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, March 7, 2018

The Nature of Friendships



My Gathering Girls group--seven of us who spun out selves off from an official, monthly event down at the senior hall for people looking for friends---has been meeting twice a month for brunch since last May. And occasionally we’ve gotten together to do other things around the community. I was worried we wouldn’t hold together over the winter because the weather here in Michigan puts a kink in everything we do and, sadly, our ages are also playing into the equation. One of our ladies has breathing issues and is resisting going on oxygen, another has back issues so these two often bow out of going places that requires a little walking. Another in our group is starting dialysis and doesn’t know how that’s going to affect her free-to-gather time and we have another who just this week joined the Widows’ World where the rest of us have been living for a long time.

The ladies mentioned above are on average ten years older than the three of us not mentioned. Once this winter it was just we ‘youngsters’ who showed up for brunch. And someone commented that our absence friends are a cautionary tale telling us that we need to keep moving, keep having fun together for as long as we can because when we see what they are going through with heath issues we are looking at ourselves in ten years. And since dark humor is often served at our brunches we joked about having to go back to the senior hall to troll for more friends to entice into our group if it gets too small. That led to a discussion about how friends come and go through-out our lives for various reasons---some moving on literally, other moving on metaphorically as we grow in different directions. “All our lives we’ve had to keep making new friends,” someone said. And that’s never easy to do whether in grade school or at the senior hall. 

I’ve been lucky that I’ve had two best friends in my life. One I met in kindergarten and we were best friends until she got married after college and moved out of state, but over the years we’ve stayed in touch first through letters and now with email. I must say, though, at one time I resented her husband for taking her away from me. I missed having a best friend in my life until Don came along and took on that role. Now, looking back I wonder if N.B. and I had lived in the same city all this time how that might have affected our relationships with our husbands. We taught each other how to be best friends and we transferred what we learned to being best friends with our spouses. Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think it’s possible to have two best friends at the same time. And a spouse will usually (and rightly so) come first because you’re building a family and life together. I say “usually” because I’ve known a few women who have giggled, cried, plotted, and passed more secrets back and forth with their girlfriends than with their spouses. I’m guessing their marriages weren’t all they could have been because, in my book, spouses who are best friends have the best marriages. Still, no one can be everything to another person so I may be wrong about the ability of people to maintain two best friends at the same time. Oh, I’m so confused! The only thing I know for sure is I ignored the whole issues of maintaining a circle of friends until the loneliness of widowhood drove me to face the fact that I screwed up in thinking I’d never need more than Don. Oops. 

The word ‘friend’ is hard to define without an adjective, isn’t it. We pigeonhole friendships. We have casual friends, work friends, fair weather friends, cyber friends, church friends, common interest friends, family friends, close friends and best friends but what is a friend really? A best friend is easiest to define: it’s a connection that binds our spirits together, an unbreakable trust that we can be ourselves around that person, no matter if our moods are joyful or pitiful. Best friends can talk about anything and trust one another not to past on anything personal or told in confidence. They know where all our bones are buried, know our strengths and weaknesses and they only use that knowledge to help us be the best version of ourselves. 

Monday was my Gathering Girls First Mondays Brunch and only four of the seven of us attended. That makes me so nervous! I don’t want our circle of budding friendships to break up or get smaller before we even get to our first anniversary. And the TED TALK below with life-long friends Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin on the nature of female friendship inspires me to keep trying to building our sisterhood group. Their humor, like that of my Gathering Girls, comes together like peanut butter and jelly---so natural and easy---and I don’t want to lose that! O. Henry said, "No friendship is an accident” which is probably another way of saying, we have to work at maintaining our friendships. Okay, that’s my summer marching orders. Again. It was the same last summer and look what I’ve gained in the trying...and how much more I can gain if I keep on trying! ©

29 comments:

  1. I had a quick look at the video - mainly to check out Jane Fonda. She's around 80 and looks decades younger. I'm torn between wanting to chuck something at the screen, as a protest against the inequality: plastic surgery for the rich to keep old age away, and if-you-can whynot? attitude. In the end, life is what you want to make of it, and good luck to all.

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  2. Sorry, forgot to sign off the above. ~ Libby

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    1. Amen to that thought, Libby. For me personally, so much can go wrong with any surgery it wouldn't be worth the gamble just to look better. we all age.

      And thanks for adding the P.S. with your name.

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  3. Your post hit home. In my early life I had friends, but never a best friend that lasted through the years. And then I got married and my husband was my best friend and both felt that was enough. But after he passed, I realized how much friendships would become important to me.

    I move a few years after my husband died and I had to start the process of making friends. Friends keep the loneliness at bay and are also enjoyable. Oddly, two of my closest friends now are my ex SILs, one of whom shares my home. Both were married to my brother and the other lives near me. I have made another good friend from where I volunteer and we have much in common. And I have a few more casual friends I occasionally do stuff with. Being a widow, most of these friends are also widows or divorced and feel the same need.
    I think it's the desire for connection to people and I go out every chance I get. I dread the day I could be stuck at home and not be able to get out.
    I have no children, so that is an issue too. I connect with a few people on FB, but that's not the same.
    Blogs fill a need to see others have similar feelings and concerns to relate too. Virtual friendships can be meaningful too.

