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, July 7, 2018

Mind Tricks, Isolation and Solitude


 
It’s been a hard week on my ego and loneliness meter…and that sucks. There’s that word again, the one I claim to hate but have been using too much lately. What am I whining about this time? Woe is me, there wasn't many people around to interact with this week. Ya, I know, everyone (but me) had places to go and things to do and those who didn’t were camping out in front of their air conditioners trying to avoid the blistering heat. Even the blog community has been slow. Ditto on Facebook and replies to a mass e-mail sent to my Gathering Girls group seeking RSVPs for our bimonthly brunch came in so late I was nervous we’d have to cancel. And worst of all, one of the few humans I saw all week, the cashier at the grocery store “chatted” in grunts, having left his words at home in his other pair of pants. Who knows, maybe his Guinea pig died that morning and grunts were all he could muster for a woman old enough to be his great-grandmother. Wait! Was I wearing my hearing aids? Maybe he was just a low talker like the guy featured in a Jerry Seinfeld episode.

Either way, the lady at Starbucks spoke in full sentences while she finished cleaning a machine, “I’ll be right with you, Sweetie," she said. "Give me a minute to get this back together.” Grey hair earns you nicknames like that, but I’m not complaining. The only other voice I’ve heard the past few days was the “card services” robocall-lady---Rachel---who promised to lower my rates if only I’d press #1 and give the scammer my credit card numbers. Sometimes I wish I had one of those old Chatty Cathy dolls who’d talk to me with a pull of her string. But she was a needy lump of vinyl under her nylon wig, always saying things like: “Tell me a story” and “Please brush my hair” or asking questions like, “Do you love me?” “Will you play with me?” and “May I have a cookie?” That’s just what I’d need, someone else competing with me for the cookies in the house. Levi my Might Schnauzer can smell sugar-loaded treats from two rooms over.

Four of the seven in my Gathering Girls group did show up for our two hour brunch on Monday. (The other three had medical issues keeping them from joining us.) We had a spirited conversation about books, movies and bumpy finger joints, fancy rings and the relentless heat. I love being with these ladies. We crack each other up continuously. I was the only one without some place to go on the 4rd of July. (That would be another 'woe is me' if you're counting.) I wish we all lived within cup-of-sugar-borrowing distance. Not that I have much use for raw sugar these days. I did clean, hull and mash two quarts of strawberries for shortcake that could have used sweetening. My belly and my freezer thanked me for the berries anyway. And so did Levi. He sat patiently at my knee when I cut them up waiting for the slivers he got every time 4-5 strawberries went into the stainless steel mixing bowl. He’s got great manners. Levi also got a great haircut this week. Yes, his social life was equally as isolated as mine over the holiday week. My brunch and his haircut were the sum total of our fun.  

“Isolation is aloneness that feels forced upon you, like a punishment,” wrote Jeanne Marie Laskas. “Solitude is aloneness you choose and embrace. I think great things can come out of solitude, out of going to a place where all is quiet except the beating of your heart.” I do find that beating-of-your-own-heart solitude from time to time but I’m sure I’m not the only one who occasionally struggles to find that illusive factor that turns times of isolation into solitude. Over the Fourth, people all around me were having family time or traveling and even if I stayed off Facebook my mind’s eye could still see those happy faces and almost smell the food on their grills. (Oh, wait. that's my neighbor's grill I'm smelling. I'm guessing its steak.)

Doris Grumbach in Fifty Days of Solitude wrote: “The reason that extended solitude seemed so hard to endure was not that we missed others but that we began to wonder if we ourselves were present, because for so long our existence depended upon assurances from them.” Oh. My. God! That’s me! Apparently I need people to (metaphorically) pat me on the top of my head and feed my ego by saying, “Good girl!” Painting, writing, cooking, knitting, reading, keeping a nice house---none of those are good enough if it’s only my own voice telling me I did well. 

I send these thoughts off with the winds and whims of Mother Cyberspace hoping they’ll find someone who knows how to do the “mind trick” that transitions our hours of isolation into solitude. And it is a mind trick, something that has to come from within... ©

If this were true for humans, wouldn't I have wings like Tinker Bell by now?

