Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Packing and Packing

Summer Toys
Just a brief update. The move and moving is proving pretty much terrible. I would rank the process up there as one of the most stressful. I've been rather upset about it all on the pity path of "poor me, I have to do this all on my own." My therapist wants me to work on my "victim mentality" and to use my anger over moving alone by swearing as I pack boxes and trying to pack faster. So far those strategies haven't helped much but talking to a therapist has, and I really, really want to start chucking this victim mentality and move way beyond that.

So, as much as I'd like to be lazing about, my time is being spent frantically packing. I've had to go ahead and hire a mover realizing that I just can't move everything on my lonesome, especially from the second floor of an apartment complex. My youngest son can't help with any lifting anyway. I hate having to spend the money for a moving company but now that I have one, I do feel less stressed. I'm still doing all the packing on my own and some of the moving to save as much of the cost as possible.

I'm planning on using the first few weeks after the boys are in school to unpack, sort and organize a new household. That will end up being a vacation for me and that I am looking forward to. But for now I have to keep at this unpleasant chore.

Even with my best intentions of getting rid of possessions, it is amazing that I do have so much stuff! I'm not happy about owning so much. What I'm finding as I sort through everything, is that what means the most to me are those items not worth anything monetarily - photos, scrapbooks, family videos, the ceramic pots my sons made, and their trophies.

My sons both took a number of ceramics classes in high school. For some reason, all the pots, vases and bowls they made tended to be green and blue. So I've decided to use them all as the focal point for the living room of my new home. I'm going to emphasize decorating with what I most love and will try to keep things uncluttered and simple. I can't wait for the day I unpack those pots. I want them to be the first thing I see when I open the front door and look into my home. I will be sure to post a photo.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Unmotivated and Hot, so Hot!

Garden Inspiration
I long to have a garden next summer and am hoping that by that time I am rested, restored and reinvigorated enough to have the energy to create one. As of now, I am unmotivated and very, very hot. This summer's heat wave has not been a good thing in regard to moving. The apartment is often 95 degrees even with the air on and I just can't get my energy up to start going through stuff and then packing it. This move has me feeling utterly overwhelmed to the point of inaction. I just don't want to have to do anything "hard" again on my own. 

My last move, a heavy box feel on my foot and although it was probably not broken, I was unable to walk for a good two weeks. I was so bruised over my body as well from the physical carrying and lifting of boxes. I remember the physical and emotional exhaustion of that time, and quite frankly am resisting going back there. I know I am a broken record about this but doing everything on one's own 24/7 doesn't in my opinion make someone stronger - I just feel myself getting weaker and now just totally wanting to escape from the responsibility of yet another major task solo.

I wish I could leave all my possessions and belongings behind - literally not have to deal with them. But that is not practical or possible because I don't have the money to be able to buy new furnishings and such. 

I know that I should just start packing up a box - anything, anywhere, just do something. But I seem to be stalling til the last minute. I truly feel emotionally and physically drained from the experiences over the years involving my husband's illness, death and then only parenting. I need some advice on how to quickly regain some fighting spirit to get me through this move and will consult with my counselor tomorro

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hope for a Safe Landing

Summer Planter

Mood has been widely fluctuating as of late. Am glad I have started to speak with a counselor. Her take on things is that #1 Widowhood is a very lonely road, #2 Now that I've successfully raised the boys and they are both off to college, there is no one to thank me, appreciate my efforts or celebrate with me and #3 since I have more time to think, now that the focus is off getting both boys out of high school in this community, my mind can wander and go back to grief/loss/anger issues. She likened it to a door that has been closed now opening, meaning that I'd put some of the issues I need to deal with aside in lieu of concentrating on raising my sons.

I continue to just feel drained and exhausted. What is really getting me down is the prospect of moving in a few weeks - the actual physical packing and so on. I am really so sick and tired of facing all these major life transitions on my own. At the end of May I dealt with my youngest son's shoulder surgery. My close girlfriend had her ex-husband with her in the waiting room when her son had the exact same surgery back in January. She said she needed him there and wouldn't have been able to get through it on her own. Well, I can say she would have made it through because I got through it alone. She kindly offered to be there with me but then a conflict at her job arose. I insisted that she not take a day off from work. In fact, I told her that I have gotten used to being on my own. And maybe that is true that I'm used to it but it doesn't mean I have to like it.

