Lonely?

Natale and Me, October 2015

Natalie and Me, October 2015

Natalie and I just had portraits taken. This is my favorite. I have a portrait of Philip and me, I wanted one of me and Natalie. How happy I look – it makes me smile when I see it. And it’s genuine – I love my daughter and I am able to enjoy her. “Enjoy” is a word I thought I would never use once Philip died. But the deep and grievous wound of his death has made me vulnerable to love as well as to pain. Never have I realized how deeply I love my daughter. Or that the fact of my love for my son is what sustains me through his death, even as it brings me to my knees in grief.

Sometimes when I’m driving, I say Philip’s name. I call out to him. And I realize how little his name is actually said. And how saying it doesn’t mean he’ll answer the phone or sit across from me and chat at dinner. It reminds me that something’s gotten smaller and more lonely. His name is lost in space. I can say it, it can go out there, but I will never speak it out loud to my son again.

I used to scream Philip’s name in my car when he first died. Now when I say it it hangs thin in the air, like an empty clothesline. A reminder that there used to be a person at the other end of that name, there used to be hair and flesh and hands that had two differently shaped thumbs. I’m the only one, besides him, who noticed. He was over 6’, tall enough to for me to lay my head on his chest when I needed a moment of love and protection. Reassurance, because what could be wrong if he was all right? That’s why I didn’t worry about him. Because he was all right until he wasn’t, and worrying wouldn’t have changed anything.

I’ve been wondering if I’m lonely. Another one of those feelings I thought would feel one way when in fact it feels another. I imagined lonely as sitting with my head hanging and wishing desperately for company. I imagined it small, sad and helpless in the kind of silence no sound can disturb. But that’s not what it is. It’s quiet, for sure. It’s a longing for I-don’t-what. It’s a restlessness. It’s me hurrying home because that’s where I’ll find what I love. My daughter. My dog and my cat. And it’s where I go to do what I love – to write, to quilt, to knit. When I’m creating I feel alive.

But I have to follow the flow of my energy because there’s only so much of it. I know when I want to write or knit or sew. I also know when I’m done with it for the day, and that often leaves a space that I fill with TV. The only television I used to watch was news. Now I can’t watch the insanity we call “the world.” The grief I hold for Philip is all I can manage. So I look for series, the longer the better. I started that when Philip died. It didn’t take away the sick knot in my stomach, or that I felt raw, bloodied and beaten up, but it quieted my mind. And if I needed anything, it was relief from the damn screaming in my head.

Now there’s no more screaming, just the chattering of the monkey mind. And confusion about what it is I’m yearning for but can’t find. Whatever it is, it’s not “out there.” It’s a reckoning from within. The past informs my present too much. Growing up I felt I was in the wrong world doing the wrong things. I was drunk and directionless. I went to college, then dropped out because I wasn’t interested. I got a job in the last place I thought I’d wind up, Wall Street. For years I worked there in misery. I knew I was in trouble the day I got a $12,000 bonus and looked at it with a shrug.

It is not enough to say, “it’s a job, you’re not supposed to like it.” If that’s what you make of it, then that’s how you’ll live. It was work I was after, not some job, but I didn’t know how to find it because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was asleep. What I wanted to do, what I always wanted to do, was write – but at 18 I was incapable of making decisions that didn’t involve alcohol. I wandered into FIT (Fashion Institute) in NY because my friend went there. As if I gave  a shit about fashion. When that didn’t work out I wandered into a job on Wall Street because a friend got me an interview. I spent my free time drinking and when I decided to stop, I spent my free time in AA.

I didn’t understand what I know now. Back then, the world was the problem, as if I had nothing to do with anything. As if I was at the mercy of an implacable universe. I used to say there must be a God because this much pain can’t be random

I can’t say how I think my life should be or should have been. The doing is only the reflection of the being. If I had the presence of mind when I was a kid, I would have gone to college to study the things that called me – writing and literature. That would have led to a different life. Not necessarily better, just different. But that’s not what happened. I am where I am because of choices I made and things that have happened that I have no control over. The classroom I learn from is wherever I am.

There is a way to live that feels right. You have to pay attention to where your spirit leads, not to what the world says. The world is crazy – why on earth would you want to listen to it? I’ve listened too long and too hard and much as I begin to disengage from the false, the truth is not so easily revealed. Or maybe it is and I still can’t see it. I’ve an inner struggle that manifests in the material. Today, talking with Kirsten, I realized that much as I don’t particularly think about the future, I have a sense that this is all there is, this is where I stop, this is where I’ll be when I die, restless and lonely, wondering what it was I was asked to do but too scared to hear the question.

© 2015 Denise Smyth

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kmlagatree
    Nov 30, 2015 @ 06:32:13

    You nailed it again, D. You have an uncanny ability to capture feeling in words. xxoo, Kirsten

    Reply

  2. Rose
    Nov 30, 2015 @ 08:36:17

    This is so beautiful Denise!

    I know, that you probably also know that it’s never too late to get anything done. Things are just over for us when we have no more time on this planet. Until that day, we still can go after whatever it’s that we want. In this case, I believe you should go back to school, finish your degree and go on with something you always knew you should do. You certainly have a gift for writing, and you should pursue it…..

    Love,

    Rose

    Reply

    • Denise
      Dec 01, 2015 @ 20:06:20

      You are right – all the time we have is now, and we can use it the way we want. Or at least try to. And thank you for your kind words. It is always a joy to hear from you.

      Reply

  3. SusanB
    Nov 30, 2015 @ 15:46:42

    In wondering if this is all there is: the loneliness, and can I say regret? I believe regret is unavoidable. If someone says they have no regrets I say they are lying, or never took a chance, or the road less traveled. Denise, you’re at a place I came to after Nick died, managed to get past, wandered back, have passed again, hovered around. Phillip is your missing piece: your life as unsatisfying as the jigsaw puzzle with the piece missing. Kinda sad when our life now compared to what it would have looked like with all the pieces there. If our boys had never died? In this piece of writing Denise, and one of your best in my opinion, you’ve discussed all the reasons you’re at this place, and you have all the pieces, except for one, to have the best life you could ever have. I’m bloody proud of you for where you are right now. Thanks for this.

    Reply

  4. Denise
    Dec 01, 2015 @ 20:10:26

    Susan, thank you for taking the time to write this. Funny you mention regrets – there’s a post I started about Philip’s childhood, and some things I wonder if I should have done, if I had done them, would his path have been different…but I also refuse to spend too much time thinking that way. Our beloved boys have died, and what we have to do is learn to live with it. And whether you know it or not, you help me along the way.

    Reply

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