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 23, 2019

Reoccurring Dreams and Memory Queues


My dreams all have common themes, at least the ones that wake me up do. The most common one is of me searching for a bathroom and finding them in different states of grossness or the doors will be locked or don't have door knobs. In my dreams I’ll be in a near state of panic until I find a place to pee. Then I’ll wake up and scramble off to the bathroom. Just in time. It’s not hard to figure out why my unconscious self is inventing variations of this dream but last night there was a new twist that has me trying to play detective inside my head to figure out why I dreamed I had a bag of apples with me on my search for bathroom, one with a clean surface where I could put my bag of apples while I did my business. I don’t like apples, I’ll buy a small bag in the fall for emergency eating but they are usually still in the crisper in the spring when I’ll make them into apple sauce. Does the bag of apples symbolize something besides a backup plan for eating if I get snowed in? Maybe they're some burden or barnacle my daytime life has taken on?

Another common dream that’s been waking me up almost every night since I started downsizing is of my husband and I’m trying to find him but I can't. Sometimes I dream he left me for another woman and I blame my sister-in-law for that twist in the “lost dream” because a couple of weeks after he passed she told me Don was in heaven surrounded by women. “Thanks, I don't need that image in my head!" I told her and she said, “Don’t you want him to be happy?” and I replied/shouted, “Not that happy!” No matter why I can’t find him in my dreams I’ll wake up with a sense of loneliness that once in a while comes with tears. Like last night. After he died I had a lot of these “lost dreams” then they stretched farther and farther apart. Now they are back in full force. I’m guessing it’s because my daytime activities of downsizing are churning up so many memories.

The most recent downsizing sale is for a custom-made ring Don and I had made after his stroke that incorporated a 35 year service award pin he got from work. It cost a small fortunate for the workmanship but the gold value is pennies on the dollar. That didn’t matter as much as finding someone who collects Chevy memorabilia so it wouldn't get sold for scrap gold. Getting the ring made was my idea, a trade-off for Don agreeing to let me to sell off two vintage gas pumps. He loved those pumps but he loved that ring more. He’d show it to everyone he’d meet and would say one of the few words in his post-stroke vocabulary. “Two!” he’d say proudly. Of course that would confuse the person looking at the ring and I’d have to step in and explain that we sold two antique gas pumps to pay for the ring. I hated him showing that ring to every Tom, Dick and Harry that came along. I was always afraid one of those Toms, Dicks or Harrys would rob us of that ring. How easy that would have been to rob, an old man in a wheelchair and old women who can’t run past her own shadow. One of the guys who looked at the ring knew Don from work and he had such good stories to tell and once again I was reminded of how much of my own history ties in with his.

Minimalists fascinate me. Living with less is an easy goal when you’re just starting out and don’t have much to begin with but trying to downsize to be a minimalist after a lifetime of accumulating is a different can of worms. Stuff is no longer stuff, stuff come attached with memories. Stuff comes with guilt for having so much or spending so much or not wanting to get rid of it because you’ve become sentimentally attached when you shouldn’t. Stuff is just stuff. Well, at least that’s what I keep telling myself. Some days that's easier to say than others. 

Books are one of hardest things for me to let go of. I loved having an entire room lined with bookshelves. Yesterday I packed up another load of roughly 100 books to drop off at the library for one of their sales. Some of the vintage books would sell on e-Bay for $50-$70 but out of all those books I packed in my car I couldn’t let go of two small 1880’s books, one on raising chickens and the other on trapping furbearers. I set them aside to list on e-Bay and I’ll be lucky to get $20 each for them. Why those two books out of all the others got the royal treatment, I can’t say. They probably have some lost memory attached about the day I found them at a flea market or garage sale or estate sale. When a librarian was helping unload my treasures she said they have a person who goes through all the donations looking for collectable books that they’ll sell on e-Bay which took the sting out of donating them. Knowing they won’t get destroyed for a cute, little DIY project and they’ll make the library more than a dollar a piece made my day. No one needs a shelf made out of a rare book cut in half or some of the other crazy things the crafters do! Don't show me those projects! They hurt my eyes.

On the way home a song came on the radio that confirms I’m not the only one who attaches memories to objects. Here’s the lyrics: “She kept the hotel key. Slipped it in her purse. I guess it makes her think of me, and that night we left our hearts on our sleeves and the clothes all over the floor.” It goes on to describe her as wearing his t-shirt and half-drunk smile. I love that expression---half-drunk smile. I remember them well from my far away younger days. I rarely drink anymore because I lost my designated driver when Don had his stroke. Hey, I could take it up again after I move and I'll be within walking distance from the campus restaurant! ©

34 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry about the dreams about losing your husband. Hopefully they will go away again once you finish with the downsizing and move on to our new life.

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    1. Dreams of people who've passed are a double edged sword. Once I'm finished with all this the 'lost' dreams will get replace with an occasional happy ones. I dream a LOT.

