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, May 24, 2014

The Big, Fat Phony Widow

A few days ago I went to the opening of an art exhibit that was attended by roughly 500 members of the sculpture park where the exhibit was held. I went alone but I didn’t stay alone. I got there early so I could eat dinner at the park, beating the rush hour traffic across town. Nine dollars and change for a bowl of potato bacon soup and a cup of coffee! I was glad the event itself was free and that I didn’t order the salmon. One of these days I’m going to have to start reading the prices on menu boards so I don’t die from sticker shock.

After dinner I wandered around the tropical conservatory before finding a seat near the door to the auditorium where we’d meet the artist and see a film about his indoor exhibit pieces and his outdoor instillation of saplings that will be manipulated as they grow. That’s where another woman found and latched on to me. She was a talkative woman, about my age whose husband didn’t like going to events like this. She sat next to me during the film, went through the dessert line with me and struck by my side while I wandered around the exhibition rooms. She even tagged along when I went to the bathroom and that’s where I decided that I’m a big, fat phony and that’s why I have so much trouble making friends.

The woman was sweet and I know it would have been easy to arrange a lunch or artsy-fartsy outing with her. She asked how to spell my name and she wrote it down and if I had done the same, we would have reached level one in the game of Ferreting Out New Friends. But she had just finished a fifteen minute monologue on how much I would love volunteering at the local cancer support unit where I’d be able to take art classes right along with the patients and that’s when I went to my fake person place. I listened, nodded my head a few times and made some small-talk remarks when what I really wanted to do was screw up my face the way babies do just before they’re about to spit mashed peas all over the place. The whole idea of volunteering at a cancer support unit freaks me out. Why can’t I say what I feel when I’m face to face with people? Why couldn’t I say, “Making plaster hand prints and watercolor drawings with bald headed people who carry barf bags is---well---selfless and probably very rewarding, but I did seventeen years in caregiver circles and I wore out my Mary Poppins persona." Thanks, but no thanks. Don’t sign me up. This girl just wants to have fun! Instead, I backed off from her friendship overtures because being a big, fat phony wears me out and makes my tongue bloody from all that biting.

The next morning I had my second art class with the professor who played two hours of Christian music during my first class. Thankfully, he had a different station on the radio this time but he showed me a large painting he’s working on of Jesus holding two tiny babies in the palms of his hands which led to an interesting but walk-softly discussion about heaven and the book, The Brief History of The Dead. The professor and his wife have gone through two miscarriages---the last one a year ago---and they’ve been searching the scriptures, looking for an answer on whether or not miscarried babies end up in heaven. Thus he was working through his feelings with the painting. How much easier it is to be a Humanist or Agnostic and be free to believe---much like the premise of the movie, What Dream May Come---that as long as those of us on earth still remember a deceased loved one that person is in a place that matches his or her personal vision of heaven. In the above mentioned book, those remembered dead people all live in a special town that disappears after a pandemic here on earth.

Everywhere you go, people might be walking and talking like they’ve got it all together, but underneath half of them are struggling to make sense of a personal tragedy. Been there, done that, and wish I could have helped the professor but I don’t do scripture. I thought about faking it by throwing out a passage from Psalm’s about casting your cares to the Lord and He will sustain you---but I’d spent enough time, this week, being a big, fat phony. I wasn’t going to do it while paying someone for their time to teach me how to draw in Prismacolor. Instead, I gave him a little Nancy Berns' wisdom about learning how to carry our grief and joy side by side and not pretend we can get "over it" when no one ever really gets over it. The freshest of a loss, yes, we get over that and in time we adjust our lives to let the joy back in again but the loss itself is forever a part of our persona---at least according to the Gospel of Nancy Berns, Sociologist Extraordinaire.

After class I swung by the cemetery to visit Don for Memorial Day where an older couple was having a heated little argument over how to decorate a grave. I wanted to shout: "What does it matter? These people are all dead and you two still have time left to enjoy your lives! And whatever you do, the sexton will remove it in 10 days anyway. Didn't you read the rules at the gate?" But I didn't say all that because sometimes being a big, fat phony keeps you from sticking your nose in where it doesn't belong.  ©


  1. Oh! The cotton we stuff in our mouths sometimes! I can't recall having good outcomes whenever I've dumped my authentic response in front of any offender. I guess that's what mind filters are for. Lesson number one in making friends, I read, is being authentic, and you DID authentically brush her off. And, as you so astutely note, she was not making a friendly overture, she was latching on to you,. Sweetly?

    I love what you wish could have come out of your mouth. Same thoughts here! I sure did appreciate those cancer volunteers, I just can't be one. Doesn't mean my heart is shriveled up.

    Somewhere there's a Tee shirt proclaiming "This girl just wants to have fun!" Too many horny men out here to wear it, though.

  2. I believe everything has a time and place and I had my time with volunteering in the support world. Like you, I just can't be one anymore and I don't think that means our hearts are shriveled up. You reach a point where you're running on empty and need to charge up again before you can give to others again.

    Being authentic is SO are hard. The only person I was 100% authentic with 100% of the time was my husband. But I am grateful for that filter that keeps us from saying things we shouldn't. I suspect we are all the same in that regard, that we think lots of things that we don't express. It's called living in a civilized society that cares about not hurting the feelings of well intended people who just happen to think differently than we do. Is there anyone out there reading this that is able to be 100% authentic?

    Love the tee shirt idea but would be afraid to wear it. LOL

  3. Jean,
    I hope my caregiving days are over. I don't have it in me anymore. Of course, I didn't know I had it in me in the first place. Who would have thunk it? Not my siblings. I had an aunt who cared for her father-in-law for years, then her sister and then her husband. Once I really understood the sacrifices involved in all those years, I had a lot more respect for her. People who have not done it can sympathies, but it's hard to really understand an experience you haven't lived. The last thing you need is more caregiving. I wonder if that lady had ever been a caregiver. I say you can be as phony as you like until you meet someone you feel you could be compatible with. Sometimes you just hit it off with someone. Hope that happens for you soon.

    1. No one understands better than someone who has lived the life. I loved my dad and husband dearly and don't regret it (as I know you don't with your dad) but it takes a lot out of you. When it was over was like coming out of a cave and I was left wondering how to jump back into world and find connections. As I recall it took a long time to really connect with people when I was in my teens and twenties, too, so I guess somethings never change. LOL