Tuesday, January 18, 2011


This is probably one of the best words to describe me over the past eight months. Very, very distracted. Often for reasons beyond my control, but often by choice. People who know me may not believe this, but even before Hudson died, I had a short attention span and a generally lazy attitude about getting things done. With the right motivation (law school, a deadline, a party with guests that requires a clean house and decent food), I can usually focus long enough to finish something and come out with a good product, but self-motivation has always been hard for me. And never more so than since Hudson died. All the procrastinating habits, all the self-distracting habits (surfing the web, being tied to my Blackberry, watching television) that I had before Hudson died have multiplied themselves tenfold. A hundredfold. I have become a person who leaves the television on for company, even when I am doing other things, like surfing the web, writing thank you notes, folding clothes. Often when I am writing and my brain comes to a pause, rather than just sitting quietly and comfortably through it, I flip over to internet to see what is new on Facebook or in my email. I find it difficult to do just one thing at time anymore, so desperate am I to fill the painful spaces in my head, spaces that, if left open and unblocked for too long, take me to places I don’t want to go.

Case in point. This morning, we had a 2-hour delay at work because of last night’s ice storm. I had already gotten up and gotten ready, so I had two hours to fill at home. I spent most of it on the computer and then with about thirty minutes left, I got to work doing a few chores that needed to be done, including folding some laundry in the basement. Usually, I dump all the clothes in a basket and take them upstairs to fold in front of the TV, but I didn’t have much time for that this morning, so I just folded them there in the basement. The very quiet basement. After I was finished, I went to the washer and started to put the wet clothes into the dryer and then I just stopped. I looked down into the washtub and then looked around me, suddenly totally awash in memories of days past when I was there with Hudson’s blue mesh laundry basket, washing her little tops and pants and bodysuits as she climbed in and out of the bouncy seat that was far too small for her anymore. My hands and arms could almost feel exactly how it felt to fold those little girl clothes, shirts folded in half longways, sleeves tucked over, and then folded in half again, pant legs folded over each other and then in half, so that everything would tuck neatly next to each other and be easy to grab from the dresser under the changing table. And there, with only 20 minutes before I needed to be at work, I broke down. And cried hard. I went upstairs to Hudson’s room and sat down in the rocking chair and sobbed. As I sat, I pulled open the top drawer of the dresser and ran my fingers over her clothes, clothes that I haven’t looked at in so long, including several outfits that I bought at a consignment sale only a few weeks before she died that she’d barely gotten to wear. I pulled out her green turtle shirt, the one we captured so many beautiful photos of her in, and held it to my face, wetting it with my tears. I cried and cried, telling Hudson how much I miss her and love her and how unfair it all seems sometimes. I hadn’t cried that hard in a long time. It was rough. This went on until I looked at my watch and knew that I had to get myself together and get to work. I put the shirt back in the drawer, closed it, dried my face on a tissue and went to find the eye drops I keep in my purse for just these moments when I have to be presentable somewhere fast.

I’m really struggling with this. When I think about moments like this morning, I get why I feel the need for some kind of white noise in the background during the times when I am not prepared (whatever that means) to spend time with the grief. But I also feel wretched, as if this (the TV-watching, the web-surfing, the doing anything that does not require real concentration) is really no more than a continuation of my former habits but one in which I now feel justified because I have a pretty goddamned good excuse.

But this past Sunday, during a long holiday weekend that I had been both looking forward to and dreading (looking forward to four days off from a job I don’t really love but dreading four days at home with very few plans and no Hudson), I got a short burst of focused energy. For weeks and weeks, clutter had been piling up on our kitchen table and buffet (the dining room essentially became our makeshift office when we turned the actual office into Hudson’s playroom) and I spent a few hours finally putting things where they belonged, throwing things away, acting on some things that had been sitting for a while. The result: a clean buffet and a slightly less cluttered kitchen table. And most importantly, a feeling of satisfaction. Not so much from the finished product itself, but because I had made myself DO something. Later that day, I finally started reading a new cookbook I picked up at Costco several weeks ago (another hat tip to my dear friend Megan for turning me on to America’s Test Kitchen—their Family Cookbook is so great) and started reading it, marking recipes I wanted to try. That night, I watched a Carolina game (an activity which up until then I’d had a hard time getting into) without my laptop in my lap and actually enjoyed watching it (despite the team’s terrible performance).

