photo by James Box

I have a system—one that attempts to keep me organized amid the chaos and appeases my left-sided brain. My calendar is full of little colored boxes, the ones that arrive with a 5 minute countdown, directing me that it is time to stop, that it is time to move. And at the start of each day, I scan the calendar on my screen to get a sense for the color that will dominate my day. A swath of green signals to me discussions of major projects and the importance of being on point and on time. Rectangles of less demanding blue outline the mundane administrative tasks that keep activities aligned. And mixed in-between are the notes in purple, reminding me to squeeze in time for personal matters, such as the looming deadline of taxes or a lunch hour spent researching new houses, despite the rush of nostalgia I feel for our current, and first, home. More and more, I am flooded with these colors and their demands to act, to be present, to stay on task. And so it goes.

Deep into my morning colors, I am greeted by my phone with a picture of a little boy grinning at a little girl. My son is waiting, as patiently as 3-year-olds do, along with his youngest sister for the doctor to arrive for his annual checkup. They entertain each other in the mirror as my wife documents their sibling bonding for a possible future scrapbook, and to make their dad smile at work. My wife and I trade text messages back and forth with exclamation points, remarking on the warmth of the captured moment, before she reminds me that it is the 6th of the month.

17 months.

I am stoned by my oversight. How is it that I missed this date? For several months after Lydie’s death, I would steal glances at the calendar; each time with the foolish belief that the little squares within would give up their relentless march forward. I fixated on this date and the forced measurement of counting the growing number of days since I last held my second child. More overwhelming is the confirmation of the internal struggle that has been building:

I am distracted.

In fact, I have been grappling with the word itself. The lingering connotation of forgetfulness, the guilt of preoccupation that gnaws at me, the agitation of restlessness subtly seeping in from the edges as I run from task to task with a knotted tightness.

I am being responsible.

I am planning.

I am helping my family.

I am investing in our future.

It is time to go.

I am forgetful.

I am lazy.

I am scared.

I am letting her slip away.

It is time to stop.

I am distracted.

Despite my consistency of ritual, my album of photos, my constant urge to collect poems and words that help me hold her close - somehow the inertia of life has swept me away and with it my desperate attempts at reasoning. Of course I didn’t forget her. Of course I never will. But, how is it that a tiresome wave of deadlines, emails, forms and files could distract me from my daughter?

And how do I integrate my grief in to my system? What color would I assign on my calendar?

“Can we push the meeting back 30 minutes? I am completely absorbed in this article about how the body processes grief.”

“Sorry, I have a conflict at this time. I plan on listening to a new song on my daughter’s playlist and will need time to sob quietly in the corner.”

“If you don’t mind, I will need to step out of our Thursday meeting at 12:14pm to have a moment with my daughter.”

This thought is ridiculous, another hopeless attempt to define sequence and logic. To control what simply cannot be controlled. I try to remind myself that I love my daughter very much and no matter how busy life may get, there is nothing that will change this.

And if I were to pick a color, I would choose yellow. I think Lydie would like yellow. The 6th, and every day for that matter, will shine in bright yellow.

Do you ever feel distracted by life? How do you reconnect, or is this simply something that cannot be controlled?