Do I?

Of all the many moments that stand out for me in Game of Thrones, one is the scene where Theon Greyjoy goes home to the Iron Islands after ten years and is confronted by his father Balon and sister Yara. When Theon is shocked that his father considers Yara his heir instead of him, Balon Greyjoy says of his daughter, “She knows who she is.” That simple – she knows who she is. What I would give give for that clarity. For that power, for surely that’s where power resides.

A few years ago I stopped writing. Something snapped, in spite of everything, in spite of the countless times I’ve written grief is a spiral, as it – as life – actually is, I’m still disappointed when the linear evades me.

When the agony, terror and sheer shock of Philip’s death forced me to action, it was writing I turned to. How else to map my heart which was so much more than broken? A heart breaks when a lover leaves. What words are there for when a child dies? And in the years after, during the time I wrote my blog most intensely, it seemed that I broke through something I’d tried my whole life to break through. A nearly unendurable pain, made tolerable by the words I could put on it. Until I couldn’t anymore, until the pain of Philip’s death got mixed up with the pain of life prior to his death and I found myself back down the rabbit hole, silent and dark and full of things too murky to describe but painful all the same.

I am 61. When I say it like that it’s with the addendum, “Enough, already.” But those decades seem to belong to someone else. Surely 61 brings with it its own wisdom? I should know better. Age is a given, wisdom isn’t. And whatever wisdom I once felt I had earned has slipped beneath the layers of anxiety I’m more aware of than anything. Loss is all, is what I think. It obliterates whatever realities come between as it’s felt more keenly than any of it. And what brings it all up is suffering is the loss of my girlfriend which I can only blame on myself. For nearly a year and a half we were together, and for a year and a half I was ambivalent. I don’t know how I feel about you, I kept saying. I don’t know how I feel. Until she had enough and who could blame her? We need to take a break, she said. Of course she was right. And of course that’s all it took to explode my ambivalence into shards and now that the break has officially become a break up I’ve only come to love her more, while she has come to trust me less.

I miss her. Every day I miss her and it’s been months. I’m tired of loss and my coping mechanism is to give up. When I am alone I tell myself to give up, let nothing matter, wait until it’s all over. I don’t like being here. I don’t know what to do with myself so I spend lots of time watching TV, the fantasy that is other people’s lives which are so much better than mine. Can’t someone give me a script? Of course not. I have to write my own.

I’m lonely and it has nothing to do with people and everything to do with grief. Recently I went back to AA meetings. I did it because I was smoking weed at night so I didn’t have to listen to the voices in my head, didn’t have to miss K so much. I’m an addict. When Philip died, after nearly 30 years sober I tried drinking again and that didn’t work. I drank mostly at alone and tried a few times to drink with friends. I am not a social drinker. Put a drink in my hand and all I’m thinking about is the next one. I might be trying to hold a conversation with you but I’m not all there and I want to drink until I’m really not all there.

So I stopped drinking and started smoking weed. It seemed more manageable. No hangover, no sloppy drunkenness, But I drank mostly alone at night and the same with weed. Getting high was not a social event. It was in place of a social event. I went back to AA because besides needing to stop smoking I need to be around people. My life has been Ground Hog Day. Get up, go to work, come home, smoke weed, watch TV, go to sleep. All the while feeling like shit about myself for what I’m doing and what I’m not doing.

I think I’m supposed to be a different way. I think I’m supposed to like museums and opera. I think I’m supposed to pay more attention to politics, have a more interesting job, be a more interesting person. How could anyone like me, never mind love me. But K loved me and Philip loved me. One I pushed away and one died. So how will I choose to live with loss? Do I really give up? Do I really just wait to die? Do I try to make meaning out of loss, so I see that I can live in the face of it?

Maybe starting to write is the beginning of the answer.

