spite of what they think politically.

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    1. My husband's and mine close 'couple friends' for over 40 years were the opposite politically and we could talk about the topics of the day and actually enjoy the exchanges. But no one ever raised their voice or took themselves so serious that they didn't listen to what we each thought. But the was in an era when we could actually debate real issues with real facts. Now, people are debating/fighting about fake news vs. real news and that is a dangerous road our country is going down, in my opinion.

      FACEBOOK: No way will I post politics there! I have lost total respect for a few family members who do that. I try to limit my political posts on my blog. But this week it touched my off online life and I couldn't shake it off.

      Looking forward to your post, Jimmy. Love your fishing post today.

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  5. Last sentence: +100

    I kept on flipping channels till I got one without pundit-commentary. CNN's panel with partisan pundit-commentary is useless.

    Same testimony, yet such different commentary! I'm glad I stayed to watch it live and form my own opinion of all the actors. ~ Libby

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    1. I watched the entire hearing live as well, without the pundits. I watched them later in the day, though. I hate it when cable TV has large panels discussing issues. Too often they talk over each other. I understand they want to represent all sides but they need to pick people who don't make a habit of talking over others.

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  6. PS - I like and admire Bill Mayer's show for having panel members who do NOT validate his views. He's not racist and his apology for using 'that' word was genuine and from the heart. Plus from the context it's obvious he didn't mean it that way. ~ Libby

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    1. I can't get Bill Mayer. Years ago when he was on network TV, my husband loved him.

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    2. Jean R. - Bill Maher show is posted on YouTube. Search for ' Maher June 2017'. ~ Libby

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    3. Thanks. I forget we can find just about anything on YouTube these days.

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  7. I do stay away from political discussions. I'm pretty sure no one will convince me to become a Trump supporter nor do I think I can bring anyone to the left. These beliefs go so deep. Very sad to realize.

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    1. I agree we probably can't change each other but I'd love it if we didn't keep seeing each other as the 'enemy.' There are people on the political debate sites who literally believe we will haven another civil war over this administration.

      "Very sad" is a phrase that Trump has ruined for me. LOL

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  8. Jean, a very good essay today. I find that we share many of the same sentiments. The one thing that strikes me most about supporters of this administration is how vociferous and adamant they are in their support. It's almost fanatical...defiant. I think he was absolutely correct when he said he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes. Sadly, I believe that is still true.

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    1. Thank you. I don't see that changing any time soon either. His supporters have picked up his mantle of hate and division...so different than any other president we've ever had who have all tried to bring Americans together.

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  9. I do wish people had more manners and self control so we COULD talk politics and religion and money and whatever. We learn a lot from others. Conversations not confrontations! Seems like we had that 10-20 years ago ... but sure not now.

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    1. Manner and self control...ah, the good old days. The closest I remember to our country being so divided was in the last year or two of the Vietnam War and we managed to move past that eventually. So there is a sliver of hope we'll do the same in the post-Trump era.

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  10. You just can't talk politics or religion anymore and expect a sane conversation. At our luncheon, we don't ever bring up those two subjects, and yet over the 60+ years we've known each other, we used too without anyone's feelings being hurt. Now, the Trump voters who hated Obama call the Left-Wingers intolerant and condescending and the Trump haters call the Right-Wingers know-it-alls and intolerant. As for me, a confused moderate, and my family of Republicans, Democrats, Green Party and a couple of staunch gun owners, one who works for the Michigan Senate-Republican side, and one Bernie supporter--well, we do not ever talk politics! We don't talk religion because the family is Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Agnostic. Discussing money would be out of the question, as that has NEVER been talked about and considered crude and rude. That leaves us to talk sports, travels, food and memories of the old days, which seems to leave us all happy and content.

