Friday, December 10, 2010

Not Watching Dateline Alone

I am so glad I went to the party in my building tonight. I met a teacher, activity aide for seniors, school counselor who just obtained her master's, 72-year-old-grandma who holds a black belt and teaches karate, a hospital worker, and newly retired former business owner. The apartments I went into were furnished well, clean, attractive and tidy. Everyone was nice, pleasant and more than friendly. They all wanted me to go out dancing with them afterward but I begged off since tomorrow is a busy day for me. They're going out dancing again next week and want me to join them.

I know for a long time I have harbored intense feelings of failure and shame with myself for having had to move into an apartment. I've never lived in an apartment before. Perhaps I had some sort of white trash image of myself for having to be an apartment dweller. Tonight, however, my stereotypes were broken. That 72-year-old grandma worked two jobs after her divorce to raise her two daughters. She comes from another country and had no family to help her. She did what she had to do, she told me. The other women were divorced too, some with tales of rotten ex-husbands in jail. One of these women was an Irish dancer in the Riverdance Troupe. One divorced woman now lives with her mom. The 36-year-old activity assistant is raising an 8-year-old, although there is a dad whom he visits on weekends.

All in all, a bunch of pretty talented and interesting people. I showed them the video tape of my son performing at the talent contest this summer and told them he will be having an original composition played by the band for the spring concert. This new group of friends all said they wanted to attend the concert! Some of the group is going to take a self-defense class next week together. One woman showed us how to make these amazing star ornaments out of cut paper. The activity assistant asked the Irish dancer to show her how to perform an Irish jig so she can dance it in front of the seniors she works with.

I was complimented on how handsome and nice my sons are and that they have always been polite to the residents. I felt a sense of community, kindness and friendship that has certainly been lacking in my life. People offered to help one another in various ways. When I said I don't really have clothes suitable for going out dancing I was told that they'd come up with something between themselves that I could wear.

I sure hope this is not a one-time interaction. I'd like to be able to socialize like this again. Maybe I can plan a pot luck Valentine bash of my own or a January chilly/chili snowman party. I had been thinking of inviting two of the women I've gotten to know in for tea. I joked with them both that it was good I hadn't done so, because it was clear everyone would have enjoyed something stronger than tea!

Anyway, some aspects of my life seem to be on the upswing. I'm looking forward to socializing with the knitting group (one of the members brought in homemade English toffee at the last meeting - what a treat!). Now I've met some nice friendly people here. I'm feeling more confident about pursing a job in my field and not giving up during the process. Most of all, I feel I can hold up my head a bit higher. I'm an only parent doing what I can for my sons to keep them in the community so they can graduate from the high school they've both thrived at and the town they feel most comfortable in. I've done my best under the circumstances. I'm one of those nice people living in an apartment. So what. It doesn't make me less of a person or diminish my worth. As the 72-year-old grandma said to me to tonight as I complimented her apartment, "We might not own it but it is still our home." I learned a lot tonight and I am grateful for these lessons.


  1. Wow. You've just demonstrated the wonderful upside to living in an apartment with welcoming neighbors. Thanks for sharing.

    This afternoon I'm going to our neighborhood Christmas party. I went the first Christmas after my husband died, five years ago. I was still pretty numb, and I drank to calm my nerves. The following years I, a non- partnered person, felt too scared to show up amongst all these happy intact families. Today I will attend, and try not to drink alcohol. I need the company of others, plain and simple.

  2. Flo - Thank you for sharing this. It took some emotional doing for me to go last night. It would have been easier to just stay at home with a book. I looked at it as a way of meeting new people and learning about them and their stories and then I just closed my door, went downstairs and knocked on the other door without thinking too much more. I have been to very few social events like this since my husband's death.

    About alcohol. There was beer, wine, coolers, rum and a great punch last night. A little bit of that punch with vodka was just right to relax me, get me in the spirit and calm my nerves. But when I'm out I do exercise a lot of self-control so as not to drink too much. What I'm saying is that a glass of wine or whatever was something I looked forward to and it was worth having it because I really did need something to calm my nerves. No shame in having a drink or two!

    Let me know how it goes. It was a rare treat to be able to go to a table filled with homemade goodies and treats (salad, dips, sweets, cucumber sandwiches) and enjoy them without having had to make them! I truly had a wonderful time and those events have been pretty rare and lacking in my life as of late. Let yourself have a great time!


  3. Well I did watch Dateline alone, but after I went to a great movie and supper with a wonderful widow friend. So glad you had a good time. The energy of a group of woman always amazes me. I know you have had more than your share, from reading your blog. I do believe your life is going to get better and better. Just want you to know that I pulling for you. Also I am so glad you have a home. Home is where your family is - does not matter what it looks like.

  4. Patti - It has taken me awhile to get back into the swing of things socially and I am still a newbie at this. My youngest has "forbidden" me to watch Dateline anymore because he feels the stories are always murder mysteries and he doesn't feel I should add any doom or gloom into my life. Tomorrow I am going to the holiday concert extravaganza with my girlfriend at the high school. I always have a great time with one-on-one activities but am realizing that a social group of many is also fun and supportive. Now I have someone to call on to help me move things in the apartment (a couple of nice guys were there and am sure would be willing to help me out when needed). Glad you had a nice time last night. A good movie and dinner out is an enriching pleasure.

  5. Glad you had such a good time! I know it's been very painful to feel as if you're no longer a part of your previous community, and this seems like it could be a welcoming new community that would restore your sense of connectedness.

  6. I'm proud of you for going. It's so much easier to stay home, but my thought since Jim died is .... don't turn down opportunities to be with people .... even new people. You never know who will turn out to be a great friend or what will be a wonderful experience. Better to take a chance and seize an opportunity than to miss out on what "could have been" .... as you found out.

  7. Vanessa and Janine - Thanks guys! When you're so wrapped up in your own pain you don't realize how important social connections are. And by then, you've lost so many. Just to be included in a social activity, noticed and accepted is something all of us need, widowed or not. Doing something like this and having it turn out well makes it easier to take the next step or do it again.

  8. So proud of you for taking this giant step. I am glad you had a good time and you met some special neighbors. How wonderful to hear someone speak of your sons in a positive way. I love when I get compliments about my children. It just helps to know that I have not totally messed up, besides the fact that it helps with their self-esteem. You keep going girl, good things are coming, slowly, but surely! I am happy for you!

    Much love,

  9. So glad to hear you had fun and the neighbors were so nice. I am absolutely sure that 2011 will be a better--much better--year for you!

  10. Have I told you lately that I love you?

  11. Beth - It was lovely to sit down at a table of food I hadn't had to prepare and just take a load off (physically and mentally). I too, really like hearing anything positive about my sons. And I have certainly heard a lot of criticism about them too, as well as my parenting (which is another aspect of widowhood I don't get). Anyway, I'm with you about the not having messed up part (hopefully too much!).

    Thanks Thelma for your voice of encouragement and hope that 2010 will be better!

    (CR has been privately acknowledged and thanked...)