So it will be no surprise to my dear readers (as opposed to the gawkers from the YWBB) that my blog was transformed into a circus sideshow in the latter half of the week. I protested but to no avail. Read Full Article
My horoscope yesterday said that I would encounter many people who were looking at the down side of life and would do their best to turn me to the dark side. It reminded me that this is against my natural inclinations and that they would likely not succeed. I have not been buoyant like this my whole life though. Although I have always returned to the sunny-side, in the past it has taken me longer to rebound then it does these days. Which brings me to my current dilemma. How to give back without undoing my own progress or annoying others. And I have to admit the latter is the minor concern because I am really done apologizing for the road I have taken as a caregiver and a widow.
As we tooled around the city yesterday running errands, Rob and I discussed again the hospice group situation. He is in a place where he feels that he is not interested in adding any more widows to his acquaintance. I see his point. The newly widowed are draining because they dredge up all sorts of memories and emotions. Extra care must be taken when sharing with them to avoid making them feel as though they are grieving incorrectly or that encourages them to believe that grieving is an end in itself. On the other end there is the problem of widows close to or past your vintage who are mired by circumstances beyond their control, or by choice, and see you as a model of all that is *DGI about grieving and grief. I want to continue with the group. I think I have things to say and share that might be helpful as the woman who is leading the group is not a widow and their are things about grief that are specific to the loss. Perhaps Rob is right that this is not the time or place. We are finding our strides more and more and have a big move again and maybe not the energy to spare. What to do. What to do. Think on it and wait and see, I guess.
Personally, I am not sure why I feel like I need to give back anymore. My success with it so far has been decidedly mixed. Sandi, the founder of the WET grief group back in Iowa, thought I was pretty good at offering advice and empathy. She suggested that I think about starting a group of my own when I got to Canada (or maybe Texas now) but the idea is daunting. She is a very religious person which is why, I think, she was able to bring together such a diverse group of women without a lot of drama popping up. I am not sure that is me. My solution to diversity and drama when I was teaching was to simple suppress it like they did in the former Soviet Union. No drama allowed. And haven’t I given back enough? Another question to ponder.
Finally, reading sad posts on the YWBB (or flames) and blogs and listening to grief stories and experiences in group reminds me that I am not there anymore really and don’t want to be. I am somewhere else that is not back where I was before either and I don’t know how to explain to people who need to know the directions to this place how to get here. And on that completely incomprehensible note, I need to get dressed and on with my day as groceries need to be bought and a new pair of hockey skates need to be broken in later this afternoon. Priorities, people.
*DGI – Don’t Get Its is a derogatory term used to refer to the non-widowed when they make inadvertent statements about grief or timelines to the widowed. It is a reference to their insensitivity that is generally unwarranted.
In the Edmonton Journal Friday there was an article about government agencies, political groups and corporations that have been tampering with information they find objectionable on the Wikipedia site. Apparently Wikipedia has a program created by Virgil Griffiths, an Alabama-born Cal Tech grad student, that allows the site to track those who come there to add or edit the various articles there. Among the addresses associated with tampering with/deleting information Wikipedia discovered isp’s belonging to the CIA, the National Democratic Party, the Church of Scientology, a voting machine supplier named Diebold and the Vatican. Persons using these particular addresses were deleting or changing information that might be seen as unfavorable to their organization, or in the case of the CIA, simply vandalizing entries. I would like to say I am shocked to hear that the Democratic congressional Campaign Committee had added information to the entry on Rush Limbaugh calling him an “idiot”, a “racist” and a “bigot” or that the reference to his listeners as being “legally retarded” was a mistake, but I’m not. Anonymity brings out unacceptable and even herd mentality in the most mature adults when it comes to message boards or any public internet space where people are allowed, encouraged even, to voice their opinions and views. I was recently reading an article on MSNBC about immigration and clicked on the chat option to see what other readers were thinking about what they had read and was again not particularly surprised to learn that most of them were thinking that a previous poster in the conversation was a complete moron or worse.
