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, April 29, 2020

Time to Pay the PIper


I’ve always known that I’ve lived a charmed life. That’s not to say I haven’t had my share of heartaches, obstacles and challenges to overcome in my almost eight years on this planet. By charmed I mean grew up in a post-war era that mostly spoiled and nurtured their baby boomer kids and with parents who gave my brother and me plenty of love to balance off the discipline, who taught us the value of working hard and keeping a high standard of ethics, who gave us a safe place to live and all the bells and whistles their own childhood’s lacked. 

By charmed I mean that I've been lucky enough to see positive changes in society over my lifetime for example when the Civil Rights Movement came along. Not overnight and not without a lot of growing pains that our world is still dealing with all these years later, but measurable changes in the level of racism none the less. Sure, some people are still finding it hard to leave blind hate behind, to treat others based on their character and not the color of their skin but what was once the norm is no longer true in younger generations. My dad spent the first 10-12 years of his life in Southern Illinois and had seen firsthand the hanging of a black man in the woods behind his house. He saw a neighbor laid out in his coffin, his family proudly having him dressed in his Klan robe and hood. One of my dad’s earliest childhood memories was of a black man being chastised for not moving off the sidewalk fast enough to let my dad pass by. Ya, my life was charmed by the fact that I never experienced blind hate and white privilege being so openly practiced and taught. One generation at at time, we are building a better world even though it will probably take yet another generation or two before we reach true equality.

By charmed I mean that by the time I became a young adult the new wave of the Feminist Movement opened doors that were closed to past generations of woman, a movement that told me I didn’t have to settle for the first man who came along and told other women they didn't have to suffer spousal abuse as something written in between the lines of their wedding vows, a movement that let me indulge myself into believing I could be anything I wanted to be. Just the idea of Equal Rights and opportunities for women let me spend my life trying on ideas for what I want to be ‘when I grow up’ like some women try on and buy new shoes. The shoes they wear for a season or a special reason then discard in the back of the closet. In my head I could have made a living as a marble sculptor, a furniture maker, a writer, a tailor, an architect, a Disney artist, a portrait artist, a photographer, a teddy bear maker, a poet and a print maker. In reality, I spent my work life being a floral designer in the bridal industry, a snowplower and a parking lot maintenance person who could put down yellow line stripes with the best of them. As the song says, life happens when you’re making other plans. But it's been a good life living with my illusions and zest for embracing whatever caught my fancy.

By charmed I mean my life until this year was in my hands to control and I haven't had any life experience to suffer through that millions of others haven’t also done and overcome---the loss of a parent, the loss of a spouse---and even now the lost opportunities and interrupted dreams are shared by people world-wide as we wait out the pandemic. Somehow, though, the rose-colored glasses I’ve used all of my life are out of focus, those glasses that allowed me to separate the learning experience from the pain and leave the latter behind as I moved on to the next shiny object, the next challenge. Try as I might I don’t think I’ll move past the world pandemic without paying the piper for my charmed life. I’ve had nearly eight decades of living under rainbows and counting unicorns, of naively believing I controlled my own destiny. Now I have sense of dread hanging over me. Instead of fight or flight I'm frozen in place and I feel like I’m stuck in the Beatles song, Help! ©

 “When I was younger, so much younger than today
I never needed anybody's help in any way
But now these days are gone, I'm not so self-assured
Now I find I've changed my mind and opened up the doors

“Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me, help me, help me?

"And now my life has changed in oh so many ways
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
But every now and then I feel so insecure
I know that I just need you like I've never done before”

Help, I need somebody! Help!


46 comments:

  1. I kinda feel the same way, Jean. Blessed to have grown up in such abundant, peaceful times compared to my parents. Yeah, we had our ups and downs...but nothing like what the previous generation had to live through...like my mom and dad and grandparents having to live through Nazi-occupied Holland. If this is as bad as it gets for me, I will think I got off relatively easy.

