Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow. senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. 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. (Just remember I'm looking through my prism which may or may not be the full story.) Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The Joy of too Many Choices

During the lockdown of 2021---or was it 2020? It doesn’t matter. A lockdown is a lockdown and unless someone has a soulmate to play with and a good cable package lockdowns are boring and scary and add pounds in places where you don’t need it. Life stuck at home because of a world-wide pandemic left me longing for some place to go, something to do. Well, now I’ve got places to go and things to do and I can’t believe I’m saying this but there is too much on the smorgasbord of activities here at the continuum care complex. Take today for example I had my choice of any or all of the below activities:

9:00 Cardio Drumming class

10:00 Coffee and Conversation

12:30 The Gravity of Joy lecture

1:30 Stretch and Flex class

4:00 Tailgate party

6:00 Game Room night

In addition to the above I had an hour’s worth of homework to do for my Stronger Memory class plus I had to pick up my mail and the book for the next club discussion, and fit lunch and dinner into the mix not to mention that I’ve been obsessed with finishing a jigsaw puzzle of all yellow pencils (up above). I’ve done this puzzle every winter for 13-14 years but it’s never taken me this long before. I’m on my fifth (and probably final) day. The memory quilt puzzle (pictured below) took me a day and a half. There are at least three others living in here who have puzzle tables and there is one in the game room where it’s a group effect to put one together. But a long-ago experience doing a communal puzzle makes me stay away from them. I'd spent a lot of time sorting pieces by color then the next day someone came along and sorted them over again by some other criteria that baffled my mind.

I discovered the other puzzle people at a party I went to on Sunday, a joint effort by Auntie Mame and my neighbor (not Scottie dog’s mom). This one lives at on the other side of my hall. She’s a widow barely three years out and she still struggles a bit with her loss. She has one of the biggest apartments in the complex, three bedrooms and fantastic views of the lake and her deck connects with the public piazza. I’d hate the latter but she says she’s very social and it’s the feature of her apartment that she loves the best. These two ladies put on a spread and wine bar you wouldn’t believe and there were probably 20-25 people in attendance…all of us who frequent the cafe and farmhouse table on a regular basis. Other than the fact that I kept thinking it was a breeding ground for Covid, it was fun. At least two people at the party had been on airplanes a day or two before the party and not a single person was wearing a mask. We all had to be vaccinated before making our final payment to move in here but still, people have gotten the new variance with their shots and boosters. Time will tell if it was fool-hearted to go to a party.

‘The Gravity of Joy’ presentation was giving by the author of a book by the same name, Angela Williams Gorrell, and was about her search “for authentic Christian joy as she reflects on our collective need for a counter-agent to despair.” Yes, I know, agnostic me was worried I’d stand out like a heathen with a big red ‘A’ painted on my forehead, but I never pass up an opportunity to hear an author speak in public because I’m still fascinated by the process of pulling thoughts from the inner recesses of our brains and making them into a book you can hold in your hands. And more importantly, I knew this lecture would be the talk of a few dinner or lunch tables. She’s an assistant professor of practical theology at Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary and an ordained pastor in the Mennonite Church. This young woman also volunteers at women’s maximum security prison and she lost her husband to suicide just months before her young nephew died of a heart attack and her dad died of an opium addiction. Talk about a powerful and compelling reason to search for joy. One reviewer on Amazon labeled the book to be about spiritual resiliency and I would agree if that label was applied to this lecture. 

This lecture was part of a series underwritten by a local church-based university, the same one where I took my husband for speech classes twice a week for six years and I have nothing but deep appreciation for how we were treated there, red ‘A’s painted on our foreheads and all. I don’t usually go to lectures that I know will be laced heavily with religion but it wasn’t a waste of time by an means and I didn't get converted. But you can’t listen to a story like hers and not be happy she found her way through her grief. The human spirit truly is resilient. 

There was a Q&A at the end and someone asked what she suggests to whose who are drowning in grief and she answered that what worked for her was "trauma dumping" a type journeying where you spill your guts and then shred the pages. That’s essentially what I did after my husband’s massive stroke. It just didn’t have a name but it did eventually help me find my Joy again. ©

 

This 500 piece puzzle that was way too easy to be fun. The pencil puzzle above is also 500 pieces and it doesn't get easier no matter how many times you do it.

42 comments:

  1. I am so happy for you that you're having such a good time. Keep the stories coming, please!

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    1. Thank you, other Jean. There are so many stories here to tell but it's hard to decide how much to tell.

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  2. I am so happy that you have made such a good life for yourself. You worked hard to get to your new home - best wishes.

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    1. I did work hard, didn't I! It took a leap of faith to judge and trust the people and history of community and I drove myself crazy a few times thinking about it but it's turning out better than I'd hoped.

