I close my eyes I think of you
I take a step I think of you
I catch my breath I think of you
I cannot rest I think of you
                                  “Looking Out” by Brandi Carlile

“I know the darkness pulls on you/but it’s just a point of view,” she sings in the same song. Which is the  conversation I had with John, my grief counselor, a couple days ago, a conversation which isn’t new to me. The unbroken un-ease I live with comes first from the way I think about things, from the voice in my head. I can be forgiven for the reasons why I think life is impossible, but it’s my responsibility to step back from the facts and see if I can talk to myself differently about them.

I know it’s the way I think that makes it feel impossible to deal with the utter loss of Philip’s death. Not that I can flip a switch and just think about it with more acceptance and less despair. But the way I think informs the way I feel. And these last months I’ve felt a new kind of worse – resigned and despairing. Mostly quiet about it, except when I can get myself to write some. This has to do with work. I’m having more than a hard time there, and when things are this difficult my grief for Philip swells.

I’ve never had a job this difficult or stressful. I’ve never had a job that got me crying at my desk. There’s too much work, there’s too much I have to figure out on my own and not enough time to do that because things need to be done, not just thought about. Which makes it impossible to feel efficient. I scramble every day to keep up and am miserable because of it. We’ve hired a part-time bookkeeper to help, but she comes in in the evening, when her day job is done. Three nights a week I stay until 7 – 8:00 to train her, which is a riot because I’m training her yet she makes more per hour than I do. And if we have a problem – say there’s an issue with the software we use, or a question about a bill that needs to get paid – she can’t take care of it because the phone calls to resolve these things need to be made between 9-5, when she’s not there.

This salary issue is upsetting me more than I’ve cared to admit, because if I admit it, I have to do something about it. I’m not making enough and I’m not being an adult about it. I should talk to C, my boss. I’m terrified. It feels impossible. Because while on the one hand I think I’m worth more, on the other I’m sure C will not agree. How do I know this? Do I have a crystal ball? The only way to know is to ask.

But maybe the biggest challenge is that I don’t feel connected to anyone there. C & J own the firm, S is an interior designer, JR an architect. Whether or not it’s true – and it probably isn’t – I don’t think they see me. C is a designer, and well-known for what he does. His heart – like mine – lies in his creativity. His job – unlike mine – pays him for it. My job is full of problems that need to be solved, and some of those things I don’t care about and don’t want to know about. Not a day goes by where something doesn’t go wrong, something isn’t problematic. One thing piled on another, then another. It’s like slowly sinking into quicksand. Like I’m going down and I’m not coming back up. It’s that hard to breathe.

How melodramatic of me. I can’t shake it. I’ve no sense of humor about this, no perspective. I feel overwhelmed and inadequate. Like a child who can’t live up to her parents’ expectations. How ridiculous am I? It’s only a job, for Chrissake. A difficult job. I’m not at fault here – it is what it is, and if, after four months, I feel unsure if I can handle it, if I even want to handle it, then I should look for another job.

Which feels impossible. When I was looking to leave my last job, it took me months to get up the nerve to write my resume and finally send it out. This was the first job I applied for and I got it three days after I sent my resume. You’d think that might tell me something. But the voice in my head says I got lucky and it won’t happen again.

Once again I have a hard time with music. I play LCD Soundsystem incessantly because all four of their CDs make me want to dance. And I do. But today I decided to listen to Brandi Carlile and it broke me down. And in that sad and vulnerable place all things work rushed at me. And all the loss – my marriage, my house, my son. What now? I ask. Philip died and I am different. It’s this terrible secret I carry and I want the world to mourn with me. I want the impossible.

Here is some of what Carlile sings that wrecks me – and if you heard her sing it, you’d really know why:

“But the last thing I think of when I close my eyes/And the first thing on my mind when I arise/It is a day and you’re not really in my life.”

“I lay this suitcase on my chest so I can feel somebody’s weight/And I lay you to rest just to feel a give and take.”

“When you feel like giving in and the coming of the end/Like your heart could break in two, someone loves you.”

