Sunday, February 15, 2015

Camp Widow

It has now been one week since I returned from Camp Widow in Tampa.  I wanted to sleep on this awhile before giving my impressions about it, specifically what it meant to me.

When I first registered for it, it was a little over one month since losing Megan.  It was an impulsive thing at the time, because I didn't have anyone else to really talk to about it, other than friends that have Cystic Fibrosis themselves.  None of them had lost spouses, but at least they got me a little bit, because they too have been surrounded by sickness and death their whole lives.  

That initial excitement and impatience began to wane over the next month, and began turning into anxiety, then apathy.  I really didn't even give a shit about going.  I figured that I would simply be a fly on the wall there, and if I did interact, I would be so rough around the edges that I would scare people off from talking to me more.  I sincerely thought it would end up being a weekend of sitting around and watching widows cry on each other's shoulder while I sat against the wall like the lonely kid at the high school dance because I couldn't squeeze a tear out (fuck prozac, by the way).  On the other side of the coin, I thought that the fact that I was relatively young, male, and dealt with such a long term illness would disqualify me demographically from participating in much discussion.

I was really, really wrong.

Yes, of course there was crying, everyone there has lost someone that they had romantic love with, a few multiple times.  That's pretty fucking rough to listen to whether you're a widow(er) or not.  Yes, there were many times when I felt that my story wouldn't hold a candle to some of the pain and suffering that others have had to endure.  No, no one was scared off by me or intimidated by my age, gender, demeanor, or reactions to their stories.  

Within an hour of sitting down at the meet and greet on Thursday evening, I had connected with multiple people, and I began to feel at ease about the whole thing.  There were a few that I instantly bonded with, to the point of feeling like I had shared a womb with them.  It was a surreal, strangely comfortable, and overwhelming feeling that I haven't experienced in 12 years.

Friday started the workshops and the actual "Camp".  I also ended up being called by my work, ruining most of the morning.  In the "Long Term Illness" workshop, I listened to so many people talk about their dealing with losing their spouse to cancer, and I felt that I actually had it easy, because Megan's illness was present from day 1, and when I met her, I already knew about it.  I remained quiet through that workshop, not really ready to open up in a more structured environment where 45 people were focused on just me and my story.  I signed up to becoming a young widower.  I loved her unconditionally, it didn't necessarily matter to me that she was going to die young.  That's incredibly hard to explain.  Of course, I didn't WANT Megan to die, it just didn't keep me from loving her.

All in all, what was most valuable to me was the socialization outside of the structured workshops.  I definitely picked up some tips and perspectives in the other discussions, but just freely talking with people and hearing their stories outside of a rigid subject to me, was far more valuable.  I did however open up in the "Caveman" workshop on Saturday, as it was much smaller and more intimate than most of the others, for obvious reasons.  It felt good to not only get a few things out about me, but to also lend some perspective to some of the other men at Camp about my journey thus far.

Kelley Lynn's bonanza, "My Husband is not a Rainbow" started in the late afternoon on Saturday.  My god, Kelley is a girl after my own heart.  Cursing, yelling, high-energy anger and sarcasm and morbidity.  She took all the pain and suffering, and turned it into something you can enjoy with a deep, real belly laugh.  Somehow at the end, I got roped into going up and singing morbid Christmas song parodies by a few of my new friends.  I still don't know how I ended up wearing a foam Christmas tree on my head, but damned if I didn't end up enjoying it.

What I didn't expect, after all of this, was immediately wanting to go back.  I didn't expect to miss people so much.  It's part of learning who the new me is.  I only ever needed Megan for well over a decade.  She "got me" when she was alive, and I think that is why I was so sad to leave, because I finally found other people that get me, and actually enjoyed my company.  I definitely had a crash when I got home.  Actually, it started on the plane.  I expected it, and in a sick way, welcomed it.  It let me know that I could still feel, and that the fog was lifting.  It let me know that I am still human, and that I can miss something other than Megan.  It took me a few days of reflection to see it, but Camp Widow actually helped me realize that there is more to life than being a widower.  See if you can figure that one out.

One would think that a gathering specifically focused on those of us that have lost a partner would be a somber and depressing weekend.  I can confidently say that it is totally the opposite, and I will be going back.  Honestly, I wouldn't be sharing any of my writing if it wasn't for Camp Widow.  I can now say that although I might have seemed like a black sheep upon arriving in Tampa, that I left feeling like part of a new that I never wanted to be in, but also one that I can't imagine not being a part of now.

No comments:

Post a Comment