Back in the day when I was watching soap operas I would frequent the ABC boards in hopes of picking up spoilers on different story-lines or characters but instead often ran across vehement and vicious arguments between regular posters over some of the most banal topics which is quite a feat when the topic to begin with is a soap opera. Name calling and character assassination was the norm and the idea of a civilized debate or even agreeing to disagree was considered foreign if not completely absurd. It’s interesting to me how easily we can dehumanize the being on the other side of the broadband and convince ourselves that they are not entitled to the same type of polite deference that would apply in a room full of people having the exact same conversation. Though I know that there are people whom face to face interaction is no deterrent, and who would think nothing of arguing and belittling those who disagreed with them or questioned their behavior, most people are not of that nature and yet are just as easily sucked in to the most appalling confrontations once they are seated at a keyboard. I guess it is no different than email which, if I am to believe the authors of the new book on email etiquette, is also a means of behaving like high schoolers in a clique war.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone. The internet has made it possible for vast numbers of diverse populations to gather and share information, form relationships and bridge the geographical obstacles that keep us from being the one rather gigantic community that we make up as members of the human race. The tipping point for a manageable community is about 150 people. Past that loyalty limits are exceeded and tension and strife set in. Many internet communities, certainly Wikipedia, exceed that by many times. Perhaps it is truly our nature to be aggressive and adversarial like animals who mark and guard their territories. Or maybe, we are just egocentric beings who only interact peaceably in the face of external pressures that society creates for us and the internet is still the cyber equivalent of the wilds, the last untamed frontier. Ultimately it really doesn’t matter why, but it is certainly disheartening and not in the least surprising which might be the most depressing thing of all.
I guess I could try to be remorseful about feelings that are inadvertently hurt when I base my advice or responses to queries on my own experiences rather than adhering to the accepted standards of the majority. Which rules by the way. Most emphatically. But, everything I know about widowhood, surviving in general really, I learned from my family. The standard response to death (or lesser tragedy or even just upheaval) was that life goes on, and no one can live your life for you. If you have issues, deal with them. If you need help, ask. Whining is okay but be prepared for solutions to be offered when you do, and be equally be prepared to be told to knock it off if you are “all whine and no work”. Grief is never over, but living isn’t over either until you’re dead yourself.
In the beginning, people play the event, or events, over and over. As if in doing so they can change the outcome. Then comes the unrelenting pain and despair that just guts you. That doesn’t last though. Eventually, what trips us all up is living again. And that is where people get stuck. How do I do such and such now that XYorZ has happened? The answer is, of course, differently. From many of us this answer is compounded with….alone. It’s easy from there to allow yourself to slip from grief to self-pity and finally into learned helplessness, but it is not inevitable.
From day one of Will’s illness, I was a problem solver because I had to be. Did I whine. Yep, a lot. Was I a drama queen? Sure, often. Were people patient with me? Most assuredly they were. When it was clear that was what I needed, they were there to listen, and when it was just as clear I was past my “born on date” for a particular issue, I was told that too and in no uncertain terms. And was I appreciative. No. But, it usually brought me back to my senses, and I found a solution to whatever was plaguing me, or I learned to wait it out. Make a plan and work towards it. Can anyone do that? Most people can. Most people do. At a certain point past whatever their tragedy might be, and it’s not as long as some people think, most people begin to move forward. They have a goal. They make a plan. They put it into action, and they work at it and tinker with it until they reach that goal or discover they need a different one.
And I wasn’t always like this. For example, during the days when Will and I were struggling to have a baby, I found it easier to ask “why me?” and spin all manner of drama queen scenarios out of my frustration. I taxed people’s patience. Will’s especially. And I wish now that I had been mature enough, and secure enough in myself, to have approached things differently. I eventually pulled things together, worked a plan and we had Katy. But even as we went through that last IVF attempt, I had already mapped out a fall back plan. I was learning. Moving forward.
It’s not a magical day, the day you take those first steps. It’s just a day like the ones that led up to it, and the ones that follow. For me, the day I began my forward momentum in earnest after Will died, was the day before the first anniversary of his death. I sat in my kitchen and had a talk with him. It was time to move forward. I knew that and in a way he confirmed it for me. The heart rendering grief served no healthy purpose and even though it would have been easier to let it continue, it was time to stop.
The people I admire most worked early on to integrate their grief into their lives in a positive, future oriented way. They taught me all I know. They showed me when and how to use my life as an example. How empathy and compassion are healing for the giver and the receiver, and when the best thing you can do for someone is to tell them, it’s time to pick up the pieces and begin the process of putting life back together.
