Monday, August 30, 2010

Retail Therapy?

Give me a break! And, I don’t mean on the price. The expression ‘retail therapy’ is trotted out by anyone who needs an excuse to shop. This is just like “comfort food” is a reason to stuff our face with carbs. There. I’ve said it.

I hadn’t heard about ‘retail therapy’ until someone posted about it on Facebook recently. A flood of responses revealing purchases they made after their husband or wife died was as intense as Hurricane Earl.

Widows and widowers listed cars and clothes, furniture and ipads all bought while under the influence of grief.

I looked up “Grief therapy” on Wikipedia – the source for everything except where I left keys and glasses.

According to Wiki: Retail therapy is shopping with the primary purpose of improving the buyer’s mood or disposition. Often seen in people during periods of depression or transition, it is normally a short-lived habit. Items purchased during periods of retail therapy are sometimes referred to as “comfort buys.”

Curious about how this term came to be? “Retail therapy was first used as a term in the 1980’s with the first reference being this sentence in the Chicago Tribune of Christmas Eve 1986: “We’ve become a nation measuring out our lives in shopping bags and nursing our psychic ills through retail therapy.”

Always a healthy shopper, my shopping gene didn’t kick back in for at least six months after I lost Jimmy. That didn’t stop me from going to the mall, though. I remember wandering around watching people in twos pass by me. I felt unbearably foggy and disorientated. I couldn’t wait to get home.

My credit cards never left my wallet which is kind of the opposite of retail therapy. This is a phenomenon that only could have been caused by grief. It’s surprising that Mr. Bloomingdale himself didn’t call me at home concerned about my unusual low activity. How come he didn’t inquire if perhaps someone – one of my heirs - stole my card to curb my spending?

Like I said, this not spending phase was at the very beginning. I do remember one of the first items I bought was minor, yet intimate – pajamas. I was acutely aware that Jimmy would never see them. This was more than uncomfortable. It was surreal.

But, like a racehorse off and running with a good start I began spending much more than when Jimmy was alive. Today I could walk you through every room in my house including the backyard, garage and basement and there would be at least one new item.

My closet? Oh my. These days more clothes, more expensive clothes are hanging with the tag waving defiantly. No more need to feign “This old thing?” and I no longer have to tuck the receipt in an old shoe.

This is my point. Buying stuff after we lose our husband or wife is not unusual but is the motivation to ease our pain? Does a new sweater give us a momentary fix of well being or does it simply go perfectly with our new pants?

We slowly become conscious that we don’t have to answer to anyone anymore. Jimmy was always generous and never stingy, but what husband understands the need to have day cream, night cream, eye cream – you get my drift…And, what wife gets the importance of season tickets to Giant Stadium or a new Harley? 

Even an agreed upon purchase warrants a discussion.

"Should we get the brown carpet or the beige?"

We recoil and smile simultaneously at the realization that no one is around to veto our choices. 

So, let's not call it what it isn't.  It isn't retail therapy.  It’s sad and it’s lonely but no more negotiating and no more compromise is the therapeutic part.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Shot in the Finger

Yesterday my husband and I would have been married for 38 years. The last anniversary we celebrated was #33. Jimmy was healthy and happy, but if you had a gun to my head I couldn’t tell you where we went and what we did. I’m sure it had something to do with sex. And, sex. Oh, yeah, and sex.

I do remember our 25th. For that milestone anniversary I bought Jimmy a gorgeous new wedding band. It’s a blend of silver and platinum and gold. I think it was my way of re-claiming my man. Or maybe, branding him?

The original gold one according to Jimmy “Got bent when I got shot in the finger” –He told me this when I noticed he had stopped wearing it. Well, I couldn’t deny him points for imagination and originality. Most men would have simply mumbled “I lost it” or “It bothers my finger.”

He went on to tell me that a brave little ring that saves your finger should be kept securely in a sacred drawer aka ‘my night table.’ I saw the ring. Indeed, it was squashed.  It was oblong now but showed no traces of gun powder.

“I’ll have it repaired” I said challenging him.

Without a hesitation Jimmy announced, “Not a chance. That ring should remain squashed to remind us what valor means.”

This is a man who clearly did not want to wear his wedding band. It begged the question, why? Which explains why I bought him the new one on our 25th anniversary.

As any wife with an IQ of three digits, I was determined to get to the bottom of the fishy “I was shot” story.  Played like an episode of Law and Order I reconstructed the scene.