    Deb

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    1. It's it amazing what our parent's generation lived through. Both of my parents lost their mother's in early childhood and started out with literally nothing and survived and eventually thrived and took their pride in what my brother and I accomplished in life. I love your last line. That's true foe me as well.

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  2. When you consider how Young The Beatles were when they composed that Song they were Old Souls beyond their Years! I'm here to try to be a Virtual Help if I can be? It's difficult to acknowledge and receive Help, I've often been too Prideful and Independent to be a recipient... and then again, when no Help is around it's sometimes all the more terrifying to know you're on your own! I do recall some of the Bad Old Days tho', my Parents were an interracial intercultural Union and that wasn't well received clear up to about the early 80's in many places. And Sexual discrimination and Gender inequality was so rampant in my first Corporate Life that it was refreshing when we finally broke Glass Ceilings and got some Respect and equal Pay! I just became a Ball Breaker when I was a Young Female Executive, I could rack 'em Girlfriend! *Winks* Our Family is still a diverse blend of Cultures and Races so it's always been a Non-Issue for us, but I do see a resurgence in the Hatred, this Administration has removed the Shame of Hating and marginalizing Human Beings... it has undone what so many Decades of Civil Right fought so hard for and Won... and it's sad to see us backsliding as a Nation.

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    1. That this administration has "removed the shame of hating and marginalizing human beings beings" is one of the most demoralizing things to me. I've always been proud of our nation for trying to right the wrongs of racism and sexism. Looking back I could say my generation made a difference, moved civilization to a better than we found it. But 45 makes it hard to say that anymore. Was it all an illusion? Did I only see what I wanted to see?

      Me too on being too prideful and independent to acknowledge needing help. You and I are both survivors, the ones others have depended on. Being family caregivers to family who literally couldn't make it on their own makes you fake strength even on days when you don't feel it inside. It's hard to accept help.

      I appreciate the Beatles now more than I ever did when they were popular. 'Yesterday' was my theme song when I was care-sharing my dad. He had this old organ that had that song programed into it and I played it every single time I was at his house...crying as I did. I still cry with I hear that song. No one ever knew that about me until now.

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  3. We came such a long way and then we got a leader who gave the haters carte blanche to spew their hatred. He has made it fashionable to wear the hood once more. I long for Yesterday also and not that far back. Until 2017 we showed progress. Come on November.

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    1. It's just going to crush me for the rest of my life if Trump is not voted out of office...for what it says about our fellow citizens. I'm shocked at how many of my in-laws and a few blood relatives support him, who make excuses for his nastiness and lying---things they'd never accept in their kids and grandkids.

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  4. For a variety of reasons, I became very independent at a young age. I learned to only depend upon myself, and I still feel that I am really the only one upon whom I can depend. Having said all of that, however, I have learned to ask for help when I need it and realize that it is NOT a Weakness or a moral/character deficiency.

    I'm sure you are always happy to be helpful to others. I know I am. It's a natural human tendency, I think, to help. The vast majority of us wants to. The hardest part is Asking For Help. But we can't expect people to be mind readers.

    Being The Strong One is exhausting, and it really does a number on your wellbeing. Trust me, I know. Just fulfilling the role in your head is tiring. And it exempts you from so much. If you're interested, I can recommend a book that might be helpful; it was helpful to me.

    On a side note, I grew up with the Beatles, having an older sister who is six years my senior. She went to see them the first time they played in Cleveland and was in the group that rushed the stage. I have dozens of Beatles songs on my phone (their early stuff). And while they're not Beatles songs, there are a couple songs that make me cry every single time I hear them, too. And I don't tell anyone why.

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    1. I like your last sentence about not telling anyone why certain songs make you cry. I don't listen to a lot of music because it sets off to many emotions...up or down.

      Yes, I would be interested in knowing the name of that book. Can't guarantee I'll read it but I can guarantee I'll check it out at Amazon and put it on my wish list for when I'm looking for something to read.