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  3. I'm working on a 1,000 piece puzzle and the pieces are NOT interlocking. Arrrgh... I work at it a couple of times a day and manage to get a few pieces in at every sitting. I don't know that I'd be up for your pencil puzzle. I see a migraine in the making! LOL

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    1. I don't think I've ever done an puzzle that didn't have interlocking pieces. That would be hard! Have you ever seen the one with letters on the back to help you sort the puzzle into 5-6 groups because the front pieces are so much the same? I've never done one but I'm thinking of buying one based on the reviews.

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  4. You have so many choices at your CCC but I think that is a good thing. Many of us have cut way back on socializing, due to Covid, but most of us benefit from being with others. Your author's presentation sounds like the real deal. My gosh, Gorrell went through hell and back, but I guess most of us do at different times of our lives. Authors who have actually experienced what they're writing about ring truer for me. The whole subject of joy is interesting. Once in awhile you wake up, and you feel immersed in it. Other days you might feel hopeless--like death warmed over. It's a mystery. I applaud you on your puzzle prowess. The pencil one would be so challenging--I'd be pulling my hair out on that one, for sure. Hopefully, your neighbors are continuing to stay healthy. Covid reared its ugly head in our family. My daughter had a baby early Sunday morning (YAY!! Healthy baby and mommy). By Sunday evening, my SIL was sick. Covid symptoms. Yep, he tested positive. Everyone has been vaccinated, so maybe it will go easy on us. Feels like we've been on a roller coaster ride the past few days, but as long as we're all upright, it's all good, lol.

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    1. Congratulations on the new baby! Hope everyone stays healthy or at least only gets a mild case with I hear tell this new variety is for most vaccinated people.

      After the first five minutes of hearing this author everyone was spell bound by her story. At one point I even had tears in my eyes. The three deaths in her family were only five years ago. Just a couple of weeks before her husband killed himself she had gotten a job on a research grant team through Yale University to study the origins of Joy. She really is the real deal.

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  5. What a packed schedule if you took in everything and ate too. Still you are right, with all the isolation we have faced, while you are facing a bit of an overload of choices, it looks like fun. Pick,choose and enjoy--oh yeah--share us shut ins with the details.

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    1. We were having a discussion at dinner recently and many of us agree that it's been fun sampling all this place has to offer but know we're feeling the need to pick and choose so we have more 'me' time. It' SO hard to do when it all looks fun.

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  6. A trauma dumping journal is a brilliant idea. It reminds me of being in college when I kept a bitch book, filled with snark and hate about people who irritated me. You wrote in the book, you reveled in your feeling for a while, then you destroyed the bookl. Very therapeutic

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    1. Most of my old diaries were like your bitch books. When I was happy with the world I didn't need to confide in my diary. In hindsight I recognize the healing effect of writing down stuff. Never heard the term 'trauma dumping' before but it's googleable term so there's that. LOL

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  7. Journaling is incredibly therapeutic. For me, the hard part is not going back to read what I've written, whether positive or negative. Writing is such an important part of my Self. I keep a strong rubber band on previous pages, but sometimes the temptation is so strong.

    Having a separate journal that you "dump" negative stuff in and then shred those pages is a great idea. The symbolism of destroying the trauma could be powerful.

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    1. I've never been able to NOT go back an reread what I write but my drama was never as deep as what a lot of other people's have been, so I can see where what you are saying is true about the symbolism of destroying the writing would be powerful.

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  8. I think I was relieved when my old journals, or most of them, had so much water damage in a basement flood years ago that they were destroyed. I like the idea of a dump-and-rip process, as I mostly wrote during periods of angst. I enjoy puzzles -- but that one looks tough with the pencils! And talk about an embarrassment of riches in choice. That's really exciting. We're dealing with Rick's mom who will do nothing and we think is failing badly. I don't know if she'll see 2023. She seems to have lost all will and doesn't take advantage of any of the activities in her complex. Those will keep you young. I think I want to live where you do!

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    1. You would love the rich tapestry of women here who have had as interesting of careers as you have had.

      I felt the same relief when I had water damage in my basement and a box of 100 year old Valentine's Day cards got ruined. The decision of what to do with them was out of my hands.

      Probably half the people who live here never step outside their apartments which is a shame. I don't get it really. If all you wanted is a nice apartment you could go anywhere. It's the social life that makes a community strong. One of the guy's here is like Rick's mom, didn't want to do anything so his daughter took it upon herself to take him to various things here and now he's doing them on his own ...but it took her a month to get him to where he is now.

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  9. It is good that they give you so many options to choose from. Different strokes for different folks and no one has to do everything (unless they want to)!

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    1. I also love that everything is drop in, no need for long term commitments or extra costs and if you have to go some place off campus when a class is going on you just go and catch the next one.

