Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Clean Sweep

Clean Sweep’s Peter Walsh has a new book out. All about the physical cleaning out of one's junk. This is what he said in a recent interview about the show:

Our show was never about the stuff. I told the producers early on that you can only organize so many closets and garages before people lose their minds… We all have stuff. What we had to do was tell people’s stories through their stuff, and see them realizing what their relationship to the stuff had become.

This last move, I purged. A lot. I did what I’ve seen on Clean Sweep. I made piles. Then I made those piles go away based on what was unnecessary. It’s amazing what you take with you that is unnecessary. Many of my choices were made for me based on the rental that we were moving into. It's fully 1,000 square feet smaller than our last home. Talk about simplifying your life!

The relationship I have to the six tubs of stuff that I could not part with is a deep one indeed. Nineteen years of being a mom plus eighteen years of being alive prior to that. I have old journals, albums, corsages, paintings… nothing I dare part with. But that's all I allowed myself for fear of becoming...

my Mother.

I have real issues with that woman, so it’s easy for me to criticize her shortcomings… bear with me. She has homework… HOMEWORK… from the 50s. She has almost every drafting project she ever worked on rolled up in tubes. Lots of tubes. She has blurry, underexposed, and just really bad pictures. Endless boxes of them. She has stacks upon stacks of magazines that she keeps for decor ideas for her dream home. She even holds on to items that make her angry. Physically hangs on to objects that cause her pain. Why? Lord only knows.

There's an old Spanish saying: Aprende de cabeza gena. That loosely translates to “Learn from the mistakes of others.” I have learned a lot from my mom, but in a rear view mirror kind of way. If she did this, then I’d make sure to do that. If she suggested to do one thing, I'd investigate the opposite. The most visible example of how I've made sure to be very different from her is our relationship to stuff. Nowhere did I learn more about the dangers of holding on than from my mother.

She doesn't just hold on to items. She holds on to regret. Not about anything she's done... that would be too hard... anything she never had can be directly linked to a number of usual suspects. My dad, her parents, old bosses, me… always someone else’s fault. That’s another lesson she taught me… let me rephrase that… that’s a lesson she modeled for me, again in the rear view mirror: Accepting my part. This act even has it's own column in Step Four of the recovery process. Some of you know what I’m talking about. Step Four is all about inventory. The yuck. The baggage. The poor choices.

Owning up to my part hasn’t been easy, but neither is carrying around a lifetime of junk.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Spirited Cries

I'm almost done cleaning out the attic in my head... there are still a few little cobwebs left...

I have a friend who is dealing with a "spirited" or "willful" child. She is exasperated and feels like she can't summon enough patience to handle her child's personality. She's tired and at the end of her rope. She feels like she's not measuring up as a mother.

Oh boy... does this ever sound familiar.

The good thing about having gone through a lot of crap in your life is that you have a lot to look back on and regret. Not that the regretting is fun, but in the midst of regret, you start to piece together how things could have been different. How you should have responded. How things might have turned out today. And then you can take your pain, and hope that it serves a higher purpose outside of yourself.

I once had a daughter that was spirited and willful, too. Life was so difficult. Every little thing turned into some huge catastrophe that was impossibly insurmountable. We screamed our hatred and loathing at each other with reckless abandon. How had flesh of my flesh become so hurtful and cruel? How had I become the monster that would yell so many ugly words back at her? I couldn't handle the chaos any longer and thought that her father could take over. In giving her the space I thought she needed, I've allowed a wider gap to grow. In a time when I thought we'd understand one another, I am instead experiencing her cold silence. We have not spoken in nearly six months. I call... I text... I email... to no avail. What does she want from me? I've cried that to the night sky so many times lately.

Last week, I got my answer.

In purging for our move, I came across old school items that kids usually bring home. Hand prints, self portraits, report cards... all the stuff you hang on to. It's usually so much fun to look back and remember your grown children as they were in the pigtails and jumprope years. I allowed myself a bit of time to soak in some memories as a break from the drudgery of moving. This time, it wasn't fun. I came across a journal that I had seen and read so many times. How could I have missed the message? In my daughter's first-grade scribbling were the words, "I love my house because my mommy is there."


I sat in stunned silence feeling the blow to my heart that I deserved. I came across more bits of paper and drawings that showed how much she loved me and wanted to be with me. In all my concern to keep a roof over my children's heads and have food on the table and clothing on their backs, I had glazed over the only nourishment this little child wanted: time with me. Instead of yelling at her for dragging her feet in the morning and making me late, I should have hugged her. Instead of threatening a spanking because she wouldn't finish dinner quickly, I should have sat down to ask about her day. Instead of rushing her off to a sitter so I could go work out, I should have taken her on my shoulders for a hike.

It's too late now.