49 comments:

  1. I’m glad you said, on the bottom quote, if that were true...because that is definitely a statement where A does not imply B. In fact the A part of the statement has nothing to do with B. In fact, a caterpillar and loneliness should not even be in the same sentence!! End of little rant!

    I spent my July 4th sitting in a shady corner of my deck painting on fabric. It was a very hot day and I was soaking the fabric and intentionally splashing it on myself often. I, too, smelled the neighbors barbecue. But I was where I wanted to be doing what I wanted to do. Having said that, I do understand you and understand your feelings.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. The meme writer definitely confuses loneliness with solitude. It's during periods of solitude when the creative juices flow.

      I was going to paint on my deck on the 4th too but it was so hot I thought the paints would dry too fast for the way I work.

      Your quilting must be very beautiful when you start by dying your own fabric. I remember what fun that was do do during the era when tie-dye shirts were so popular. My house cleaning girl also likes to paint on fabrics but she calls it splatter painting.

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  2. Loneliness is tough, I know. Every day my wife & daughter go to exercise and I stay by myself. Whoa us me. My other daughter always calls and I pick up the phone and I say, Hello, oh hi Nicole what do you want? Every time the comment is " Is Mom there ? ". Every time. I feel like I'm invisible most of the time. I don't really have that many friends, well Gerry but only just to play golf and that's only twice every month. Mary Lou says to me Paul why don't you get into your car and go out for a ride" BY MYSELF?
    Oh well I'm OK and I think I'll go for that ride. See ya Jean.

    Cruisin Paul
    You know, I feel the best when I'm on my cruise.

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    1. Mothers and daughters have a special bond, that's for sure. I used to talk to my mom every day and when she died, I switched to talking to my dad every day. I don't like to go for rides by myself either, but I have a friend who does it all the time. I'd be afraid I'd break down some place and have no one to call to help me out. Have a good weekend, Paul

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  3. I still have my Chatty Cathy. She looks like a creepy horror movie prop now, but I have her and she still works.

    I'm sorry you've been (feeling/are) so isolated lately. I hope with the holiday passed, things improve for you soon.

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    1. Chatty Cathy was actually used in as a horror movie prop if I remember correctly. I still have my childhood doll too. You've given me an idea for a blog! Thanks.

      Although the holiday was long, lonely and boring I think I failed at my prime purpose in writing this essay which was to use humor to express how lonely and boring it was not to have people around to talk with. I'm not so isolated that I'm ready to slit my throat. I'm just feeling like a boat with no anchor, adrift without a purpose.

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  4. So far I haven't crossed the line of solitude into loneliness. I really enjoy my quiet times as well as my busy times. I can enjoy doing nothing with the best of them:))

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    1. I enjoy quiet times when they are mixed evenly in between busy times. My life seems to go super busy one week, then nothing at all on my calendar for over a week, no matter how much I try to schedule it differently. LOL

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  5. Interesting points to ponder. Different strokes for different folks, or whatever it is they say. 1) I think you must be considerably more social than me. I avoid groups, or anything I’m encouraged to join. 2) Without my children I would definitely be lonely. I have a hard time figuring out what social interaction means. I go many days without hearing the voices of my children but I receive and send texts most every day. That seems to work for me. I talk by phone everyday to my sister-in-law. Sometimes that’s satisfying, but most of the time, not so much. She spends a lot of her time digging dark holes, and my time is spent trying to drag her out of those holes.

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    1. Texting and talking on the phone daily counts as social interaction. My phone can easily go a month without a single call coming in. It doesn't help that I have a phone phobia about dialing others up. I'm fine if they call me first, but not the other way around.

      You took care of Ray for so many years that I'm wondering if helping your sister-in-law "out of her holes" isn't filling in that hold that Ray left behind when he died. Giving you a sense of purpose so to speak.

      I was never a social person, don't consider myself one now. I just miss having someone in my life who thought I hung the moon in the sky. LOL

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    2. Oh dear, you’ve got a super big job looking for someone who thinks you hung the moon in the sky. Those folks aren’t assembled on production lines. In fact I hear they may have discontinued them.

