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, May 2, 2018

Cruise Ships and the Art of Resiliency




Seven or eight times a year I go to travelogues put on by a small company who organizes and escorts groups of senior citizens on trips---mostly aboard, mostly women, mostly widows. The speakers generally talk about a specific trip coming up and their enthusiasm is catching, but this past week the talk was about cruising in general---comparing the different types of ships and what they each offer, cruising terms, what to expect and what to pack. From the small Lindblad Expeditions ships that carry between 28 to 148 passengers to the Symphony of the Seas that carries 6,680 passengers and 2,200 crew members, the more I learned about the larger vessels the more I knew I’d hate that kind of travel. Eighteen decks, twenty-four pools and twenty-two restaurants…gosh, I’d spend all my time being lost on the Symphony of the Seas! That would be my worst nightmare, not a vacation. On the other hand the Lindblad ships that cater mostly to people wanting to do underwater exploration, kayaking and scientific research would not be a good fit either. I’m always old-lady cold. In a wetsuit I’d probably freeze to death and they’d throw my body on a block ice until they got back to the western hemisphere. The expedition must go on.

River cruising. Now I could do that. The ships are small, most hold under 200 passengers. I could see the shoreline and swim to solid ground if I got tired of looking at castles, terraced farm land and towns built on the side of cliffs. Who am I kidding? Putting the dog in a kennel and the cost of cruising are the main reasons I don’t sign up. If I took a cruise or two every year like some of my widowed acquaintances do, in no time at all I’d be living out of a shopping cart with a dog who’d beg to go back to the kennel where they at least have heat and air conditioning. Yup, summer might be coming but my fun-in-sun travel adventures are confined to the places I can get to and back again in my head. Had I nice time. Wish I’d really been there. I do, however, seriously think about signing up for a half day kayak trip on the river I drive by every time I leave the house. I want to do it but I don’t because---well, I pee every two hours like clockwork and the last time I checked kayaks don’t have facilities for that. Like Roseannadana and my mom before her used to say, “It's always something — if it ain't one thing, it's another.”

The woman I was sitting next to at the travelogue was widowed a couple of months ago and she said she’d go a cruise tomorrow if she had someone to travel with. She says Sundays are the hardest because she misses the routine she and her husband had, so after church she sits in her bedroom all day and cries. I don’t remember ever crying the day away but raw grief like that? I’m so glad I’m past that benchmark on Widowhood Lane. I repeated a classic platitude people tend to say to widows, “It will get better with time.” And I suggested, “Maybe you and one of your prayer group friends could go out to lunch after Sunday service, make a conscious effort to establish a new routine?” 

The next day I went to a lecture titled, Looking up when Life is Pushing you Down. I signed up for it in the middle of the winter when going anywhere looked better than being snowed in. Here’s how it was described: “We all face similar challenges and tragedies in life. Have you wondered why some bounce back from tough times while for others, life continues to be a challenge. Are optimism and resiliency something we are born with or are they traits that can be developed?” My dad was an optimism extraordinaire and I've got a heavy dose of that trait in my personality but it’s balanced off by a heavy dose of my mom’s constant concerns for future security. Before going into the lecture I believed the bottom line message would be that in this particular nature vs. nurture debate nurture would come out on top, that we CAN develop resiliency. Duh, otherwise there would be no purpose for a lecture. No one would base an entire hour talk on, “You’re stuck with your self-destructive attitude, now go home and pout about it.”  

The speaker has been a Hospice Volunteer for twenty years and conducts workshops on self-reflection and personal growth and grieving. Resiliency, he says, is not about being happy all the time. It’s about having hope, about doing the work it takes to heal from our tough times. It’s about acknowledging the fact that in all relationships someone always leaves first. His bottom line is that to develop resiliency we have to change our self-defeating behaviors, our self-talk that often starts with “I can’t…” And he left us with a quote from Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. Lost in her widow’s grief she told someone she wished she could have her old life back again and that person said, “Honey, option A is not available so let’s kick the shit out of option B.”  ©


35 comments:

  1. About 7 or 8 years ago, my husband and I did one of the European river cruises. It’s the only time either of us have been on a cruise. It was really pleasant. The tour guides are professional and the ships are very comfortable and it is really good to be sleeping in the same place every night. It is a very good way to visit places. They are costly, which is why it is the only time we have done it, but definitely worthwhile.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. Those European River cruises would be my first choice. There was one they featured last year that stopped at a Medieval city that still had their walls that was built on the side of a mountain. A designated international treasure. Photographs and videos of places like that were wonderful but I keep wishing I could smell and feel what it's like to be there.

