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, October 10, 2018

Won’t be Doing That Again!


I’ve been walking around feeling naked since Saturday. Why? Because my emergency dialer device malfunctioned and I’ve been waiting for a free replacement to come in the mail. I’ve been wearing one around my neck and tucked in my cleavage ever since my husband died. Not that he could have dialed the phone to get help for me should I have fallen and couldn’t get back up with my two fake knees and messed up elbow but he could have fetched the phone for me to do it, assuming I could still talk to 911. One of the two times I’ve fallen since I’ve been wearing the device---when I broke my wrist---I didn’t think to push the damn button to get help. Nope, I scooted my butt across the floor to the bathroom where I was able to fling myself across the toilet face first and haul myself up using the grab bar on the wall. Twice I’ve accidentally hit the button while taking off my shirt and the loud voice coming from my chest scared the crap out of me. Still, I like wearing my security blanket and someday I should bite the bullet and paying extra to have them active the fall detector feature.

There’s a style of writing that I’ve been fascinated with since---well---I learned about it a few years ago. It’s called ‘stream of consciousness’ and it involves depicting the multitude of feelings and thoughts that passes through one’s mind. But when you’re doing a stream of consciousness in a memoir type blog it’s more complicated (or is it less complicated, I can’t decide which) than having a fictional character do it. In fiction you can make stuff up, have your characters be saintly or sinner but in a memoir/blog we’re supposedly striving to find Our Truth---the truth the way we see ourselves in all our actions and feelings but the problem is sometimes our truths can be embarrassing. In fiction, if you’ve read William Faulkner’s Sound and Fury or Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius you’ve read the two best examples of stream of consciousness writing. Or so they say…which always leads me to wonder: who the heck are THEY? 

“...Secrets do not increase in value if kept in a gore-ian lockbox,” wrote Dave Eggers in the above mentioned book, “because one's past is either made useful or else mutates and becomes cancerous. We share things for the obvious reasons: it makes us feel un-alone, it spreads the weight over a larger area, it holds the possibility of making our share lighter. And it can work either way - not simply as a pain-relief device, but, in the case of not bad news but good, as a share-the-happy-things-I've-seen/lessons-I've-learned vehicle. Or as a tool for simple connectivity for its own sake, a testing of waters, a stab at engagement with a mass of strangers.” Gosh, you’d almost think good old Eggers had blogging in mind when he wrote that passage. Maybe he did, I started reading the book but lost interest in it. That quote, however, reminds that I have to quit writing so many diary style posts---I went here, I did that---and try harder to analyze and philosophize along the way. I mean we all know that sharing our heartaches helps but I’ve never thought to compare sharing to an aspirin pain relief medication, so to speak. Truth be told I like using famous quotes like that in my blogs because I think they make me look smarter and better read than I am. But in fact aren’t I just using them as a substitute for not doing my own analyzing and philosophizing? I’m letting the Big Guns do my thinking and I’m just adding, “Ditto!” 

“All of us labor in webs spun long before we were born,” William Faulker wrote, “webs of heredity and environment, of desire and consequence, of history and eternity. Haunted by wrong turns and roads not taken, we pursue images perceived as new but whose providence dates to the dim dramas of childhood, which are themselves but ripples of consequence echoing down the generations. The quotidian demands of life distract from this resonance of images and events, but some of us feel it always.” Ditto! I was thinking the exact, same thing but Faulker wrote it first. You believe, don't you, about my thoughts matching those of the mighty and masterful William Faulker?

Faulker once said in an interview that a writer “…must never be satisfied with what he does. It never is as good as it can be done. Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” Fine for him to say---he was really talented---but don’t you think that never being satisfied with what one does can be a two-edged sword? At what point do we drive ourselves crazy trying to perfect the un-perfectible? Have the perfect house, write the perfect essay. Do the perfect whatever. At what point is it just plain foolish, for example, to get out of bed after taking a sleeping pill because you thought of a better way to word a sentence? Trust me, I won’t be doing that again. At least not until after my new emergency dialer gets here. ©

31 comments:

  1. Perfectionism! Ack! Don't get me started. Actually my perfectionism won't let me get started. Until I recognize it for what it is - a big ol' stumbling block. I'm shooting for Good Enough-ism, these days. Great post, Jean!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Never being satisfied is difficult. I get it and I have fought it. It puts too much pressure on one unnecessarily to me. I heard a 2hr interview yesterday with Kelly Clarkson on the radio. She talked about this in her life. She said I am never 100% satisfied and will always want another take on that song, but I am learning to let it go. She sounds pretty darn perfect to me. I imagine if you felt that way as a writer you'd never get anything published. Or you would and then wish you had done this or that. Put it out into the world and let it be what it is, your gift the best you knew how at that time. Then again, what the hell do I know!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know a LOT, Margaret. It's got to be hard for stars like Kelly Clarkson to keep topping themselves. My goals as a writer are simply to keep my dyslexia and bad spelling at bay. My blog is my mental exercises to keep my brain functioning.