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    3. And we only get one per life time so I'm not expecting to find another. LOL

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    4. OMG! I thought I might be the only person in the world who has a phobia about calling out. I have to steel myself, pick up the phone and just do it, but I can find myriad excuses not to. I basically don't like talking on the phone, but even for things like making appointments, when I know the call will be brief, I still have to screw up some courage.

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    5. It's a crazy phobia, isn't it. I have my calls on a list for days before I actually follow through.

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  6. For an introvert, you are VERY social! So glad you started your Gathering Girls! BIG step in building that social ladder. Maybe you could start another group with ladies who have no younger generation or whose kids live out of state .... Holiday Hooligans! Look up some odd "National This or That Day" and have a get together. Or do a 4th of July BBQ in August!

    Fortunately, I have most of my time filled and yearn for my few hours in my quiet place. I've taken to going to our Clubhouse Library to use their a/c and wifi. I spend a bit of time organizing the books (just added two shelves of kids books!) and removing old issues of magazines. Then sit in a comfy chair to pay bills, read FB, NYT, etc.

    I don't like to drive alone or explore alone or eat alone ... and I want that someone who helped me hang the moon every night ....

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    1. "...Helped me hang the moon every night." I took that in a sexual way in my first reading of what you wrote. LOL Either way, I've always loved that phrase to describe someone who thinks the other person is amazing or wonderful.

      Extroverts don't have to work at being social. I do which makes me an introvert. In my entire life, I've ran into very few childless women in my age group, it would be nearly impossible to find them now. Besides, I'm not lacking for group activities---there's something going on every day of the week at the senior hall if I needed superficial talk. Holidays just make me missing having someone in my life who knows me really well and who can have 'those kinds' of conversations based on shared history.

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  7. Oh I so know the feeling of loneliness and isolation and both can be with people around or not. Enjoying solitude is a hard one for me. I can do it in small doses.

    For me the key is to be with like minded people in politics, non religion, gardening and eating out with wine (my favorite things and topics). That, I have with three women in various combinations. I live in a small city...red state, which I like, but I'm outnumbered in my views compared to the majority here. So that alone brings isolation, but thank goodness for the three. And all of the many blogs I follow are with like minded people for the most part.
    And to be honest, I even feel a drift from my husband who has been gone 5 years yesterday. He was more conservative politically and I've grown much more liberal. So in my crazy thinking, I wonder how we'd fit now. That makes me feel isolated from him. I know that sounds crazy.

    I'm also a bit blue just with the world the way it is now...all the hatred, meanness, acceptance of a lying crude president and the cult that has formed around him. Its very disillusioning and sad to me.

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    1. I've got to check out some of the blogs you follow. My gathering girls pals are like your three friends. All but one is a democrat.

      I always thought I couldn't be married to a conservative but I'm sure it could work if you both are respectful of the other person's point of view. My husband's best, life-long friend was a Republican and they never had a fight over politics. But that was before the Trump administration. I can understand how that could make you feel isolated from your husband.

      I, too, think the state of the world and our country makes it hard to be truly happen and carefree. It's every day waiting for the next hateful thing to hit the news.

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    2. My husband's conservative days was before trump too, so maybe today he would feel differently like I do. I think it was more that he was fiscally conservative and not social issues. So I could handle that...just not if he liked trump. ha! But I guess that's not gonna happen (any ability to be with him again.šŸ˜¢). Shared history is huge and time doesn't allow that to happen now, I'm afraid, as we don't have years ahead of us any longer.

      Most of the blogs I follow are on Wordpress and a few that I see you visit as well that are not. All good.

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    3. Ya, I found out there is no trail back to your Wrodpress blogs. LOL

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  8. I definitely get it. I miss those special friends whose faces would light up when we sat down to visit...those who shared and listened with equal interest and without judging. Parents and spouse were even more vital connections...but they are gone and not coming back. Most friends now are really not that close and I just realized that rather recently. I like living alone and doing whatever it is I want to do, so I remind myself to enjoy this phase of my life. I think I am fairly social though (senior class president in high school), but I am also an only child so maybe I will find the right balance. Hope you do too...it's all uncharted territory, being older and living without our favorite people. Ann

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    1. Very well said, Ann. You nailed it! Even your sentence about reminding yourself to enjoy this phase of life is something I've told myself...usually followed by feeling guilty for the fact that I'm taking my good health for granted and wasting time because at our ages it can change on a dime. Thanks for chiming in!

