Sunday, February 27, 2011

Widowhood Blues: Relapse


If you read my blog about widowhood, you may think I've moved on with my life, put the grief behind me and learned to look on the sunny side. That's true...sometimes. Sometimes it's not. This weekend was one of those times when the widowhood blues surfaced again.

The occasion was the Bat Mitzvah of a young cousin. For those of you who don't know, a Bat Mitzvah is not just a party. It's a religious rite of passage, the first time a youngster (age 13, to be exact) is called upon to read from the Torah before the congregation and thus to take his or her place as an adult. It's celebrated over a two-day period, during Friday night and Saturday morning services and yes, then there is a party, usually on Saturday night.

I don't go to services often; it's hard to go alone. Strange, because I'm perfectly comfortable going other places alone--the movies, the symphony. But services are a family thing.

Nevertheless I went. Friday night was easy--it's sort of in for the service and out afterward. I saw some people I knew and stopped for brief chats. You'd think I'd see a lot of acquaintances, but my synagogue is one of the largest in the country. You could go for weeks and see no one you know.

Saturday morning is a much longer service, with the Torah reading as its centerpiece, and then a luncheon. I didn't see a soul I knew at lunch so I sat down at a table with a family who talked to only each other. Therefore I was dreading Saturday night--party time. Who would I sit with? Who would I talk to? Why wasn't Ralph still here? Would I be the only "loner?" I knew I wouldn't, but would I find any other solo partygoers in what would surely be a huge crowd? Bereft of my outgoing husband, what would I talk about--provided I could find someone to talk to. You'd think after more than five years as a widow, I'd have gotten over this. But the entire afternoon the loneliness of loss and the "Why me?" feeling washed over me. I didn't want to venture out. Finally I decided on a compromise: I'd go to the party for a little while and then skip out.

I drove to the party, missed the turned and thought, "I'll go home and tomorrow I'll send a note saying, "Sorry I didn't make it; I got lost." I really wasn't lost, I'd just driven too far down the street where the party was to be held. I forced myself to turn around and drive into the parking lot. Rock music spilled out the door, and I thought, "Oh, God. I'll have a headache, too."

The mother of the Bat Mitzvah girl welcomed me with a hug. "My Dad's over there," she said, pointing. "He's looking for you."

I found her dad and several other cousins I don't see very often. My nerves subsided; I was safe in a circle of relatives. Our thoughtful hosts seated us all together at a table in a quiet spot away from the band. We had lots to talk about--family updates, books, movies, the Oscars, trips. It was a lovely evening.

On the way home I was both pleased and angry with myself. Is being a widow like regressing to middle school--scared about attending a large party with lots of strangers? Or is this the continuation of the grief that pops up over and over again? Did I beat it? I'm not sure. If there hadn't been place cards, would I have wandered to a table and been miserable and lonely? At least I gave myself points for going.

Does this sort of thing happen to you?

And how do you handle it?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

February Books of the Month



Here are the books I read this month:
Mason, Zachary. The Lost Books of the Odyssey. A re-imagining (or rather many re-imaginings) of the Odyssey, all of them short. What if the Greeks had brought along, not Achilles himself, but a clay model? What if the "faithful" Penelope had remarried? What if Odysseus sat gazing at the sea on Circe's island, longing for a boat to help him escape, yet had all the materials for building a boat right in front of him?

Hillenbrand, Laura. Unbroken. Inspring story of courage during World War II. (See my review in last Thursday's post.)

Collins, Suzanne. Cathing Fire. Book 2 of the YA Hunger Games trilogy. Katmiss and Peeta must compete again in a special anniversary of the Hunger Games. By now, she has become the heroine of those who rebel against the autocratic government. Surprisingly timely. Think conflicts in the Middle East.

Leavy, Jane. The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood. If you love flawed heroes, if you love baseball, if you remember Mantle's playing days, you'll enjoy this book.

Chesterton, G.K. The Man Who was Thursday: A Nightmare. Listed as one of the best 100 books of the 20th century. A mixture of political novel, mystery, fantasy. It's a bizarre nod to Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz, with a pinch of The Book of Job thrown in. Free will, anarchy, God, nature--whatever. You'll find it here. You might invest in the Cliff Notes as well.

