Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ah, widow brain

Pretty much every widowed person I know has "widow brain." It is a side effect of grief caused by your brain trying to protect you from the pain. Unfortunately, it causes you to pretty much forget everything. It is why we suddenly stop speaking mid-sentence-we can't remember what we were talking about/saying. (I freaked my brother out with this one once). It is why we quizzically stare around a room-we have no clue what it is we came in the room for and often times don't remember how we got there in the first place. It is why to this day, I have absolutely no recollection of telling my dear friend I needed light bulbs the day after James died and therefore was very confused when she brought me light bulbs. (I did need them). I could go on, but basically, it's grief-induced amnesia. I refer to it as "griefnesia" because I learned by listening to others in bereavement group it is not limited to widow/ers.

Apparently, I had a widow brain moment last July. And by last July, I mean July 2008. I discovered it yesterday. I would have made this discovery a whole lot sooner if I was not one of the least observant people on the planet, which actually makes this a whole lot funnier.

On July 4, 2008, I started my meetup group for young widows and widowers. When you set up events, one of the questions you are asked is how members of the group will find you. I answered that "I will have a sign for the table." Our first dinner was 7/23/08. Earlier that day, I realized I was supposed to have a sign for the table. So, I printed off two pages with the group name: Portland Metro/SW Washington Young Widows and Widowers. I taped them to the sides of a manilla folder. Not fancy, but I had to go with what materials I had available. We used this sign every month for months until recently when one of the members took the beat-up sign from me and made me pretty, flourescent laminated ones. He just photocopied the one I made onto three different bright sheets of paper and laminated them. Now when Sammy steps on one, it doesn't leave a mark, and the one that was on the island wasn't destroyed by the recent exploding cup incident like the original would have been. It's just sticky.

So anyway, last night I thought it would be fun to make an attendance spreadsheet for my group. We have a member who is highly dramatic and relates to absolutely EVERYTHING anyone says and I was curious to see how many people have come to dinner with her there and have never come back (in all fairness, I do know there could be a wide variety of reasons they have not come back, myself included). There are other concerns I have about this member but that is not for an Internet blog. I also wanted a snapshot of who has never come to dinner and wanted it in a more consolidated location than having to look up everyone's profile for the information.

As I was working on the spreadsheet, I noticed it says Portland/Vancouver Young Widows & Widowers Meetup Group across the top of our home page. I thought it was weird my AO thanked the creepy guys for their interest in the Portland/Vancouver Young Widows and Widowers group in his e-mail explaining why he was removing them, but I figured he was just being lazy and didn't want to type out Portland Metro/SW Washington Young Widows and Widowers group. It is a mouthful, but there is a reason I named the group that: I didn't want widow/ers who lived outside of the Portland/Vancouver city limits to think they weren't welcome. They probably would have been smart enough to figure it out, but I wasn't exactly thinking rationally at the time (only 5 months after James died).

Then I started to wonder when my AO changed the name of the group (this goes to the whole unobservant thing) and why he didn't tell me. The more I thought (obsessed) about it, the more upset I got. Why would he just take it upon himself to change the name of the group? And to not even mention it to me? It is MY group (I have control issues). I wondered if I should confront him about it or let it go. "Let it go," I kept telling myself. "In the grand scheme of things, it is really no big deal." I wondered what else he was able to do in his capacity of AO without me knowing about it. Okay, so I was downright pissed at this point. Part of it was due to what I felt was a complete lack of respect. And part of it was a self-esteem thing, or more accurately, lack of. I felt he was making changes he felt would improve the group because he didn't think I was doing a good enough job.

So, went to the meetup FAQ section and found out exactly what a AO can and cannot do. It turns out an AO cannot change the name of the group. It turns out that for the last 16 months, I have thought I named the group something other than what I actually named it (this does explain why new members always look confused when they see the sign). And I have posted a monthly dinner every month for 16 months and never noticed what I thought I named the group and what I actually named it are not the same thing. Which is really sad, considering I am in several groups and I have to click the link for our group on my home page to get to the group page-the link that says Portland/Vancouver Young Widows & Widowers Meetup Group, and apparently always has.

My AO called this morning. We were chatting about the group and I told him I felt I owed him an apology. "No you don't," he said. "You don't know why I think this," I told him and then told him this story, although I left out the self-esteem part. When I finished the story and apologized for mentally accusing him of something it turns out I did, he was laughing. "That's funny," he said. "You're hilarious." I told him my co-worker thought the same thing yesterday when I told her I was 98% sure I am keeping the BMW. He also said that if he had changed the name without talking to me about it, that would NOT have been no big deal; that it would have been huge.

Lord knows what else I have done or thought I have done over the last 21 months. I'm not sure if I really want to know, unless it's funny. I do have the ability to laugh at myself. And this is why if James ever sends me a sign, it is going to have to be a huge, flashing neon billboard. Which I will probably still manage to drive by everyday for a month before I see it.


Unknown said...

My husband Paul died in 2008, and I still have plenty of those moments. I put the Silk creamer into the coffee cabinet yesterday (and also earlier this week). The first 6 months after his death...I barely remember at all. It's nice to know that I'm not alone.

Anonymous said...

I feel so relieved to read of Widow's brain. I thought it was only me who ha dthese moments. I lost my husband Paul 15 months ago and this year seem sso much harder than last.