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Overcoming Fears Building Strength

 Greetings, still from the boonies in Northern Wisconsin,

During this trip I have had the opportunity to connect with two men that have been recently widowed.  Connect in that we text each other almost daily.  It is a way of knowing that someone knows what we are doing and is interested.  I have felt that since I have been on my own for over four years now, I have some wisdom I can share about the grieving process and about the transition from a two-person household to a one-person household.

I already wrote to you about Terry, who texted me he was having a beer in Gatlinburg so I rushed to get to a pub myself so I could have a beer too and it would be like having happy hour together.  

I should arrange more of those with friends.  Sometimes it works out well, we can exchange pictures of our venues, the food, and stories.

The other friend that I am texting regularly is Steve.  His wife passed suddenly and recently.  So his journey into grief and through grief is different than mine or Terry's.  Without time to say goodbye or to anticipate the end of married life, he was hit hard.  I have enjoyed our interactions, and I tell you this because he has been inspiring me to do some things I had been afraid to do.

He told me that when they were camping on a lake he would often go for an evening swim, no mater how cold.  As a young person I was always loving the water and swimming long.  But as an old woman, I have not done it much and I miss that part of me that loved to swim and play in the water.

I took Steve's story as a challenge.  Because when I thought of it for some reason I felt a bit of fear.  And you know I desire to overcome a bit of fear often.  It is like building muscle, I have to practice or I will be wimpy.  Who wants to be a wimp!

So that very evening I went out to the boat dock, walked carefully over the slippery rock bottom.

, and finally got the nerve to lean forward into the water.  I swam out past the dock and back.  That was it, I was done.  But I did it!  I felt proud and texted Steve right away.

Yesterday afternoon I got warm from work and thought to myself that I would go for a swim.  I remembered a place I have visited on my bike that was only a few miles from my campground.  It had a sandy area for swimming and across a straight between North and South Trout Lakes was another sandy area I could see.  I told myself I would go there. 

But you know that I kept thinking of other things to do.  Time was passing and I wasn't getting any closer to a swim.  And it was getting cooler too.

As the sun got lower and lower in the West I finally put on my swim pants, pulled out my trike, and began pedaling toward that pretty swim spot.  Shortly after leaving the campground I passed a woman carrying a white jacket coming up from the lake.  She looked thrilled, she gave me a big smile and and I smiled back and waved.

When I got to Cathedral Point where the little sandy area was, the mosquitoes were hounding me.  So I quickly walked into the water to escape.   

It took a minute or two to take the plunge.  But I did it, and as I started the swim across the straight I turned onto my back and saw that smiling lady with the white sweater! 

"We know where the good spots are," she called to me.  

I was comforted by her presence.  At least one person knows I am out here, and if I disappear...  

As I swam I realized I had not swam this far in at least a year, maybe 10 or 12.  At 68 was this wise?  I kept going, taking my time.

When I got to the other side I felt like doing the happy dance.  I raised my arms.  Yay!  I made it!

It turns out the sandy spot on the other side of the straight is one of the many campsites in the State Forest that is only accessible by boat or on foot.  There was a picnic table, a fire pit, and a clothesline.  Hmmm, next time I swim across I should tow a tent, ha ha.  And some bug spray.  I returned to the water to escape the mosquitoes.

Now to swim back.  The swim back took a while, as the current wasn't in my favor this time.  But I made it!  I was sooooo happy.  I did it!  I am woman, hear me roar.  And I saw that the smiling woman's things were still sitting on a picnic table.  She was still around, I was so happy I got to chat with her. 

Kate is from the Milwaukee area, she still works because she loves it.  She is up here on her own visiting a friend.  Her energy was marvelous. I wanted to exchange contact information with her and hike or swim with her.  She told me that I was an inspiration to her to just go out and swim like that and camp by myself.  She said she used to do things like that but has gotten more afraid over time.

We didn't exchange contact info.  She was only in the area a couple more days.  But she helped me over come my fear and do it anyway.  I shared that phrase with her and she repeated it, trying to commit it to memory.

I called my sister-in-law Sue who will be coming to the Rhinelander, WI area when I am there in August.  She told me the dates she would be coming.  My nephew Tom and his wife are coming to camp a few days too.  We always have a good time.  I am happy.

Back at camp I changed clothes and went to watch the sun set and use the better cell service by the lake to reach out to Terry and Steve with a text and a picture.

Steve was in Indiana and had connected with our mutual friends, Frankie and Dennis.  He had arranged to bike with them the next morning!  I was so happy for him.  Terry was also reconnecting with friends and was enjoying some music with them. 

Life changes things, we move on, we adapt. 

That's enough for now.  But I had excited to tell you about Big Bang Bob next time.  

Hang in there, and go out and to something that scares you a little bit. 


  1. Hi Sue I enjoyed reading your blog. I have been a widow almost 14 years now and I am somewhat on the same path. I have been camping for 13 of those years and still love it. I am still trying new things that I was afraid to do on my own. Age is now catching up with me and I sold my motor home. I am staying with a friend and house sitting this year. I camp in my little trailer as much as I can. I look forward to reading your blogs. Tommie

    1. Hi Tommie! Thank you for trippin' with me virtually. You were part of the inspiration for me to get a trailer. I understand that as we age things change and I am trying to stuff as much physical activity in while I can still move around because the day is coming...

      And also I can tell my brain isn't what it used to be. I was talking with a friend and we were amazed at what we used to be able to do. Work a full day, help the kids with homework and transportation, cook and clean and even have hobbies. Wow! That all seems super-human 69.

  2. Congratulations on your evening swim! I am so happy you have stayed in touch with Steve and related that he is in Indiana with Frankie and Dennis. A visit with them will be so good for him!

  3. Thank you for your comment and for traveling with me. I agree that the trip and meeting up with Frankie and Dennis is a blessing.
    Frankie and Dennis are so kind and fun to be around!


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