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    2. What's in the Way Is the Way by Mary O'Malley

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  5. I am disappointed in how much hatred there still is in our country. I don't know why people cannot accept that we all want the same things in life - good health, decent job, happy life with family and friends. I don't know why people cannot treat others the way they would like to be treated. Kindness just makes sense to me. My parents taught me this and I have passed this down to my children. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You always get me thinking!

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    1. Our parents were cut from the same clothe. My dad was the most fair-minded person I'd ever known. My mom literally gave away her grocery money to help other women feed their kids.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  6. I've heard so many people express this feeling, in one way or another: "Instead of fight or flight I'm frozen in place..." When those basic reponses of fight or flight are denied, paralysis is inevitable -- at least, to one degree or another.

    As restrictions have loosened here, the first day of opened beaches did get a little (!!!) over-crowded, but there weren't any confrontations, and by the time Galveston's beaches opened on Monday morning, from 6-9 a.m., the beach patrol said everyone was staying apart, and everyone was gone by 9 a.m. It's almost as though, having been through this, no one wants to be the cause of restrictions being reimposed -- and that's all to the good.

    The most amusing sight from the weekend came when I crossed a high bridge over a local bayou. A line of perhaps 20 or 25 jet skis was making its way down the bayou -- each with only one or two persons, and every one of them an equal and substantial distance from the others. It was some of the most creative social distancing I've seen -- and a sign that there are ways to begin getting out and about without being in a crowd.

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    1. When I was writing this I was trying to decide if 'frozen in place' is just another increment of 'flight'---fleeing within instead of physically fleeing to safety. I still can't decide.

      This past week boaters have finally been allowed out on the water. A little cold for jet skis here but I love the image you word-painted.

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  7. The perspective of rose colored glasses. I like that in people. Most of the time I am successful at being optimistic. I believe the media is focusing on the bad and hate, highlighting it. Maybe I am Pollyanna but I think my generation has learned that people are all the same regardless of education, race, wealth, whatever. The media is giving voice to the bad eggs.

    But I am not optimistic that Trump will be replaced. The DNP has not (yet) provided an alternative. Horrible and Unknown Bad. Not much of a choice.

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    1. I don't share your view that the media is highlighting anything that isn't important in terms of focusing on hate and bad. The SLPC that tracks hate groups has a lot of data to proves hate crimes and hate groups are on the risk. Homeland Security for several years has been warning that our country is more at risk from domestic terrorism than from foreign terrorism. Not covering the bad doesn't make it go away, it just gives it room to grow in the dark until it's too big to stop. Nixon tried to shut down the press and we can see how that worked out.

      I see see lots of news 'feel good' stories on the news every day and that's great, but the constitution meant for the press to be the 4th Estate to hold the government accountable. They can't do that if all they do is cover the sunshine. They aren't doing anything different than they've done since our country was formed. It just seems like it because we have a deeply flawed human at the helm right now.

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  8. I'm afraid Trump may be re-elected, and I'm afraid a lot of the trillions of dollars we are throwing at the crisis will go to the already well-heeled. But I'm also afraid that isn't ruining what's left of my life. I seldom go out of the house, but the days still go zipping by. I have projects to work on, ways of getting regular exercise, nutritious food to eat, Andy and Kaitlin (through phone calls and email), and remote family and friends I connect with through the internet. My job right now is to stay as healthy and happy as I can so Kaitlin doesn't have to worry about us. That is one thing I can do something about.

    Good luck and take care!

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    1. I have the same fears about the election and where all the money is going.

      Defining your job as staying healthy for your daughter's sake is important and is kind like what I'm trying to do by downsizing and moving closer to my nieces. I just want to get there so I can breathe easier and start playing.

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  9. I have lived a charmed life and I am not worried about the future

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    1. You're lucky. If I was living in a place I planed to spend the rest of my life, I wouldn't be fearful of the future either. Too many things can go wrong in my current situation.

