Hoarders and clean freaks

This past weekend my mom came over to help me weed. I didn’t ask for help, she just saw the need.

It got me to thinking about something that I couldn’t place which was bothering me. There was an in-congruence in my thought patterns. My mom is one of the hardest workers I know. Yet she has one of the messiest houses I’ve ever seen. How conflicting the thought was in my mind. I always thought that hoarders were lazy. But are they?

My parents are the biggest hoarders of magazines and papers. They still have a phone book from the 1970’s from a different city that they lived in out of state. They have stacks and stacks of papers that litter the living room floor and all available counter spaces.

My parents kept almost all of their clothing since they got married. Their closets are full of old clothes and jackets. It comes in handy for me when I am going to a costume party.

My mom hoards food. Her cupboards are stocked full of canned goods. All of her refrigerators and freezers (they have several) are full. The refrigerators always smell like rotten food. It is very important to check the dates on items before you eat them. The freshest foods are in the grocery bags that line the dining room floor.

Thankfully for me, my mom kept every school and personal journal documenting Matt’s life in great detail. It has been very helpful for me in writing my book. I don’t think that I could be writing as powerful and moving of a story without her help.

Their hoarding always suffocated me. It was hard to clean the house. The counters were so full of stuff that there was no place to move anything in order to clean it. Then you just put the items back on the cleaned areas. I always felt like I was emptying the ocean a tablespoon at a time. It stirred within me feelings of hopelessness.

My brothers and I are not hoarders. It bothers me when things are cluttered. It fills me with despair. The strange thing is that my parents feel the opposite way. It causes my mother emotional pain to get rid of things. My mom threw out my brother’s baby blanket when he was in his 30’s. She cried and lamented about it for days even though my brother didn’t want it. She tries to get rid of things but it is very upsetting to her.

Sometimes my mom will clean out the cupboards and closets. Instead of throwing things away, she gives them to me. Recently she gave me a bag of my dad’s old worn out socks. It is a little easier for her to give things away then to throw them away even though she must know that is what I will be doing with it.

It is hard for me to understand how my mom’s feeling are tied up in useless things.

It must be very hard for my mom to see her house in the shape that it’s in. She is embarrassed to have anyone over. I wish I could understand. Yet I am glad I do not.

I feel guilty for my mom’s help around my house when she needs it more than I do. It’s overwhelming to try to help her. I would just come in and start throwing things away and she couldn’t handle that. I know, I’ve tried. I feel like my hands are tied. But I know that my brothers and I are going to end up throwing most of the stuff away or getting rid of it someday.

I need to be careful in my own life so I don’t end up on the opposite spectrum. I have a tendency to be a clean freak. Dirt and clutter stresses me out. I want everything to be clean, neat, and organized. But I try not to let it control me.

I also have relatives that are clean freaks. We once went camping with my Aunt Jan. It stormed out and we ended up huddling in my aunt’s garage freezing because we were too dirty to be allowed into her house. I also have an uncle that would host parties and follow his guests around with a vacuum cleaner. I’ve also witnessed him on his hands and knees scrubbing the bathroom floor while guests were over.

I don’t think people at either extreme seem happy. I tolerate uncleanliness when guests are over. But it’s also kind of funny that I picked this topic to write about as I am freaking out about cleaning my house and weeding everything this week to have a perfect house for my son’s graduation party.

But since I grew up in a house of clutter and hoarding, I realize if people really care about me then they are willing to overlook some slight imperfections.

Goal 9: Work hard, but take time to rest.

One of the hardest parts of losing my job is telling people what I do.

When meeting someone new, the first question that they ALWAYS ask is what you do for a living. The second question people ask is how many kids I have. Never fails.

Yesterday I went to the gym later than usual. Someone asked me why I wasn’t at work. I think people are just too nosy.

Two days after I lost my job some friends had a party at their house. Right off the bat, someone asked me what I do for a living. The question hit me hard and knocked the wind out of me. What? I didn’t have an answer prepared. I stumbled awkwardly through the whole story of how my husband and I sold our business last year and that the new owners recently eliminated my position unexpectedly.

My answer seemed to confuse people more. Is it a good thing that you lost your job or a bad thing? Yes, the answer is yes to both. Losing my job after working with my husband for 11 years was very hard. Not to mention that as a workaholic I wrapped a lot of my identity in my work. Yet it was a good thing because now I decided to write a book.

Now do I tell people that I am an author when they ask me what I do?? Then I have to explain what my book is about which is very personal and painful experience of growing up with a disabled sibling in an abusive home environment.

If I am a writer, I should be able to come up with a creative way to tell people what I do for a living in one word. If I tell people I am retired, that brings up even more questions since I look a lot younger than I am.

Then I decided to tell the next person who asks that I am independently wealthy just to get a good laugh. Would that shut them up?

The strange thing about not working is that I really don’t have any extra time. I am still running around like I am in a hurry. I keep a strict schedule. I drop my daughter off at school, go to the gym for an hour or two, write my book, then work on this blog. Plus I do other things like clean the house, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, and run errands. Now I wonder how I was able to do all of this while working 30+ hours a week.

You know how the saying goes, ask the busiest person that you know if you want to get something done.

I’ve always been a workaholic. I feel very stressed out if I don’t accomplish enough in a day. Resting is a form of torture and usually only happens when I am sick. One day I had doubt about writing the book and said that heck with it, I am going to watch a show on Netflix. My daughter came home from school, saw me watching TV, and was concerned I was sick. She felt my forehead for signs of a fever and was worried about my health.