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  2. Well, I just entered your world, in a manner of speaking. I'm sure I've mentioned my back-and-forthing about whether to move to a smaller apartment. It's been on my mind for a couple of years, but I've been reluctant to give up my water view. Last Monday morning, about 10 o'clock, something overcame me. I went to the office and asked if any of the small one bedrooms were available. Two will be in mid-November. I looked at the locations of both, went back to the office, and said, "I'll take "this" one." Since there will be some time needed for repainting and such, that probably will mean a move-in date around December 1, unless they let me go until December 31 when my current lease expires.

    After I signed up for the apartment, I double-checked with my insurance agent to see if changing from the third floor to the first would increase my renters' insurance premium. Today, I'll check on my flood insurance. Next step: getting rid of three pieces of furniture that won't fit in the new place. I'm going to spend an hour each day from now on setting aside stuff to get rid of, and packing up boxes of other stuff I don't need.

    By the time mid-November rolls around, I'll be organized and nearly packed. That's how I roll!

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    1. You are a perfect example of why I picked a one bedroom unit instead of a two. The two bedroom units have lake views but I was worried that down the road money would get tighter and I'd have to move again. Like I told my niece, I only want to do this once." Few people want to move just before Christmas, I hope they let you stay put until your lease expires.

      That hour a day will turn into two. It's easy to get involved and forget the time.

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  3. Oh, Jean, such a poignant post. If it weren't for all those memories attached to our belongings, maybe we wouldn't have so much "stuff" to contend with. I'm downsizing at my mom's home and found a few treasures on a bookshelf. There were 100 yr old chiropractic texts from my great grandfather awa an 80 yr old education text from my great grandmother. They will be passed on to 4th & 5th generation family members.

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    1. I'm glad you're passing those books on. Be sure to include a note about who they belonged in the family. Really old text books are interesting.

      I know a few people who don't get attached to 'stuff' but they don't get attached to anything...relationships, people, places. I'd rather go through the tough process I'm going through than to be one of them. Your mom is lucky you're helping her.

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  4. I wish I could remember my dreams. As a child I had a recurring dream that was more nightmarish to me. That stopped as an adult in my 20's. But that's still a long time.
    I am not a minimalist but I don't like to hoard a lot. I am forever purging. My husband's garage frightens me with all his 'stuff'. Everything means something and I don't get it. But I think you would. I am patient with him until I can't be any longer and ask if we can go through things together. But one thing may get tossed and that is it. When we retire he will have to let this go, or at least most of it. It will be difficult for him. Do you think you feel better when it's done? Or worse? Does it feel lighter letting it go?

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    1. People ask that "do you feel lighter letting it go" question all the time and I can only say I will feel more "portable" which will be good. I feel good that I'm not leaving this job to my nieces to do. Although the job won't be the same level of difficulty for them without the emotions involved...just difficult in terms of the time they'd take away from their families. But I do worry that the more I downsize, the more personal history that goes out the door, I won't remember who I am and how I got here. I worry about being judged as having a bland house and life. LOL

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  5. Your dream is quite symbolic. You're certainly trying to take things with you which will sustain you in your new life, and you're trying to find just the right things to do that. I'm sure that decision-making is so ongoing that it is in your subconscious constantly.

    And apples? Maybe a reminder that no matter what you are taking, they are things that are, in the end, superfluous and not truly life-sustaining. You have all your memories, and those items are merely touchstones of them.

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    1. I'm worried without the memory queues I won't have the memories, thus I continue to write about my downsizing and trust me, I'm only sharing a fraction of my downsizing stories.

      Your apple theory is a good one. I'm kind of thinking the apples represent the things I need to take with me that are necessary and not get so lost in the soul-feeding stuff. In my daytime life apples are a backup plan of sorts so I think that is the key to figuring out the meaning of the dream.

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  6. Wow - hard to know what is a good dream and what is not. At least the dreams of him remind you of the long and amazing part of your life you were blessed to share with him. I am single and would give anything for a few years with someone I love...have not found "the one" at all. I am now following you - you can follow back at Annster's Domain if you wish

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    1. I didn't find my soulmate until I was 27. If you keep busy doing things you enjoy, you'll find yours.

      You are right about not always knowing if a dream is good or not. I used to keep a dream diary and I still have a ton of them that I remember when I wake up.

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  7. In theory I like the concept of minimalism, but in practice I'm too emotionally invested in our stuff to want to get rid of most of it. Some of it, yes-- & am doing that. But we're still happy in the house and I don't want to live in an empty one. Now if I was in an apartment it'd be a whole different story

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    1. I never imagined that I would be downsizing to something as small as I'm moving to. I always figured at least I'd have a well organized garage. But life changes. I could not live in a minimalist house and go to the neighbor's to borrow stuff a minimalist refuses to own---like vacuums. I could not live without interesting (to me) things on the walls and bookshelves.

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  8. I hope you do have dreams also when you get to interact with Don. I treasure those that I have when a loved one visits. I have lost dreams also but it is always my old VW bug that I haven't seen in 16 years. Those searching ones leave you tired in the morning.