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    1. Isn't it funny how diverse our families are these days. I don't remember it being that way growing up. As for your last line, I don't follow sports, don't travel, don't cook and don't have a good memory of the "old days" so I don't have a lot to talk about. LOL

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  11. its hard to know, because in my lifetime (65 and counting), I've never seen our country so polarized. :(

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    1. Let's hope we can find our way back to "normal" again.

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  12. I live in a west coast blue bubble of liberalism and share that with most of my friends, so I rarely encounter a Trump supporter. My BP couldn't take any defense of him anyway. My bad, I guess. But I just completed a lecture series at the university and the lecturer told us not to try to talk politics to our polar opposite with any hope of making much progress in this divisive environment. He said if everyone just moved one notch over from where you are and had conversations there, maybe that would help. Far left talks to Moderate Left; Moderate Left talks to Independent; Independent talks to Moderate Conservative; Moderate Conservative talks to Ultra Conservative. It makes some sense to start small to find common ground where the differences are not so vast. At least we're talking.

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    1. Interesting theory. If I have an opportunity to try it out I will.

      I live in a Red state in a county that has never voted democratic for anything.

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  13. I live in a Trump county of Oregon and I've talked to several people who voted for him. They want things to 'go back' the way they were. That's a different time frame for everyone, but it's not terribly realistic. Some also like his strong man attitude. I'm careful to be conciliatory, but I've found I'd just as soon avoid conversations about politics and concentrate on the great things I know about the people I'm around. If people choose to only read and watch what agrees with their views, they're not going to be well informed about what's really happening. It's depressing.

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    1. I hear the same things about going back to the idealized 1950s but it wasn't an ideal time for many segments of our society. I also hear the admiration for what they call a 'strong man' attitude but I see a bully whose not particularly smart. I hope someone really good comes along next time to run.

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    2. I'm crossing my fingers Congress is adjusted in 2018 by the voters who were shocked that their vote did matter in 2016, to provide some balance in 2018. And I'm also anticipating he'll shoot himself in the foot eventually, but we'll be stuck with Mike Pence so a more balanced Congress is vital.

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    3. I couldn't have said it better. It' what I hope for, too.

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  14. I think it's important to discuss pros and cons of issues with friends and family as long as everyone remains civil. When my brother and I disagreed on some matters years ago, I recall his saying, "We agree to disagree." And we'd move on to another topic with neither feeling we had to convert the other, or that it was a win/lose situation and we still respected and loved one another.

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    1. That's a phrase I use regularly in situations where I sense things are tensing up. It really is too bad people can't 'talk' instead of 'argue.'

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  15. Because you choose not to be confrontational doesn't mean that you are intolerant. Too much has been written in the media since the election about people needing to talk to each other to cross the divide, The reality is that it is difficult and for different reasons people are not always willing to have those discussions. Which is why it is accepted that there are things that we dont discuss with each other. Resolving conflicts is not easy and anyone who thinks so is not experienced.
    I think you handled your situation really well.
    I am really wary of some people I know who are Trump supporters and I don't necessarily have any reason or desire to discuss it with them. On this we will disagree.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I think I'm too old to change something so basic to my personality, so I'll go on trying to lessen tensions if they are building in a group situation.

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  16. Really thought provoking post. Wise cracks around a sacred cow of mine is never welcome, even if I can crack an egg over their head in return. Since demonizing isn't your stock in trade, at least publicly, I like the way you handled it once the flames started ...make it off limits!

    Anyway...If 37% remain diehard Trump fans, that still leaves a lot of wiggle room for some inspiring, rising leader to win hearts for a better option. What we all have in common is that we pine for rescue from whatever ails us. Do you see anybody out there to fit this bill?

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    1. Thanks. I think. LOL I sure hope there is an inspiring leader (new blood) out there that will rise to the top for the next election---two of them would be even better. I like elections where you know who ever wins he/she won't blow up the world.

      I miss your blog. Hope your summer is going well so far.