I felt so good at the end of the day that I made a commitment to stop trying to distract myself so much, to try to do things one at a time, in hopes that I can improve not only my focus but also my enjoyment of things that I used to love. Granted, I woke up Monday morning feeling pretty sad and wanting to do nothing more than watch some TV to send my mind elsewhere. So I did. But I didn’t do anything ELSE while I was watching TV, so that seems like at least a little progress.

Just trying to celebrate a small victory, like I committed to doing yesterday.


  1. Mandy, I have been the same way...I just never thought of it until you put it into words...I know that with the tree project and the book I AM getting a few things done, but most of the time I feel like I'm just spinning my wheels...

    Thank you~

  2. Mandy,
    I suffered through a really horrible time in my life several years back, where I was sure I would lose one of my children. For a year, I was just as you are now: distracted, needing to fill any quiet with something to keep the pain out. It was the internet, the TV, a movie, anything...and I flipped from one thing to the next. I almost didn't recognize myself.
    As many people have said to you since Hudson's death, whatever you do to survive is what you need to do. Accomplishing tasks is nice, but not essential. You'll find a rhythm at a point, albeit altered.
    Big hugs,

  3. Totally get the distraction. I'm a procrastinator myself and it's definitely been worse since Veronica died. I never attributed it to her death until I read this post. But I spend way too much time doing mindless web surfing instead of actually being productive (not that reading Glow and your blog are unproductive! :) )...Glad your made some progress this weekend. You're inspiring me!xoxo, Olivia

  4. I totally get what you are going through. I swear, it's like a protective body mechanism to just always be surrounded by something, some noise, in order to not let all the sadness in. I am so proud of you for finding some focus this past weekend, and I do think you will find that happens more and more. At least, that's the way it's been with me. Love to you, thinking about you xoxoxo

  5. I think I would do well to follow your lead and find my own buffet and kitchen table equivalent to focus on.
    I found myself nodding along in agreement to so much of this post.

  6. Mandy, although I cannot begin to fathom your pain, I find myself often multi-tasking, especially with the computer. This post was a healthy reminder to me that sometimes it is ok to just "be." Today, I put the computer down for awhile and focused on talking and laughing with my roommates. Thank you for the much needed reminder. Your beautiful family is constantly in my thoughts.

    One more thing - I am a preschool teacher, and we have been studying penguins this week and last. I immediately thought of Hudson and Jackson when I discovered the story book Turtle's Penguin Day by Valeri Gorbachev. Here is a link to the book on Amazon, so you can take a peek at it - http://www.amazon.com/Turtles-Penguin-Day-Valeri-Gorbachev/dp/0375843744/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1295494547&sr=8-1

    This may be a great title to add to your home library!

  7. Take each little victory as it comes. I can picture the images in the basement and in Hudson's room.. it breaks my heart that we all know these images so well. I recently found out about a movie coming out called rabbit hole.. it looks intense- but a very accurate depiction of life after losing a child. I know it may not be everyone's cup of tea, but there are a few lines that really hit me hard.
    Thinking of you Mandy..

  8. I am with you completely. I find myself "wandering" around the internet. Reading blogs, shopping (but not buying), random searching in a useless attempt to fill the void left by Chris.

    When I do have the days where I can be more productive and ride a wave of energy, I feel like I pay for it the following day.

    Just keep trudging through and someday hopefully it will feel less like trying to just kill time.

  9. Mandy, our losses are so very different, but maybe it will help to hear that at nearly one year out, I am finding a return of my concentration. And it feels really good. I mean, it does nothing to diminish the loss of my baby, but it is helping a lot to restore my sense of self.

    But I don't think I could have forced it any sooner. It just had to happen.

  10. Mandy,

    It feels like a distracting world, even for those of us who don't have to live with your kind of pain. It must be so much worse for you.

    I wanted to thank you again for your blog, as I truly feel like it's opening my eyes to a human experience that I had not thought about much, at least in terms of living with a loss. Seeing it from your eyes has been painful, but I feel better connected to others, and more open to what they may be experiencing behind closed doors.