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The Wandering Widow

Observations, Tips and Reckless Truth Telling on the Road Through Grief

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Travel

The Bucket List Part 2-The People You Meet

A Grief Recovery Project Post

Have you ever noticed that you meet people at certain times in your life and it seems like a plant? Like they were specifically put there for you to meet and learn from at that exact moment in your life? I hope so, because it’s freaking awesome. I’ve been blessed more times that I can count with people who have crossed my path that I NEEDED to meet. My recent trip to Europe was no exception, and I believe Dan made sure I’d happen upon these wonderful people so I could learn from them. My guides represented the past, present and future. It was like my own personal A Christmas Carol.

Steve and Linda–Ghosts of Christmas Past:

On their post-retirement world travel adventure, these two represented everything that could have been…the future Dan and I could have had. High school sweethearts, I fell in love with their love. Just being around them made my heart happy. Oh, and ladies if you ever need a good wingwoman at a pub, Linda is your girl.

Chrissy–The Ghost of Christmas Present

A random meeting at the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play brought me Chrissy. She was sitting in the row in front of me, another single. As we were waiting for the play to start, she turned around and said “Happy Easter”, and we started chatting. I’d already been pretty teary eyed, so my tragic story kinda came pouring out. Instead of turning around and pretending she hadn’t talked to me, she opened up and shared hers. She’d lost her sweet little girl a little over a year ago to cancer, and Harry Potter was a huge part of their time together. (Check out the letter she wrote to JK Rowling, but make sure you have tissue handy). 

You know I’m not normally a hugger, but I’ve never wanted to hug a stranger more than when I met Chrissy. We laughed, we cried, we bonded over a shared love of Harry Potter and our losses to that thief cancer. Meeting her on my first full day in London was a gift. I was struggling with being there by myself on our dream vacation, and to meet someone on a parallel grief journey was comforting. Someone else was sitting alone in that dark packed theater and KNEW and UNDERSTOOD what I was feeling. It was so amazing, and it took away the loneliness of being there alone.

Oh, if you ever have the chance to see the play, do it.  I’ve seen a lot of plays over the years and this was special. I promised to #keepthesecrets, so you’ll just have to trust me on this one. I’m ecstatic it’s opening on Broadway next year.

Norma–The Ghost of Christmas Future:

If there is anyone I’d like to be when I grow up, it’s Norma. She is brilliant, feisty, brave, kind, and a widow of 14 years. In her 70s, she routinely travels alone and leads a life so active and independent it makes me tired to just think about it. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t keep up with Queen Sassy Pants if I tried! She is my in the flesh reminder that life goes on, and that it’s what I choose to make it. She made me laugh with her dating advice, tales of her adventures, and watching her watch the Kilted Yoga video for the first time. Meeting Norma was inspiring and energizing.

On a side note, when we were first dating Dan put me in his phone as Sassy Pants. It’s not a coincidence that the first thing I thought of when meeting her is, “what a sassy pants!”

There were many more people I met on this bucket list trip that influenced my life in a profound way. So much so that it makes me wonder, if everyone we meet teaches us something, what am I teaching to those who meet me? 

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow

✔️ His Bucket List Gift

A Grief Recovery Project Post.

Do you remember when my grief counselor told me that if I stopped going to our favorite places or doing the things we loved, it would actually make Dan disappear and not help me feel better? Well, Dan and I had been planning this Harry Potter bucket list trip to Europe for years. We never got farther than planning and dreaming, but we knew that SOMEDAY we were going to go. When Dan realized he wasn’t going to be able to make the trip, he made me promise to go anyway. That promise was one of the many gifts he gave me to help me get through my grief journey.

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It was a gorgeous morning at Stonehenge. 

 

So I booked the trip and headed out solo. I figured if I were having a bad day I wouldn’t have to mess up anyone else’s itinerary. If I were by myself I wouldn’t have to explain why I was crying or laughing as I thought about him and wished he was there with me. And I underestimated the amount of crying I would do: saying goodbye to my dog; in the airport bar; in the boarding area; on the plane…you get the idea. I lost track of how many times I broke down in tears, but crying myself to sleep alone on our dream vacation became the norm. It’s a good thing I got over crying in public a long time ago, because there was plenty of that too.

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Glastonbury Abbey in England, reported to be the burial place of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere.

 

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The beauty of getting lost is finding random art galleries down random alleys.