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    1. I'm not sure if it's the searching dreams or the fact that I don't get enough deep sleep that leaves me worn out in the mornings but getting enough sleep is a major issue in my life. I get some really strange dreams!

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  9. WOW! I don't know whether you are lucky or not to have dreams. I don't remember most of my dreams but seem to be equal sad/scary/bothersome and happy.

    You are right about only wanting to move this one last time! It's just too much work!

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    1. One of the things that makes it hard to downsize is I won't have the money after the move to buy more stuff, if feel like my unit is too bland.

      I get some happy dreams but not it the last month or two.

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  10. We were visiting a stately home in England months ago and there was an art exhibition in the rooms that were books. The problem was that the books were used to create “art” by cutting the books. I hope that there were no valuable books used in the exhibit

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    1. I hope so too. I once saw a purse made out of an old book and the book was worth far more than the purse the gal was trying to sell. She had a whole booth of old book/purses. I would hope crafters will get smart and start looking up the books they carve up before doing so, but I won't hold my breath.

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  11. We were visiting a stately home in England months ago and there was an exhibition in the rooms. It used books as “art” but did not keep the books intact. They were either cut or mutilated. I hope that none of them were valuable but we peered at them and thought that some of the pages had interesting etchings and pictures. It was a bit obscene.
    And it seemed an odd display in an old home that had a gorgeous library and an owner who valued books.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. Wonder if it's the same house the Lean (above)wrote about I would like to believe that a library where books are valued would have vetted those mutilated books before the exhibit was allowed.

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  12. Sorry. Those comments were both me. Somehow the first one got sent before I finished what I wanted to say!
    Regards,
    Leze

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  13. I dream a lot too. Sometimes I wonder how in the heck my brain came up with the theme and other times I know what triggered it. With all your downsizing, I imagine there are so many memories daily and, like you said about the two books, some are really hard to part with. I've moved many times and each required a small downsizing and some were really hard. I think you're doing great.

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    1. It's kind of fun sometimes to try to figure out where are dreams come from, isn't it. I've only moved once in my entire life and did a major downsizing then and another major downsizing after my husband died. This one is harder. If I had my life to do over, I'd go to more museums and buy less. LOL

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  14. I don't see how minimalists do it. A dear friend and also a fave cousin are both minimalists and yet their homes are warm and with personality. I admire that. But I can't "BE" that. When I think about downsizing or even doing my ongoing basement treks to get rid of stuff, I find it so hard. Oh, some things are easy but others come with those memories you speak of and they're terribly hard to part with. Yes, stuff IS just stuff, but it's OUR stuff and it means something. Oh, books. Yes, that's one of the hardest.

    I wish I could remember my dreams. They fly out too fast.

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    1. Reading your blog, I know you feel the same kind of attachment to things that I do. I love how everything you show has a story to tell.

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  15. I used to have no problems with dreams but now every night all my dreams are different. Many of my dreams are wonderful but once in awhile I have one that wakes me up sweating. The problem is I can't seem to remember what it's about. Oh well. At least I can sleep longer then I use to. Enjoy life Jean.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. It's probably a good thing you can't remember the ones that wake up you up in a sweat. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. LOL Thanks for checking in here, Paul.

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  16. There is, I am sure, a happy medium between cluttered and minimalist - but I have yet to find it! My partner and I brought in a rule that you mustn't bring anything new into the house until you had gotten rid of an object for it to replace. That lasted about two minutes. It's not that we're drowning in "stuff" but we should definitely clear out a few cupboards!

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    1. I/we haven't added any collectibles to the house in twenty years and I downsized a LOT after my husband died. I don't have have clutter because we have a big house, but before my husband's stroke when we were buying I used to try live by the one in/one out rule. I agree, it's really hard to stick to that!

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  17. I have that same bathroom search dream, but lately it seems to involve people in line not queueing up fairly and I can't break into the line because people keep joining the line willy nilly. My mom claims to have had the same dream for years, so maybe it's created by a message from the bladder to the brain. Ha!

    I do have one old boyfriend/fiance that I have dreams about periodically and have for my whole life. I often wonder what that's about, as I can't imagine we would have stayed married longer than a few years when I see him now. Young but good instincts, I guess. But in my dreams he is the lovely and kind friend and boyfriend I had in my youth.

    Your downsizing continues to fascinate me - you have so many interesting belongings. I am a bit of a minimalist, I suppose, but still have waaay more stuff than I need. The books are going to have a real trial for me to go through. And my DH has 1500+ CD's which he seems loathe to part with, although he has discussed digitizing them. Fingers crossed.

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    1. When I take a sleeping pill the bladder queue doesn't get to my brain/I don't wake up and I don't wet the bed, figure that one out.

      Repetitious dreams are fascinating, aren't they. I like to thing the ones about people we know when we were young are dreams of wishing for simpler times and less complicated relationships.

      I can't imagine how long it would take to digitize all those CDs! I have photos to do but I'm thinking of taking them to a service and have them do them.

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