When my mom passed away she left a lot of stuff. A LOT of stuff. Too much stuff!
I knew my mom had an affinity for garage sales and TJ Maxx and Marshalls and specialty food stores and Lord and Taylors and well you get the picture. She liked to shop. It was something we all knew. It was something we would tease her about from time to time. But I don’t think the full magnitude of her shopping sunk in until she was gone.
I spent this weekend cleaning out my parent’s house. Trying to get it ready to sell. Trying to help my Dad get out from under the weight of the house. Trying to get myself out from under the weight of that house. Clearing out that house has been a daunting and seemingly impossible task. On Saturday we filled up a second dumpster and then continued to fill dozens of trash bags full of items to discard and items to donate. I threw away hundreds (probably thousands) of dollars of out of date food.
I cycled between laughing at my mom, yelling at my mom and crying for my mom.
You see, I don’t think my mom liked to shop, I think she needed to shop. I think shopping was her coping mechanism. I think when she felt lonely or sad or frightened or frustrated she headed out to buy something.
In so many ways, my mom and I are alike. We are both planners (that like to procrastinate in execution) we both like things a particular way and expect everyone else to fall in line. We both look for ways to control our life in a World that seemed uncontrollable. And we both have anxiety. I know my mom had some anxiety. She voiced some of it to me, but I don’t think I ever realized, or she ever realized the magnitude of her anxiety. I think it was greater than any of us ever understood.
And it makes me sad. It makes me sad to think that this strong vibrant woman carried this unspoken weight. A weight that manifested itself in stuff. Clothes and makeup and perfume and china sets and table clothes and jewelry and roosters (oh the roosters).
I wonder if the weight of all the stuff ever made her suffocate or if it usually brought her comfort. I wonder if she really was filling a void in her life with stuff. That’s what it looks and feels like today. And that thought brings tears to my eyes.
For the last couple of years I have had a hard time letting go of my mom’s stuff. I have felt like I was betraying her, or being wasteful, or throwing pieces of her away. But I’m coming to recognize that this stuff is not the part of my mom I want to hold onto. This stuff is just that, stuff. And it’s the stuff that represented a part of my mom I think she hid from the World. A secret struggle she didn’t really want anyone to know about. And I hate the stuff. I hate it for what I think it represented to her, I hate it for the weight it carries for me and my family. I hate it and I want it gone. This weekend it wasn’t as hard to throw stuff away.
I feel kind of guilty writing about this – like I’m sharing too much of my mom, but I think it’s important to share. It’s important because I’ve come to realize even the strongest women have a chink in their armor. Even the strongest women have problems. Even the strongest women need help. And I wish with all my heart I had known and would have talked to my mom about it. Listened to her. Helped her find the help she needed. Helped her face and shed this weight. And I hope, wherever she is, she is finally rid of it.