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, January 20, 2021

Building Our Own Violins aka Mindfulness

NOTE: This post was originally scheduled to run a few days after the Capital was overrun with domestic terrorists. So I kicked it back to a draft to make room for a few posts about current events. Today is Inauguration Day and I'm sure most of us are holding our breaths waiting to exhale when/if we get through it peacefully. In Trump's inaugural speech four years ago he painted a dark picture of America and promised: "This American carnage stops right here and stops right now." In a perfect world, he'd realize those words should have been spoken today, on his last day in office. In a perfect world he'd know that his legacy will forever be connected to the worst carnage ever set upon our Democracy. But it's not a perfect world and more than ever we could do ourselves a service if we'd spend a little time each day practicing mindfulness.

 
Do you know what impresses me? That a guy could apprentice to a long line of violin makers and still be able to take the craft to such new heights of perfectionism that people nearly three hundred years later are willing to pay millions of dollars to own one of his instruments. Antonio Stradivari, in his seventy years of professional work, made 1,100 stringed instruments and 650 are said to still be in existence. Truly amazing! From a little stab of maple, some pine, glue and varnishes, and with a methodical persistence to find perfection the Stradivarius was born, a line of instruments with full woody tones unsurpassed even today.

I wonder what it would feel like to be truly gifted at something. I wonder if Antonio knew he was a gifted. I doubt it. After all the whole town of Cremona in the northern region of Italy where he lived and worked had a history---three centuries long---of making musical instruments. Did he think of himself as just another guy on an assembly line? Like some guy in Detroit punching out automobiles? Or could he feel that his work was special? Antonio must have had some idea; he kept his vanish recipe a secret even from his wife and children and many people feel that his varnishing process is what gave his violins their magic sound. But then again he was making a living and people protect their livelihood from their competitors, so that doesn’t necessarily mean he knew he was creating masterpieces that would endure over centuries.

I have a book titled, Wherever You Go There You Are---at least I had it before the big book purge last summer. That title amused me whenever I saw the book on the shelf. The author would not be happy to learn that I’ve never actually read the book cover to cover, but I’ve read enough of it to know that it’s about cultivating our ability to live in the present moment. Mindfulness. I don’t know where I am going with this except that I believe a person like Antonio Stradivari must have understood living in the moment. As he worked, he let the woods and varnishes speak to him and he listened in an analytical way that his predecessors, and those who came afterward, hadn’t done. He was not just another guy on an assembly line punching a time clock, picking up a paycheck. He had the “it factor” that Simon on American Idol used to talk about.

I have a sister-in-law who is a wonderful cook. Not only does her food taste fantastic, but her presentation, creativity and thoughtfulness in menu planning are something that I have long admired. She has the “it factor” in the kitchen. She’s in the moment when she is in the kitchen. I have a niece who when her two sons were young, she had the “it factor” when it came to motherhood---and now when it comes to grand-parenthood. Her older sister once said that Melinda is not just a mother, “She’s a human development specialist.” She’s in the moment when she interacts with the children in her life, gives them 100% of her attention.

You can guess what I’m going to say next. Yup, I’m going to tell you that we don’t have to build Stradivarius violins or paint like Rembrandt to achieve a state of oneness with our surroundings. To find that one thing that we can be passionate about, that something that regenerates our spirit and soul, and when we find it we can’t help but give it 100% of our attention. We do so many things on autopilot, thinking of past regrets or worrying about the future, instead of seizing the moment we’re in. Yada, yada, yada. This could be lecture #704 to myself because I fall out of mindfulness as often as I fall into it.