All the above are available from Amazon. Happy reading!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday Quotes: About Blogging



Your blog is your unedited version of yourself.

A blog is merely a tool that lets you do anything from change the world to share your shopping list.

Blogging is the new poetry.

Breathe. Know that the Internet has no eraser.



Game changing innovations are few and far between. They are usually simple concepts to describe, but when they arrive, it takes time to fully realize their importance and impact. Television was a game changer, mobile phones were a game changer, and blogging is also one.

If the principal thinks blogging isn't educational, he needs his head examined. He should be seeking out every student blogger in the school and giving them special time to blog more...and giving them extra credit besides.

Blogging is like sex. You can't fake it. You can't fake passion.


It is performance. Each blog post a show, sometimes an opera, sometimes a thirty-second commercial. Like a show, it may start with a bang, lead you along from song to song, have a great climactic moment, then leave the audience wanting more.

Blogs, social networks, newspapers, any other form of publication--all have social aspects to them. It is a spectrum really, with social networks at one extreme and a 19th century novel at the other.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why Blog?



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Someone asked me recently, "Why do you blog? Isn't it a waste of time? Isn't it pointless to "talk" to a bunch of people you don't even know? And isn't it dangerous to put yourself out there at the mercy of cyberstalkers or wierdos?"

Her comments made me ask the same question: Why do I blog? Aside from the fact that everybody's doing it, what's in it for me?

Perhaps you've asked yourself, too. If so, please share your answers.

Here are some of mine.





1. I began blogging soon after teaching a resource course for widows/widowers. My original intent was to share some of the resources I had collected with others who might find them helpful. It wasn't long before I realized that I was learning as much or more than I was teaching. My understanding of widowhood has deepened through interacting with other widows I've met online. My most recent widowhood course was way better than my first.




2. One of the gifts blogging has brought me is the opportunity to make new friends. These are people I might never get to know in real life--we're different ages, have different backgrounds, come from different parts of the country. True, we wouldn't recognize one another in a crowd, but blogging has brought us together, and we've bonded. And I haven't met a single wierdo through blogging. So there.




3. Blogging helps me think through and work through my experiences of widowhood. I have a deeper understanding of myself.






4. When I began, I thought my posts would be limited to widowhood, but I've included other topics as well to give some variety to my blog. And yes, I've included a post about my cats. (They didn't actually type it, but they did contribute their two cents).



5. As all writers know, blogging is a great way to expand your platform.



So I'll just keep blogging away. How about you?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday Review: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand



Unbroken was one of my vacation books. Pretty intense for vacation reading, but worth it. This book was riveting. It's the story of Olympic runner, Louis Zamperini, and his experiences during World War II as a bombadier in the Pacific. A kid who liked to get into trouble (mainly by stealing), he grew up to become a runner who might have been the first to break the four-minute mile, had not the war intervened.

On an Air Force search mission over the Pacific, his plane was shot down. He, the pilot, and one of the crew survived on a raft for 47 days, were then captured by the Japanese and subjected to incredible torture and humiliation. Yet he never gave up or gave in. He remained in a POW camp until he was liberated at the war's end. He struggled to return to normal life and did. He's now in his nineties and still going strong.

This was an amazing saga of survival and resilience against almost insurmountable odds. Why did I choose to review it here? Because it has something to teach us. Most of us have lived through tragedy, and it's scarred us. But Louie's story shows that we can stay strong and create something good with the time we have left in spite of what we've endured.

Not only is Louie a role-model for us, but so is the author Laura Hillenbrand. For many years she has suffered from severe chronic fatigue syndrome, sometimes so severe that she is unable to leave her room. Yet she has now authored two highly regarded books--this one and Seabisquit. Her strength of character and determination are, in their way, as impressive as Louie's.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Home Again!

I'm home again and slowly getting back to normal. The trip was great--volcanos, glaciers, mountains, and amazingly beautiful Buenos Aires. Alas, I didn't win the $100,000 Bingo pot on the ship, but I did win $13 from my sister in our ongoing Scrabble tournament.

I thought I'd share some photos of my trip:



Volcano near Puerta Montt, Chile


A friendly llama


Sunset from our cabin window

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Avenue of the Glaciers


Gentoo penguin in the Falklands


My sister and I near the dock in Montevideo, Uruguay


The cemetery in Buenos Aires
 

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