To add a bit of flare to my interrogation I raised my eyebrow and his suspicion as I handed him a glass of sweetened (‘with what?’ he worried right on cue) ice tea. I began by mentioning that it seemed odd that he didn’t come home that day and say,

“Honey, a bullet whizzed through my office today. I know it’s unusual to have a drive by shooter hit you in the finger while sitting at your desk on the 7th floor in a building on Long Island, but as Henry, my best friend is my witness – just call and ask – that is exactly what happened.”

“Drink up, honey,” I punctuated with a wink. “To your health” I said as I touched his glass to mine.

Jimmy stuck to his guns and never budged about being shot. I decided he must have
slammed his desk drawer on his hand and – yes – the ring saved him. Most lies do have
a little bit of truth in them.

So, here I am at year 38, my 5th anniversary without him. Anniversaries take us back.  Couples reminisce. A widow does, too.

Just a week ago or so ago in anticipation of this day I had that new ring re-sized for me to wear on my middle finger.  Everyday, I salute him with it for leaving me.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Future Mrs. Dan or Don!

So I went to a psychic. I won’t mention her name, but she knows who she is. What she didn’t know is that I’m a widow. You’d think that would be pouring out of my DNA.

This psychic is the same person who’s able to tell a radio caller that her eight year old will grow up to be a veterinarian. Face to face shouldn’t she know that my face is screaming out “Poor Widow Me?”

Perhaps I should have told her ‘sayonara’ immediately but she was accurate with some stuff.
Plus, I had paid in advance.

Her predictions for me can’t be challenged since they haven’t happened yet. I’ll just have to wait and see and hopefully remember them. Here’s one that stuck in my head.

She told me that in 2012 I would meet the next love of my life. You can see why that got my attention. His name is Dan or Don. She described him in detail but what made me sit up straighter is this:

“He lives in Huntington now. You will meet him in a bookstore, possibly at your
own reading. He’s a widower. His wife died of colon cancer.”

Okay. I admit I the thrilling crescendo for me was to hear “possibly at your own reading.” That’s not my point, though. Let’s put aside my giddy ego and look at the ‘widower’ part.

His wife died of colon cancer. I’m not going to meet him for another two years. I looked up the five year survival rate for colon cancer. Caught at stage one it’s 93%. At stage 3 it’s 59%. Pretty good odds – as long as it’s not me.

My point is Dan or Don’s wife may still be alive! As a matter of fact, she may not have been even diagnosed yet! I feel an obligation to run out to Huntington (only a half hour from my house) and comb the streets looking for her. I must warn her!

“Get yourself a colonoscopy, Mrs. Dan or Don– or you’ll be dead and I’ll nab your hubby!”

Still, her loss of life is my new one. So, #%&$@ her. Hahahahahahahahahaha!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Facebook & Widowhood

Buffy, Supa Fresh (Robin Moore) Hyla Molander (Drop Dead Life) and Poor Widow Me
Believe me, widowhood is not the neighborhood you want to live in. Besides all the obvious, there’s uncertainty. At every corner, there’s a decision to be made. Where’s my husband to stop me from making yet another idiotic choice? Of course, when he was alive I rarely listened, but at least I had the option.

Widowhood is a like a pineapple upside down cake without the pineapple and the cake part. Does this analogy make sense? Sure it does. My life has been turned upside down and there’s no upside to it. There you go. But, wait…maybe there is an upside. I had an opportunity this past weekend to help myself and others.

I just got back from Camp Widow, a Widow Conference in San Diego sponsored by The Soaring Spirits Foundation. Here for the second year hundreds of widows gathered at the Marriott to share, compare and fit in somewhere. Yes, that rhymes and worse, it sounds suspiciously like a sound bite. I know because I used it in my workshop. As it came out of my mouth I realized that if someone else said it I would laugh in her face. Luckily, few are as rude as I am.

The atmosphere at the conference was almost giddy with grief relief. Widows, widows, everywhere. Regardless of our circumstances we bonded instantly. Where else is a widow to go to feel such genuine understanding? At home, I’m unique, the only widow in my social circle. Here, I was just another widow. It never felt so good to see I wasn’t so special.

Facebook played a key role in bringing many of us together. It was nothing short of incredible to reach out and physically be with so many who until that moment was just a name, a sad story and a few photos.

We were told over and over again that the discussions led by me and Supa Fresh and Hyla Molander each day these past few months enticed many to embrace the chance to meet in real life…to hug our neighbors in Widowhood. Hearing this was better than a brownie…okay, almost as good.

We exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses and actual home addresses. We vowed to stay in touch.

If life gets the way and we go back to being Facebook friends until next year’s conference, that’s okay, too, because we touched each other. Now we all know that we’re real.