      But with artwork I'm so much of a perfectionist I'll paint over anything I don't think is good enough but only after I've drove myself crazy doing something the best that I can do.

      Delete
  3. I sometimes wish I had more of a desire for perfect or at least really good. The Widow Badass pretty much put a name to my ambition levels.

    ReplyDelete
  4. one would never be happy if they are always trying to perfect their job. I try my best of my capability. As long as it is good enough & I know I tried best of my capability then I am happy, is my motto, there is always better mom, wife, cook there, but I am still here on earth playing these roles, & I will do them with best of my ability.

    Asha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have a healthy attitude that is serving you well, Asha. There are a lot of unhappy people out there who are at the very top of their fields because it's a hard way to live to always think you have to do better than your best.

      Delete
  5. Maybe I should have one of those buttons on me. I have fallen many times in my life but this last time has really affected me. What really amazes me was after my x - ray the doctor in the hospital said that I probably cracked or broke a rib or ribs. I asked, what, probably? She said that the x-ray is not always sure. Unbelievable. In the year 2018 we don't have an x - ray that can really tell me if I cracked or broke a bone.
    Friday my wife has to have an MRI for her knee. She's in pain also. I think the both of us are now old. LOL See ya Jean.

    Cruisin Paul

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Paul, I'm a firm believer that anyone living alone, or who are alone often, should have an emergency button.

      I'm so sorry to hear about your latest fall. Do you know what causes your falls? Balance, heart, carelessness? That rib sounds painful.

      Been there, done that with the knee pain before I had replacement surgery.

      Delete
    2. My falling is not because of carelessness. I'm so aware of when I walk. My problem is based on my stroke. My entire right side was paralyzed. When the right side stated to come back, my entire side came back except for my foot. Therefore when I walk any movement with even a small bump, I can & will fall. Many times I'm OK but just the smallest bump I could lose my balance. This time I just happened to fall hard on the ground, dirt with no grass and I happened to get hurt. It will take some time to get well due to my ribs. I guess that's life. Get well yourself Jean.

      Cruisin Paul

      Delete
    3. Totally get what you are saying. Don's entire right side was paralyzed, too, but, he didn't get enough back to walk more than a few steps and zero in his arm. His falls were all during transfers.

      Delete
  6. You made me chuckle so loudly my DH wondered what was going on. Now, isn't that perfect? I can't stand reading Faulkner (paragraph-long sentences!) so in my opinion, you're a much better writer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my gosh, I'm glad you said that about Faulker! I thought I was the only one who gets lost in his long sentences. Sometimes I re-read one of his quoted passages several times before I really understand what the heck he was saying. I run down my Kindle's battery just checking the meanings of half the words he uses. I wish your opinion of my writing was fact, but I appreciate the compliment anyway. :)

      Delete
  7. I'm still shocked at "waiting since Saturday for a replacement"!! Since people wear these as a life line ... couldn't they just overnight another? I, too, would feel so vulnerable.

    Sometimes I draft a stream of consciousness then go back and pick out a topic. If there happens to be more than one that sounds good to me, I keep a list of ideas for future use.

    THANKS for blogging!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Might be the lithium battery has to go ground. But I thought when I first bought it I could have paid extra for overnight but it was so long ago, I'm not sure anymore.

      I love to read stream of consciousness blog entries from time to time, but not a lot of people are going them...at least that I read. I used to keep a list of topics to write about but I do better just sitting at the computer or in a restaurant for inspiration.

      Good to see you blogging again!

      Delete
  8. Being a Perfectionist is absolutely a double-edged sword. It can be a crippling standard. And it's very difficult to Loosen Up.

    And as far as chiming in "Ditto" to others' ideas, Faulkner's assertions about labouring in webs of heredity and generational angst, etc. aren't anything different than Walt Whitman's themes in his seminal work "Song of Myself". (I have a huge bias toward Walt, I must admit. I respect Faulkner, but his work irritates the crap out of me.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting about Whitman's 'Song of Myself' and Faulkner. I haven't read much Whitman, mostly a few poems in high school. In truth---and you would know this better than me---but there aren't that many themes in literature, is there, just variations on basics of human interacts with self, others and nature?

      Delete
  9. Interesting you didn’t think to use your button for help when you fell. Guess whatever precautions we take we can never be sure how we’ll react in difficult situations — especially if we’re in pain.

    Seems like I always find some wording change I would make when I re-read something I’ve written no matter how much editing I’ve previously done. Sometimes I start writing with one thought in mind, just keep writing, then within a few sentences I’ve evolved into focusing on a related but different angle.

