Friday, January 04, 2008

Inbox Avoidance

I've been busy. Really busy. And not just eating fudge and homemade biscotti, though that's taken up an inordinate amount of time, as my growing thighs will attest. The usual holiday craziness is enough to pickle my highly-sensitive brain cells. Add in two family funerals, two rounds of houseguests, four waves of Christmas in 36 hours, a New Year's overnight get-together, and 732.9 family gatherings, and my regular fixes addictions tasks get pushed aside. I don't get to do the daily crossword puzzle. I don't get to watch any late-night reruns of Sex and the City. And sacrifice of all sacrifices, I don't get to check my email. Gasp!

I'm very passive agressive about email. And if it wasn't bad already, during this busy time it's gotten very, very close to the point of no return. It's not that I don't want to attend to the emails I receive (and I certainly get twitchy when I think my own sent emails are being overlooked); it just gets a little overwhelming at times. You see, when I'm busy, I scan my inbox for messages that may contain need-to-know information, like the time of tomorrow's funeral arrangements. If I'm feeling especially accomodating, I'll zip off a "thanks, got it" or "ok, see you then" reply. If I'm feeling like the top of my head might blow off if I have to do one more freakin' thing, then I don't reply and just gush my apology or thanks later.

But since my addiction is so bad I like to be available for my friends at all times, I do try to make time for my email inbox every day, even if it means ignoring avoiding hiding from excusing myself from our guests for a moment or staying up way, way too late. After reading (and never rarely occasionally responding to) the need-to-know emails, depending upon how much time I have, I may do a very quick scan of the want-to-read emails, like the ones from my friends doing our usual round-robin of thanks to the hosts of our New Year's Eve overnight gathering. I'll skim those and smile and sigh and file a "gotta do that too" somewhere in the deep recesses of my ADHD-riddled mind.


The wish-I-could-read emails are next in priority. If the first two categories are low in quantity, I might just have time to at least scan the titles with a sigh of longing. The DailyOM, the freecrap freecycle items up for grabs, the personal note from Barack Obama's private email account because we're, like, tight. Oh, if only I had time to dish with Barack peruse the pages and pages of drivel important information.

And finally, there are the why-do-I-still-get-these emails. The e-newsletters I signed up for once upon a time that I'm no longer interested in but can't seem to unsubscribe from. The snopes.com-immune forwards that contain the email addresses of at least 9,284 people and enough dancing smiley faces to choke a horse. The requests for my social security number and $5,000 even though I'm sure I wired that information three or four times already.

But occasionally I'll get an email that haunts me in a way that's different from the usual how-will-I-ever-answer-them-all way, and I'll save it, and I'll go back to it, and I will wonder again and again if I should answer it, and if so, how, because it struck a chord in its desperation and I've been to that place and I know how it feels to need to reach out and feel a connection with people after a loss.

A few months ago, I received the following email.

I JUST WANTED TO LET EVERYONE KNOW ON MY MOTHERS FRIEND LIST, THAT SHE PASSED AWAY THIS MORNING 11/09/07 FROM CANCER. IF U WOULD LIKE ANY INFORMATION PLZ, PLZ FEEL FREE TO CALL ANYTIME. IM HER DAUGHTER MY NAME IS ELIZABETH DONT HESITATE TO CALL ANYTIME OF THE DAY OR NIGHT

(###)-###-0725

It was a local number. I don't know who this woman is, even though the girl listed her mother's name in the subject line. I have searched my memory's archives. I have asked around. I looked through the other people listed in the "To" section to find someone recognizable. I was in this woman's email address book and I don't know who she is.

I thought about replying to say I was sorry for her loss, but I don't know how to say it without sounding distant. I thought about explaining that I don't think I knew her mother, but that seems cold. I realize it could be a joke. Or a made-up forward. Or a mistake in coming to me. But it pains me to leave a message like that unanswered, no matter how passive-agressive I can be about email.

So I sent my heartfelt sympathies to the universe in her mother's name, hoping that in some small way, it will reach this girl in her hour of darkness. Whether I know her mother or not, I can speak her name in affirmation. In sisterhood.

I can do it every time I come upon that email. Busy or not, I can make time for that small thing.

3 comments:

peacegoddess said...

What are you? A magnet for the "gee I want to help these folks/offer sympathy to the unknown masses" in your area? This just seems weird to me after visit from the woman and young man...

I have been known to read too much into things (really!)...

And it is the "paranoid" timeslot in my monthly calender...

Send biscotti.

Mrs. G. said...

I am not prone to tears as a general rule, but this one got me. Rest in peace, Elizabeth's Mom.

K. said...

I think you did the exact right thing.