The Wanting

I don’t know the world since Philip died. Sometimes I think I’m just dreaming it away. But I try to pay attention to the light, what I hear it saying when I see the way it hits the trees. I’m cautious with morning light – it’s full of promises it can’t keep, has a brightness I don’t understand. What’s it so happy about, what’s it looking forward to? Morning light means adjusting – again – to time without Philip. I’m pissed at the afternoon light. That’s the light that’s turned against me – the trees catch fire and motion stops. The world’s suspended for hours in its harshness. But then there’s the evening light –  the softening of the day, and the lovely word for its waning: the gloaming.  Evening light is warm and rich and I’d like to slide right under it and stay there. Let it close in on me, let it wrap me in its luscious velvet and then maybe I can stop thinking.

***************************************, story number two. Michael. Nice guy, interesting, handsome. Stud in his ear, which I find sexy. Suggested meeting at a yoga class. Skin-tight yoga clothes on a first date is a risk. I took it. And I liked it. After, we went to a cafe, talked over sandwiches full of whole-grain goodness. The bill came and Michael shook his head when I reached for my wallet. It’s the kind of gesture I want a man to make. Then he walked me back to my car. That’s the crucial moment – it’s either “let’s do this again” (said casually so you don’t sound too eager) or “I’ll be in touch,” (which means s/he won’t.) I let him decide because I was ambivalent. “I’d like to read your blog,” he said. I gave him the address. Then he handed me his business card and said to email him.

Sounded like a “let’s do it again” to me.

“Ambivalence is not nothing,” Philip tells me. I try to work with that. I’m often ambivalent because I don’t know what I want, I don’t know what’s driving me. Or stopping me. So while I didn’t particularly care whether or not I saw Michael again, I decided any decision was better than no decision. Next night I wrote him a short email, ending with, “So now that the first awkward date is over, if you’d like to get together for a second semi-awkard date, let me know ;o)”

I never heard from him. And other than being a wee bit stung by his rejection, I didn’t care. Since Philip died, I’ve never more known that the way people treat me has nothing to do with me. Even on a date, that intensely personal time with its concomitant judging. Someone not wanting to see me again isn’t personal.  What’s it change about me, if someone doesn’t think I’m second date material? It just means he realized we weren’t right together before I did.

I was listening to a podcast with Natalie about a man who, because of some temporary condition, lived with no testosterone for a few months. I had no desire, he said; none. He’d sit and stare at a wall for hours at a time. He didn’t want to read, or watch TV. He didn’t care what he ate. Yet he could see things were beautiful – in fact, he thought everything beautiful – but he didn’t want. Did I feel like that when Philip died, drained of anything I ever thought mattered? No – what I felt was way too wrecked and crazed to have lost all my wanting. I had no desire to bathe, wash my hair, go out, dress in anything but pajamas; and makeup – you’re kidding, right? But I had piercing desire, wanting either Philip to come home to me, or me to go to him. I was beyond reason.

In spite of the fact that Philip died, the world continued on its way. Eventually I had bouts of no-desire, lying on the couch in a state of One Huge Shrug. It wasn’t Zen-like, the way the guy on the radio described it (not that this guy ever wanted that to happen again). It was depression. For the most part, it’s not like that now. I want to write, to read, to watch TV; I want to knit and sew. I want to buy clothes. Partly because I’m not done being vain, partly because the way I dress draws attention, and if you can’t see I’m different and branded because my son died, I’ll wear my difference so you’ll notice something. “Hey – what a cool top – where’d you get it?” “Free People, do you know my son died?” “I didn’t know bell bottoms were back in style.” “Then you’re not paying attention, do you know my son died?”

As far as desire for a man…I must’ve wanted something beyond stories when I put myself on But whenever it comes time comes for a date, I shrink. When I’m home with my writing, my books, my computer, my TV, on my couch that needs to be replaced in a living room that still has no curtains, I see no reason to invite a man into my life. I’m still nursing my grief. Working full-time and seeing friends just a little bit more than I used to gives me less time to do that. Something tells me if I let a man love me, it would be good for me; something also tells me I’m not emotionally up for what it takes to get there. I’m drained and vulnerable from living with Philip dead, and I’m not so sure about putting myself in the path of desire. Because really – it’s the wanting that undoes me.

© 2014 Denise Smyth


13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kmlagatree
    Jun 09, 2014 @ 05:49:26

    Such wisdom and such beautiful writing. Your blog is an inspiration to live — and to live in the moment. Thank you, D.


  2. DragonPack
    Jun 09, 2014 @ 10:46:31

    “But I had piercing desire, wanting either Philip to come home to me, or me to go to him. I was beyond reason.”

    I’m still there, so much of the time. Gentle hugs my friend.


  3. Melissa Murphy
    Jun 09, 2014 @ 15:06:51

    I always get so much from your posts. Thank you for them.


  4. behindthemask
    Jun 09, 2014 @ 17:10:42

    Hugs xo


  5. grahamforeverinmyheart
    Jun 10, 2014 @ 09:50:21

    I understand wanting. Of course, like you, I most want the only thing I can NEVER AGAIN have. I know that, so instead I’m constantly searching for some unidentified source of peace. I’ve heard that it should come from within, but right now, that’s not happening. Inside me there is nothing but turmoil and pain, certainly not peace. I can see why you both want to meet someone and at the same time you recognize that meeting someone really won’t solve anything.


  6. Denise
    Jun 10, 2014 @ 12:33:01

    You’re right – I don’t know what I want. Sometimes I feel so trapped, with all I feel about Philip; sure, it’ll change, but it isn’t going to stop being the kind of painful that seems too awful. And I’m so sorry that you know exactly what I’m talking about.


  7. Denise Hisey
    Jun 13, 2014 @ 12:19:59

    ‘…it’s the wanting that undoes me.’
    That is so haunting, Denise. Do you think it’s fear of being hurt/abandoned? Getting close to someone opens the door to being hurt again, even if unintentional.
    (BTW I am impressed by your ability to see Micheal’s lack of reply isn’t about you. That shows growth and strength in and of itself I think.)


  8. Denise
    Jun 16, 2014 @ 20:59:14

    I think it’s more like wanting Philip here so much that sometimes I just can’t grasp what it means to live. That’s what breathing is about; just breathe and be here, where I am. When I’m at work, I’m busy and focused; I don’t think so much. But when I’m alone it hits me and I’m still terrified that he’s not here, and I don’t understand what I’m feeling. And really, he’s “here” in that I’m in constant conversation with him. I mean, what do I do with that? All that he tells me, all the constant and amazing signs. I know he’s asking me to live…but I get lost in wanting him alive where I can see him and touch him.

    It’s funny though; Philip’s death is directly linked to me seeing Michael’s non-response isn’t about me. In many ways, I see things more clearly now. It’s so messed up that this is what it took – but then, it’s that way for a lot of people. Look what you’ve done with what you’ve suffered. You’ve not only turned it around, you look outward and help people. And for that, I am grateful.


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