 

But I wasn’t really solo. Dan was there with me, watching out for me and pulling strings. I’m sure he intervened when I was able to get tickets for the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play, despite it being sold out for a year. And I give him full credit for the unseasonable picture perfect weather every single day that made Ireland look like the tropics! And he sent me little messages to remind me he was there and I was going to be okay.

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The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.  I’ll be back to hike the cliffs.

 

And I met amazing people, did amazing things, saw amazing things, drank (a lot) of amazing whisk(e)y, and the night before I was supposed to go to Scotland I had a full meltdown and started packing to come home. I’m not sure why that was the trigger, other than visiting Scotland was what we’d talked about the most. We both have Scottish ancestry, and there was just something about Scotland that called to us.

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I’d dreamt about Loch Lomond several months before making the trip.

 

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Dan came through with perfect weather the day we visited Loch Lomond.

 

So there I was in my hotel room a blubbering mess trying to figure out what to do. My little sister convinced me to stay, and I’m so glad she did. Scotland was magic. Somehow just crossing the border changed everything. I let go. I felt like I’d come home. It was everything I’d expected…windy, rugged, and beautiful. I’d actually dreamed about Loch Lomond a few months before taking the trip. Imagine my surprise when I got there and recognized it as the place I’d been dreaming of. And as I was standing outside in the highlands, cold wind whipping my hair around, I was laughing like a crazy woman. At that moment, I remembered. I remembered what it felt like to feel joy-pure joy! And happy. And at peace. And with hope for the future. It was like those highland winds ripped off all the grief and survivor guilt baggage I’d been carrying around and I was suddenly weightless. Dramatic, I know, but I can’t think of any other way to describe it.

Crazy highlands woman.
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I left my heart in the highlands.
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Clava Cairns, not far from Culloden Moor. No Outlander sightings that day, but you can go right up to the cairns and stone circle, unlike Stonehenge.

And here’s the big shocker.
I met someone!

Me. I met me without the weight of the world on my shoulders–the me that is going to not only survive but thrive in this new reality. I met the me that can cry and laugh at the same time and still enjoy life–the me that can look fear and loss in the eye and keep going. I met the me that was the wild crazy laughing woman in the highlands. And I think Dan somehow knew that would happen and that’s why he made me promise to go.

Taking this trip was terrifying, but I’m so glad I did it. And I can’t wait to go back.

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The River Spey, one of Scotland’s greatest natural assets.

 

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Edinburgh, Scotland. 

 

I’ll be back!

Table For One-The Euro Edition

In my earlier Table For One post, I discussed not waiting around for someone to invite us out.  Widowhood doesn’t mean having to hide out until you have someone to go out with. That has hangry written all over it.  I just completed our big bucket list trip in Europe and encountered a whole new table for one scenario that I couldn’t wait to share with you. Mostly because it’s so bad it’s comical. 

There are many things Europe does better than we do, but taking care of solo diners isn’t one of them. Or at least not solo female travelers who like to venture off the beaten path.  I don’t mind dining at the bar, but sometimes a W just wants to enjoy a lovely meal at an actual table. After spending three weeks across the pond, I was horrified and then amused at what would be offered. It almost became a game to see how bad it could get. My favorites include:

  • The hideous corner table where I was made to face the freaking corner like a naughty five year old.
  • The “it’s just you?” when asking for a table, followed by the big sigh.
  • The quick dragging away of the offensive “extra” chair.
  • Being ignored as soon as my food was delivered.  DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT must be part of the training manual.

Sadly, one downside of traveling solo means there was no one to capture the many WTF faces I tried very hard to control.  

As if this weren’t appetizing enough, this is where a table for one is a punishment. As a courtesy to the restaurant I won’t name them here.

There were some notable exceptions to the rule, my favorite being Hams Hame Pub and Grill just outside of St. Andrews Old Course. This lovely pub was clean and spacious and the staff was lovely.  It was all “Madam” this and “Madam” that.  Madam could sit anywhere she damn well wanted and received lots of smiles and attention by the staff.  Madam left feeling like a princess and not an outcast to be hidden away.  Madam likey. Check out Hams Hame if you are ever in St. Andrews.  Excellent food, great whisky options and a beautiful staff with amazing service.

So, my Dear W’s, keep trying until you find a place you like that makes you feel like Madam and not an embarrassment.  And remember-nobody puts baby in the corner.  Not even in Europe.

Cheers!

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