This past Saturday night, while at Camp Widow East in Tampa, Florida - I was sitting at one of the tables at the fancy banquet that Soaring Spirits throws for us during each of the camp events. I was talking to my friend Sarah (who writes in here each Sunday), whom I had been talking with in regular phone calls and online for months and months now, sharing our grief and our pain and our love for our partners with each other. She is someone I have cried with over the phone more than once, and there we were - sitting at the same table, in person, finally.
The D.J. was playing music, and widowed people were starting to get on the dance floor. Sarah looked at me and said: "I think I'm going to request Happy by Pharrell Williams." My logical and cynical side went to my normal place of thinking I hate that song, and I began to cringe and roll my eyes, out of pure habit - but suddenly my mouth opened and I was saying words instead, and the words were: "I love that song!" Seconds later, when the song was being played, I found myself out on the dance floor, with Sarah and others, clapping along to the lyrics: clap along if you feel like happiness is for you.
Here's the thing: the everyday me that has to live each breath with the loss of my husband in a world that seems to be surrounded by marriage and couples and love, truly hates that song. I hate the many, many people who tell me constantly, and nonchalantly, to just "Be Happy!" Every time someone says that to me, I want to punch them in their eyeball and then hit them in the groin with a piece of plywood, just for fun. It annoys me when people try and tell me how to feel. It annoys me even more when those people have no clue of what they speak. They have no idea of the complexities behind that statement. They have not a clue, what it takes in my new world, to simply just "Be Happy."
But in Florida, at Camp Widow, with my fellow widowed friends, dancing and singing and laughing and crying and not having to explain any of it ever - I was happy. I didn't even have to think about it. It just existed, and it was simple, and I was clapping to the idea of happiness being for me. It was for me at that time, and in that moment - happiness, like the song says, was the truth.
And that is the thing about being surrounded by a couple hundred widowed people at a place called Camp Widow - everything feels natural. Nothing is forced. Emotions happen the same way that breathing happens. We go to grief workshops or Round Table discussions, and we open up with complete strangers who seem like intimate friends. We have cocktails and sit by the pool and laugh and joke around together, and we sit inside each other's pain, and learn and grow and change from looking into the story of someone else and what they lost. We see ourselves more clearly and with better eyes, because those around us are willing to stare into the darkness with us. They get it. They see it, and they aren't running away.
This was my 3rd time attending and presenting my Comedy Workshop at Camp Widow. Each time I go, I come away with something new. Each time I leave, hope follows me like a shadow, and guides me back to my home. Each time I hear a widowed person laugh while I'm creating comedy out of my pain, I heal just a little bit more.
There are so many moments I could point to as highlights of the camp experience - endless, life-changing moments. But life is short, and this blog is getting too long; so for now, I will just say this:
It feels amazing to know that when surrounded by the right people, at the right time, in the right space - happiness is for me.
Pictured: me with Sarah Treanor. Our glass hearts, representing the love that we get to keep and take with us forever.