Starting Again This Far Along by
(6 Stories)

Prompted By New Beginnings

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Norman Vincent Peale wrote about dealing with life’s troubles. In an old piece I came across, he suggests we may unknowingly like our trouble”a convenient alibi for failings and shortcomings.”  In my case, I blamed my writer’s block on grief and melancholy…I’d done enough sad themes about becoming a widow and poor me!  But what really held me back was my fear of sharing that I was happy again. I was trying to begin a new life. “The spirit of man enables him to surmount his sorrows.” Peale stated, telling me it was okay.

I hope they realize how much I need them too, how they saved my soul and gave me the courage to begin again.

I focused on moving forward; learning to live on my own while keeping my husband’s light burning. I still deal with grief and loneliness at times. I feel the pain all over again when friends lose a spouse. The heaviness holds me down sometimes and it wears me out trying to push it away. But I am grateful for each day that I’m here and healthy. I can make decisions now. I can laugh and have fun and enjoy things even though I lost a part of myself. Underneath the sadness is hope, and hope begets curiosity and strength.

It’s strange feeling content and steady, but lost and wobbly at the same time. Does it ever go away? Should it? I like this kind of vulnerability. It keeps me balanced: two steps forward selling my house, traveling, thinking about another man; and then one step back with memories and tears and longing for my husband’s touch. It works in perfect rhythm most days, until I trip and step back too many times. Just like on Dancing with the Stars….I have to stop whining and try again the choreography of life’s never-ending starts.

All my life I had beginnings, but the path was laid before me pretty much. College, dorm life and degrees came with plans and I conquered them all. Marriage was the best beginning because it came with a partner! Together we figured it out through 47 years of living, raising kids, cross country moves, new jobs, homes….loving and learning and laughing all the way. We welcomed grandparenting with open arms; left alone with the first newborn, we stared at each other in awe. How did we get here? Are we ready, willing and able? We learned to tag team and face this new beginning hand-in-hand; another granddaughter, then a grandson!  By the time the twins arrived, we were having the time of our lives! We loved each other even more….not because we’d been so beautifully rewarded for raising two kids, but because we’d reached old age while we were still young and fun and on board with a fast-changing world.

There was even a plan for death. Funeral arrangements and wills and bundles of red tape are all explained in solemn binders. People magically appeared to take my hand and guide my way. But then it’s over. It’s done. And days and weeks turned into months and seasons and I floated along automatically; not quite here, but functioning. Time went by, but I was still at the beginning.

There are no rules for widowhood. No right or wrong for dining or traveling or living alone; no plan for finding friendship, companionship. Yes, there are websites and what we used to call mixers, but that’s not my style. Seventy, senior and single seeks comfortable and understanding–another wounded soul on this same journey wondering what the hell do we do now.

Our grandkids miss Grandpa too, so I’m his cheerleader now!  I’m the go-to grandparent for fun and games, sleepovers, skating, shopping. I hope they realize how much I need them too, how they’ve saved my soul and given me the courage to begin from scratch.

Should I stay or should I go was the question. I wanted a fresh place, a new environment and an old village if you will. I’m blessed to have many villages and tribes of pals who welcomed me with open arms. I knew staying there was not for me…I wanted to go and do and be! My fab five are growing up now. They had some heavy lifting, figuratively and literally, in helping me prepare to sell. Not one of them said “don’t go, grandma, we’ll miss you”…they couldn’t wait to visit wherever I landed.

It took a while to be sure of my decision to move. It came with a sense of peacefulness. “Peace means you are ready and doing the right thing,” my oldest granddaughter assured me. Each closet or shelf or drawer I opened was a peek into the past. The old woven basket I’ve kept filled with old photos was absolutely my life in a box!’Finding a place to relocate was not easy either. It felt like being blind and wide-eyed at the same time as I considered different states, different communities.

Besides peace and strength, I had faith in God’s plan and faith in myself. You too, will realize someday that you are stronger and ready for change, big or small. You’ll learn it’s okay to laugh while sadness floats inside; to tuck the past safely in your pocket, forget about ‘right’ rules and look ahead to something new.

“It’s hard to start again this far along”  the song written by Mary Gauthier goes. Brick by brick, the letting go, as you walk away from everything you know.” I can tell you this….beginnings also bring anticipation. Every new start I’ve made helped build the chapters of my life and now I’ve started another.

Profile photo of joan stommen joan stommen
Retired reporter, teacher and principal. A grandma, traveler and blogger who still writes and substitutes when I’m not off on adventure.

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Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. Suzy says:

    Joan, I was touched by your story! Some new beginnings are harder than others; thank you for sharing yours with us. Glad we were able to overcome the technical difficulties to get your story on the right page!

    • joan stommen says:

      Wow, your first problem child on your first day of publication…LOL. And you handled it so very well. Thank you, Suzy…for spending time to fix and for your sweet comments. I’m so happy you’ve taken over the helm at Retrospect!

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    What a lovely rumination on the path your life has taken you, the happiness, sadness, joys and sorrows. And how you have dealt with them and are now prepared to move on. I applaud your ability to deal with all that has come your way and the way you express it. I look forward to reading much more and welcome to this community. Thank you for this new beginning.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    Joan, this is a beautifully written and poignant story of your life journey. I so admire your spirit and willingness to launch yourself into a new beginning after suffering the loss of your husband of 47 years.

  4. John Zussman says:

    Joan, I can only imagine the devastation of losing your longtime partner. I especially appreciate your role as his cheerleader, preserving his memory among his grandchildren. I’m trying to do that for my father, who died in 1960. Not easy, but essential.

    • joan stommen says:

      Thanks for reading me John. We must absolutely share their memories and stories, it’s the circle of life.I tell my kids…“When you’re gone, who remembers your name;who keeps your flame, who tells your story?” …they’d better tell mine! 😉

  5. gsbate says:

    “The heaviness holds me down sometimes, and it wears me out trying to push it away.” Well-said. Heaviness does that. It also holds me in one place staring at nothing. I love that you pushed it away and are happy. Thank you for writing this.

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