    Stream of consciousness can end up in the weeds sometimes I think. Or maybe it’s only my thoughts that end up there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I probably would have thought to push the button if I hadn't been able to get up using the toilet and grab bar. But I'm stubborn. It didn't come to me as first choice though.

      Me too on finding things to change when I write. At some point I have to quit reading for that reason. My thinking is usually in the weeds, too.

      Delete
  10. Writing workshops are famous for "stream of consciousness" writing and I really enjoy doing that. I've gotten some great nuggets for poems and essays by just letting the pen (or the fingers) fly. I haven't done it for a long, long time, so thanks for the reminder.

    My writing has grown stale. I feel like I've lost my humor and edginess so, maybe it's time to challenge myself a bit with some writing exercises/practice. I loved the passages you included from Eggars (That was one of my favorite books, at least when I read it many years ago; I still have it.) and Faulkner...both so insightful and well-articulated. I read writers like that and think I suck really bad. (See? Not so eloquent. LOL) One thing I have decided is that perfectionism just leads to procrastination and anxiety and inertia. So I try to be satisfied with whatever I do. Some might call that lazy, but I call it sane. :)

    I think if I lived alone I'd definitely have one of those buttons like you wear. But I can't believe you can't get a replacement for several days -- kind of defeats the purpose! Hang in there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's hard to maintain humor when all the activist stuff you are doing. But you are edgy just be the way you life, your passion for the causes you care about.

      I really wanted to like the Eggars book. I probably gave up too soon or I was still in that phase after Don died where I couldn't concentrate on reading. I think I gave the book away or I'd try it again just because two people I really respect love it.

      I'm not 100% sure but I think those emergency call devices have the batteries in them that can't be shipped by air.

      Delete
  11. Perfectionism is a form of neuroticism, so I don't think Faulkner was talking about that. I think he was warning about 'settling' or allowing ourselves to get lazy. Striving and dreaming are vital to the creative experience but some people are born with more of an inclination than others.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That makes perfect sense. Glad you chimed in here!

      Delete
  12. Remember that quote, "Perfect is the enemy of good." We certainly see that in our government today. They can't agree to anything unless it's perfectly their way. So they get nothing done. Shakespeare said something similar, “Striving to better, oft we mar what's well.”

    That's a great Faulkner quote: “All of us labor in webs spun long before we were born.”
    Ain't that the truth!

    Not exactly this topic but a tributary... I once heard Ted Turner in an interview talking about goals. He said that you should never reach your goals, you should never even set goals that you can reach. Always dream beyond what could be possible. He had a friend who set goals he could reach, and he reached them when he was about 40. He was a billionaire, had his own plane, huge corporation, etc. He committed suicide. Turner's philosophy was that you should, metaphorically, be "running 100 MPH the day you run off that cliff." I guess that was his vision of what he wanted his "end" to be like. Of course, we don't choose our own end. Sad about the recent news of his mental illness.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love the quotes you shared.

      Ted Turner has always been a fascinating person. I don't entirely agree with him about setting goals you can't reach. But that philosophy has served him well. I do think we have to always be setting new goals i.e. when you've reach one, go for another and another after that. It is sad, his recent health issue. No good ending to that.

      Delete
  13. Dear Jean, I admire your passion for the stream-of-consciousness writing. Thank you for the words from Faulkner and Eggers. But do take care of yourself! I do stream-of-consciousness writing every morning for about 45 minutes when I write my Morning Pages. I began doing this about 25 years ago when I read "the Artist's Way" by Juliam Cameron. Peace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I've read that book! I'll have to see if I still have it. Thanks for reminder.

      A 25 year old writing routine, wow, that's impressive.

      Delete
  14. I've never heard of Eggers, but I thank you for including that quotation from him. It will prevent me from ever purchasing or reading anything else he's written if I happen across it.

    As for perfection, it was varnishing that taught me the rule of good enough. There is no perfect coat of varnish. As soon as one flaw is eliminated, another appears. Get rid of the dust, and an insect lands in your handiwork. And so on. It's the same with writing. There comes a point where I'm willing to say, "That's good enough." Then, I move on. Occasionally I'll circle back and re-write something, and find it greatly improved, but that usually happens after a good bit of time has passed. That's interesting in itself. Maybe some of our pieces need to age, or need the insights that come with added experience. Hard to say.

    But I do love me some Faulkner. The thing about good stream of consciousness writing is that it requires far more discipline and far stronger structure than pure narration. I suppose that's why so few are really good at it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am fascinated by your last paragraph. I never thought of stream of consciousness as having a strong structure. I will need to think about that.

      Funny you should mention some of our writing needs to age before circling back to re-write. I have re-read some of my early blogs and sometimes I hardly even recognize my voice. LOL

      Delete