© 2019 Denise Smyth


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dakota M Draconi, MSW
    Dec 08, 2019 @ 19:08:02

    OMG Denise, my soul sister, we are so very much alike… you and I. I never realized how MUCH until this post. I am with you, walking this journey beside you. I’m SO glad you went back to meetings, and I’m SO, SO, SO glad you’re writing again.


  2. Rosangela Vidotto
    Dec 09, 2019 @ 16:46:45

    Hi Denise,

    It’s interesting how the universe works sometimes…I’ve been thinking about you a lot, and meaning to write just to say hi, but, I’ve been also fighting my own demons…and with that the days just go by w/o me accomplishing some of my goals. And today, here you are….I miss your writing, I miss reading about you, and feel that sometimes, even though, I’m far, I’m close to you and can help somehow. I think of you and and Phillip very often, and I wish really truly that sometimes we could go back in time.

    But, I guess we are left only with the cruel reality that it’s not possible, and we will have to keep looking forward.

    Writing and connecting with people in any way is a good start. Been open to everything that is going to be said is also a way to perhaps see things differently.

    I’m always here for you….you are not alone, never…




    • Denise
      Dec 09, 2019 @ 21:33:24

      Rose, so good to know you’re still there. You are always so kind and loving…I don’t know how to say thank you. Know how deeply you touch me. And I’m sorry for your troubles.You deserve to be happy and all I wish for you is love and peace. xoxoxo


  3. Melanie
    Dec 09, 2019 @ 18:12:03

    I’m so glad you’re back my friend ♥️


  4. Peter Juzwin
    Dec 12, 2019 @ 06:35:50

    Good Morning D,
    I just took a chance to see if anything had been posted because I do often.
    Glad to you see you here again. You Know I Love you!



  5. Ed
    Dec 30, 2019 @ 14:33:51

    we have known each other for many many years true we lost touch for a long time but in my mind and heart you were always there in the happy joyful part of my life. you were and still are always someone i looked forward to seeing and being with. our days together on shelter island, our nights at carolines at the seaport, family gatherings all remain joyful memories. our ride out in the car together to shelter island one time was my introduction to alanis morissette and to this day you are the one who pops into my mind (with a smile i might add) anytime i hear a song by her. my last trip to jersey was only enhanced when we got to see each other again after such a long time. i wish only that you could see yourself in the same light i see you, a very smart woman who brings so much to the table both figuratively and actually I mean you are an amazing cook and let me not even start with the baking, i listened to you battle with the best in stunning verbal warfare ( i mean that in a good way) and would think to myself she is so strong in her convictions i wish i could hold a conversation like that. as a mom i watched the love just pour out of you and it was just so apparent how natural it all seemed to come to you. years go by and suddenly lives are altered in a way we dont expect. the news of phils passing was devastating to say the least, though nothing can bring him back just as nothing can bring Augie back to us i choose to focus on all the joy brought to us by children. the smiles of them were beautiful the constant questions they would ask the laughter they brought the love they showed, i could go on and on but you get the point. we are still here and have no choice but to go on, in your case you have a beautiful daughter who means the world to you and ours anther son who just recently graduated from the police academy, there is so much we have to look forward to, and i am always going to be available for you at any time when you need someone to lend an ear. i am delighted you are writing again as i know how much you love this, so dive in to both this and life itself you deserve happiness just like anyone else. allow yourself to be loved and to love, ageing is a beautiful thing when it comes to our ability to cope and adjust to lifes ups and downs, you are strong, smart, beautiful ( both inside and out) and i am sure someone who can be as happy as you deserve to be once again.
    Love ya Lots


    • Denise
      Dec 30, 2019 @ 16:21:06

      Eddie, thank you for taking the time to write all that. You are one of my oldest friends and it was last year I called you outside the cafe to let you know what was going on and I truly felt no on one would understand more than you would. I wish I was nearly as strong as you say because I wouldn’t have messed up so big time. But you are right – It’s my daughter I have to focus on now. She’s here and she needs me and for now I need to take little steps. God knows I appreciate your love and sincerity and let’s talk soo.

      Love you.


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