So I'll get through the packing, hauling and moving. I have to. What needs to get done does get done. And in the meantime, I want to be more hopeful and positive about the future. To focus on new beginnings and all that. I will close by relating that I hope the future brings with it some stability. When I was married I felt content, secure and stable. Widowhood has brought with it such disparity and instability. Marriage was predictable for the most part - I knew what to expect and if something unusual came up, at least I had a partner with me to help navigate the unknown.

So I think simply by its nature, that widowhood is an erratic and unique experience. Here I am, having to make another major move during a time of intense transition (becoming an empty-nester). I am envious of married folks who haven't lost their homes and had to pack up their lives and possessions. That experience in and of itself has been a pretty damming one in my life.

Widowhood for me has been like falling off this cliff - the past years I've tried vainly to land someplace safe but I think that I've only been able to grab a temporary stronghold until that has broken loose and I've fallen again. I do so dearly hope, that this next chapter will allow me to land someplace a little more firmly so I can create a measure of peace and stability greatly desired and needed.

I am also somewhat frustrated by the huge range of emotions I feel widowhood and now this new transition have brought with it. I am trying to spin the situation positively but at the same time seem so overcome by what is coming out with the empty-nest stuff. The turmoil that goes on internally in all directions, the ups and downs of this life situation can be hard to face and manage.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


My First Car
Some weeks back I saw this car in a parking lot and snapped the photo because it is the same car I drove 25 years ago! What a hoot! Back then, as today, I was environmentally conscious and drove a tiny stick-shift compact. I stopped driving it and updated to a stick-shift sedan for safety reasons after I had my sons.

When I flipped through my photos to select one for this post, this one made me smile. Despite how trying life can be, at least I have progressed to a better car at present! I will say though, that I did love that little blue first car. I only had to fill the gas tank twice a month. And it always got me to my destination. When my husband drove it though, he got teased by other men and always told them it was his wife's car. So this photo brought back a memory that made me smile again.

This morning, the head of the social work department at a major university kindly spent about 45-minutes with me on the phone discussing my defunct degree situation. He told me that he is aware of a few other individuals in the same position and it is a lousy one, pure and simple. His suggestion is that I go back to school to obtain another counseling psychology degree but I just refuse to do that. He also strongly advised me against going back for a BA - every educational professional I have spoken to has agreed with that. It is just not worth the hassle of completing gen eds and it would be difficult being in classes when I am at a different educational/professional level than my peers.

I admitted that I truly feel like weeping over this. Here I am, finally ready and able to work in my profession and I will not be able to fully realize that potential without more education, which I thought I had obtained years ago. I do figure that I can obtain a social services job somewhere, but I will not be able to counsel clients or work independently which is my professional goal.

Tomorrow morning I have my first counseling appointment where I can bring up the empty-nest and defunct degree dilemmas. I am curious and hopeful to receive some professional guidance.

The kind department head made a very nice comment to me. As I was explaining the situation and why I'd taken time off from my career, he replied that what I had done in caring for my boys and devoting my focus and energy toward them was indeed very admirable. I need to remember that often. That what I did wasn't for naught and it has had meaning.

Maybe part of my discontent right now has to do with my desire to be out there full force and back in the saddle again. It is hard to realize that changes may take time to achieve. I didn't get into this situation overnight and certainly I can't expect to have my life up and running overnight.

There is also the aspect of change. I recently read that human beings have a great deal of difficulty with change. We dislike it and try and avoid it much of the time in lieu of keeping the status quo. I think about all the changes made to my life because of widowhood and I can agree with hating change. Widowhood changes were forced on me. It again feels like more changes are being forced because of my sons growing up and moving off to college. Despite how difficult life has been the past few years, there is some reluctance in letting it go because of fear of the future and the unknown. Once those boys are dropped off at college in August, my life will not be familiar. I suppose that is adding to the angst of my emotions right now.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Taking Summer Stock

Grilling Season
Today I woke up with the intention of forcing myself to face the day. Groaning and moaning aren't going to accomplish anything. I am working on some financial aid matters for my youngest and even called for some information about school for me. Again, I was informed of the same bad news - my master's degree is essentially worthless and if I want to practice as a licensed counselor in Illinois, I'll have to get another master's in psych/counseling. The school I talked to today quoted me a cost of 60 grand for their 2-year program, which is of course out of the question at this point. I will have to attend a state school for financial reasons if I do decide to go back.