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  2. I went on a river cruise with my brother and SIL after my husband died. It was along the Rhine river in Germany. There were only 80 plus the crew. It was the most relaxing beautiful wonderful trip I've ever done. I would never go on a regular cruise ship. Too many people, stomach illness occurs a lot, just too busy busy. But the river cruise...well I wish there were more rivers everywhere. But they are expensive.

    I pee a lot too..must be a thing with getting older.

    Now however, my desire for travel has lessened and I don't want to do it alone. My husband and I traveled the US a lot and it just wouldn't be the same now. Plus I'm older and my energy level is much less.

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    1. The company that puts on these travelogues also have mixers for people to get to know each other and find roommate matches if you're serious about going on a trip with them. I don't go to the mixers but I know others who do and I've only heard of one person where the roommate thing didn't work out. If I was going to travel as a widow I'd do a group like this because with the 12-15 who go you're going to find a few people you enjoy hanging out with on the trip. I have family members on both sides of my family who go every year on the big cruise ships and love it. Like you said, too many people!

      My husband and I traveled the USA too, in a motor home. Glad we did it and I think I might have one more trip in me but things have to line up right for that to happen.

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  3. I am not a cruise enthusiast. In fact I despise them. Floating hotels. Because I only had to pay $35 a day when in the travel industry I went with some friends. I vowed I would never do it again. But I did, I went twice with friends. Doing it twice was the actual definition of stupidity right? Doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
    Rick and I talked about a river cruise once but we both have such disdain for cruising we decided we'd be better off doing something we know we just love just in case river cruising was as bad to us as the big boats.
    I want to go places but I am now beginning to dislike the travel to get there. If only I could be Jeannie and put my arms up and blink and i'd be there - then I'd go everywhere!
    And your comment on your friend dealing with Sundays. Going through my divorce, Sundays were my most difficult days. I clearly remember that. A friend and I made plans for every Sunday and she helped me through it all !!

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    1. If you figure out how to be a Jeannie and get places without traveling there, let me know. I keep thinking I'd like to rent a cottage on Lake Michigan for a week but it's already too late to do that for this summer.

      Thanks for backing up my idea of making concrete plans to get through Sundays after a loss. I think the woman I spoke of will in time but it's only been 3 months. That's still in licking your wounds territory.

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    2. Gotta jump in here because I've used the "Jeannie" desire often myself. People ask if I like to travel. I say NO! I hate to travel....but I like being there. Packing, transporting, travel planning logistics? Ugh! So my first trip to Europe soon will be on a Rick Steves tour. I'm not a huge tour bus fan either, but his are small and hotels are small and local and it's all about "experiences" and less about long lines at the popular sites. I'm curious if I will find it pleasant or not....We'll see. At this point all I've had to do is decide on dates, make airline reservations, and figure out how to pack for 5 weeks in one carry on -- which is all his tour allows! (I sort of like the limited choice challenge and we will all be in the same position, so no one will stand out with a new outfit every day. :) )

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    3. Five weeks with one carry on! That would be a challenge but a fun challenge, like imagining what you'd choose to keep if you downsized to one of those tiny houses with under 100 square feet.

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  4. The river cruises appeal. I have been on a large boat cruise and while the food was fantastic it felt a little like an assisted living arrangement with scheduled events. Plus today, they often turn into 5 days of dysentery with some form of rotavirus. I'd love to do that Alaska cruise. Smaller ship, close to shore.

