To mark this period of my life, one of my dearest friends sent me the "Contentment" scrollwork shown above. It not only reflects my feelings as a widow ten years into my journey, but my life as a whole.
This was a perfect gift, inasmuch as I'd recently completed the "new room project" discussed in this article and had finally given it a name: MY ROOM OF CONTENTMENT.
I had the perfect place for this perfect gift (made by Etsy seller ScrolLynne)—on the stand at the end of the hallway that leads to my office, bedroom, and my new room at left. Every day as I walk here, I'll have a visual reminder of the many blessings in my life that have given me the great gift of contentment.
Below are some "contentment quotes" to think about:
"I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength" (Philippians 4-11, 13 NLT).
"WHATEVER WE ARE WAITING FOR—peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance—it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart."
"EXPECT TO HAVE HOPE REKINDLED. Expect your prayers to be answered in wondrous ways. The dry seasons in life do not last. The spring rains will come again."
- Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance and many other best-selling books
ABOVE: HARRY'S OFFICE before the change.
BELOW: Same corner in my new "ROOM OF CONTENTMENT"
I had no sooner set up my "Prayer Corner" than my cat, Charlee, claimed my comfortable chair for her early morning naps.
See below for a PDF of all new room photos in larger sizes. This document will be of special interest to artists and crafters as it features many of my own creative projects and some unusual needlework in my collection.
"Mourning is the constant reawakening that things are now different."
“Our inner happiness depends not on what we experience but on the degree of our
gratitude to God, whatever the experience.”
Copyright ©2015 by Barbara Brabec. All Rights Reserved.
THE WIDOW'S JOURNEY is long and varied, with many surprising twists and turns as the years pass. In looking back at how dramatically my life has changed as a widow and reflecting on all the interesting things I've done, the places I've been, and the many new friendships I've formed in the past few years, I have to admit that none of these things could have happened if Harry was still with me. (You'd have to read my memoir about life with Harry to understand how dramatically different my life is today as a single woman than it was while I was Harry's wife.)
If the marriage and the man was a good one, the widow's heart will always yearn for the soul mate who loved her more than anyone else in the world. But reality eventually sets in and she either stagnates in a pool of pity or begins to see and grasp the new life that lies ahead of her. In my case, after a while I felt as though I was the same Barbara who'd come to Chicago at eighteen to make a life for herself before she met her knight in shining armor—a woman with ambition and new goals and dreams.
Still needing income to supplement my Social Security but tired of the kind of work I was doing in 2005, I began to reinvent myself on the Web and gradually built a new and more satisfying business for myself as an editor, self-publisher, and author's consultant. The new people I met along the way and the new skills I developed changed my life in a wonderful and positive way. (See my article, "How to Be a Fearless Dreamer and Reinvent Yourself at Any Age.")
The memory of Harry will always resound in my heart, but the tearful yearnings I used to have for him were gradually and gently replaced with a kind of peaceful contentment and joy I never imagined I could have without him.
Of course my deep Christian faith accounts for much of that contentment and joy, and I thank God every day for the wonderful life I've had, and especially for all the blessings He has bestowed on me as a widow. It's really true what the Bible says about God taking care of widows and orphans:
Another Turning Point
I TOOK ANOTHER BIG STEP in my widow's journey last summer, and therein lies a story.
After Harry died, I turned his office into a museum of everything he loved—and yes, a sort of shrine as well—and I proudly showed that room to his old music friends when I hosted a "Remembering Harry" party shortly after his death. This was the place where he worked to help me run our home-business, where he corresponded with friends, made all his phone calls, worked on his scrapbooks and files, and spent hours listening to his thousands of LP records and dubbing countless cassette tapes to exchange with his music buddies.
At left you can see one corner of that room as it was when I began to tear it apart and how that corner looks now. Everything in the room reminded me of who Harry was and what he loved, and for a long time just walking into his old office gave me comfort. As the years passed, however, I was rarely in that room and everything in it was just gathering dust because I was too busy to even think about what to do about it.
One day last summer when I entered that room, I stopped and stared at all of Harry's wall art and thought, "I'm sick and tired of those circus posters and this whole room!”
Suddenly and quite unexpectedly, I'd found myself at a turning point in my widow's journey where my heart told me it was long past time to let go of the room that Harry had claimed as his own for so many years, time for a final goodbye. As soon as I made that mental adjustment, I got very excited about my "new room project" and didn't want to do anything else but start taking everything out of the room to make way for what I wanted in it.
I wanted to create an oasis of sorts where I could set up my portable sewing machine permanently after decades of having to store it in a closet. An old desk downstairs would make a fine sewing machine table, I thought. I could paint it and the old bookcase Harry had in his office beneath a board that served as a desktop. I could keep one of his tables as my new hobby and crafts table where I could work on one project or another without having to put things away every day. He'd always had a board across his five filing cabinets that made a solid desktop, so I decided to keep four of the cabinets and have the board cut to fit, and this would continue to serve as a desk for wrapping Amazon Marketplace packages. Most of all, I wanted a corner under the window (to the right of the picture wall at left) where I could focus on the blessings of my life, have a little table for Bible study and journaling, and draw nearer to God through daily prayer.
Before long I found myself sketching a new room layout, picking paint colors, and creating a work plan for what I needed to do to make the room mine. By then, I'd decided that I was now in semi-retirement mode (see my story, "Will You Still Be Working In Your Seventies?") and could devote as much time to this project as I wished.
Out with the Old, In with the New!
BIT BY BIT I began to tear that room apart, taking everything out of it so it could be painted and new windows could be installed. Putting it back together again—using old furniture and other things in the house in a new way, framing new pictures for the walls, and figuring out a different way to use and decorate the built-in bookcase boxes—was the most creative project I’ve done in years. Just walking into that room now lifts my spirits because its bright interior is filled with a nostalgic collection of favorite things, including art, needlework, photos, and handmade treasures.
Two months later after everything was in place, I created a PDF photo story of how I'd transformed the room, first showing how it looked as Harry's Office and then showing the amazing transformation to a place I could now call my own. When I sent the picture story to my sisters and a few friends, one of them said it looked like a "Room of Contentment," which I decided was the perfect name for it. Another friend delighted me when she sent this response:
< Email address >
P.S. If you've communicated with me before, I'd very much like to get an update from you about your own widow's journey.