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, November 6, 2013

The Road to Happiness

This post is part of Flashback Wednesdays, which I'll be doing through November while I'm taking part in National Novel Writers Month. It was written back about six years ago in response to some people who couldn't get out of the 'poor me' role they'd assigned to themselves. I think what I wrote is still relevant in my widowhood life.....

Have you ever wondered why it is that some people who have so little are able to sincerely appreciate what they do have while others who have so much can’t appreciate it at all? We all have an occasional blue day from time to time when the pity pot seems to be the most comfortable chair in the house. I’m not talking about those fleeting times where at the end of the day we stand up and realize we’ve worn a big red ring on our butts from sitting too long where maybe we shouldn’t have taken up residence in the first place. I’m talking about the general approach that some people have towards life itself where their negative disposition erroneously makes them think that their pain and disappointments are always worse than their neighbor’s pain and disappointments. I’m talking about falling into the trap of using pessimism versus optimism as a general philosophy for living.

I’ve always been an optimist. Even in my darkest hours I’ve been able to recognize that wallowing in negative thoughts won’t help me climb back out of the muck of any given life crisis that all humans, at one time or another, go through---death of a loved one or a falling out with a lover or friend, major disappointments and depression, loss of good health. For me, getting back up after a punch in the gut comes from being able to see that my metaphorical glass of life is half full---not half empty. It’s a personality flaw that I have to struggle to have sympathy for those people who spend their entire lives describing their glasses as half empty. Sure, I understand that we’d all like to have our glasses over-flowing but more importantly I also understand that those times when they are over-flowing are as rare as penguin eggs in the dessert. The optimists will tell you that the adversities we meet while we’re striving towards that 'over-flowing glass' goal is what makes a person strong and that our heartaches are what makes love---when it comes along---all the sweeter. The pessimists, on the other hand will throw in the towel the first moment things don't go their way and they walk around in circles like both of their arms are tied behind their backs. They delude themselves into believing that they have no control over their own happiness.

It must be hard being pessimistic, to aimlessly drag those woo-is-me thoughts and resentments around where ever they go. Optimists, on the other hand, achieve more in life---have more, are loved more---not because some divine intervention sprinkled magic fairy dust on some of us and not on others. Optimists achieve more because they don’t give up on themselves the way people with a defeatist attitude do. Pessimists don’t see each new day as a ‘do-over’ that can change the course of their lives. They are so busy cataloging yesterday’s losses and tomorrow’s grim predictions to realize that they are stealing their own futures in the process. Pessimists are chickens, plain and simple. They are too afraid to roll the dice, take a chance and give up their defeatist attitudes long enough to work as hard at being happy as they work at being miserable. Nothing comes without a price tag, happiness included.

Life is full of hardships, challenges and heartaches for all of us and I am very proud I've never let those things keep me down for the count. A few pity parties once in awhile, sure, but it's not over until the fat lady sings at my funeral and in the meantime I am in charge of way I meet life. ©

painting by Henri Rousseau


  1. I've always been a worry-wart and pessimist--which is odd because most people I know think I am just the opposite. No wonder life confuses me--I am living a dual-person life!

  2. To make it even more confusing, I've always consisted myself a 'worry-wart' too. LOL Another term that we could use is we are 'detail orientated' and being so, came in handy for me when I was dealing with brides for twenty years. Doing flowers over 5,000 weddings, I never had an unhappy bride, probably because I always had a back up plan. Worry-warts always have a back up plan. But seriously, don't you think that most of us have a 'public face' that often differs from what is going on internally? It's self-preservation not to show our vulnerabilities to everyone we come in contact with.

  3. I'm becoming more of a Worry Wart these days. All while feeling awkward and vulnerable! I hope I'm not losing my optimistic outlook. In hopes that this is just temporary ... widowhood, moving out of state, second grandchild .... I'm visiting my Dr today to get a little pharmaceutical help!

    This grieving stuff is a lot of work.

  4. AW: Your husband's passing is still really fresh and I'm betting this is all temporary for you---the worry-wart, feeling awkward and vulnerable. I can sure identify with going through those stages. Hang in there. It does get better.

  5. Jean :

    this blog of yours had left great impression on me even 6 years ago & still rings true today. I think I am optimist. I never worry about anything, hubby takes care of details my job is to just go with flow


  6. Asha, I thought there might be a few people from my past life in stroke support who'd remember this blog. It sparked a big debate, if I remember correctly.

  7. Great post! Long ago, a self proclaimed 'realist' called me a Pollyanna, so convinced was he that my optimism had no basis in reality.

    Some days it's harder than others to believe this is the best day of my life, but always I remind myself the key is my attitude. I do know that if I'm not expecting this to be the best day of my life it hasn't a chance of being so. Life doesn't owe me anything. Small gifts, like the sun streaming in my window, are all the sweeter with a welcoming heart.

  8. I'm a pessimist, but I'm surrounded by optimists. My husband is the greatest of them all. I've found that if I get up and do something, it changes everything. For some, optimism is a way of being, the way they were wired. For some of us, it's a daily choice. My favorite way to stomp the funk is to put a paint brush in my hand. Just put me in front of a porch railing, a wall or a piece of old furniture with a bucket of paint and I work my way out of it. There's something therapeutic about making something ugly beautiful again.

    By the way, is "rare as penguin eggs in the desert" yours. Love it and will steal it.

  9. Gowittheflow: That would be hard to wake up every day thinking this is going to be the best day of my life. I couldn't do that. I'm happy just to stay away from the extremes on both end of the emotional spectrum. Appreciating small gifts definitely enriches our days.

    Bella Rum: As far as I know I came up with the penguin phrase on my own. Just to be sure, I Googled it and didn't find any other reference to the phrase except on my own blogs.

    Painting relaxes me as well!

    1. I Googled it, too. I'm sure it's yours. Perfect.

  10. I'm late to the party here, but I wanted to join the conversation anyway. I've often wondered how people become optimists or pessimists. (I was just reading about an identical twin study in England that suggests its an interaction between genes and life events.) Like you, I am an optimist; and it's something I've been very grateful for, because it just makes my life so much happier. It's not that I always expect life to be a bed of roses; on the contrary, one of my strategies for managing stress is to imagine the worst case scenario and figure out a plan for dealing with it. I suppose for me optimism and happiness are about the serenity prayer -- change what you can change, accept what you can't change, and work at figuring out which is which. -Jean

  11. Thanks for the comments, the other Jean. LOL The combination between genes and life events makes sense. I always figured I got my optimist from my Dad who got it from his dad...there was always a better day ahead for them both. The Serenity Prayer is a great tool for getting through tough times. I've always loved it.