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  10. This is what happens to us oldies at a time of isolation and uncertainty: we start to think, to reminisce, to review our life’s story. My life has been less charmed than yours on a personal level but, by and large, we have lived through the same progress and improvements. It is indeed sad that now, when we come to the end of our lives, a step backwards is the norm. It was ever thus, two forward, one back. Otherwise we might by now be living in nirvana. And possibly have nothing to look forward to.

    Do you agree that without challenges things might just become dull and tedious?

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    1. You are a wise woman, Friko. I've gotten too used to challenges of my own making since my husband died which in themselves are dull and tedious but must be done. But right now I'd take dull and tedious over the challenges the pandemic are bringing me. And yet, I do have it easier than those who have to worry about their jobs and income being on hold.

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  11. Jean, both you and I will go through this situation happier then ever. I've been down so much this last week but my two young grandchildren came to see me yesterday, just for a few minutes through our door, smiled and laughed just to see us and it was enough to really pick me up through my doldrums and I'm feeling a lot better. We'll get through this my friend in some way. Ciao.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. I hope you're right Paul. For now, I'll take your word for it. LOL Glad you got to see your grandkids. They make everything better, don't they.

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  12. Beautifully written. I relate. It DOES feel like I am suddenly thrust into a moment in time that came out of nowhere. I feel claustrophobic -- not because I am asked to stay home, but because I have no control over this situation that is so hugely impacting my life. I am trying to figure out if I am depressed. I don't really think so -- I don't feel hopeless, but I do feel a bit helpless, as we all are in the face of this threat. "Help! I need somebody!" is a good lament and a call for help. We are all in this together and the best thing we can do is to offer a listening ear, an acknowledgment of how hard and scary this is, an uplifting comment, a good laugh, a reminder that we are all in this together. (And try to ignore the nonsense and harm being tossed at us from this Administration.) Sending love and hugs.

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    1. "Helpless" is a good word. It' applies to me too. Thankfully, heavy construction in my state starts back up on May 6th so I'm hopeful my mood and frozen in place mood will change.

      Cyber hugs and love back at you. I so love your activism on Facebook.

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    2. Well, I'm feeling far less "activist" these days.... I'm in my own "freeze" mode. I just read this and it rang true for me in terms of how I'm responding -- first fright (Oh No! Not me!), then flight (I'll stay away!), and now freeze....numb and helpless.
      https://www.everettclinic.com/blog/managing-sustained-stress

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    3. Wow, that makes sense. I didn't know 'freeze' was a thing. I'd only heard the flight or fight part.

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    4. @donnajurene--Thanks for this article. It explains a lot.

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  13. I am reading, this week, of soooo many people really scraping the bottom of the barrel, emotions-wise.We’re all suffering from this very un natural way of life..the isolation and the fears.. but I don’t think you are being called to pay the piper.. I believe underneath all this stress and these times, your natural optimism will return, and there will be a bigger picture.. and you will once again feel like your Self.I know I am gong through all the same emotions, day by day.. it’s not normal, living like this! But we will come back from it.. thank you for sharing your thoughts. !

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    1. I hope---I know---you're right. I actually feel better now than when I wrote this post. Thanks for the comment. Sometimes we all need someone else to point out what we know deep inside but can't always pull it up when we need it.

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  14. Yeah, I think a lot of us are starting to get a little down over this - I know I am. Some days are worse than others. But the uncertainty is definitely draining. I have heard of fight or flight, but hadn't heard of freeze. That feels like where I am a lot lately. The whole house/moving thing is crazy making. What a time to get caught in the middle. I keep telling myself we're healthy, well fed (too well fed) and warm and dry. Things could be worse.

    Now that the landscapers are open again, I had to order mulch. We generally do that every other year, and this is the year. I had hoped to have sold and be in process of moving by now, but you know how that has played out. I am just hoping that once the builders are back at it next week there will be some arrangement for realtors to at least show houses to two people at a time if the seller agrees.

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    1. I can't imagine the stress of where you're at in the selling/building/moving process. The saving grace is you're not alone and all the companies involved in like deals will do their best to make it all work out for you guys.

      Fingers crossed for you!