The reality of this news is just crushing me. I knew about this a few years back but was able to keep it away some distance by concentrating on parenting my sons. Now that I'll be facing the job market this issue needs to be confronted head-on. I can't keep it at bay any longer. My career goal is to be able to have my own practice in the areas of grief/elder care. But to accomplish that I'll have to get training/education. 

The empty-nest transition I'm looking at dead in the eye would be easier I think if I had a career or job to hang on to. But I'm hitting this empty-nest life without one, along with moving to a new community. I don't have a partner/husband/guy friend to help fill the soon-to-be free hours with time and attention either. I'm starting to feel scared and empty.

This is all becoming a bit more for me to bear on my lonesome. I called my health insurance plan this a.m. to see if I have mental counseling coverage and my plan allows for UNLIMITED coverage. So I got a local referral so I can start talking to someone about all these changes to my life. I will post about any revelations related to longer-term widowhood and the transitions that result.

Interestingly, I am becoming very teary-eyed of late. I feel as though I am emotionally regressing. I have strong feelings of anger about my husband's death, which you'd think after 8 years would have lessened. Now that I don't have the boys to think about so much, my mind is going back to the bad stuff. I feel such sadness and loss that my husband isn't here to share in the boys' academic successes. And I am also upset and cross about feeling so tired and worn down. I think the real RX is a vacation STAT!

But anyway, I'll update about any new developments to mood and outlook.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cumulative Effects

This is going to be a crappy post - be forewarned - you don't have to read if you're looking for positive stuff. That's just not in me today. Over the years I've gotten a fair share of criticism that these posts are far too negative. So I feel guilty for blogging. And then I feel a need to explain myself. Which I don't really think is necessary. I mean this is my blog, my posts, my thoughts. I should be able to do whatever I want with this. But I guess I do want to clarify that for the most part I try and put on a good game face - most of the time. There are still times like this though when like the photo of the tree, I just feel so broken, down and out - dispirited and lonely. Sick and tired of holding up the fort for the boys and I, weary of the day-to-day doing it all on my own...

Then the tide shifts and I'm back at it with more confidence and strength. Though the point is, I think that people do break down from the load. They snap and tumble. There seems to be this belief (false) that widows need to keep strong and at it. Whenever I break and fall it is like I have failed and people aren't sympathetic - sometimes even other widows. "Too bad," I say. This is the nature of extended widowhood. All the crap about becoming stronger because you have to do everything on your own. Years ago I used to respond to that silly phrase "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" with the exact opposite - "What doesn't make you stronger does indeed kill you." Or maybe I should say instead of killing you, weakens you. 

 Widowhood can be a very wearying life because of the emotional and physical intensity involved. It is taxing. I have nothing positive to say about the widowhood experience. Hence, since I'm blogging about long-term widowhood, my posts tend to have a negative vibe. This has begun to really bother me. Maybe it is better to stop posting - I've struggled with this on and off since I've been posting. But I will leave that contemplation for another time.

Here in greater Chicago suburbia, we were hit with a violent storm last Sunday that knocked out power for many for days - til Thursday! Our community fire works and 4th of July parade and celebrations were all cancelled, which was sad. Then there was the excessive heat - a record of 3, 100-degree days in a row for this area. The heat was hellish. It made me think about extremes. Since widowhood, I have just hated anything that is extreme - frigid cold that is 40 degrees below zero; 12 inch snow storms and in summer crazy storms and hideous heat. 

I just want life to be smooth sailing without the extremes - day after day of predictable 70 degree weather with no rain and only sun.

Someone recently reminded me that real life isn't like this - for most of us, it involves dealing with major bumps along the road. Upon thinking about this I believe for me, that I don't do well handling significant stress (bumps in the road) on my own. In school I always preferred working in a group vs. on my own. The same for marriage or being in a relationship. Even in high school/college, I did not like being alone and sought out relationships.

When last Sunday's storm hit, I thought it was a tornado and I was frightened. Part of me inside said, "Oh no, I have to deal with this alone - I don't want to do this alone - I want someone here beside me helping me figure out what to do. I want and need someone to provide mutual comfort and support."

I think a lot of this current state of mind comes from my starting to become even more freaked out by both my sons going off to college. The realization that I will really be living alone, on my own, in a home completely alone for most of the year is really dawning on me. All these years I've been so focused on my boys and getting them raised on my own - that was my main job and occupation. And I realize now that for the most part I won't have that daily focus anymore. I've been alone in parenthood the past years but now I'm going to be really, really alone. This transition is disconcerting to me. 