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  9. As soon as the baby is born, I'll be headed to the lake and for most of that time I'll be alone with Rick coming weekends. I crave that alone time. But I'm also glad when a friend stops by or he's there or when I come home for a bit. It's a sticky wicket. But then I've always lived alone since my last roommate and I parted in 1977. And I was an only child so learning aloneness was required operating procedure. I'm sure it's much more different when you are more used to being a social animal. When I worked, did events, speaking, fundraising and tons of community work I was so glad to get home and just have me, the cat, the TV and Rick when it worked out for our schedules. That need for solo time is probably the primary reason we don't live together. Fortunately, it works for both of us (and only two blocks apart!)Not that I don't sometimes get lonesome but usually, it's not too bad. I guess I'm lucky.

    I hope you get your play pals back after the holiday and people return from vacations and family events and all. I'm so sorry that it was a quiet and not great time for you.

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    1. I've just lined up a play date to Lowell for Monday and that will be fun. Lunch, lots of interesting stores. That should be fun.

      I know what mean by having separate houses working out for you and Rick. Don and I lived a mile apart for years---lunch every day and weekends together and lots of phone calls. I didn't mind being alone then, I had my work (I worked from home) and I knew if I had any emergencies he'd be there. I had a great aunt and uncle who had their own houses right next door to one another, so it never seemed strange to me. :)

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  10. That's the best distinction between isolation and solitude that I've ever read. Thank you for sharing it. I think people differ a lot in their baseline need for solitude and/or interaction with others, and that baseline probably depends on both whether we are introverts or extraverts and our living circumstances. It seems to me that extraverts who live alone are most likely to have trouble meeting their baseline needs for interaction and to feel isolated at times. Introverts like me who live alone get our baseline needs for solitude met fairly easily (for me, a minimum of two hours a day and two days a week where I never speak with another human being), which allows us to be more gracious and outgoing when we are with other people. -Jean P.

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    1. Same here on the definition of solitude vs isolation. I occasionally have to spend 5-7 days without contact from people. That's when I try to go out for lunch or to Starbucks or the grocery store hoping I run into chatty strangers.

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  11. This is something I know I'll be struggling with, soon enough. I WAS used to living alone and I liked it. Then my daughter moved in with me last year temporarily, and soon she'll be moving out again. I'll have to get used to it all over again. And retirement will prove another challenge - I won't HAVE to get out with people every day, but I know, even though I am an introvert, that I will need to. That will be a huge challenge for me.

    Deb

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    1. Life is so full of changes and challenges, isn't it. That's what makes it both scary and exciting at the same time. Retirement is probably the scary and most exciting of all.

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    2. Deb, I don't know if something like this would work for you. The first year I was retired, I found myself feeling very isolated during what turned out to be a long and difficult winter (this despite living alone for 40 years by choice). I decided I needed some kind of guaranteed interaction in the winter months and invited my newly widowed neighbor to come to dinner once a week. This worked well for both of us. It gave me human contact once a week and helped her through the loneliness of that first year of widowhood. Since she is next door, we could get together in all but the very worst weather.

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  12. Well, you know me. I love my solitude. I was inside for the 7-day heat wave we had. My car will sit in the driveway for days, because I only go out for groceries or things like that. I'd like it if I didn't have any neighbor's and had this house set on a piece of land waaay out in the country with my nearest neighbor a mile away. I even dread the monthly luncheon with my high school girl friends and sometimes use the excuse, if it is miles away, to stay home. So this month, they are coming down this way for lunch. ARGGH.
    Is it that I was an only child, way out on the farm, with no kids my age to play with, other than at school? I had to use my own imagination to make up adventures?
    I don't know. I never lived alone until 6 years ago and I find I love it--truly love it. Maybe it's because I have a real feeling of freedom for the first time. No one telling me what to do, or having to please someone else. I can go to bed whenever I want and get up whenever I want. No cooking 3 meals a day. I can watch whatever I want on TV--or not.
    I think I must be the odd duck in the blogging world, but most of the time, blogging is the only conversation I want or need. LOL

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    1. I think you hit on your reasons for loving living alone in your last paragraph. Freedom. But I've always felt free to do what I wanted, when I wanted. Don was not a controlling man like some of your x-husbands were.