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  10. That author sounds so interesting. You really do have an "embarrassment of riches" as they say. Sounds awesome. And you will eventually settle into which ones are most interesting to you and gain back some "me" time.

    I've been one to vent into a journal, too. I need to go back and burn some of that stuff. If anyone found it after I die, they would think I was perpetually unhappy, as (like you mentioned above), I often wrote only when I was angry, sad or the like.

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    1. The thought of someone other than my niece (who I trusted) finding my diaries after I die is what lit a fire under me to destroy better than half of mine before moving in here. I kind of missed them on New Year's Eve and day when I used to read some of them. But I'm still glad I did it. The ones I kept from what I call my naïve years are silly, not harmful to me or anyone else, if read after I'm died.

      The university who brought this author to town is sponsoring a whole serious of lectures and live pod-casts this month---during their winter break. She's from Texas and was wearing sandals with no socks and I was freezing in wool socks and leg warmers. LOL Felt sorry for her toes.

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    2. Oh wow. I completely forgot that January series. Thanks for the reminder. I've listened to some of the speakers online in the past. They don't all broadcast the talks (some probably have restrictions on their contracts), but will definitely check out this year's speakers.

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    3. I knew you'd figure it out from my hint and they have several that look good.

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  11. So glad you are finding living there even better than you had hoped.

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  12. Well I picked what classes I wanted to attend. :-)
    It really sounds like you're getting your "sea legs" so to speak with your new community and that is so great to hear.

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    1. I am and it wasn't hard to do either for an introvert that I usually am.

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  13. I hope you find time to spend with your paint brushes... and, of course, some paint.

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  14. I think we are happier when we accept what we have little to no control over such as lockdowns. I am never bored and rarely leave the house.

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  15. Wow! How wonderful to have so much going on at any given time. If people are bored at your campus, it can only be their own fault.
    I believe in the power of writing it out. Writing a letter to someone who has hurt you and then shredding it or burning it has been very helpful for me.

    Deb

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    1. So true, and if you want to add something to the schedule, you just have to ask the enrichment manager. A couple who went to Alaska recently who lives here is doing a slide show soon...that sort of thing.

      I've done a lot of letter writing to my husband only I didn't shred or burn them. I hadn't realized that he kept them all until after he had his stroke and I had to empty out his desk. I kept them until I downsized to move here.

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  16. So much to do!!! I am taking a People Break this week and this comment is the rare occasion of me interacting with another human, but I always love your observations of your new community and I love hearing what you are up to. I'm not a "puzzler" but admire those who are...wow! good job!

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    1. I just bought a new puzzle off Amazon that is rated really hard. in the description it says doing puzzles is a form of meditation and I can see that. To me, they are like comfort foods because when I was a kid we'd do them on rainy days. Often times my mom would join in.

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  17. Have you ever done online jigsaws? I don't do the boxed ones any more, but once in a while I'll do one of the little ones at night, just for grins. On some of the sites, you can turn one of your photos into a puzzle, and some sites let you work at it with someone else, although I've never been inclined toward that. You can pick the number of pieces, too, so if you want something that doesn't take more than a few minutes or a half hour, it's yours. Jigsaw Explorer is a neat site.

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    1. Interesting! I didn't know you could do puzzles online. Thanks for the link.

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  18. So, her suggestion to spill it and destroy it is similar to Blogging and then deleting my Blog Posts, excellent, and yes, it does become therapeutic and help you to move forward with resiliency. I think having the Options to do so much is a good thing, even if you don't attend them all, or many. The puzzles you are showing remind me of those I bought Princess T at the beginning of Pandemic, she and her Boy Posse tried to do them, gave up, but it gave them something to do to engage their Minds during lockdown extended stay. I figured I would try to help her with one but I totally sucked at Puzzles, not surprising, I lack Patience and having the Attention Span necessary for it and my ability to Organize sucks, by Color or anything else. *Smiles* The one Woman's big Apartment with Lake View and all sounds sublime to ride out the rest of her Life at and if she throws good Parties, I think it could help her thru Grieving her Loss to have an Idyllic environment and good Friends to interact with and entertain.

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    1. Yes, the way you blog and spill your guts out would definitely qualify for trauma dumping at times. Writing does help. doesn't it.

      I can't believe young people would give up on puzzles, show how much I know about teens during a lockdown.

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    1. I did but they also say there is a lot of competition in places like this now so they all are stepping up their game.

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  20. I tried to get my grandson into puzzles, he's 8 and not into it. He'd rather play games on his tablet.

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    1. I started doing puzzle about his age but it's a different time and kids are different than than I was young. I did notice that make puzzle with modern kid-friendly themes now ---Harry Potter, Superheroes. Maybe doing puzzles on his tablet could be a gateway to real puzzles.

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