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    1. My family has been lucky not to get the dysentery on their cruises but you sure hear about them happening from time to time. What a waste of money that would be!

      My biggest travel regret was not doing that trip when my husband was alive. We talked about it a lot but we thought we'd have more time....

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  5. Just what I needed to hear today! I never have had any desire to cruise--I am afraid of drowning, but a river cruise sounds more palatable to me. Your suggestion to the newly widowed widow was right on the mark! I have never spent a day, or even a few hours, sitting in my bedroom crying. We are still here. The years are getting shorter and shorter. Don't we deserve to live them as happily as we can?

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  6. Traveling is such a lot of work. I enjoyed it when I went with Mr. Ralph but I had a built-in buddy, tour guides while the guys worked and someone to take care of. I am thinking of doing a San Juan Island cruise, although I haven't checked the prices. A high school buddy and hubby go on BIG cruises 3-4 times a year...but they ballroom dance so that's what they do.

    I worry about that norovirus or whatever .... I catch enough bugs all on my own!

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    1. I'm not surprised by the ballroom dancing. They have cruising tours that are tailored to a lot of special interests. Your traveling with Mr. Ralph was a wonderful set up.

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  7. I've never gone on a cruise, and I may never. They don't hold a lot of appeal for me (although a river cruise seems more palatable although pricey!!!)- it seems like too many people, too much food, too much drink, too "canned" of a vacation. Likewise with the "see 7 countries in 6 days" type of vacations. I like to be free to set my own schedule of what I want to see and do.
    Resiliency - is more important to being happy than smarts or money, I think. We have very little control over our lives but 100% control over our attitudes about the things that happen to us. Here's to kicking the shit out of Option B!

    Deb

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    1. I pegged you for a person who might like the kayaking around islands and underwater diving around ship wrecks.

      Totally agree with your second paragraph. I wish I had some champagne for us all to toast to resiliency!

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  8. I love cruising, you know that Jean but I'm totally with you on those monster cruise ship. Royal Caribbean own three of them, " Oasis of the Sea, Allure of the Sea & Symphony of the Sea are three ships I will never go on. They are just to large and scary. The ship I just went on and will be on in January, the Celebrity Reflection is just the right size. It was lovely and we had a great time. Carnival ships are OK but they are starting to now get large. The River cruises sound great are they are from a friend who was on one but the problem is the cost. By the time they came back home the cost was between $10 thousand - $15 thousand, flight, cruise and extras. That is far to much for me.
    See ya my friend.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. If I ever do a cruise the Celebrity Reflection doesn't sound so bad, it's won a lot of awards. 3,046 passengers is far cry from the larger class ships.

      Those river cruises do get pricey when you add on the airfares! I know a woman who has gone of five of them and the house she is living in is on the edge of a ghetto. (I'd be afraid to come home after dark living there.)She is my age and still has to work. We all have our own priorities when it comes to spending our money.

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  9. In 2005 we went to Europe twice...our only European trips. It was lucky we went when we did because by 2006, my husband had begun having trouble walking and was falling. In fact he fell twice in Ireland in April of 2005...people got out of cars to help, store owners brought alcohol wipes and a chair for him, a man walking down the street took the laundry ticket from my hand and picked up our laundry for us. Fairly remarkable. He was badly bruised but nothing broken. We had already planned a Danube River cruise for the fall of 2005 and he was careful and did okay. Both trips were wonderful, but the river cruise was with a group of 18 college friends (several of us had even gone to high school together...girls' schools, so 9 women and their husbands). It was an extraordinary experience...absolutely beautiful cities with friends on a river boat with about 200 passengers. I would not be interested in the larger ships with so many people either, but this was wonderful.

