Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow, senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. 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. Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Jean

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Showing Up for the New Year

Woody Allen is known for having said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” He was talking about being successful at writing and how so many people say they want to write, but they don’t sit down and do it thus they don’t accomplish anything. He believes that if you actually show up every day to put words on paper, you’re 80% of the way towards being successful.

I learned a similar lesson back in high school in the late ‘50s, long before I’d ever heard of Woody Allen. Back in those days I had dreams of being a famous artist and so did another boy in my class. I approached art from a technical angle, studying how-to books religiously trying to hone a craft while he had so much natural talent you couldn’t tell his work from photographs. But he was a perfectionist who could never finish anything on time; there was always something more he wanted or needed to do. Teachers, of course, all knew he was the better artist and when it came time for the two of us to submit designs for event program covers, the year book cover, etc., they did their best to get him to turn his work in on time. He never did and guess whose work they had to use instead. 

After a year or two of art school he started a commercial advertising art business that wasn’t very successful because in that field deadlines count and he was allergic to them. In the early ‘70s my husband ordered some magnetic signs from him and if Don hadn’t died a couple of years ago he’d still be waiting for Mr. Perfectionist to finish those signs for his trucks. One time we went to the grand opening of a business and the place had no front door. They had commissioned Mr. Perfectionist to carve it and he missed the deadline. Not too long after that we ran into him at an art-in-the-park show. He’d given up advertising art and was doing art shows, the perfect outlet for his talent. He could be as fussy-mussy as he wanted to be. No deadlines. No customers breathing fire down his neck, just another starving-but-happy artist in a sea of his peers. Me? My less talented art took me in a different direction. After three years of college I went to floral design school, then spent the next twenty years making bridal bouquets. I did the flowers for literally thousands of weddings and I never, ever missed a deadline. To this day, I envy Mr. Perfectionist. He had the raw talent I lusted after, but I suspect he might have envied me as well for “showing up” when he couldn’t.

Pulitzer Prize winner for literature, Saul Bellow, once said, “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” We shall see. I got out of bed at 2:00 AM to write the above and whatever follows. Yesterday I had finished writing a blog entry I was planning to use for New Year’s Eve but something about it bothered me. I did quite a bit of research on New Year’s traditions and what I wrote might have made a passable theme for a high school assignment, but my authentic voice could barely be heard above the historical accounting of how the whole world came into the tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions. It dates back 4,000 years to the ancient Babylonians, in case you’re interested, with Julius Caesar (46 BC) and John Wesley (the founder of Methodism, 1700s) both leaving their sizable imprint on the custom. As I tossed and turned in bed in the wee hours that Woody Allen quote popped in my head and it wouldn’t leave. It drove me to rewrite my New Year’s Eve essay. And out of that whole research-bloated blog the only part I’m keeping is what was supposed to be the opening paragraph. (Below)

Strive to be healthy, happy and productive. That’s what I want for the coming year so that’s what I’m setting as my mantra/resolution for 2016. If someone wants to cross-stitch that on a tea towel, my birthday is in April. This big umbrella alternative to the traditional list of New Year’s Resolutions allows me to redefine my goals throughout the year. Being healthy over the next few months, for example, means getting my diet back under control but in the spring striving to stay healthy might mean getting the black mole on my back checked out. Shape-shifting resolutions---bring them on. You can’t break or fail at a shape-shifting resolution unless you totally give up on improving yourself. I may be old but I’m not that old. 

By the way, Woody is right, just showing up is truly half the battle to accomplishing anything. "Anything" for me could be: grief recovery, working on New Year’s Resolutions, redefining what it will take to make me happy, learning to paint again, writing an authentically me blog or just plain living happily in the moment. “Just show up” is a one-size-fits-all manta/resolution that's up for grabs if anyone still needs one for the coming year. There’s a whole world out there waiting for us to apply ourselves. ©


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

End of the Year Dreams

A new year is coming and I’m not entirely happy to end this one and greet another. Where did 2015 go? And the years before that? The days, weeks and months seem to fly by the older I get with me not accomplishing much of anything since becoming a widow. It’s not that I don’t set goals for myself, I do. But they don’t stretch and test me. They don’t make me a better person or give me a sense of purpose. What’s worse I’m not even sure it matters anymore if I drift through my self-indulging days with no structure coming from outside myself. That sounds like I’m suggesting I should want a job or a volunteer position, doesn’t it. Been there, done that and I could make a quilt with the t-shirts. Nope, those doors are closed and no matter how much nagging I might hear inside my head, I’m not opening them again. 