Someone in another blog said words to the affect that we live for the little moments in life that tell us that we’re alive. I couldn’t agree more. I would only add that increasing our happiness can come from practicing mindfulness—of teaching ourselves to live in the small moments of life. Over the past year when the pandemic and politics because the strangest bedfellows ever paired together it’s been impossible for me to live in the moment and I’m hoping I can get back to at least trying to do that. Granted, I’ve never been good at it for more than an afternoon, a day or a week at a time but those times when I do achieve mindfulness have the power to heal. And 2020 left me with a lot of wounds that need healing but it’s time to say, “Yup, today I'm metaphorically building my own violin”---to enjoy the process of whatever I’m doing at the moment. Antonio Stradivari might have said it this way: “If you live in a town that builds musical instruments, build the best damn one you can build.” If you're me you vow to bake more bread, a process that never fails to pull me into the moment. ©

36 comments:

  1. A touching and meaningful essay. Thanks for starting my day with these thoughts.

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  2. Mindfulness. A wonderful idea. I sometimes get close when I paint or putz in my yard. With trump and all the vile hatred diminished, I hope it becomes easier for all of us. Spring should help, as well.
    If today's inauguration runs smoothly and safe, we will be on our way.

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    1. Your hope is mine and probably most people's. The National Guard is leaving a quite a few of their troops there for a month.

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  3. Mindfulness is a Fine Art that I have been trying to exercise the discipline of for Years. The Young Prince once qualified for some Mindfulness Training thru his Mental Health Provider and I was allowed to have 8 of the Sessions with him. It made me realize the extent to which my Adult ADHD interfered with my Mindfulness Training... LOL. They gave us a Hershey Chocolate Kiss and told us to JUST be Mindful of that Object and see how long we could. It was about a 5 Minute Exercise and I probably lasted 5 Seconds before my Mind began wandering away from the Object I was to concentrate exclusively on and be Present with. I got a ways to go before I perfect this Art of Mindfulness, clearly! *Smiles*

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    1. How interesting! I can see how mindfulness training could help some/many people like your son. Gotta keep trying to throw stuff against the wall, so to speak, to see what sticks.

      I couldn't last five minutes with the the chocolate kiss. It would be in my mouth in one.

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  4. You made me realize just how much daily events have consumed my thinking, leaving no room for much of anything else. Maybe today we can release our minds that have been held captive for 4 years.

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    1. I have spent way to many mornings over the past four years getting up and wondering what Trump did last night to cause drama with his midnight tweets. I don't kid myself into believing we don't still have drama coming our way but I have full confidence that adults are now in control of the White House and all that goes on there.

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  5. "Not doing much" has become my specialty since I retired! I do a gratitude list every night when I go to bed - and I often fall asleep before I finish so I have a lot to be grateful for. You are right about being mindful each day so I pay attention and celebrate my accomplishments!
    Happy inauguration day! Here’s to a better future! Wishing all the best to Biden/Harris as they work to heal our country. Peace!

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    1. After my husband's stroke I did a gratitude journal and wouldn't let myself go to bed until I had listed at least 5 things. I credit it with returning my depression around. It's a wonderful habit you have.

      Happy Inauguration Day to you and everyone else. As I write this the 46th president is leaving the the ceremony1 First touchdown in the game to get our country back on track.

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  6. I was far better at this than I have in the last 2 years. Thank you for the reminder! Today is a new day in all good ways for me!

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    1. Me, too, but I plan to change that. I've got my bread in the oven and I couldn't be happier that we got thought in inauguration with a sense of calm and decorum. I'm also very happy that so many companies and corporations are withdrawing the donations to those in congress members who supported the 'stop the steal' lie. And I'm happy that the 'My Pillow' guy lost his vendor contracts with Wayfair, Home Goods and Bed, Bath and Beyond. Everything anyone or any business can do to bring back civility and respect for the Truth and Rule of Rule has never been needed more than right now.

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  7. I watched the inauguration this morning and was very mindful of how much I loved hearing adults speak in complete sentences.

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    1. I watch Trump going away speech followed by the inauguration and I know exact what you mean.

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  8. Complete sentences. Encouraging words. Kindness. Intelligence.

    Maybe President Biden will restore mindfulness. Off to a great start!

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    1. Complete sentences and someone with better judgement now has the nuclear codes.

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  9. I love this post, Jean. I've read that book. I might still even have it -- I had several by the author. I"ve always tried hard to live mindfully (or for years, at least) but never more so than in the days of covid when we were never sure if this was our last. It really helps alleviate the stress, too. I loved your examples. I remember many of my acting class exercises decades ago focused on that -- the focus. It's amazing what you can observe or feel or "see" or feel when you do that. Your post is a wonderful reminder for us all.

