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One bit of advice I ran across in several places for adjusting to my new life as a widow was "Find some new interests, something fresh that you enjoy and that never involved your partner."
Well. Hmph. This wasn't going to be easy. We had always had a few separate interests and activities, in addition to those we shared. But even my old independent activities didn't hold much interest for me in that first sorry year. Finding something that would motivate me enough to get dressed and step out the door was a heck of big challenge.
Plus, as a senior citizen with some health issues, I had limits. No bungee jumping, no jitterbug marathons, no backpacking through the mountains. In fact, anything much tougher than driving to the library or dialing room service in a good hotel was pretty much beyond me. Interesting events that took place across the San Francisco Bay were difficult, because it's hard to go any place in the city without having to walk at least 4 blocks--about 2 over my capacity, and forget climbing those hills. Anything that involved being on my feet for more than ten minutes was out of the question.
The activities search was getting too hard to follow up on. In stressful times I hide in books. Especially old favorites. I stood staring at my bookshelves, hoping they'd either give me inspiration for what to do next or a different world I could crawl into in my imagination for a little longer. I'd already re-read most of my old favorites. I wandered over to another bookcase. Ah, here was a world I hadn't visited in a while. Three whole shelves of novels about Vikings--warrior Vikings, comic Vikings, romantic Vikings, explorer Vikings. What would it be?
Why Vikings? When I was growing up, Dad made a big point of reminding us kids we were descended from Vikings. He impressed on us how strong, brave, and resourceful those people were. Their reputation as bloodthirsty pirates was a bad rap laid on them by people they conquered. And it's true, if you look into the history, as I had, they weren't any worse than a lot of other people rampaging around in the Middle Ages. In fact, in some ways, they were better. They bathed oftener, their women had more rights and freedom, they had a more equitable justice system, their slaves had more ways to become free. Most Norse in that period were fishermen, farmers and traders, not raiders and looters. As is often the case, a few bad apples gave everybody a bad name.
In fact, I had looked into their history so thoroughly that the next bookcase over, 7 feet tall, 3 wide, 8 shelves, was packed with nonfiction books and DVDs about Vikings. A lot of it concentrated on women. Those gals had to be strong, tough, smart, and resourceful just to stay alive in those days. Not to mention the way they had to take over and run the family farm or conduct business when the men were on sea voyages that sometimes lasted years, or when their men died.
Gee. That was something like what I faced, wasn't it? I needed to be more like a Viking woman. I could almost feel Dad prodding me in the back.
It so happened that I had run across a local group of Viking re-enactors a few years ago. They seemed like pretty nice people. They had a lot of fun, and it was one place I could indulge my interest in all things Viking without boring the socks off people who didn't care about Norse history. I still had their website listed in my Favorites folder. John hadn't been interested in men who dressed up in furs and leather and pretended to fight with spears and axes, and I'd had so many other things going on in my life then, I'd lost touch with the group.
But hey. I had next to nothing going on now. And I needed to become like a Viking woman. So why not give it a whirl? This could be my new interest. I could really be a Viking woman.
I found the group's website and e-mailed the leader. He remembered me and was most welcoming and enthusiastic. They always wanted new members, especially women, and they had a couple of events coming up, could I be ready and participate? And what would my persona be, the character I would assume for my role?
Caught up by his energy, and a bit giddy with my own daring, I thought fast. They had female warriors, but I wasn't fit for that role. I didn't want to be the dull old woman sitting in the background winding yarn on a spindle, or have nothing at all to do. One of my main interests in Viking cullure is the mythology and religious beliefs, and I had recently read some interesting accounts of the seidr women, a sort of combination priestess and fortune teller. So I asked him, could they use a seidr woman?
By Thor, he was over the moon. None of the other groups on the West Coast had their own seidr woman. The only one he knew of was back in the Midwest somewhere. Did I have my costume yet, they had a presentation at the Sons of Norway Lodge next weekend, and the Norway Days Festival in San Francisco next month. I didn't have to drive myself, they'd pick me up, and I'd have a stool to sit on. An accurate costume wasn't necessary, just throw together something that would blend in, and they'd pick me up.
My goodness. I'd done it now. Bowled over by the novelty of someone being so excited to include me, I'd gone and said yes. Now what the heck was I going to do about a costume?