moving on

I have spent the better part of today going through stacks of papers, trying to decide what should be kept, what can be recycled, and what needs to be shredded. I think that shredding as an activity ranks right up there with monthly faculty meetings and cleaning the bathroom. Mind-numbing and faintly disgusting. But, until modern life becomes the truly paperless utopia it secretly deludes itself that it already is, sorting, storing and shredding are just one of several downsides to be an adult. Not a grown-up, mind you, but an adult. Adult is a term that recognizes the number of years spent living and breathing (and for some of us those years were spent breathing more than living) but to be grown-up means to have come to terms with the downs as well as the ups of attaining the age of legality. And, I think, acting accordingly.

Having exhausted the shredder, which now sits idly as I wait for it to cool down, I am left to ponder how the room consuming piles I had this morning have, being lessened, managed to take on an even more unkempt appearance. A lesson to be learned about organization is that it is always more chaotic before order is restored. In my case, this isn’t quite true. My ideas about order could unhinge even the most bohemian soul, but it (mostly) works for me.

My Facebook profile of late has stated that “Ann is currently attempting to force organization on her life.” This is only partly true. There is order, of sorts and even routine. It just still seems that some days I am not making headway though where I think I am going is a mystery. I am where I want to be, but, and this should be unsurprising, I am still the same haphazard person I was before baby and dying husband supposedly infected me with disorganization. Who knew? Well, I did. I like to imagine that I cleaned more often and had all my important papers sorted, labeled and safely stored. I really didn’t clean but once a week and since it was just me, it was pretty easy, and I have always filed horizontally. Even at school. I remember one time when I was teaching eighth grade Language Arts, a student came in at the beginning of class and remarked upon how wonderful it was to be able to see the top of my desk. And she was one of my nice students. I am order challenged, then and now. Still I somehow retain the fantasy of clean and put away.

Shredding is like cleaning toilets though and on a scale of one to ten, it is a two when it comes to increasing efficiency and aiding the quest for order. It’s dusty, dull and intermediary because even when you have finished shredding, you still have shreds with which to deal. It is a task that forces you to actually read and assess the worth of the items Many of the papers concerned medical issues of my late husband’s and paperwork that was generated by his stay in the nursing home and then hospice. Lots of application copies and consent forms. Nothing heart rendering but there comes a time when you wonder where the end of the paper trail is. Though some people refer to the process of downsizing official files about their loved ones’ illnesses and/or deaths as “shredding their lives” for me, my life is and was more than a stack of wood pulp. Rendering them confetti doesn’t signify literally or even metaphorically a loss of my past. Memories are not that easily gotten rid off. I suppose for some their is a finality to getting rid of old papers (or clothing or anything tangible really) but most stuff is just stuff. In my personal frame of reference there are only a few items that hold meaning to deep to allow them be destroyed or cast away.

Still, even minus drama the kind of burrowing in today’s efforts entailed is taxing. In the end though, it is better to divest oneself of the literal baggage of the past, good and bad, on a more regular basis then we do. It is an exercise in growth as well as space saving.

The saying goes something like “life is what happens while you were making other plans”. One of those walks, talks and quacks like a duck cliches whose truth you can’t deny. Life doesn’t tolerate back seat drivers, and that is what most of us our. If you aren’t going to get into the driver’s seat then I guess you shouldn’t be surprised at where you end up. Bad analogy? Not really. You have only so much control when you are driving. You are governed by traffic laws, weather and road construction. Life throws up its own versions of roadblocks and it has its own set of rules, one of them being mortality. There is an endpoint to every journey and life is no different.

A common theme among the widowed is a sense of the surreal when assessing their lives. Places that once seemed as familiar as your own face suddenly are as unrecognizable as the face that stares back at you from the mirror each day.  The strong desire to let yourself drift along fights a daily battle with the sense that where you are heading is not someplace you would have ever chosen to be. It reminds me of that Talking Heads song,

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack

And you may find yourself in another part of the world

And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful


And you may ask yourself-well…how did I get here? 

It’s easier to let things happen to you than to take charge and change your life or in the case of being widowed, salvage it and start over. I have seen many a person just give up and bend over. And why not? It’s effortless Being a victim of circumstances may suck but it doesn’t require any planning or major expenditures of anything other than the willingness to prostrate yourself before every ill that comes your way. And I suspect (actually I know) that those of us who do not fire up the GPS and look for a new route have probably always ridden at the back of the bus. How does the chorus go?

Same as it ever was…same as it ever was…same as it ever was…

Same as it ever was…same as it ever was…same as it ever was…

Same as it ever was…same as it ever was…

One of the founders of the WET widow group back in Iowa, Sandy Searcy, suggested that I start a widows group when I was settled in up here. Rob has even brought the idea of my doing that up from time to time, but like my working with At-Risk students, I would eventually find it too difficult to be supportive in that benign Oprah-ish way. Eventually I would start kicking asses and I won’t add “in a loving and supportive manner” because I doubt that it would be perceived in that manner. Some people are too much the author of there post-disaster lives for me to muster sympathy enough to mask my total frustration with them. While I can completely empathize with the need to sort things our, I can’t understand letting your life go down the shitter while you are assessing and reorganizing.

There is another song by a group called Switchfoot that I began listening to after Will died. It talked about how the past is over. There is no “do over” and in the now you have to take stock and ask yourself the hard question.

this is your life, are you who you want to be

this is your life, are you who you want to be

this is your life, is it everything

you dreamed that it would be

when the world was younger and you had everything to lose

I am not always the decisive, move ahead person I portray myself to be. I have moments when I am stuck and exasperating as my husband can attest to, but even when I don’t have the answers and the GPS is down, I have a sense of the need to know, to think, to reevaluate and to move. Even if the move is lateral, as long as its not back, it’s all good.

why I dance

Image by bluedance via Flickr

I have actually been working on a new entry on and off all day. It’s about soul mates. Something I don’t really believe in, which I think is almost heretical for a widowed person to say. But when have I ever followed the widow herd? Okay, maybe there were times when I did,  but certainly not meekly.


It is nearly done, the soul mates entry, but I am too tired to finish and post it tonight. The weekend was long. Getting my house ready for sale has been emotionally draining. Dee has been whiny for several days and finally had a little meltdown this evening. She is ready to start moving forward too it seems as she cried for her “daddy” Rob and her “big sister” Mick at the same time.


On the board today I have made several attempts to stem the tide of negativity about dating in general and men in particular. But it did no good. There is no choir there to back me up. When you learn to sing well enough, you leave.


Why don’t I?


I guess I feel I still have things to say, though it is mostly just trying to be a positive example of what can be for those who aren’t far into the journey. I remember when I first started posting. I looked purposely for anyone who had something hopeful to say. I am not a freak in that respect.


The house lists officially tomorrow. Another step in a forward direction.