Tuesday, 3 April 2018

One year on . . . .

. . . . and last month I hit rock bottom. Just as that heart specialist (how apt, ‘heart 'specialist) told me a year ago, that the end of the first year would be hardest to cope with. I’ve barely been able to rouse myself to do anything at all, off my own bat, that is. When other people have encouraged me to do things I’ve given in and done them. But as soon as I’ve been out from under their well-meaning efforts I crawled back into my cave. The weather was awful too, cold and damp and wet, with snow and ice for a week twice, which meant that I couldn’t even get out of the garage and drive to a supermarket. Did I feel sorry for myself? Not really, it was more a dull ache, a feeling of loneliness and abandonment. TV, books, chocolates and wine were my constant companions, but even they didn’t do much to lighten the mood. I wonder what I’d’ve been like without those crutches.

What I need is a passion. I have friends who sing in choirs, work in spite of being in their late sixties and seventies, endlessly help with grandchildren, work on village committees and church affairs, run all sorts of do-gooding charities. None of these activities tempt me. Not for the moment, anyway. I’ve said it before, I am not a joiner. My voice is a croak, proper work has long left me behind, my grandchildren are grown up. I’ve been on committees in the past and hated it. Quiet, behind the scenes charity is more my bag than noisy, front of house, ‘look how hard I work and how marvellously I run the show’ charity. I have to admit, if anything were down to me it would probably not get done. Or get done without fanfare.

So, how do I get a passion? Gardening was once one, I’d love to start again when the weather improves. In fact, last week I already did a full morning’s work and several short spurts and paid for it. No matter, easy does it. I have gone back to the gym after a break of a couple of weeks, worked out and paid for that too. Aches and pains are the natural outcome for sudden onset of physical jerks by the elderly.

I kid myself that going back to college would do the trick, retrieving my failing memory of Medieval European history, for instance, but blame living in the sticks for non-availability of any academic, interesting courses. Perfectly true. Online courses don’t quite answer the need for human interaction.

It’s only been a year, perhaps it’s still early days and I should not feel guilty for my lack of enthusiasm and my inability to ‘look on the bright side’. Positivity, Arghh.

There is the theatre, of course. I had a couple of injections of stage dust. First, "Imperium, The Cicero Plays," a seven-hour, two part version of Robert Harris’ trilogy about the rise and fall of Cicero, the Roman lawyer and politician. (Robert Harris described it as ‘like the West Wing in togas’). We stayed overnight at a delightful boutique hotel dead opposite the theatre, which allowed us to do some shopping in Stratford, an interesting town quite apart from the Shakespeare connection.

Then came ‘Macbeth’. Shakespeare’s bloody tragedy of greed, ambition and lust for power is everywhere at the moment. We saw the RSC version with Christopher Eccleston (ex Dr. Who) and Niamh Cusack.

Both plays are gripping, of course, but hardly a bundle of laughs. What is it they use in theatres for blood? There is such a lot of it in Macbeth. Barely anyone left standing at the end of the evening. Sitting in the front row I got sprayed with what I assumed was meant to be snowflakes during the final fight between Macbeth and Macduff; the stuff stuck to my black cashmere jumper and wouldn’t come off. It has now, without any brushing. Clever people, back stage personnel.

We also went to the opera: the Mid Wales production of ‘ Eugene Onegin’. The opera combines Pushkin’s compelling and heart-breaking story with Tchaikovsky’s sweeping lyricism in a stunning exploration of love, death, (more death) life and convention. Filled with breath-taking arias including Tatyana’s great letter scene and one of my personal favourites, Prince Gremin’s aria, the tale contrasts the simplicity of country life with the sophisticated excesses of Russia’s pre-revolutionary court and tells of the fated love between the innocent Tatyana and the world-weary cynic Onegin.


In spite of Mid Wales Opera being very much a provincial company and the orchestra being reduced to one representative of each instrument for lack of space in the pit, the evening was a success, as we told a lady with a pad and pencil taking notes of what we said. Is that how reviews are written? Get hold of audience members standing around after the performance and take down their freshly received impressions? We didn’t realise we had attended the first night.

