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The Lawn Chair

(Written May 2021)

What was I doing here? 

Under this partially cloudy, starry sky, in this shitty lawn chair that had definitely been used as a chew toy, feeling completely dissociated from what was going on in front of and all around me?

We should be having fun this time of year. Just a few days into my kiddo’s summer break, we should be talking about swimming pools and sunscreen, camping by a lake somewhere and maybe even a few theme parks thrown in (if we’re lucky). Yet here I am, in this stupid uncomfortable chair, staring aimlessly at the fire pit on the ground in front of me, knowing full well this summer wasn’t going to be fun. 

There’s maybe a dozen or so other people here, I don’t remember how many exactly… but I’m definitely alone in this moment. My brother in love and his bride to be, my kids and some of their cousins, at least 3 of my own cousins and probably a friend, neighbor and a couple of old coworkers thrown in. 

It was definitely not the usual suspects that would be gathered around my fire pit on an early summer’s night. Hell, some of the people out here were a thousand miles away from here just a couple days ago. Not only had a lot of these people never met before this, they’ve definitely never shared drinks and food around a fire together. 

So what was the occasion? What brought all of these people together, here in my backyard, gathered haphazardly atop ice chests and even crappier lawn chairs than the one I found myself in?

Well that’s a good question. In this place and in this moment, it’s a hard one to answer. I mean none of us really wanted to be here, yet at the same time, none of us wanted to be anywhere else. It kind of sounds selfish maybe, but I’d been waiting for this day for a long time. And no, I don’t mean I’d been waiting for the day to find myself gathered around a fire in my backyard (queue shitty lawn chair and clouds in the way of the stars I’d hope to find) surrounded by most of the people I love, but not all of them… missing the one who was the reason we were all here. I don’t mean that I’d been waiting for that. 

It was the other thing. Stirring deep inside me, straight down to my core, the very essence of who I was. I could tell that the work I’d been doing lately on myself, meditating, journaling, therapy, self care, had all been strengthening that emotional core. I could feel how much of this warm, honey-like energy was bubbling up inside of me, like a hot powerful force ready to come out for once. 

And it wasn’t anger, not at all. It felt like it came from the same place in my body, from that fiery, molten core, but this was different. It felt like… maybe passion? Desire? Lust? Some kind of instinctual, animalistic drive to do whatever it took to get what I wanted. Not in a gimme-gimme way, but more like “I know what’s mine by birthright and I will not settle for less than what I deserve.” 

So I’m trying to sort out this feeling, just like I’m trying to see what constellation is hiding behind that stupid gray cloud. Is it fear? Loneliness? It feels like it’s coming from deep within that place too. Honestly, the events of the last few days have put all of my emotions on high gear, like if the pantry shelves collapsed and the floor was covered in heaps of dry pasta and soup cans, busted bags of sugar and cereal spreading out and getting stepped on. That’s what this feels like, all my emotions, all dumped out, all together, all at once. 

Okay, maybe now I’m getting a little more clear. So it’s definitely not lust or fear. It’s too warm and too comfortable. It feels sweet and kind, totally nurturing and calm. I think this is just me. My essence, my inner self. It feels like a mother’s loving care but from the inside out. And not the mother who buts in and tells you what to do, but the mother who’s gently caring and patiently waiting alongside the finish line with water and bandaids, ready to pick you up and help you to just feel better. 

So, inner me, inner mom, whoever you are, what is it that you’re telling me right now? Yeah, I guess it is a good thing I'm able to focus on this sky, even if there’s clouds in the way. They do keep moving, you're right. I see more stars now than I have all night. I knew the clouds wouldn’t block my view forever. 

Okay, I’ll lean into this, deeper. Slowly feeling myself melt into this canvas draped over a metal framed chair, away from the clouded sky and my heartbroken loved ones around me. Sinking in, deeper still, feeling my feet root into the ground, firmly holding me and locking me into this moment in time. What now? Is this what I need? To feel firmly planted on the ground? 

The last few days I’ve had a head full of helium. So many bad things and choices and decisions to be made are stacked on top of those emotions. I feel like Gus, the chubby little mouse on ‘Cinderella’ who tries so hard to carry so much but no matter how hard he tries, he just keeps dropping something. 

Hopefully whatever I’m dropping is only hurting me and nobody else. Are my kids okay? I guess time will tell. No one prepares you for this, ever. How could anyone get you ready for this? Learning to live without someone isn’t easy, and it seems like being forced to live without your parent would be extra hard on a child. 

Did I tell them the right way? Will they look back and even remember the words that I said? I didn’t want to sugar coat it, pretend it wasn’t as bad as it really was. I wanted them to know the choice that was made, that it wasn’t our fault, that our broken hearts would heal. Looking back now I don't remember exactly what I said but I really hope that it was exactly what they needed to hear at that moment. And when I told them that I hope they never have to hear news this bad ever again, I really, really meant that. 

Okay so right now we don’t have to be okay. This is still so fresh and raw, we haven’t even had the funeral yet. And dammit i just remembered, there’s so much food sitting out in my kitchen right now, my dogs haven’t been fed and there’s no way in hell i can stand to sit in this stupid fucking lawnchair pretending my heart isn’t shattered into a million pieces, putting on some kind of brave face for the people out here with me. 

