Just let it go
I made the mistake of watching a new show tonight about people who are compulsive hoarders. Hoarding is a pathological need to collect and hold onto things; the mere idea of tossing something brings about major anxiety. I think many of us to some extent have some type of OCD-like tendencies. I check my door a few times before I leave the house. I have a friend who washes their hands constantly. I know someone with maybe not full-blown Tourette's but very entertaining twitches and outbursts nonetheless. (My dad lives in a bubble. Cousin Joe-bubble!) Anyway, tonight I learned about two different cases-- a young family with three kids and an older lady, unemployed and about to be evicted.
What was interesting to be was not only their reactions to the threats of eviction and losing children, but my reaction to their reaction. The young mother of the first case was talking about how she didn't know what she would do if she lost her children and she could not imagine how she would live if the city took away the kids because the house was so cluttered and dirty. My mind was screaming at her: If you're so scared, clean up your damn house! Oh my God, how can you live like that? But then I got angry at my own sense of judgment. If she could, she would. But some serious mental problem -- even with the threat of losing her children -- prevented her from doing what so many of us do -- grudgingly perhaps but still do, on a daily basis. Or at least have someone do it for us. Where does this come from, this need to hang on to useless shit?
The second case was even sadder, if that is even possible. A lady of about 60, with missing teeth and a crazy halo of frizzy grey hair tiptoed around the issue of food. She couldn't throw anything away. She shopped and stocked up and stored things in 2 fridges. She stored so much that she had to duct tape her fridges closed. Talk about Red Greening it. Slowly, a story emerged, like layers of an onion being peeled away, of her fear of being starving and poor again and how even if something was 2 years past the expiry date, she could still eat it. Or salvage something from it. This poor woman had rotting carcasses of pumpkins and other squashes lying around rooms in her house, yet even as the cleanup crews were shoveling the garbage out, she still surfed for seeds to roast. Ugh.
I lived beside a hoarder when I was in university. She was a very odd older lady, a frustrated painter who now worked in day care. Yes, day care with children, this woman with clear mental problems. The first time I had to enter her house, I was shocked. There were little pathways through the very small Mile End apartment. Empty cans, newspapers, a crutch! She would pick up anything because as she would often say, it still is good! I can't believe someone threw this away.
Someone threw this away, "Judy", because it's garbage! Useless shit that serves no purpose any longer. Think of all the useless emotional garbage we all lug around with us. Why can't we throw it away? Why does it rear its ugly head every now and again? Why can't we just take that crap, that burden -- every nasty word, unkind action, thoughtless gesture, broken heart -- put it in a garbage bag and check it at some store. On the way out of the store, don't claim it. Leave it. There! Problem solved.
If only it were that easy, eh fellow humans?