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    1. When we need it the most---like the last few years---is when we forget to use mindfulness. Well, at least I do, doesn't sound like you need the reminder I sent to myself. Now I know the secret of your perpetual smile.

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  10. I like the idea of pursuing mindfulness. Sometimes my days fly by so fast that it leaves my head spinning, and I feel as though I've accomplished nothing. The pandemic has numbed my brain, at times, too. We all owe it to ourselves to take good care of our bodies and our minds.

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    1. Me, too, but by the end of the day I can't even remember what I've done. We've all been through an emotional roller coaster the past several weeks and it feels good to be able to think about doing something for my life without worrying about the country falling apart.

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  11. I’ve read that book and once sat on the floor in a very crowded room to listen to its author. Great post, Jean...and a very happy day for the US and the world.

    Deb

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    1. Wow! I love listening to authors talk. I kind of wish I'd kept that book...a lot of things, really.

      Yes, it is a happy day. I'm watching the inauguration celebration as I type, great music!

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  12. You are right. A long, comfortable exhale.

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  13. I try not to ever be Regretful. Like Worry and Guilt, it's a wasted emotion. But I do think about all the time I spent fast-forwarding or wishing I could fast-forward times in my life and not enjoying things in The Now. I learned that part later, but I'm very glad I learned it.

    Now, I do take time (since I have it, and that's probably part of it) and appreciate and enjoy small Joys. I've always been observant, but now I've fine-tuned it to be on the lookout for those small Joys and Happinesses. There are many, even on the bad days.

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    1. Most of my small Joys lately come near midnight when I take the dog out for the last time for the day. It's so quiet and and beautiful with the white landscape glittering under the streetlights near the end of my driveway and down at the corner. I hope in the months to come there will be more mindful moments like that where I can just stand and take it all in.

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  14. My wife and I started meditating each morning just after the new year began. With the turmoil in the world it seemed like the perfect time to work on mindfulness and stilling our raging thoughts.

    I will admit it works. By focusing on breathing, physical sensations, or sounds for just 10 minutes, the non-stop brain chatter quiets. The ability to have a thought and then dismiss it without focusing on it is quite empowering.

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    1. I love the idea of setting a certain time each day to meditate or practice mindfulness in my case.

      I used to have a fitness watch with a meditation app that you could set a timer on. I used it in the car after every stop, to calm myself from driving in rush hour. I used it at the doctor's office after the nurse took my blood pressure and before the doctor would come in and retake it. Doing that app lowered my blood pressure enough that the doctor questioned if the nurse got it right.

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  15. Dear Jean, this is one of my favorite posts that you have written. Thank you for its breadth and depth and width of understanding and examples of living in the present moment. I've tried to do that all my life, and like you, I can only maintain mindfulness for a short time. I've discovered, however, that when I write--which is my passion--I am then most in the present and in Presence and I lose myself in Oneness, connected to all those of the past, of the present, of the future who, at whatever pace/for however long, try to dwell in the present moment and be at peace. There is in that peace a contentment that soothes the heart and mind, that goes to the essence of our humanity. Thank you again for reminding me of this. Peace, pressed down and overflowing, ever and always, to you.

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    1. As a former nun I would have guessed you've mastered mindfulness a long time ago. Probably I'm confusing meditation with mindfulness.

      Now that you bring it up, when I'm writing and researching for something I want to write---like I had to do for this post---I am totally present. Writing is one of my guilty pleasures in life and thank you for reminding of that. I've been practicing mindfulness twice a week right along and didn't even think of it like that.

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  16. I post every day, that means a great deal of the time I'm in the "flow" state...it keeps me immersed in what I'm doing. That's why the past year has gone so well, in spite of trips to the dentist, the craziness in the world, etc.

    About emojis: My browser is Firefox and to put in an emoji I go to Edit, scroll down to Emoji and Symbols and choose the one I want. šŸ™‚šŸ‘šŸŒ¹❤️šŸ’•

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    1. Blogging twice a week gives me a rhythm to my week that I really need, so I understand what you're saying about keeping you immersed.

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    1. Thanks, I just found them in my post editing screen. Where I REALLY want to use them in texts. Found some but I think need to add an app to get the 'good ones.'

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