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    2. Nice to be missed :-) Sorry I've been scarce. Life has been both more nuts and more sane. I've my hands in so many more pots - I've started drawing again - nude figure drawing!, I'm taking yoga classes, designing the home remodel, helping out my father and brother out, and basically expanding mind/ heart/body care in alternative ways. Playing it forward into a world beyond the one roiled by Trumpian firestorms. Yup. He too shall pass...

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    3. You sound happy and in a good place. So happy for you! And, boy, am I envious of you taking nude figure drawing again! Those were my favorite classes back in college.

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    4. I practically fell into these drawing classes through an online neighborhood networking group called Nextdoor.com. it has introduced me to all sorts of activities and people. One guy fished for interest for a life drawing group, where we'd pool our money to pay the model fees. He's an animator, and wanted to practice life drawing. Really interesting group of (mostly) guys (all married) animators and cartoonists. The guy who took over Beetle Bailey's strip when Mort Drucker died is there. Nice, softspoken fellow.

      It's been good for my soul to brush off my dusty, rusty drawing skills. Now I'm 'in the flow'!! I'll email you some pictures ;-)

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    5. I clearly belong to the wrong neighborhood networking group. All ours does is talk about lost and found pets, contractors and noises they don't understand.

      Looking forward to seeing your drawings.

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  17. Wow, very interesting Jean. Here in Canada we can talk about Trump any time but yet there are some people here think Trump is doing great. I watched a show last time about how many people ( mostly men ) were taken and thrown out the US because they don't have the normal papers. Before they would just down and speak to a special person and then they would be allowed to go home. They should men who have wives and children and yet they were sent out of the US. One was so bad, His daughter was graduation from collage and the next day they got rid of him. The family were all crying. The daughter cried was worried about her future without her father. These men had good jobs, built homes or bought them, paid taxes, were part of their communities but yet since they were told, we have a new president and therefore you have to go. WHY? This upset me very much. I always thought that immigrants were welcomed to this country. My family came from Italy and I still have father members living in the states. During the show, they spoke with a 17 year old who said he was a Republican and totally agreed with Trump. He was questioned about these men who had families, had lived in the states for many years, paid taxes, etc. You know what he said? Tough, they aren't Americans so get them out. This teenager came from Texas. What the heck is this world coming from?

    Have a wonderful day and be careful while in some body else's car. See ya my friend.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Trump has demonize immigrants and blamed them for a lot of our problems---real and imaginary. It's hard to watch. My grandparents came here from Italy, too, and faced their share of prejudices but what's different now is we have a president whipping up the hate. I really miss no-drama Obama or someone equally as level-headed at the helm of our country.



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  18. Jean, You've made such an important observation here: If we ban discussions of politics, we keep our conversations civil and polite, but we also never figure out how to have civil and polite conversations about our differences. This just increases the polarization in our country, where each of us only talks to those who agree with us. It's a dilemma. I wonder if it would work to have, instead of a "no politics" rule, a rule that no one is allowed to make a political remark that assumes an right-thinking person must agree. -Jean

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    1. It would be worth a try. I don't think the polarization is good for any of us. Conversations with rules for engagement. I like that.

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  19. You bring up a good point about talking to each other. I'm guilty of not talking to many people about politics. I talk politics with my husband, my son and my daughter-in-law who are all like-minded democrats. I talk politics a little with a very close friend who is a republican, but is not a Trump supporter. She held her nose and voted for Hillary... as far as I know. :) That's it. I don't talk much about it to anyone else really.

    Most Americans watch the cable news channel that reinforces their already set beliefs. I'm guilty of that, too.

    Levi The Mighty Schnauzer is mighty handsome in your sidebar.

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    1. I think the constant drama that comes along with Trump is stressing out a lot of people on both sides. I don't see polite and helpful conversations starting in the heartland until we get a unifying president in the White House.

      Levi is a handsome guy but scary sick right now. I'll write about it Saturday, just got home from the vet with a bottle of pain pills.

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