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    1. I have come to believe since becoming a widow that it's unrealistic to find one or two friends that can fill all our friendship needs. We have to have pigeonhole friends because at my age I don't have enough time left to develop the closeness that I had with Don. I don't have children either which makes the future kind of scary.

      I also think as widows it's harder to be friends with other women who still have husbands. For some reason they seem to be threatened and, of course, their time is more limited. Anyone else get that impression? Losing couple friends after widowhood is a real thing, but in my case I think it was because Don was the glue that held our couple's friendships together. He was the storyteller, the fun one, and perhaps seeing me alone makes them miss him more, I'm the reminder that he's gone. As widows we sometimes forget that others who knew our spouses grieve too.

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  4. Wonderful post. I only have a handful of REAL good friends. All in cities other than where I live though. The rest are acquaintances! Harder to make them as I age as well. I don't have children so never got to meet people that way. Besides those with children always treated me like a leper. I am glad you found this group and you are laughing because that is oh so important for your health, mentally and physically.

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    1. Besides N.B. I have other friends who also live in other cities that I consider REAL and close friends. If we get together after years of physical separation we can pick up right where we left off. The warmth, caring, laughter and love are still there. In my head I know that but in my heart when I'm feeling alone friends who can actually hug me are what I crave. Not everyone in my Gathering Girls is a hugger---we actually had a discussion about that. One actually doesn't like to be hugged. That is so foreign to me, but I respect her space and don't hug in that group as often as I wish we did.

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  5. Great blog! I’m more like you about having one “best friend” and a few close friends. The rest are friendly acquaintances. Yet the members sometimes change.

    I want a best friend who doesn’t blab about what we’ve talked about. Which is why husbands are pretty good. I can say UGH I hate what she’s doing with her hair. But I would phrase it much differently if that person asked. Just yesterday a close friend used my name and NO FILTER to tell the bad hair person. AWKWARD.

    I have even asked the town crier to NOT use my name if she wants to share my opinion (especially HOA related things). It’s time to rearrange my line up!!

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    1. Your example of the person with no filter telling someone else YOUR opinion of her hair is one of the reasons why some of us women have trouble trusting other women. I guess our moms were right when they told us, "If you can't say something nice about another person, then don't say anything."

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  6. Early in my life, my best friends were male. That got tough, as you can imagine. Girlfriends and boyfriends didn't appreciate the relationships even though there was definitely nothing romantic going on. I've generally had a hard time developing close and long-lasting friendships with girls/women overall. I wish it weren't that way, but it is.

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    1. I really didn't try very hard to make friends when I was younger. But in my experience male friendships are easier to make and maintain. So, ya, I get what you're saying.

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  7. Your Gathering Girls group has been a real success. I'm sorry a few of your friends are having health issues, but I hope they will continue to be able to come for your less active get-togethers. We have had a group of seven who have been meeting each month for over a dozen years. So far we haven't been curtailed by health issues too much (we only go to lunch, nothing more ambitious), but two have died rather suddenly! We're all 74. The "Democratic wing" of that group gets together an additional time each month so we can talk more freely.

    The best friend idea is interesting. Definitely I would consider that my husband was my best friend for the nearly 50 years we knew each other, but I always had friends who were close no matter where we lived. I think he considered his family the only friends he needed...even when we lived hundreds of miles away from them. Since I was an only child, it was always very strange to me but he was lost in his artist's world, I think.

    I do have two or three couples that I see fairly regularly for lunch or dinner. No one seems to mind, although the women were my friends since childhood, not friends from our years as a couple.

    Ann

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    1. I like your "Democratic wing" that meets separately. We've had a few times when our Trump fan leaves earlier than the rest of us---she picks up grand-kids from school---when we're free to talk politics.

      I know that "lost in his artist's world" feeling. LOL

      I'm glad you've got your couple friends to see for lunch and dinner. I have couple friends, too, but I also lost two couple friends.

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  8. This was such an interesting and thoughtful meditation on friendship. It made me realize that I have not had a lifelong "best friend." I have had periods in my life when I had a single "best friend," but those periods have been the exception rather than the rule. Perhaps because I have such high needs for solitude, I have trouble maintaining the intensity of a "best friend" relationship. That's probably related to the fact that I was lousy at marriage. I have almost always had a small circle of close friends, though, and that circle has changed as my life has changed and as I have changed. In contrast to your experience, I have found it easier to have friendships with married women as I've reached retirement age. Perhaps being divorced is what reminds married women of what can go wrong when they are younger and widowhood is the reminder of what can go wrong in later life. -JeanP

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    1. Your theory in the last sentence is as good as any. I also think that some---certainly not all---widows get rather emotionally needy and subconsciously try to lend on the man in her couples friends for things her husband's used to do and that sets off alarm bells in their wives. So the wives pull away. By the time they get over their neediness, the relationship has cooled. On a support site for widows I remember a woman complaining because a friend quit cutting her grass because his wife said it was time for her to learn to do it herself. She was so mad! For me, we lost most of our married friends with Don's stroke; the lost of his language changed the entire dynamics of how we interacted. The couples who stuck with us, stuck with me in widowhood, too. We live too far to see each other often, though.