      And when you think about it, you're still playing with imaginary friends...those you're meeting in your genealogy research. Time really flies by when you're living back in other centuries.

      But I disagree that you're an odd duck in the blogging world. I think all of us are getting something out of our blog conversations that we can't get out of our real-time lives. We are probably more honest and open with our blogger friends than with the people we see in person. I know I am. I hold a lot back in person where here, I probably over share. LOL

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  13. I never heard that Jeanne Marie Laskas quote, but it gets to the point, doesn't it? I felt isolated when I was caregiving for my father. I could get out of the house only rarely. I didn't have much of a support system, but I blogged my heart out during that time. I don't know what I would have done without blogging.

    I used to be more of an extrovert, but nowadays I like my solitude, but I'm not truly alone. H is always here. I can understand how it must feel when you don't have a choice to be with others. I think it's a problem for many people our age.

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    1. I started blogging early in my caregiver days and I can honestly say it saved my sanity (and taught me a lot about writing). The blogging community is wonderful for caregivers or anyone who has had their regular life interrupted like that.

      Our energy levels change as we age which factors into how much we get out and about. Plus you're really earned your peace and solitude. After my five years of caregiving my dad I had a five months break before my husband had his stroke. So I had nearly 18 years of being needed and appreciated. And the absents of that often feels weird.

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  14. By the time I got to the Laskas quotation, I already was thinking about freedom to choose as one difference between solitude and loneliness. I think making comparisons wreaks havoc with a lot of people's psyches, too. I've read about what they're calling "Facebook envy." People spend so much time looking at the presumably perfect lives of others that they end up making themselves miserable. That's not precisely a loneliness/solitude issue, but it certainly can leave people feeling isolated: out of the group.

    I spent a little time this afternoon trying to remember the last time I felt lonely. Even after Dixie Rose died, I'm not sure I was lonely. I missed her terribly, and of course there was grief, but that's gone now, and I've moved on. In truth, I'm just getting back into my routine after my cousin's stay. That really threw me off, and made me realize how much I value my solitude!

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    1. I've always thought of you as loner by choice. Your travel, your work, your research and writing all require a lot alone time.

      Levi is showing his age lately. I dread the idea of him dying like Dixie Rose. I will probably get another dog.

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    2. P.S. I think FaceBook Envy is a real thing. I only post there once just to keep a presence and only go there once a day to read because some of my relatives would rather use their messenger than email. There are some people who flood the places with several dozen posts a day! Just crazy.

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  15. Comparing what I may or may not be doing with what others are doing, or, I imagine they're doing, can be a road to feeling dissatisfied, lonely, I expect. I just get caught up in whatever happens to catch my fancy at any given time and think little about anything else.

    Maybe there needs to be some sort of Sr gathering for all those who won’t have family or others to share these various celebrations with. You came up with Gathering Girls, maybe you can come up with — an in person local holiday group, or FaceTime group.

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    1. A Lonely Hearts Club. LOL But seriously, sometimes being with a bunch of strangers, especially on a holiday, is lonely than being alone. But you've given me an idea...to check the local MeetUp page again and see if there is anything new. I did a writer's group through in recent years, now defunct, but it was fun and writing is something I have never lost interest in doing.

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  16. I'd previously commented, twice, but I think I didn't clear the Captcha test. #3 attempt.

    Just wanted to say that I like my solitude (other than it doesn't encourage me to stay on top of my housekeeping, sigh!), but sometimes think I could fall/die and be undiscovered for days. Que sera!

    Ultimately, if life couldn't be better, it lcould be infinitely so much worse.

    As an aside, I find the Thai cave rescue so inspiring and uplifting. Absolute strangers coming together and providing assistance and sustenance.

    "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." But these people are ready to lay down their lives for strangers!! so very uplifting and POSITIVE in this dark age..

