There is a trap I fall into every so often when I’m working in the office. (It never happens when I’m working from home.) An electronic pack rat, I’ve kept most of my Outlook email since 2006. I know. I know. That’s a lot of email. But things are cyclical at work and I sometimes need to refer to something old to create something new. And I’m lazy–trying to decide what might or might be useful in the future. Just keep all of it!

It’s during these moments when I need skip back in time to 2009 or 2007 to look for an old document or piece of information, I’m overcome with the crippling desire to see one of Ken’s emails sent during that time. My stomach turns itself inside out, but I’m powerless to stop myself. I click the “From” column to sort by sender.




I’m almost sickened by it–how much it hurts. Like picking off the proverbial scab–but for the 10,000th time. (Shouldn’t I know better?) As I scroll down the screen, my heart and mind ache for a time when he was here. And healthy. To a time my life was so effortlessly complete.

And much I want to go backward, and reply to one of his goofy emails and sign it with “love you. see you at home.” I want to leave work–carefree and oblivious–to head home to make dinner with him and talk about each of our days, and share a martini.

It’s not quite like it used to be though. There were times in those first months I frittered away hours reading through now-seemingly-irrelevant email strings between us, taking great pleasure–even more pain–in them. It was a form of self-torture. To force myself to hurt, as if to scream repeatedly at myself “He’s gone! He’s gone!”

From this vantage point, it seems like such a cruel thing to do to myself. Over and over. But it’s a trap. An emotional magnet that even now is hard to withstand. It’s a slice of a happy time in my life, excised and suspended. Like a piece of art to be pulled out and admired upon occasion. The kind of art so staggeringly beautiful, it makes you cry.

The trap is a little different for me now–some almost-three-and-a-half-years later. Now I only read one or two. Okay, maybe three. To test myself, perhaps. To see if it still hurts as much. To see if I long for him and our life together any less. To see if I can right myself from an emotional tail spin.

It does.

I don’t.

I can.




5 thoughts on “The Outlook Time Travel Trap

  1. I can’t say “I Know what you feel” because I never went through such experience but I can say “I feel your emotions through your words” and I care a lot about you.

    Sending you much love amigo mio!
    Your loyal friend, Diego.

  2. I can’t help but think of Emily’s speech in Our Town when I look at the picture of your received emails from Ken. “Do human beings ever realize life while they live it–every, every minute?” I think we all grieve in our own ways and reading those emails sound to me like they are a part of your grieving process. You’ve written something beautiful here.

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