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    2. Thanks! And did I mention, my daughter is about to give birth in the UK? Needless to say, my flight is cancelled, so I have that on my mind non-stop. She is doing well and FaceTime is a godsend. Still hard to accept I can't go though. Have to focus on everyone being healthy and safe.

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    3. Can you imagine being a pioneer living in a sod house on the frontier and having a daughter ready to give birth back in New York, knowing it will takes weeks to get information about how it went? Face time is amazing! I'm glad you that going for you.

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    4. Haha. Well, that does put it in perspective. And I had another good long chat with her today. She's looking good and I'm trying to encourage her re: labor without being too graphic. LOL. She's run marathons, so she can do it. :-)

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    5. We don't know yet. They didn't want to find out ahead of time.

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  15. I am one of the many, many Mainers who tunes in to the daily press briefings of our state CDC director, Dr. Nirav Shah. Like most other people, I had never heard of him before the pandemic; and now he's our lifeline to sanity. He is always calm and reassuring, even as he tries to be completely honest and not give us unrealistic expectations. But he tells us all the time that we are writing the end of this story. We are not helpless; the hard work we are doing to keep apart and protect one another is really making things better. He always has some little lesson that he ends each day's briefing with. Today, he told us that we were like people whose boat had capsized and dumped us all in the ocean. At this point, we have all managed to get out of the water and into the lifeboat, and we are working together to paddle toward land. We can even see land on the horizon, but it's going to take a lot more time and a lot more work before we actually get there.

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    1. State governors and CDC directors in many places are doing a good job, my state's included. I don't like the fact that my age group will have our stat-at-home orders extended to May 28th but she's opening the sate in steps that make sense. She's calm and explains things wells. I'm glad your state also have a reassuring voice to listen to. We're sure not getting it from the federal government.

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    2. I love the analogy by Dr. Shah. It's good to have calm voices on the state level.

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  16. Reading your thoughtful and interesting post, along with the comments, leaves me feeling rather like the odd man out. I had a horrible childhood and so many challenges throughout my life and literally no one to lean on. And now so many people think having to stay home for a few months is just terrible. There is a solid roof over their heads and food in the pantry. Internet at their fingertips. I have a feeling that a year from now many will be saying these days were the good old days and will actually know real hardship and horrors they never imagined. This is a cakewalk compared to what is coming. There is no reset to normal. The economy has collapsed while we were all worrying about catching the virus. I would like to think our leadership could weather the storm and right the ship but I don't think so.
    Now is the time to grow a pair and start some solid plans to survive the real pandemic that is just up the road. What will you be able to do for hungry and desperate neighbors? I am sorry to be Debby Downer but I say now is the time to count your blessings and not the time to cry over nothing much. Your blog helps us by letting us know we are not alone in our solitude and I am grateful for that.

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    1. When I see people on TV complaining that they can't get their roots covered up or nails done, I do an eye roll, thinking if that's all you've got to worry about you're doing great. We've become a country with a lot of spoiled people in it. And those who aren't spoiled, who maybe grew up with more street smarts because they had to have them to survive WILL handle what's coming next better. I do believe there will be an economy break down and I really, REALLY, hope by then we have a better administration in charge. That won't prevent it from happening but it they could turn it around quicker without us all turning on each other.

      You're not being a Debby Downer. You're just using your life experiences, as we all do, to react and add your view point to the topic at hand.

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  17. There must be something in the air right now with so many of us in a pensive mood, reflecting on our lives, challenges, and privileges. You said it so well in the line “it’s been a good life living my illusions and zest for embracing whatever caught my fancy”. I appreciate that the opportunities I’ve had have been many, while the roadblocks have been relatively few.

    I cannot help but muse about the stories that will be told by this generation of children when they are grown and have their own children and grandchildren, about this period in time with life under a pandemic.

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    1. Me too regarding what this generation is going through. Not just with the pandemic but living a lifetime with mass shootings in their schools, and the growing pains of the Me Too Movement and the coming recession that is sure to cause hardships.

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