    I was very saddened about the death of the Thai SEAL who died, and thought of the family left behind. RIP.

    Libby

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    1. That cave rescue story is a great inspiration. I can't imagine how scary it would be down there, especially with time running out. I would have hated being the one to decide which kids would come out first and last. Eight are out now with the weakest and the coach still down there.

      When I post a comment on sites with that test, I copy what I wrote first before clicking, so I can paste it into a new comment box if something goes wrong. Thanks for being persistent and trying three times!

      Dying in the house and not being found for two weeks is my greatest fear. There isn't a single person other than the postman who would notice. I think when the mailbox is really full they can request a police check. At least I hope that's still true. There is a solution, though. If I get really scared I can pay $3 a month to get an automated phone call that, if I don't answer they call someone in your family. My problem is there is no one who lives close enough to come check on me if I don't answer.

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    2. My biggest fear is having to move into a nursing home no longer capable of living in your own home, with no way out and nonrights of our own choosing. The dying at home and not being found for a few weeks doesn't bother me because I won't know it.šŸ˜Š

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    3. Well, thanks, now I have two biggest fears. I don't want to live in a nursing home either. I need to talk myself into not caring about my smell, old dead body making someone upchuck. LOL

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  17. Although the phrase is actually "Oh woe is me", I like yours ("woo is me") better. It sounds like a little celebration is going on amidst the sadness.

    ;-)

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    1. LOL Spelling has never been my strong suit. And I was poking fun of myself in this blog to get my point across, so I'd say it was serendipitous that you came along to point that out. But now that I've looked 'woo' up and found out its meaning---try to gain the love of...---I won't make that mistake again. God, I've been using the 'woo is me' in my writing for years! Why has no one ever corrected me before? It's like finding you have spinach in between your teeth after coming home from a formal affair.

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  18. Jean this was a gut wrenching post for me. I'm sorry you aren't living next door. You can come by for a cup of coffee in the afternoon. I so dread this situation. My world is small these days, Rick, Izzy and me. I love it. But I also know that it won't always be that way. While I love my solitude, I do not like loneliness. This situation frightens me a bit. The woman across the street from me is older than me, I guess around 76. She sees me out on the stoop with the dog at lunch and runs over with her little dog. I have learned it is because she is lonely. So we have now incorporated her and if she wants to join us she can and if not, that too is okay. This weekend we had breakfast on the deck and while impromptu I ran over and asked her to come over. You would have thought I made a fancy meal. But I understood it was just having someone to talk to. We had a lovely morning into early afternoon out there and she has thanked me repeatedly. So now you have to move closer and you too can c'mon over for breakfast on the patio. Nothing better than bacon on the grill :-) Take your coffee with cream? :-)

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    1. It takes a village, Margaret. If we all did what you are with your neighbor we'd all be better off. My husband and I did a lot for two seniors where we lived---all their snow shoveling and fall leaf racking. And now a young couple use their snow blower across my front sidewalk.

      If I move close by you, I use Nestle's Italian Sweet Cream. :-)

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  19. I just got around to reading this and it made me cry. I think I am most afraid of being alone in that existential truly alone way. I remember my mom saying after my dad died...."I get so lonely." I had no idea then what she was talking about and even now I can't fully imagine it, but I do have glimmers. There is truly something amiss with the way we have structured ourselves to be so far from community -- so we have to drive to get to almost anywhere to see friends, shop, look at art, hit the library. It's an isolating experience to just be in you house, alone. I don't like much drive at night much, or in rush hour traffic much...the world get small and I want to rail against a culture which makes it so. Hmmm....feeling a rant coming on. LOL

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    1. To add to the isolation of community, cell phones and tablets add to it greatly. There used to be a time not all that long ago when you go out for lunch or coffee, or even shopping and have friendly little conversations with the people you meet along the way. Now everyone has their noses buried in a phone. The reason I prefer to shop on the weekends, when the store is busy is because I can talk to the food demonstrators and hopefully a few fellow shoppers or the cashiers. LOL

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    2. P.S. I'm feeling much better than when I wrote the original post. Life around me started up again after the holiday week ended.

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