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We're friends, not doctors, financial or legal professionals, and we're not "grief experts." But we are here, and we've been "there."

We all have problems fitting into society.  I am lactose intolerant so no dairy of any kind and I am allergic to palm oil which means I can't eat anything with oils in unless I have read the label.  Last week I was invited to the neighbor's house on the right side of my house to help celebrate his Dad's birthday. There was a  lovely roast dinner with steamed vegetables and the sauce it was served with was separate so I could eat it all.  I dipped out on the dessert as I thought probably not good for me so he had prepared a fruit platter for me...fantastic!  Today I went to a lunch three doors down and the couple are people I really like and they made me really welcome, eight  of us dining and, wouldn't you know, all meals had dairy in the form of cream sauces in the meat dishes, cheese sauces and butter on the vegetables.  I had salad and bread.  And you know it didn't matter because there was laughter and I wasn't alone for that time.

I think acceptance is simply taking life as it is.  I am alone, a lot of the time I am okay wit that.  I keep busy, find some book to read or a movie to watch on wet days, get out in the garden or go for a walk on the dry days. Weekends will always be a problem, I think of weekends as family time. It has taken me four years to get to the point where I think I can do this.  My man friend and I went out on Saturday to a local Fair, found some people to talk to, waved to some people I used to know, obviously they didn't want to stop and talk.  We ate a picnic lunch, left the Fair and went for a drive and came home - Saturday gone - tick.  Today it was church, then the lunch out, home to read a book, some time on the computer, a short phone call to a friend - Sunday gone - tick!  Tomorrow I have a couple of chores I can do wet or fine, a little potting up of plants I can do even if it is raining, which it is now - Monday gone - tick!

And that is how I look at the days, one day at a time, do the things that have to be done, try and do something that will make me happy.  If there is someone to share life with fine and good, if there is not get on with it myself.  I have realized that if it is to be it is up to me as the saying goes.  No-one else is responsible for my happiness, that is all down to me. It is a hard lesson to learn, difficult to get my head around that mostly, for the rest of my life, I will be on my own now. I see my man friend Wednesdays and some Saturdays, he has a long term illness and gets tired easily so we won't make it more frequent than that.  He is a good man, good company, great to be around but has that disadvantage.  After years with an invalid husband I guess it is okay I can handle that.  But it is not what I had hoped for.  I have to come to terms with that.

l often wonder what the purpose of life is for me now. I did before in the caregiving years but never really had a lot of time to think about it as I was far too busy back then. Doing 24/7 care is like that, busy, busy, busy.  The only time I've  had to worry about filling in the days is since Ray died and my purpose for living seemingly died with him. Of course when Ray was in hospital and then the nursing home I had some time but I would do the chores as quickly as possible and then spend the majority of the time by his bedside, come home late, have a hasty meal and go off to bed to restart the same thing next day.  Now time goes more slowly as there is plenty to do but also slack periods when I am at a loss for what to do. Of course as I age my energy levels are lower too and perhaps I am less motivated.

I am not complaining about my life, what is the point?  The worst of the grief is over, I have settled into widowhood.  People accept me as a widow now.  I don't have to keep explaining and I don't get the "when will you be over this?" remarks.  I put a brave face on and face the world with a smile as often as I can manage it.  I am sometime excluded from events where obviously it is an advantage to be a member of a couple but I am used to that too. My man friend and I have not really got to couple status yet.  We are slowly getting to that as when either of us meets a friend we introduce the other. I figure in the given situation this is the best way. He is not really up to going out at night and that is okay, I go out at night about once a week to various things I belong to or am interested in. It is better than it was before when I had Ray as he needed minding if i had to go out alone so it is an advantage to be on my own and able to go out when I want to or need to. I am becoming a bit selfish I suppose but who do I have to worry about telling anyway?

I do go out to lunch or morning tea with some of the widows I have made friends with over the last four years.  Some of them are also moving into relationships, others have joined travel clubs or take trips alone or with a family member.  It is good to share the photos over coffee. I used to be envious of these sorts of gatherings when I was a caregiver,  now I know they are just another way of shutting out the loneliness. As our lives change we find new truths.  I would never have thought this would be my life at this age.  Prior to Ray's first stroke i always looked at my parents as my role models for what married life was like.  I know they didn't always see eye to eye, sometimes I  heard BOTH sides of that story, but I knew they had more strength just by being together as a couple.  I thought Ray and I would do the same, grow old together.  Dad died at 87, Mum at 94, prior to Dad's death they were rarely apart. Ray and I did not have those extra years. I know now just to appreciate what I have today and not worry about what I may or may not have tomorrow.

I would like to take up some new hobbies but my time is full already with the church, volunteering in the various organizations I belong to and the occasional demands of the family. I do worry that I should get more exercise and maybe vary my routine a bit more but that would take more energy so if it is working why fix it?  And if it stops working that will be the time to look around for other things to do. My couple friends are just coming back to the Coast for summer, putting their caravans in order so they can continue that travelling schedule next year when summer turns cold again.  It is nice to have those I see regularly back again and we catch up over coffee.  The numbers in the organisations I belong to swell out again and I enjoy the volunteering when we don't have to worry about numbers.  But then there is the Christmas break, their grandkids are on the long six week break over summer and so they disappear for a while to babysit and do other family things.  And yes! that alone feeling comes back for a while. It is the circle of life as I live it.

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Comment by only1sue on November 4, 2016 at 1:20am

Callie, I would hate to be without vegetables and fruit as they are the main components of my diet.  As it is I find some difficulty eating out.  So many manufacturers have substituted palm oil which is cheap for the more expensive oils in their product.  It is a challenge and surprisingly those dreaded all-you-can-eat buffets are the best for me as I can pick foods i can eat. A simple steak and salad is good too as long as the sauce is on the side. Unfortunately desserts are a real problem but if there is fresh fruit then I can eat that as dessert.  How do you manage when you are eating out?

Yes, I do lead a fairly active life but i also know I need time alone so have put the brakes on some of the events I used to participate in.  I am finding a companion rather than a partner is the answer to going out on a casual basis rather than being totally absorbed into someone else's life.  Yes, I do still get lonely sometimes but mostly I can manage that now.  Still have my weepy times but I guess that may continue for a long time.

Comment by Callie2 on October 30, 2016 at 4:43pm
Hi Sue,
I can certainly relate to the diet issues--I am on a restricted diet, LOW FODMAP, which disallows lactose, gluten and many other vegetables and fruits. It has become frustrating because most people have no understanding and can be ackward when going out to parties, weddings, etc. On the positive side, it has helped tremendously. As a matter of fact, this diet was created by an Aussie!

You seem to have resumed a fairly active life, but I know what you mean about motivation. There are things I need to do but sometimes, I just don't feel like doing it! Maybe, it just don't seem as important as it once did. I feel all the time that something is "missing" and that may be something that never goes away. Yes, we are responsible for our own happiness and must figure out ways in which to do this. Being alone isn't all that bad but I do miss someone to talk to! I'm sure having found a male friend in your life helps with that. He is fortunate to have found someone like you that is understanding of his circumstance--some women would not. I am glad it is working for you both. Continue with your optimism!

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