Oh wait, really? That’s it? That’s what this warm, motherly, honey feeling is here to tell me? You mean, I don't have to sit out here? I don’t have to put any of that food away, or make sure the living room gets picked up? Someone else can feed those dogs, put out this fire and make sure my kids get to bed safely. These people are here because they’re hurting too, but they’re here because they want to love and help you, too. They want you to ask them to do something so that by doing something they have a momentary gap in their own depths of grief and despair. 

Like I said, none of us want to be out here, but there’s no way any of us would want to be anywhere else but here. I can feel the love inside me and radiating back all around me. Is it the warmth I feel on a west Texas summer night or maybe the fire right across from me? Nope, it’s the first one, for sure. 

So I’m back in the lawnchair, tears running down my face, soaking in this moment, just like this feeling inside is telling me I should. I’ll remember this little slice of time forever I think. Or at least I hope. The time when my world was in pieces all around me, everything in front of me looked scary but I was still surrounded by love. 

My warm, loving feeling just keeps getting stronger. I feel like I have the strength to hold myself up on my feet now. It’s telling me just to ask for what I want. No one here needs any apology from you, you’re the widow they came to comfort and support. Just stand up, announce you’re going to bed, ask for help with whatever you need, tell them you love them and go straight to your bed. Make no excuses, tell them you care, they will not only understand but they’ll jump at the opportunity to help you. 

Well, damn. That was so much easier than I thought. Oh wait, I figured it out I think… the feeling? The warm, loving, motherly feeling like honey deep down inside? It was pleasure. Pleasure told me to change. It told me that making a choice might be scary but it would be worth it if it put you closer to pleasure. To feeling fulfilled, loved and valued. It told me that I alone would be in charge of everything in my life. My happiness was my own job, no one else's. 

Pleasure told me that by getting up from an uncomfortable situation I might risk a little fallout. These people might misunderstand me, think I'm rude or selfish and it might hurt our relationship. I might even lose some of these people I call my friends. And, much in the same way choosing to stand up and leave an uncomfortable seat you might be in, standing up to leave an abusive relationship is risky in and of itself. 

It took me a nanosecond to get out of that lawnchair compared to how long it took me to get out of my relationship. I stayed way past discomfort, well past the point of pain, and until I just couldn't stay anymore. I had to get up and make a change, follow this path to something that was calling me from deep inside. It was never my dream, purpose, or intention to stay in such a toxic marriage for as long as I did, but I was ready to be free, ready to let go. 

And again, way past discomfort, and well past the point of pain, the fallout that came from my decision caused a loss of such magnitude it’s difficult to put into words. Choosing to write your final words seems so selfish to some people, so unfathomable, so wrong. Unfortunately, it’s something that just happens. 

I can’t look back at what happened after my choice to leave, to get out of that relationship or even that shitty lawn chair. Because listening to my inner loving nature that just wants my life to be filled with pleasure and love and harmony has never led me astray. 

That’s how I got into my bed that night, knowing that my pets and my people were all okay without me, that it was safe and okay for me to cry a river into my pillow and feel the sobs take over my body as i drift off to a drug induced sleep (dr prescribed, of course). Nothing felt better than that. I was so lucky that I listened to that part of me instead of just staying somewhere uncomfortable, forced to watch smores being made over the same firepit we’d roasted marshmallows over a hundred times, knowing he’d never be here to burn them to a crisp ever again. 

That was how I got here. I stayed in that uncomfortable lawn chair for those burned marshmallows squished between chocolate and graham crackers. Those sweet family moments were the hope that glued our sinking ship together for so many years. I’d watched so many women become a shell of themselves, no boundaries, no pleasure at all. Full blown slaves to their lives and their families, never truly even knowing what they want, let alone asking for it. I’ll be damned if that’s me. I was not created to be forced into a life like that. 

And I realized that leaving that stupid lawnchair to go take care of myself, regardless of how it might affect anyone elses decisions, was just one tiny step in that same direction. The act of standing up for me and doing something just because I wanted to feel better felt so symbolic of my life at that moment. And just like me getting up out of that lawn chair didn’t take away all of the s'mores nights we had, leaving my marriage didn’t negate all the happiness and good times we shared either. 

Do I wish my late husband could have realized this? Before he made the choice to really leave? 

Do I ever think about turning back time just to try, one more time, to let him know how much he was needed here, with or without me? That we’re still young, we have so much life and love ahead of us… that our kids deserve to have a dad here with them… Yes, more than anything, I’d wish he would have seen. How many people loved him, how many people he would leave behind utterly heartbroken…

But I’m only in control of myself. My happiness, my pleasure, my heartache, my pain. That’s why I got up out of that shitty lawn chair and crawled into my comfy, cozy bed. I walked away from discomfort and straight into pleasure. The choices I’ve made that have led me to happiness have always felt that way. Not easy, not comfortable, but so very worth it. 

And I’ll never regret the discomfort and pain, because without that, I would never know how sweet it is to feel pleasure, deep within me. To know that I’m waking up to a life filled with purpose, love, and peace. To watch my children grow and heal and to keep loving them the only way I know how. 

This gift deep inside me, this pleasure that wants to take the wheel from time to time, it’s what makes me human. It’s what makes me feel alive. Learning to be my own source of happiness, my own company, my own love and fulfillment, has NOT been an easy journey. But man it’s been worth it. And the best part is, I know that when I'm ready to get a newer, better, more comfortable lawn chair, that pleasure will let me know whether it’s the right one for me or not.

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