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Trying to change my thinking again

Just saw a movie recently where it was obvious the older woman could not let go of the past and I could see how that was hindering her progress in life. I know  sometimes that is so me.  I want things to be the way they were at some point in my life long gone that I considered looking back was the ideal life.  If that can't happen I think I want my present life to be based on that.  Well guess what?  that is never going to happen. When Ray had the stroke in 1999 I was 43,  working part-time, being a wife and mother and volunteering at a church close by. Our children either lived at home or a couple of suburbs away. I am never going to be in that situation again. I am an older widow, living a very different kind of life to what I had back then.

I don't know why but I thought living with your family close by was the ideal situation but I did. Of course I knew my kids would find partners and have families but saw Ray and I as the beloved grandparents with whom they would enjoy a great and close relationship. That was out of the question because of Ray's deficits, the after effects of the strokes. To begin with I did have the older two grandchildren once a week each until they went to school but as Ray got sicker and he needed more care that could not happen in the same way with the younger children. My two sons did stay close by while Ray struggled through the last few years of his life and that was good.  The younger one particularly was a great help and support to us both.  But eventually when Ray died they too moved away.  And that is the way it should be of course but that left me, a new widow, alone here.

And I do find life lonely now.  I fill my time up with all kinds of busyness and volunteering but at night when I close the door I am here alone and particularly these long nights in winter I find the time drags and it is very hard to fill those hours with worthwhile activities. And I do struggle with that. I love my family and would like to move closer to one of them but which one?  My daughter as an officer in the Salvation Army is subject to being moved around and the boys both live a long way away now, over 1140 kms away in two different directions.  So moving close to one of them would mean moving away from the friends I have here as well as further away from my daughter. I could make a move into a retirement village now I am 70, a lot of widows do that eventually, but I feel I am not ready for that yet.  I hope when the time comes that I will find somewhere that I can be happy with.                                    

I always imagined if something happened to Ray somehow someone else would come along and fill in that gap in my life, someone kind, who could put up with my nonsense as Dad used to call my "why can't it be like this?" mentality. Of course older widows like me have a lot of baggage and somehow I haven't found anyone who even remotely would be able to deal with that.  I have made a couple of new male friends and a few more female friends, mostly widows since Ray has been gone but no-one has become that special person in my life.  I did have a "special friend" for a while but although I still see him occasionally it is no longer with that status, he is just a friend now, someone to talk to for a while over coffee, we both find it easier that way.

So am I letting certain barriers in my life weaken my friendships?  I think I am. Just recently I realised I do put up barriers when I find my life going away from some of my set goals.  I can't fully explain what happens I just know I need to be more flexible on some issues.  I learned the art of compromise and negotiation when I worked full time but I guess in the last few years I have not used that as a practical way of getting to where I want my life to go.   I need to let go of some of my expectations and I need to see the potential in all kinds of relationships, using the insights I have learned through my work life, in the church and in my relationships outside of the family.  It is hard as you get older not to get judgmental I know and I sometimes fall into that trap. I need to take a step back and not expect others to have the same expectations that I have of life.

Winter does tend to give me more time to think and in a way to over-think issues. One of my friends, who has known me well for a number of years, if I go on like that will say:  "Why does it have to be like that?" and that is a good question I need to ask myself sometimes.  Does life have to be the way I think it is, should I try to get a second opinion on what I am currently thinking? I think the answer is "yes"..  And there in a nutshell is my problem.  To whom do I turn when I have a problem or need some advice?  The nearest person is my daughter but as a wife, mother, welfare worker, 20 odd years my junior does she have the right advice?  Probably not although as a person who knows me well she could have some insights perhaps.  I might try and get her alone and run some of this past her. Ask her what she would advise if I was a widow in her congregation.

Okay, I know a lot of this kind of thinking is being brought on by the shorter days, longer nights of this mid-winter season.  I am not on the whole a discontented person and rarely appear like that to friends and acquaintances but I do sometimes become that kind of person when too much in my own company.  Away with winter! Hurry on summer!

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Comment by only1sue on Tuesday

From my observations if you move you just take the loneliness with you.  I have had a lot of heart-to-heart chats lately with other widowers as well as widows and loneliness seems to be something you never really get used to if you have been in a long lasting marriage or partnership.  I guess that feeling that a part of you is missing remains.

Comment by WithoutJim on Monday

Dear Sue, Your writing is always so heartfelt and true. So much resonates with me. Finding our way as older widows is so difficult. I sometimes think that I must make a bold move to a new place to really become the new person that I really must be to find peace and happiness. So hard to know. In any case, be gentle with yourself. Be as kind to yourself as you are to all those you take care of in your volunteer work. Sending hugs and love across the miles.

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