The hard work

As a child of a hoarder,I dreamed of the day when I would have an opportunity to clean out my parent"s mess. When it came, however, another shock hit. It is very emotionally draining for everyone involved, including any professionals. No matter how much I believed that I was not attached to my mom's items, or that I didn't understand why it's so hard for her to say goodbye to things...I was deeply moved by the process and Mom's emotions. Others' responses may be different from mine; for some it may make you angry, it may make you sad, it may just leave you feeling tired and overwhelmed. At any rate, it will take something from you.

But this is not the hard part.

If you had asked me two years ago what I thought was going to be the hardest part, I would have emphatically and confidently told you cleaning out the house. I mean, we took out THREE large 40-yard construction dumpsters worth of stuff, trash, and treasures that had been ruined by water damage or fecal contamination. It was hard work physically, and I was part of the sorting process inside. I recognized many of the treasures from my growing up years. I had attachments to them on some level too. And then to see them damaged or contaminated really forced me to face the mortality of life and the fleeting joy things can bring.
Woody and James taking trash to the first of three dumpsters

But the really hard now. Mom and I continue to do therapy together. We take turns talking about our feelings, why we felt and responded the way we did. We ask each other questions to better understand each other. We clarify that what is said is what is meant. We both do this.

To do this, we must employ grace and some of a "willing suspense of belief". We must pretend that we don't already know each other's stories to truly hear each other. We must allow the other to say things that cause pain or instill anger. And to keep the conversation going forward, we must also forgive when we hurt.

Forgiving my mom doesn't mean that I am telling her that what I experienced in the home growing up was okay. It will never be okay to live like that. Forgiving my mom allows us both to move on. It happened. It can't be undone now. But today and tomorrow, we still have choices to make and work together or walk away. For now, we continue to choose to work together.

This ongoing process of sharing, explaining, talking about the hard parts IS the HARD PART. To go through this process, I must relive pain that I'd rather forget or deny. Even when I write, I revisit events and emotions that were tough the first time, and even more difficult as I look back and understand how dramatically wrong they are. If you truly want to understand how messed up your childhood was, try raising children of your own. Your view of what is best for them will really drive home what was wrong in your own childhood.

But the desire to give my children something better is part of the reason I was willing to go back and try to work through this with my mom. I realized my own children had every right and ability to walk away from me in the future, especially if I practiced the same broken habits my mother had modeled for me. I chose NOT to let that happen. I chose the hard part--personal recovery, and relationship rebuilding. I know that it's hard, but my children are learning such important things about healing, forgiveness, and the importance of family.

And this future generation will be better for the hard work...and that is more than enough reward for me!


Anonymous said…
Agreed. Becoming a parent completely points out what was lacking/dysfunctional in your own childhood. (An example for me was from 6th grade on I never had a lunch to eat at school because my parents were always sleeping in the morning and I never had time in the morning to pack my own lunch, even if I did have time we rarely had lunch type foods available). Being hungry makes it hard to concentrate. I look at it as something I never want my own child to experience. :-)
Sidney said…
Ceci, I am so glad you're doing the hard work for yourself, your children, and all the people you touch. Your transparency is helping others to get started with their own battles.

Have a great weekend!

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