The past few weeks I’m been having trouble sleeping through the night again. I’ll fall asleep around midnight then between four and five dreams-on-steroids wake me up. They are a mixture of my daytime dilemmas and bizarre images that won’t let me fall back to sleep again. This morning’s dream was of my mom with a heavy chain wrapped around her leg that she could have easily removed. She was kneeling next to a brick building on a narrow brick street lined with shoulder-to-shoulder brick buildings as far as the eye could see. The bricks were striking in their pastel buff color. Clean, unadorned and orderly. Dreaming of bricks, according to the dream dictionary, represents one of two things: individual ideas stacking up or putting up a wall to protect or isolate yourself. And dreaming of being chained signifies a need to break free from something---a routine, a relationship, whatever is holding you back. In the dream I asked my mom what she was doing there and all she said before I woke up is, "I have to stay here.” The dream dictionary says that mothers in dreams represent “…the nurturing aspect of your own character. Mothers offer shelter, comfort, life, guidance and protection.” Doctor Freud, help me! Am I my mother in my dream? Is the brick alley of possibilities my prison or my fort?

Dreams are fascinating and dream dictionaries even more so. It might be physio-babble to assign meanings to bricks, chains, mothers, etc., but the fact that someone took the time to write down explanations for just about every object, action and relationship you can name is mind boggling in itself. The fact that the dream dictionary can make sense out of bizarre dreams and give you an ‘aha moments’ keeps me going back. 

What’s causing my recent dream episodes? I’ve got it narrowed down to two possibilities---or maybe a combination of both. One: my healthy eating from last spring, summer and fall was replaced with a diet with way too many sweets, typical of what happens to me this time of the year. Call it comfort food eating or lack of self-control, the end result is the same. I gained five pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas. They say that sugar triggers responses in the same pleasure part of the brain as cocaine does. We crave what gives us pleasure. There’s no doubt about the fact that cocaine is addictive but the jury is still out on whether or not sugar has some of the same addictive qualities to a lesser degree. Yadda, yadda, yadda. I’ve used that excuse before.

The other factor that might be making my dreams so intense lately could be the fast approaching sadiversary of Don’s passing in the middle of January. Try all you want to avoid doing it, but I bet most widows use that date on the calendar to assess their lives---what we’ve been through and where we still need to go. The fact that my dreams-on-steroids come paired with night-sweats, I’m leaning towards the cause being mostly diet/body chemistry related. Guess what that means. Yes, kicking the sugar habit---again---will be on my list of New Year’s Resolutions. But only after I toast 2016 in with hard root beer poured over vanilla ice cream. I just discovered that combination recently so it should be easy to give up. Only three bottles left in the six-pack and I never have to buy it again. 

Actually, the last few years I’ve replaced my life-long habit of writing New Year’s Resolutions with naming a single mantra for the coming year. For 2015 my mantra was, “Hoe the row you’ve already got and don’t go off looking for new seeds to plant.” It meant that I’d been trying too hard to find new friends/relationships in my widowhood and I needed, instead, to nurture the ones already in my life. My success with that mantra was mixed. The desperate search mode I’d been in since Don died all but disappeared from my life this past year but I could have done a better job of nurturing my old relationships. A few more phone calls to family and old friends, a few more invitations to go out to lunch coulda, shoulda been forth coming on my part. I still need to work on that. 

“I was looking for a new mantra for 2016 when ran across this suggestion: “Inhale the good shit, exhale the bull shit.” I’m pretty good at doing that already so I’ll pass that one up, but as a potential mantra it made me laugh out loud. I’m still looking and I’ll let you know when I find one. ©