“How I miss you and I just want to kiss you/And I’m gonna love you till my dying day.”

“Where are you now?/Do you let me down?/Do you make me grieve for you?”

“And you, you are in my dreams/You’re underneath my skin,/How am I so weak…I can’t have you, but I have dreams.”

“Say it’s over, say I’m dreaming/Say I’m better than you left me…Learn to let it bend before it breaks.”

“If you were my boat in the deep blue sea/I probably sink you down/I know I should have thanked you for carrying me/But for you I would happily drown.”

“And you know that you’re alone/You’re not a child anymore/But you’re still scared.”

The worst is when she sings, “I was looking out for you/I was looking out for you/Someone’s looking out for you.” I wrote about this years ago (Did I really say that? When I talk about Philip’s death, is it now years ago?) when I remembered these killer words – did I look out for him? I didn’t worry, didn’t think anything was wrong. Did I not guide him enough when he was growing up? And now Natalie. Today I was overwhelmed, today I laid on the couch and cried into my pillow. It’s been a long time since I did that. Am I taking the right care of her? Is there something I’m supposed to “do” to make sure she’s okay? I take care of her, but is it enough? Is loving her enough?

Loving her is all, impossible as it feels to see – to really see – the truth of this.

© 2017 Denise Smyth


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kmlagatree
    May 29, 2017 @ 17:54:18

    Your pain leaps off the page at me. I wish I could grab it and take it away from you.


  2. mssharonmullins
    Jun 13, 2017 @ 17:43:34

    Thank you for sharing this, I reasonate with these feelings too xx


  3. Denise
    Jun 13, 2017 @ 18:03:53

    So hard sometimes, so hard to see the other side. We’re not alone, though, are we?Thank you for listening.


  4. Pedro
    Jun 13, 2017 @ 19:39:54

    Pedro was Here, Love you!


  5. Rose
    Feb 16, 2018 @ 17:16:47

    Hi Denise,

    Just thinking of you these days. I tried to send you an email a little while ago, but it probably went to a wrong address or something because I’ve never heard from. I also send you a message on FB , but I don’t think you have seen it.

    Want to know that I’m here, and that I always think of you and your beautiful son.




  6. Denise
    Feb 18, 2018 @ 16:46:34

    Hi Rose,

    How are you?? My email is – and I did not see any FB message.

    Thank you for reaching out. You couldn’t have picked a better time. Last month was Philip’s birthday, and next week will be six years since he died. This has been one of the most difficult years since it all happened, and I’ve just not been able to write in sometime.

    If you email me, I’ll tell you more. It means so much to hear from you. You are such a kind soul; I hope to hear from you soon.

    So much love,


  7. Rose
    Feb 22, 2018 @ 08:45:53

    Thinking of you today….


  8. Dakota M Draconi, MSW
    Aug 19, 2019 @ 18:40:46

    Denise… I’m reaching out. We both… our blogs… went silent. I haven’t blogged since 2014. I see you haven’t since 2017. I’m waking up again, relaunching mine. Finally. I gave it an overhaul first… new look, new name… now I’m contemplating my first return post. Made me think about you, wonder how you are. Are you out there my friend?


  9. Denise
    Aug 19, 2019 @ 20:50:32

    Yes, my friend, I am here. I have so much wanted to blog again but the words won’t come. I want to make sure I’m following your new blog – how can I connect with it? Please make sure to send me the link so I can subscribe if my old subscription won’t work. I want to keep up with you, and who knows…maybe you’ll inspire me.

    Thank you and love you for reaching out.


  10. Dakota M Draconi, MSW
    Aug 19, 2019 @ 21:41:09

    Ah, there you are! Phew!! The words will come when you’re ready my friend.

    My blog address is the same, I just changed the name, layout, etc. You’re old subscription should work but here is the link in case:

    Lately, since the dam broke setting my words free again, I’ve been working on my memoir… so I’ve been doing my writing offline. I’m ready though, to bring my blog back to life.


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