Distractions come in all forms. They're the text message from your friend as you're cooking dinner. The AP news alert and then breaking news footage while you're working on a presentation. It's the Facebook photo album notification when you're balancing your checkbook. The deadline-changing call from a client while you're forecasting audience growth. Most of the times the distractions are fleeting and harmless. Sometimes they completely derail your progress. And other times, they save your sanity.
Two weeks ago, one of my closest friends passed away at the age of 34 following a two-year battle with metastatic breast cancer. Her loss has been completely heartbreaking. Despite my best efforts, her death consumed my mind and put all my work efforts to a halt. Work that normally took me minutes was dragging on for hours. At the funeral, my tough facade crumbled. I was worried I wouldn't be able to cry, as I often struggle to produce tears; I could have filled a small lake. And yet, as luck (?) would have it, a distraction came my way.
The morning of the funeral, Maisie awoke with a fever. She clung to me like a window decal. It got worse and worse. Her screaming escalated with her temperature. I missed time at the shiva house on Sunday night. By Monday morning, we were at the pediatrician, diagnosed with an ear infection. I couldn't put her down. My normally smiley, independent explorer was a snotty, emotional mess. I spent every minute that she was awake trying to keep her calm -- offering her food, providing entertainment. Monday night I escaped for a few hours to the shiva house. My attention was divided between mourning one life and comforting another.
As difficult it was taking care of my daughter, this consumption of my emotional and physical energy, this distraction during despair, forced me to do what I otherwise thought was impossible -- move forward. The respite from mourning may have been temporary, but it was when I needed it most. It felt unfair yet it was totally real. My life had to continue even though another was cut short. And, unlike any work requirements that came in during this time, my daughter's sickness was one of true urgency, and one that really only I could tend to.
Maisie's ear infection has been cured. Shiva has ended. I'm beginning to regain my focus and complete important tasks. However, I'll miss my friend forever. She was a fighter, a teacher, a mother and a creator. Like Maisie, she's worth the occasional distraction.