Although the opera made for a pleasant evening, much more memorable was the meal beforehand in a pub/hotel in the centre of this small Welsh town just over the border from England. The place was heaving, very noisy, with beefy young men milling about everywhere. One giant TV screen was
showing an important rugby match between Scotland and England, (The Six Nations Championship is an annual international rugby union competition between the teams of England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. The current champions are Ireland, having won the 2018 tournament.)

These for the most part young Welshmen bellowed their approval every time Scotland had an advantage,  (I don’t know the rules of rugby) and their dislike of and disdain for the English team couldn’t have been expressed more clearly. We were just barely half an hour away from the English border; amazing how much animosity there exists between some Welsh and the English. I had a taste of that myself once when an elderly Welsh lady pushed me and Beloved off a bench on the promenade at Aberystwyth by shuffling closer and closer, first to the middle, and then to our side of the bench. We gave in gracefully.


  1. Finding a passion. Darn hard to discover and then to follow through. Sounds like delving into stage plays and writing comments on them for locals might be a good one. What do you think?

  2. Finding passion and a sense of purpose is not an easy task. It took me a year to find what would give me joy and involvement with like minded folks. Since you enjoy the theater, maybe that would be your calling. Help is always needed behind the scenes. Don’t give up and try some things out. If it does not fit, move on and try another. Any group would be lucky to have you.

    When it comes to sports, fans are very territorial.

  3. Definitely feel no guilt. None, nada, zip. You may not yet have the energy for a passion - which is a tiring beast.
    Getting back to the garden sounds good. And I hope the weather is kinder.
    Heartfelt hugs and oceans of caring.

  4. I think that kindness to oneself is all, for as long as it takes. Accepting invitations is good, but I needed a lot of rest, craved protein and vegetables as well as wine and chocolate, and slept as much as possible, sometimes not at night in the early hours. There aren't any rules, you'll move on something new when the time is right.

  5. Dear, dear Friko ~ what you are going through is 'normal' in this journey of widowhood. I am into my 6th year, and I get hit with lethargy, loneliness, lack of passion, and then it passes. Gardening, needlework, blogging have helped me so much since losing my dear husband in Dec. 2012. In the beginning I found a widow's group that helped me a lot. Then I looked for a church family and have found one. It is a humble group, helping the homeless, and others who need help and encouragement, to let them know that God loves them.

    I'm not a joiner either, but being a part of something that helps others, gets me out of my doldrums. People have it so much worse than I do, and I am thankful for the many blessings that God has given me, large and small. I call on Him night and day, and He is my strength when I am weak.

    I love to be in my gardens, the flower shapes, scents and colors speak to my broken heart. You will find in time, that the pain lessens, but, the missing of your dear one will always be with you.

    Give yourself all the time you need to heal from this deep wound of losing the other half of you. You will have a scar, but through this you will become a stronger person, you still have much living, learning and loving to do in this life.

    Love, hugs & prayers ~ FlowerLady

  6. You have a lot richness in your life, but your current emptiness overshadows that. You are moving into stage three(or four) and the ache will always be there, but perhaps not a strongly. There are those of us so far from such sophisticated culture that we do rely on TV and online courses. I am so glad you posted in your "strong-take-no-hostages"voice as it means you will eventually move forward.

  7. I forgot to add that I am much like you in finding things to join or ways to participate.

  8. I have no voice of experience or wisdom to offer you. However, I admire the way you keep on keeping on. I sometimes think the whole idea of finding one's passion is highly overrated. There are many things in life to enjoy, at different times and seasons. I'm not much of a joiner, either, and my husband and I have discussed how important it is to connect with people once we retire, and how best to go about it. So far, we've come up with no answers.
    I hope you can soon get to gardening and find some solace there.

  9. you should certainly not feel guilty for not being 'further along'. grief takes its own time. wish I could help with the passion thing. though we've retired from the money making art work I do still have the personal work and gardening that keeps me busy. living in a small town out in the sticks does pose problems or I would suggest taking a variety of craft classes. I'd like to take up ceramics but I'd have to drive too far for a class or workshop.

