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.