A friend is in the process of deciding to separate from her husband. It’s painful to me because I know how hard she has worked on her relationship and how much she wants to still be able to save it, and how badly she is hurting. I hope she can turn things around. At one point a few months back, when things were very rocky, she joked that it was a good things she had gotten a life insurance policy on her husband and that perhaps when she returned from vacation she would find he’d been in a car accident and killed. Problem solved. Of course she didn’t mean that. Didn’t mean it anymore than my mother did when she used to wish that my dad’s drinking would just kill him, so she wouldn’t have to put up with it anymore. Having lost my husband, statements like these, even when they aren’t meant, bother me a lot. I can’t imagine wishing that kind of pain on myself as a solution to a problem. Widowed people are often driven to distraction by the marital complaints, griping of any kind really, of their family, friends, coworkers and total strangers overheard at the grocery. It bothered me a lot too in the beginning too, but now I just marvel at their naivete. These people are lucky to be able to “whine”. Lucky to be so innocent. Lucky to have not been so sorely tested. Now I am bothered much more by those who have been where I have been and still can waste time on the most trivial of things. Life is too short to choose to chase your tail on a regular basis. I can listen to someone talk about their spouse, their sadness , their attempts to redefine their lives forever, but I can’t listen to these same people on subjects that aren’t that big of a deal because they are fixable. Ot understand how everything in life is suddenly the direct result of being widowed. Most problems that arise have solutions if you take the time to sit and figure them out.
I guess it all boils down the that “eye of the beholder” thing I have written about in other entries. What I see as surviving, someone else sees as “getting over”. What I consider a mole hill is the Andes to someone else. Still, in my opinion, it’s better to push through and take what control you can, rather than let the events of your life sweep you along to places you might have a hard time getting back from.
Sometimes I wonder if I am too abstract and random (a neat trick for a concrete random by the way) for others to follow when I try to explain my feelings about personal responsibility and owning one’s own life, or if perhaps most adults really do read on a 6th grade level. I actually hope it is the former because it’s too depressing to contemplate the latter. From an educator’s point of view. And from a selfish one. I really like communicating and sharing ideas and views via the written word and especially through the various sites and forums to which I belong. Still, there is the occasional misinterpretation and though sometimes I believe it is an intentional disconnect for the purpose of starting an argument, it’s usually just a case of lack of clarity. Maybe I should have used more or different examples. Perhaps I didn’t preface my words properly. I suppose that just because I know what I said, and my husband/editor has given it the thumbs up, doesn’t mean that anyone else will be able to decipher my decidedly non-mainstream thoughts on things, generally and specifically.
Of course there is the other problem of me on the page as opposed to me in person. I have a tendency, when I write informally, to write like I talk. Which, sans facial expression, eye contact, tone and voice inflection and body language (which gives me away most often though my husband has commented on my occasional ability to pull off a poker face) gets me in trouble. A lot. But I am going to suppose, for the moment, that perhaps it’s them and not me at all. Why? Because I suspect it is really.
I am not a mystery. My likes and dislikes and viewpoints on just about anything are not buried dead-center in a Sphinx-like tomb in the Valley of the Kings. I say pretty much what I think when I think it and never hide behind aliases or pseudonyms or non de plumes or whatever other term there might be for being cowardly when your opinions differ or make you “not one of us”. My shame, in my opinion and not the opinion of others who could probably list by the dozen things I should hang my head about, lies in not being articulate enough, or so it appears to me today, to simplify or explain my opinions to those who read them.
And every single person is a Slim Shady lurkin
He could be workin at Burger King, spittin on your onion rings
Or in the parkin lot, circling
Screaming “I don’t give a fuck!”
with his windows down and his system up
So, will the real Shady please stand up?
And put one of those fingers on each hand up?
And be proud to be outta your mind and outta control
and one more time, loud as you can, how does it go?
Somedays no matter what your intentions or how hard you try there is nothing you can do to stop the irrevocable slide into self-destruct mode.
It is sometimes easy to see the day coming, but often it smacks you from out of the blue.
And interestingly, sometimes you set the timer on the bomb yourself.
It happens, for me anyway, when frustration crowds out sense. Sometimes razzing the countryside is the more satisfying option especially when you are facing one of those no-win scenarios that even James T. Kirk couldn’t have cheated his way past.
I just don’t have the patience to think things through or wait and see anymore. Even though I know nothing is ever as cut and dried as it seems, I want it to be and act accordingly. Being sick and dealing with a sick child for the second day in a row doesn’t improve the visual field much either.
So, I acted out….in total opposition to my daily horoscope…. and with intent.