Thursday, August 22, 2013

widow brain

There is no place in any of the self help, grief management, spiritual journey literature that discusses widow brain.  Lots of tips on emotional recovery, moving on but not a word about what happens in your head.  

Widow brain should become a new medical diagnosis. Briefly it is the inability to manage information. I have found it almost impossible in some ways to keep all this stuff straight.  I think it is a safety mechanism, a kind of mental shut off valve that keeps you afloat.   Examples are endless, good hearted friends send multiple emails about a get together and you either a) forget what they wrote, b) shelve them to read at another time and don't do it, c) simply space it all together.

However, that said, there is a list a mile long that needs attention most if it new territory.   Most of that list has consequences that get your attention such as hospital bills and warranty renewals on machinery that you didn't know you had.  Or the phone calls you get from various organizations.  To date my favorite is Mount Sinai financial folks who call and want to talk to Tom. The first time this happened I was nice and said he had passed away  However the 5th time my rather nasty response was.." he is still dead nothing much has changed. How can i help you?: Widows brain can also be snarky and unpleasant.

There are other symptoms such as simply staring out into space rather content to think about nothing as it is easier than tackling the to do list or forgetting what you were doing or going entirely.  Staying present seems a better alternative than planning too far ahead.

 Widows brain also has a dark side which is not recommended but needs to be recognized for what it is.  There are nightmares, and restless sleep or no sleep at all .  It is the widows brain on overdrive.

From now on I have promised myself to try to be a bit more aware of when the WB is kicking in and simply use the term to explain why I have screwed something up. It is not an excuse it is just a manifestation of a process.  Hopefully one that others understand.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Down East

My 93 year old mom and I leave our cabin in Maine tomorrow early to beat the traffic.  We have been here about two weeks.  She has come Down East every summer for the last 89 years.  Things have changed on the coast but there are constants. It is the constants that are note worthy.

My mom gave up rowing her little boat the Amiable Comfort this year. She said that she probably could row but getting in and out of the boat would be dodgy. That said she goes to the dock in the morning with her tea cup, inspects all the various boats, knots, sea birds and who is or not in the cove. She goes down to watch the tennis matches with the three or four other people in their 90's.  They have outlived practically everybody; in her case,  two husbands, a daughter in law, a son in law and a step son.  Still she takes an enormous interest in the harbor, the comings and going of boats and people. She is deaf but still engaged in what ever part of the conversation she can hear.  For many people old and young alike she is a constant.

For me the constants are in images such as the lovely old friendship sloop ghosting along wing and wing out the bay to the sea. The seals  screwing around splashing by the rocks  and the Ospreys who have the enviable skill of soaring above the sea and hurtling toward the surface to snatch lunch.  It would be lovely to have such a wing span.  There are other constants, boats coming in the harbor. Some skippered by people who have no idea what they are doing and others in older boats, gear everywhere but clearly expert.  The latter take great amusement and delight in the antics of the former. 

There are traditions that are  anchored in the sea and the granite of the coastline. One is the remembrance of the dead.  Our  small club, founded in 1901,  always reads the names of the those who have died  during  the year. It is the opening of the annual meeting.  The names are spoken aloud and there is a full minute of silence.  You can tell the widows and the widowers as they are the ones looking at the floor.  They read Tom's name this year. It seemed so strange but comforting to have it spoken aloud by strangers much the way those who are lost at sea are remembered.  The irony of the maritime tradition for a farmer was not lost on any of us.

So the summer winds down. Labor day is just around the corner and most of these little cottages will be put to bed. The days are a bit shorter and the nights are cool. I put a fire in the stove just yesterday. Kids go  back to school.  Then rather miraculously it will be summer again on the coast of Maine a whole year will have passed but there will be constants - a most comforting thought