    We also traveled all over the US and into Mexico and Canada, not in an RV, but a small Fiat. Great Fun. Once we even took our cat with us to a horse farm in Montana thinking she might like it. She was okay until we got to a game preserve and she smelled the bison. Bad idea...terrified cat in a convertible, but she survived. Your kayak idea reminded me of one of our trips (mercifully without the cat) which was a photo assignment my husband had to take pictures of people floating down the Apple River in Wisconsin. At the end of the day, we floated down the river too in inner tubes. It was mostly a serene river, but with at least one rapids, and I think could take up to 3 hours. Fun. Much younger though. Ann

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    1. Thanks for sharing your travel experiences, Ann. Your Danube River cruise sounds absolutely ideal.

      Your trip with a cat in a convertible had me laughing, poor cat. We all do things when we were young that we might rethink if we were older and had a do-over.

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  10. Congratulations on your award for being one of the top 50 Widow Blogs! Well deserved! Ann

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    1. Thank you! I was pretty excited about the listing. I don't know who submitted my blog or the criteria used for the listing but it made me happy.

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  11. I love this! Yes, I'm all for grief -- it's absolutely critical to healing and smashing it down doesn't help. But there is grief and there is living in grief forever, being afraid to be alone. You seem to have the hang of having a life while still honoring your loss. Well done.

    I've heard great things about riverboat cruises and one day I will take one of Southern Exposures -- they do great trips, I am told. But right now planning for England in the fall, no tour, just booking and doing it ourselves. And I can't wait!

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    1. I didn't know that about Southern Exposure. Our senior hall is going in July but at a cost of $100. I didn't sign up, cost includes a craft you make and I don't need instructions for that kind of thing. Beautiful place though. I'm looking for information on river cruises within the USA.

      I don't publish my email address here out of fear of spam.

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  12. I forgot to thank you for coming by. Your visits mean a lot and I don't have direct contact (I usually reply via email) so thank you!

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    1. No need for thanks. I enjoy your blog and I have you in my side bar list now.

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  13. Congratulations on your widow blog Award!

    I don't like the idea of the floating hotel. I don't make friends easily and nothing worse than being alone in a crowd.

    I started travelling to get out of the house. I enjoy the planning and researching more than the actual travel. It also keeps the brain cells working. Plus, re-affirmed my faith in people. The nasties are out there but so are the others. including the young, ready to help a solo traveller. The best part is returning home!! ~Libby

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  14. Good for you to start travelling on your own. You are far braver than I am. Planning anything is often the most fun of doing any thing. I do believe going away gives us all a better appreciation for home, no matter how much fun out trip might have been.

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    1. P.S. thanks!! I used to get awards and listings for my dogs blog but this is the first for this one. And I work harder at this blog.

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  15. I have friends who are crazy for cruises and bugged us for years to go along with them. We finally relented. We did a Seattle to Alaska Inside Passage cruise on Celebrity Cruise Lines. Big ship...not sure how many passengers but around 3,000 I think. I will not go on another. The ship was lovely; lots to do; great food; nice scenery. But it was like being on a floating city of strangers and each port call had us plunked in the heart of a touristy little town selling souvenirs or wanting to take us on bussed shore excursions. We saw some interesting sites, but it's just not our thing. Plus I spent one full day feeling nauseated; I'm very prone to motion sickness and even with all the meds I could muster, it didn't help much. I cannot even imagine an ocean cruise like our friends are on now -- no land in site!

    That said, I hope to do a European River Cruise at some point. No big swells and shore always within sight and practically within reach!

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    1. Yup, the ship you were on was 3,000 passengers plus crew.
      The sisters who escort the trips I hear about do take their groups off the beaten path which is one reason why I'd travel with them if I were to go some place. At every city they also give their groups a day or half day to do things on their own.

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  16. You got an award???? That's awesome!!! Well deserved!

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    1. If I knew the criteria for making the list it might be more awesome. LOL

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  17. I've never been on a cruise. H mentions it occasionally. I'd probably gain weight. :( Truthfully, I'm not much of a traveler. My son doesn't understand that. He wants us to travel. He loves it so much.

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    1. People who love cruises REALLY love them. I have several relatives who live for their yearly cruises. This lecturer says the large cruise ships have 'healthy eating' restaurants that cater to all kinds of special diets for people who don't want to gain weight or over eat. You never hear about that.

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