Crutches & Chairs
It’s amazing the way we subconsciously attach ourselves to things– or people, and it becomes a crutch. Comfortable as it may be, and harmless as well, years can pass without us or anyone around us noticing this almost metaphysical hold that person or thing possesses. The saddest part about a crutch: it has absolutely nothing to do with our attachments or how deep they root.
Of course, we typically associate drugs, alcohol, abusive lovers, etc as a crutch. Those huge red flags waving from every direction warning of addiction and the almost impossible feeling of life afterward. Unfortunately, not all crutches are so toxic to come with red flags, warnings or support.
My father died twenty years ago. I kept a zipper sweater of his and I wore it when I was sad. I wore it to write. I sat and wrote everything I held in. I was rather lost and sad too often. I wore that sweater when the zipper was broken, the pockets had ripped and over a decade of depression left the fabric bare and rough. I stopped wearing it because it made me feel worse but I kept it on a hanger just the same.
The decade passed and withered my security sweater to find the passing of my grandmother. Only weeks before she passed she sent me to get her something she’d never owned before. My grandmother wanted her very own hoodie. Of course, she couldn’t have a normal hoodie. It had to be right for her. I found it. Grey with pink trim, soft, not too thick and bedazzled down the zipper sides.
My family went through her things and I ended up with that hoodie (and other things obviously) with the bedazzled zipper. It was too large for her wrists, so she’s sewn these large black plastic musical note buttons to each wrist to make it smaller. It was sure something to see. I wore it, though. I wore it like a hug I’d been waiting for all my life. I wore it when I was sad, which had lessened before I lost her. I wore it to write.
She was a writer and damned supportive of my love for the craft as well. I found happiness writing in that hoodie. I wrote my first novel in that hoodie. I also revised and went through about twenty rounds of edits in that hoodie. We were a team after that.
A tradition was started and everything I’d written and published came with the embrace of that hoodie. More loss faced me. My marriage and my health both failed. I rushed into a relationship with all my heart like a fool. My health continued to fall and I ended up alone, a single mom, homeless, in the worst health of my life. I wore my hoodie like armor.
By now, all the crutches in my life have become like that picture in the back of Highlights magazine where you find all the things wrong in the setting. Welcome to my life at that moment. I knew it, too. Here is the part where I surprise both of us with where this story is heading.—
I’d set out to write this post for this massive epiphany I had while talking to my kids today about my lack of writing since I became a chronic illness warrior. It was a chair. In all these attachments/crutches I kept, I’d figured out the reason I hadn’t written since I became sick was the night I moved home at my marriage-end. My ex and I (friends) shared the U-Haul and I was second- We were tired. I was going back home to North Carolina, and my writing chair wouldn’t fit. We argued, probably made a big scene in the neighborhood looking back, and when he was insistent it would not fit, my temper hit my highest, or lowest point-depending on the scale.
Before I knew it, I had this beloved writing chair, this heavy, business grade office chair over my head, as sick and hurting as I was, and in pure anger, I did throw that chair over a chain link fence next to our garbage and screamed some f-bombs, mf’s, sob’s—basically, I might as well had gone through the alphabet. I still remember the slow-mo sight and sound of that chair hitting the ground. Not a bit broken, the strong wooden arms didn’t touch the ground for the thick upholstered seat with those brass brads framing the edges. The wheels spun in the moonlight.
I was writing in that chair before my feet could touch the ground. My dad’s office had a second desk with a typewriter and a three-hole punch. That was my desk. I sat there in that same burgundy floral chair and drank my Nu-Grape, ate my Gold-n-Cheese and would spin until I regretted everything. I typed letters to my dad, feet swinging beneath me, and hid them for him to find when I wasn’t there. I did book reports, projects and sometimes, I just typed bad words really fast and threw it away before anyone saw. (I was an odd kid.)
When I grew up and moved out, my dad gave me that chair. It was my chair. I signed on AOL there. I paid bills there. I wrote my Christmas cards there, and when I wrote anything, I wrote it there. In that one chair. He died two weeks after I married. I planned his funeral in that chair.
My grandmother was disabled. A chronic illness warrior, herself, she couldn’t take just any seat. When she came to my house, guess where she always went? Yes. That chair. It was my chair unless my grandmother was there. I didn’t mind that one bit.
The crickets chirping made the same sound as those squeaky wheels turning on the other side of the fence. On the side of my life that was over. I resented him for what felt like purposefully not making room, even if it meant leaving something lesser out. I never understood why everything fit but it, or why it was last. I was tired, defeated, angry at things that led to where I was in the moment that night. Basically, everything I’ve said rushed through the moment the chair went flying out of my hands. I resent me for it, too. Most of all.
I resent me for what I wanted to tell you. I meant to say this chair has been my problem, my crutch for almost another decade now- Seven or eight years. I don’t even count anymore because everything then was then. I am not anything like I was or who I was. She is a stranger. Things are things. People are people. One of those matter.
Pain pumps through me every moment of each day, and I have had to relearn me, my life, and my new. Nostalgia can creep in like an infection, make you question why everything happened the way it did and why those crutches were so damned crippling. I miss people. Zipper sweaters. Hoodies. Y’all, I really miss that fucking chair.
Crutches. We need them when we can’t walk. But we don’t know if we can walk until we try without the crutches. Honesty hurts, especially if you fall, but for at least seven years, I’ve been grabbing crutches. All these life changes changed everything about me from politics, to music, to food. It changed my spirituality, my parenting, everything I have ventured… What if, no matter how much I love it, I’m not a writer anymore? But maybe I shouldn’t doubt myself because I have a mouthy ass daughter. —– Also, my oldest daughter hated the way this ended and added that last line. I left it for her.