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  9. I had a best friend that I met on the first day of Kindergarten. We did everything together, including our weddings and later on family vacations. I also had friends. But when my best friend died, so did part of me. I just can't get close to another friend. I guess it takes trust. Fred was as close as I got, but he's gone too. I think you have to have a certain amount of history together to achieve that REAL closeness and...I don't have enough time left or the need to try and find that.

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    1. I totally agree with you that it takes time to build up the trust it takes to achieve real closeness and neither of us have that much time left. We can instantly like a person and think they will make a great friend but we not all in from day one.

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  10. You know Jean, you've been lucky knowing & having " friends ". I had a very good friend when I was young grade 1 to 8. We were always doing things that made us enjoy but after when we went to high school our friendship dissolved for some reason. From then on until now I really never had a real friend. I've had quote a friend but he or she were never really a great friend. My cousins were good friends and today we go for lunch every Thursday but that's it. Even with " my friend Al " who I see twice a week to play pool, but that's it. Since made my blog and I had the opportunity to know people like you Jean, and Sandee in California and Steve in London, England, and Nancy in Thailand, and Mimi in New Orleans and Rhonda in New Zealand and Bee in Florida, you people are my friends. Except for Bee whom I've met a couple times, I may never meet but at the same time I can call you all as my friends. It's kind of crazy but really what are friends. Now that I'm 68, I feel at ease with all of you as " a friend ". Am I crazy Jean feeling this way? Oh well that's it for now. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. No, you're not crazy for feeling that way. In many ways we are more open about sharing feelings in our blog than in our face-to-face friends. So I think it's possible to really get to know our cyber friends. I also think we all tend to take the people we see often for granted i.e. after your stroke you were probably surprised by who stepped up to help and give support and who backed away. I am also finding the as we age and our older generation dies off cousins have a different bond as we all try to keep our shared history from slipping away.

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  11. For over half a century, I had 3 best friends. They were my 'go to' friends, the ones to help me bury the body. The past couple of years, their friendship has dwindled with our aging and difficulties that come with it. Now, I only have one, and a lot of that was my own fault.

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    1. I can identify with what you said about a dwindling friendship being your own fault. An old friend reached out to me twenty some years ago and I didn't respond because I was ashamed of some weight gain I'd experienced since I last saw that person. It still bothers me to this day. It was such a shallow reason to ignore someone who was once an important part of my life.

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  12. Oh gosh! Getting FAT is my excuse also. I am what I am ....

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    1. I am what I am, too, but I don't want to be what I am. LOL

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  13. I think there are women best friends and there are marriage/life partners of the opposite sex who ideally are best friends too. Certainly my husband knows me and loves me better than anyone, after 46 years together -- at least those aspects of me he can understand from a male perspective. My women friends, especially the besties, know me in a different way; in a way that only a woman can know another woman. I have always had a best friend, always had a circle of women friends, although not always the same...life changes, people change, people move away or die, but I would be lost without my dear women friends (one of whose sage advice probably saved my marriage many years ago.) And no one person can fulfill every need all the time, husband OR best female friend. I've come to learn that the best friendship I can cultivate is with myself. I've also decided it's hard and likely a lifelong pursuit since we are often our own worst enemies too. But putting time and effort into feeling confident, kind, loving, and accepting of me allows me to offer those gifts to another with no strings attached.

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    1. Since I have come to know you through blogging I have also come to admire your ability to maintain a sisterhood circle. And I know you don't take it for granted...it has to be maintained, like a good marriage needs to be maintained to keep it fresh and evolving. I wish it had cultivated more female friends when I was younger. I have much to learn...

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  14. Oh, I wish I lived close enough to join you and your gathering girls. It sounds like you have so much fun. Wouldn't that make a great movie? Several women of a "certain age" meeting at a Gathering Group and all their adventures. We need more mature movies.

    I've had two best friends at the same time, but one lived across the street and another in a different state. Never the twain shall meet, but H is my truest best friend. He holds all my secrets and trust.

    This was a lovely and thoughtful post. When I first started reading you, you were beginning your search for a good-fit friend. Look where you are now. I'm so glad your Gathering Girls' group has brought you pleasure. It's inspiring.

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    1. You would fit in the group perfectly.

      You and I think alike. I'm always seeing ideas for movies and older women meeting for lunch would make a great venture...kind of like that movie 'Same Time Next Year' where a man and woman married to other people met once a year for an affair and how they changed and grew over the decades.

      I can tell by the way you write about H that you two have the same kind of friendship that Don and I had. We are lucky in that.

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  15. Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn. Oh, I love that movie. I haven't seen it in ages. I'll have to hunt around for it. It's probably on Netflix or Hulu or somewhere.

    H and I have had such a long friendship/love. We are a good fit. I know that's true of you and Don, too.

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    1. Let me know if how it ends. I remember it being sad, but it's been a very long time since I've seen it.

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