  10. OMG, friend Friko ... I have never met anyone honest like you ... and you move to tears and I love you ... Oh mein Gott, Freundin Friko ... Ich habe noch nie so eine ehrliche person getroffen so wie Du ... und so sind Traenen und ich habe Dich lieb ... anyway ... Love, cat.

  11. Feelings of guilt can weigh a person down. They certainly do me. May the weather turn for the better and you are able to get out and garden. x

  12. I would have pushed the old bint back along the bench, but I am not graceful.

    I do feel for you. Most of my life and time is taken up with Leo now that his health has deteriorated again...if he dies before me there is very little life to resume.

    Have to meet it when it comes...I hope, as gracefully and honestly as you have done.

  13. I am finding that healing from grief is slow, and I progress and regress and then make progress again. My dh died in November 2016 and the group Griefshare helped me, it is free and has a Christian basis. You are doing just fine in your journey from my viewpoint. Hugs!

  14. Oh please be kind and gentle and patient with yourself. You grieve, of course you grieve and there is no itinerary with it, it takes as long as it takes and is highly unpredictable.

    As to finding passion, all that clutter in the attic has to be cleared out first, all the other noise.

    I understand.

    But I love your blog posts updating in my newsfeed.


  15. Listen to your body and mind and do whatever is good for them. Don't look at others; things are individual. Those in their seventies and eighties who still work outside their home, are running away from themselves, from age. Not sure it's good. After all, retirement age is our last opportunity to have a dialogue with ourselves, with our soul and body.

    Reality destroys almost any passion.Take charity, for instance. A lot of corruption has been detected in our area regarding this subject. My passion at the moment is to paint the walls and refreshen my home.

    Chocolate and wine are bad companions as they might make you overweight.Keeping normal weight is crucial in life, and it's quite a full time job.

  16. "None of these activities tempt me. Not for the moment, anyway. I’ve said it before, I am not a joiner. My voice is a croak, proper work has long left me behind, my grandchildren are grown up. I’ve been on committees in the past and hated it." Ah, just my sort! Thanks for keeping on and keeping in touch. You do on thing at least VERY well: you inform and inspire myself and I'm sure others.

  17. I too, am a loner and not a joiner. I totally relate to that way of living. Sometimes I feel as if I have already lost my husband. In some ways I have, but I can still visit him every day, and he still knows me. That is certainly my passion at this point in my life. I don't know what I'll do once he is gone.

    My heart aches for you Friko. I hope you find your way. Someone dear to me suggested "Loving Kindness Meditation". I'm not a meditation kind of person, but I am learning about it and find that it is helping to heal my soul. Take good care Friko, and know that I am sending loving kindness your way this morning.

  18. Your grief will run its course. Your ups and downs you are coping with in good ways by seeking out some comfort as you suggested. What is smart is to follow your love for cultural events. Your words about the plays and opera show you have a passion for that. I look forward to more of your adventures along that path. In fact I am touched by every post you create.

  19. I'm at 5 years. I keep busy mostly with girlfriends that are also widowed or divorced. But there is no real passion to speak of. Maybe gardening but that comes and goes and eating out, as I hate to cook. But all of these things are just to keep depression and loneliness at bay. I'd love a passion too, but feel that time has now passed, so I just plug along with occasional moments of contentment. I will admit to no longer having joy. No children or grands ...only one brother left who lives far away. I moved to a sunny warm state, as I could not take cold gloomy snowy winters. I'm afraid that would mentally do me in. Don't push yourself, don't feel quilty that you should be further along and don't feel you have to ever find a passion. Sometimes it's just the little things that keep us going.