I read recently that some people "hide" behind their marriages. Perhaps I'm guilty of hiding behind my parenting. It did become a focus and source of my energy to go on after my husband's death. I've put pretty much all of my focus and energy into it. So I am realizing that there isn't a lot of substance remaining in terms of a job or friends or new partner. Of course I am aware that now I will have the freedom and energy to devote time to myself - meet new friends, maybe travel a bit, have fun, be a little selfish, explore job options. And that is exciting and good. 

But bottom line, there is still loss involved in this new phase of my life. And along with "extremes," I'm not up for more loss. My personal insight into that comment about everyone having to face stress in life and bumps along the road, is that of course that is true. But maybe the difference between facing the bumps or "extremes" as I am feeling them is that life can be easier faced with the love, support and hands of others be they partners, family or friends. Facing life endlessly alone isn't healthy or productive. Widows hopefully can call on others for some support and help. But there is still a gap - like those 10 minutes of experiencing 90-per-mile winds alone.

Well, I could go on and on in this vein because it is one of those things that doesn't really have an immediate resolution. It is what it sadly is.

The heat wave broke late last night and it is about 83 degrees right now. Yeah! As it is in nature, the storm passes and normalcy is restored. I've vented and released some of the fear and sadness I'm experiencing about this new phase of my life. I just remembered something the weather people kept referring to over the week - "cumulative effects of the heat." Our bodies keep increasing the effects of the heat over time leading to more stress and strain on our systems. The same could be likened to widowhood and its cumulative effects as well.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Creating Intimacy

Two by Two

When I was married, I never felt alone. I had an adult partner to talk to, interact and sleep with. My husband was a companion and helpmate, a co-parent. Since his death I have realized that in order to have emotional interactions with others, I have to make the effort to create intimacy. It just isn't there like it was when I lived with a married partner. I have also since realized the great necessity we all have for emotional intimacy. I believe it is a deep human need and truly important for our emotional well being, health and survival.

It is hard to always have to create what we need. It becomes a job, an effort. I have been reflecting on these feelings since an encounter with a fellow widow, a mom my age of two daughters, both in college. We have been trying to get together for about a year now. She has been widowed five years to my eight. I was really looking forward to talking to her, especially about her empty-nest experiences and feelings.

This woman was at a recent graduation party I attended and I made a point to set up a "date." She invited me to her home for a pizza dinner. Now her sister overheard us making our plans and "invited" herself to join us. The woman looked about as distressed as I felt with this development - we had wanted an opportunity to talk and relate privately about our lives with someone on our same page. She assured me that she would take care of her sister so we could meet alone.

When I showed up at her home I was actually angry and bitter to see the sister there. I felt irritated and resentful. It took a few moments for me to compose myself and go with the flow so I had a decent evening. Then to top it off, the widow's mom showed up as well! But by that time I was resigned to the situation. Fellow widow and I didn't get the opportunity to share and support one another. The conversation flowing was more general than I hoped. Widow's youngest daughter was there too and we talked a lot about her Freshman year experience.

But what I had really hoped for was some time to let my hair down with another widow and compare notes so to speak. This didn't happen and it made me sad because it is difficult to arrange intimate encounters - they don't occur every day and it seemed that an opportunity had been lost to uplift two widows in need.

This other widow has a very close and supportive family and that was sure evident. I thought that her family was actually kind of intrusive and I had to control myself from speaking my mind. What would I have said? Probably something along the line of people needing to be more considerate of a widow's need to vent with someone who shares her circumstances. I also would have said something about how married people have a built-in intimacy factor, even if they aren't particularly close. Just living with another adult under the same roof    provides some level of intimacy. My divorced girlfriend has become so aware of this that it is difficult for her to be in social situations where the wives put down their hubbies. She actually has to leave if this happens.

This whole situation just soured me. We'd all just been together at the graduation party so this was supposed to be a time of private healing for fellow widow and I. Instead, it was just another group event without the one-on-one intimacy I crave and miss in my current life. There was definitely irritation at the sister who is married and invited herself to join us - a sort of mean reaction by me against this woman for not being able to get past what she needed (selfishness).

As I left for the evening, fellow widow whispered to me that we'd go out to dinner next time alone. Hopefully we can manage to get together sooner than the year it took last time.