I see in my friend's mother/daughter relationship the seeds of discord that are hauntingly familiar. Her daughter's cries are for any number of things, but really she's crying for time with mom, one on one. Beacuse I love them, I shared. Through tears, I admitted to her my failings in being so consumed with daily life as a stressed out mom that I had glazed over living as this child's mother. I know it's difficult to see when you're in it. There's so much to do and attend to. All I could offer her was the reality of my loss and how I let a beautiful little girl slip away from me because I was too overwhelmed to put "time" on my priority list. My friend received our story with the love and grace in which it was intended. Having that awareness doesn't make life any easier, but it sure will help to ease the strife in these precious years. And God willing, they will grow to understand and care for eachother in a wonderful loving relationship filled with memories of time well spent and a life of truly living.


My heart and prayers go out to all the parents that have this heaviness to bear. Remember, though, no matter how difficult your "spirited" child may be, a life without that precious one is immeasurably more painful. Seek assistance in any way, I implore you. Love your child through it all and they will grow and love you back... eventually.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Love and Logic

Sometimes I just can't sleep. A word... a thought... an inner demon keeps me restless until I get up and write. The other night, it was the word Logos. I scribbled some. It was good... but not enough.

So I Wiki'd. Here's what I got.

Aristotle defined logos as argument from reason. This form of argumentation is based in facts: numbers, polls, and mathematical data. Since data reasonably cannot be manipulated and tends to make the speaker look altogether smarter, logic usually wins over.

Jung's analytical psychology, the logos is the masculine principle of rationality and consciousness. Its female counterpart, was eros. Love.

Love? The opposite of Logic and Reason? Get out!

Intrigued, I clicked on. Eros, it seems was star-crossed in love with Psyche. Psyche is transcendently translated to mean "mind" or "soul" or a mingling of both. After some family meddling and drama and acceptance, Eros and Psyche have a daughter named Hedone, which means "pleasure." This story supposedly tells of how love can come when desire (Eros) starts to love a person's soul (Psyche) rather than that person's body.

So what happens when physical desire is all that a relationship is based on? What if you never make that leap to trust and understanding? Can a union continue interminably in the cycles of passion and pain? Based on the data...

the LOGICAL answer is no.

I have to say, I'm a little sad today. It's a cloudy Valentine's Day and I have no expectations of the florist ringing my doorbell. But I have a lot of hope. I'm finally figuring out what love is supposed to look like. I know it's what I've always wanted but I don't know that I ever thought I deserved it. But I do. Hallelujah! I do! And settling for the first half without the second half... well that would be like being a good girl and eating all my meatloaf but not getting some pie afterwards. That just isn't right. You know what I think?

I think I'd like my dessert now.

To those in passionate and trusting love... Happy Valentine's Day! You deserve it!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Breaking Free

I'm separated. There. I said it.

It used to be that the time between flying and landing and flying off again was enough, but the last couple of months that my husband has been officially living elsewhere, I have felt a great relief. We have so much to work through. Who knows what our relationship is going to look like on the other end. I just know that I am starting to understand what it is that I want and need out of a marriage... a husband... a lifetime partner. This time apart has helped me see that.

I belong to a recovery group. My hang-up is codependency. It seems like a joke to someone who doesn't struggle with this crippling behavior, but to those of us who live in quiet and frustrated suffering, never having our own needs met, it's not much of a joke. When I tell people I'm in recovery, they automatically assume it's drugs or alcohol. I quickly calm their fears (cause their kids come to play at our house) and explain that it's because of this Co-D thing. They immediately smirk.

Smirk. I swear. Like Batman's Joker.

Co-Dependency is a silent and deadly killer. The feeling of having to make everyone happy, even at the risk of your own safety, is overpowering. You'll risk it all just for that little pat on the head, even if the pat comes from the same master that kicked you in the rear just moments ago. And those masters know who we are. They find us just like predators find their prey. We're the ones that will apologize for bothering them with our needs. They are mean. And they are evil. And they look just like everybody else. The one thing that sets them apart is that they like to have someone else to blame. That way, they don't have to take responsibilities for their screw ups... or their bad behaviors... or the mismanagement of their affairs. They don't come with a neon sign disclosing this defect of character. No... it becomes apparent only after years of cycling through periods of extremes. On one end, chaos and heartache. On the other end, joy and harmony. The cycles start to tighten up, almost like a top spinning out of control on those last moments before suddenly plopping to the side. The chaos becomes more frequent until it's all that's left. Any joy comes from escaping it in stolen moments. But all the while there's this disquietude... the knowing... it's only temporary, this escape. Reality wakes you up in the middle of the night and reminds you that your days in this life are numbered. You wonder why you are letting any, much less this many days be stolen from you. And then one day... after many sessions, and lots of groups, and endless slobbering phone calls, and howling alone in the dark... finally...

you break free.