  20. Dear Friko - it is good to have an update ... I feel for you - but we learn from your erudite views on life right now, and from your readers and commenters. With the weather due to improve - it usually does! ... the garden will provide some impetus and there will be other outings to the theatres various in and around your area. All the very best and enjoy your English/Welsh Spring ... thanks for posting - Hilary

  21. One year already... doesn't it feel hard to believe? My husband died nearly 9 years ago and yet there are still times when I feel tears welling up (for no "apparent" reason) and find it so bizarre that he is not around anymore.
    Grief does not follow a set pattern for everyone, as you know of course. Therefore, your having hit rock bottom and not wanting to leave the house (especially not in the kind of weather you've had!) is perfectly alright. You are very much aware of it, and you know yourself very well. So, feelings of guilt may not go away instantly, but they are not really justified.
    And as for finding a passion - maybe it will find you.

  22. You are a good writer. Find a writer’s group. You’ll find kindred souls there.
    �� love kj

  23. I wish we could all find passion on cue but it's not so easy. And of course, some passions, good as they may be, tend to be more solitary ones. I feel that way about my painting. It doesn't get one out and about all that much, but I love it. And reading -- same deal. I'll be glad when your weather warms so you can begin gardening again. Is there a garden club in your community?

    Grief's an odd, weird thing. It's not circular or linear with a beginning and an end. It's more like a squiggly spiral that doubles back on itself. I sometimes think of it as doodling a spiral with a pen that's running out of ink -- eventually the hard part fades, but the love and loss never really go away. We just learn how to make them our friend, or at least, not our enemy.

  24. I think passions sneak up on you, but I can understand why you feel you want something to grip you. Perhaps when the weather improves you will be able to get involved in gardening again - and perhaps there might be some benefit from joining a gardening club, perhaps trying to breed some of your favourite plants? I hope that the clouds soon start lifting for you.

  25. Good to hear from you. I think it's hard to discover a new passion at our age (although some people certainly do it) while it's much easier to rediscover an old one. It can be interesting but still familiar; challenging but still comforting. Anyway, it seems as though you've at least made a start.

  26. Why is it always assumed that grief follows a set pattern? Life doesn't.
    Be patient and kind to yourself, and be as hermit-like or as outgoing as you like when you like.
    This rain will stop and there'll be fresh air, birdsong, sunshine and flowers. Then a glass of wine or a slice of cake in the evening, watching the sun going down, will do us twice as much good.

  27. Sorry! I'm morphing into Pollyanna and definitely need to sit outside myself . Just not in tonight's drizzle.

  28. Finding a passion sounds like such a great plan. I too think that is what I need in my life. A passion, a purpose, a place where one meets his or her people seem to be the just what one needs to get out of a deep hole where one sits after great loss. Yet such things require so much energy, and who has that?

    Grief is such a lonely journey. At times it seems so selfish. It also becomes a companion that consumes all that we once knew about life and leaves us not knowing how to go to the next place in life. I also, think grief is a gift. When we give it our time, our energy, and walk with it into the depths of it, I think we come out better informed about life and love than we were before we became an intimate companion of Grief.

    I don’t know if what I am writing even makes sense. I only know that giving Grief her say in our lives eventually allows us to go on to new places in life. I think the process of integrating one's grief into the very fabric of one's life by acknowledging all of that pain that it brings into life is what finally leads to healing. Take all the time you need. You won’t get a gold star for getting through this grief journey quickly, and you won’t get a reprimand for taking a long time on the journey.

    Thinking of you. You are not alone in your solitary state. There will be days when all the griefs lifts, and others when it knocks you down. Take care of yourself as you walk the path.

  29. I lost your name and blog and now have found them again ~ hoorah! Still catching up and swooping from post to post but I was sad to read of your loss.
    A year is not very long ~ it takes a very long time for desperate grief to dissipate. I think a gardener will always find hopeful signs in the spring and I hope that with the warmer weather and the cheerful blooms this will help. The hole in your heart will remain but with time it will get smaller.
    You need a passion? You seem to have many! Take your time and enjoy what opportunities arise. You will find the way x

  30. Friko, when you mentioned the theatre, I thought you meant as an actor. What I great idea! I have a friend whose mom took up acting in her retirement and has had a lot of fun with it. As I read on I realized you meant watching theatre, but why not do it? It could be fun. :)


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