This past Friday, my daughter and I -- she in a u-haul with all of her furniture and I in my car loaded down with some of her clothes and other odds and ends -- were moving her from my home to her new apartment in the city. Just as she pulled the truck up to the loading dock in the lower level of the parking garage attached to her building, I heard a tornado warning on the radio. According to the announcer, the heavy rain and winds we were experiencing would soon be replaced by two tornadoes -- both headed first to where I live and then on to where my daughter's apartment is located. Two hours later, the tornados had moved through and had been replaced by storms and heavy rain, and the uhaul was completely unloaded. Three hours later, I was home, lying in bed listening to the storm rage outside my bedroom windows.
I woke up the next morning to quiet. The storm had moved on. My daughter had moved out. It dawned on me that nature's quiet after the storm is similar to the quiet I am now facing in my own life. After living the first 20+ years of my life either with my parents and sister or with a roommate and then the next 20+ years with my husband and/or our children, I am living alone. Gone is the almost-constant sound of feet going up or down the steps or hall, of at least one person grumbling about chores, of someone asking for an answer to a question or for help with homework, of the sound of washing machine doing yet another load of laundry, of a family playing a game together, of dinner-time conversations which included laughter and sometimes multiple voices vying for attention, of the melody of a house full of neighborhood kids, of good-natured teasing between father and son or brother and sister, and of squabbling between siblings.
In the past few days, I've been struck by how different the house feels. The only conversations around here now are between Dazey (my dog) and I, and they don't last long. There's less activity and less energy . The only two things moving are Dazey and me, and Dazey is the most laid back dog I have ever seen (she rivals Beauregard the Wonder Dog from Hee Haw in that regard). I've kept fairly busy moving furniture from one room to another and rearranging things, but one person does not generate much activity.
I knew this day was coming, and I knew that without classes to teach I might easily do nothing but waste away the entire summer. I also knew that loneliness could become a real problem, and I decided I was going to head it off if at all possible. Here's what I did:
1. Created a "summer to-do" list of 6 major projects that should keep me busy for a good part of the summer. For example, I am completely revamping the class I teach most often, revising my online textbook, activities used in class, etc., so that it's ready for the first day of class in August. Another project calls for scanning all (well about 95%) of the papers that survived my file-cabinet purge, organizing them and saving them on my computer, external hard drive, and cloud, and the shredding the hard copies.
2. Signed up to play on a bocce ball team in my community's summer league; we play one night a week.
3. Signed up for a 6-week knitting class. Four weeks into the session, I just began making a sock. According to my knitter-friends, that will keep me busy and my mind occupied.
4. Bought several pieces of furniture (including a dining room table and 4 chairs) and a few wicker pieces for my patio and front porch that are in need of refurbishing (I got these pieces for next to nothing on a neighborhood facebook sell/swap group). I've already painted one wicker table, and it looks wonderful on the front porch next to my metal glider. I plan to paint and keep the outdoor furniture, but I'll paint the other pieces and sell them.
5. Beefed up my Netflix queue with movies that have been nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award. I have them listed in chronological order and am looking forward to watching some for the first time and revisiting others I haven't seen in years.
6. Made a commitment to schedule at least one social event a week. Last week, I met a young couple from my community at our wine bar for a glass of wine and to chat for awhile. I'm planning to meet another friend from the community -- also a widow -- for coffee/tea this Thursday afternoon at our community free-trade coffee shop.
7. Made a commitment to write 2 letters a week. Not emails, but actual letters. So far, I've written an elderly lady and 2 elderly men from our church "back home", a couple of aunts/uncles, and a high school teacher I admire and respect.
What about you? Is loneliness an issue? If so, how do you deal with it? I'd love to hear from you on this subject; if you don't feel comfortable posting a comment, please feel free to send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Are there any other aspects of redesigning your life after the loss of a loved one that you would like me to address? If so, please let me know.
**On a side note, I hope all of you have been safe from the devastating weather that has pounded various parts of our country these past few weeks. My heart goes out to those people in Oklahoma who have lost loved ones (and homes), to those affected by flooding, etc.**