Relaxing is something I rarely do. But it is something that I want to learn how to do. I’ve always had the harsh workaholic task master of perfectionism pounding constantly in my head. If I learned anything from losing my job, it’s that I can’t let how much I am able to work control my life and dictate how much I am worth as a person. It is a wonderful way to avoid relationships and look like a martyr.

Working hard was something I was good at and I ran with it. There are few that top my work ethic and determination. But it controls me. I’ve learned anything that controls me isn’t good for me. I am no better than an alcoholic looking for the next drink. I am always searching for the next project, the next goal, and I am viewed as an inspiration and a hero for doing it.

I am afraid of success. What will I do next? Running marathons is not enough. How about a 50k? I drive myself to the ground. Are you proud of me now? What more can I do to prove my worth?

It is a great way to avoid intimacy. I am in the middle of something and am too busy to talk with you right now. What a safe place to hide.

If you give me a hard time, I will condemn you of your laziness with great pride.

Then I wonder why I can’t relax. I am worried and stressed when my mind is free.

Here I am, a workaholic without a job. I never ask for help. I do everything myself. I think I am beyond reproach, but I can’t run from myself.

I am starting to see a wonderful coping mechanism being torn apart. Maybe it is a good thing I lost my job because I am now faced with myself.

You can only outrun your demons for so long.

 

Goal 8: Try not to be too hard on myself

When I was a child, my parents were very hard on me. They expected perfection and I tried to deliver. The better behaved I was, the more I was loved.

I was punished for not being good enough. My parents had a hard enough time with my autistic sibling, they didn’t need any problems from me.

When I got a bad grade in elementary school, my dolls were taken away from me for a semester.

I am hard on myself to this very day. If I don’t accomplish enough in a day, I feel very anxious.

So it is no surprise that when I had kids, I tried to be the perfect parent. I thought that if I was the best parent I could be that my kids would turn out the way I wanted them to. If I was loving enough, they would get good grades and like school. If they were disciplined right, they wouldn’t try drugs, etc…(Insert problem here).

Let’s be totally honest, if kids do something wrong the first place society looks is at the parents. What did the parents do wrong to have a child like that? I am just as guilty. There is some truth to that statement, but some kids just make bad choices against their parents wishes.

My own mother faced a lot of blame for having a violent autistic child in the 1980’s.

I tried to be the best parent I could be and that has to be good enough whatever my children choose.

It was so easy when they were babies. I had full control. I decided where we would go. I picked out the little outfits that they were going to wear. They ate what I made.

I tried to share my values and beliefs with them. But I’ll admit, as honest as I am, I lied to my children all the time. I lied to them about who I was. I tried to hide my faults. I pretended to like cartoons and Barney when I really wanted to be head banging to hard rock and watching horror movies. I didn’t swear around them and said a lot of nice words like please and thank you.

Hey, get me a beer was replaced by may I please have some more milk. Gangsta rap music was replaced with catchy tunes like I love you, you love me..we’re a happy family..

I hated pretending to be perfect and being someone I wasn’t. I always just thought that was a part of being a good parent though.

Then my kids grew up. I no longer picked out their little outfits. We stopped reading books together and listening to baby music. I was slowly more free to be me.

Part of the process of letting go is learning to fully be me again. It is losing some of my identity as a mother. Part of that is also showing my kids who I really am. I will share my book with them when they are ready and someday my blog as well.

I also have to accept that the choices my children make might not be what I have in mind for them. I have to be less hard on myself and them when they screw up. I also have to be less hard on myself when I am not perfect.

Perfection should not be my goal. If it is, I will live a life of disappointment because it is unattainable. Plus it annoys the crap out of my family. It is difficult to unlearn something that is so ingrained in me. But it is worth a try.

Maybe I would be a better person if I was a little less perfect. Now doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron?

 

Goal 6: Try new things/explore different interests/be fun/enjoy lifelong learning.

When I was younger I was afraid to try new things. Now that I am older, I long for something new.

When I was younger, I never thought I was good enough or smart enough. But being older, I don’t really care if I make a fool out of myself.

This morning I went to an exercise class for the first time. I was the only one in the front row, all the other spots were taken. Front and center for everyone to watch me make mistakes. But I don’t care anymore. Besides I am old enough to know that everyone else is really concerned about themselves and how they look. If they make fun of me, shame on them.

Everyone has been very welcoming though. I took a strength training class for the first time this week and everyone introduced themselves and helped me set up my equipment. Someone even cleaned and put away some of my stuff. They even gave me helpful suggestions and asked if I was coming back.

I have to admit, I’ve been rather shocked lately about the kindness of other people.

I’ve been trying new things, like exercise classes. I also bought an Indian cookbook. I  tried making a few recipes this week. They turned out okay, although it has been a real challenge to find the ingredients I need.

The most exciting new adventure for me this year has been to start writing a book. I am still terrified about this! I’m not sure how it will turn out, but I keep pecking away at it every day.

I don’t have to be perfect nor do I even need to be good to enjoy trying new things. It took me a long time in life just to learn that.

 

Narcissistic worry

Last week I read a wonderful post about narcissism. Then I got to worrying…Oh my, am I a narcissist??

Growing up my life revolved around my autistic brother Matt. It was all about Matt…Matt…MATT all of the time. I wanted it to be all about me. ME! ME! ME!
Aren’t I great??

I was on my own for a very short period of time. I graduated from college, got married 2 months later, and got pregnant 2 months after that. I have been a mother since my mid-20’s.

Right after I was out of my parents house (taking care of my brother)…I ended up having three children. Since then it has been pregnancy, having C-sections, breastfeeding, diapers, sick kids, lost teeth, sibling warfare, birthday parties, braces…to today where I have 3 teenagers. My life involves taxiing my kids around, dealing with difficult issues such as sex, drugs, and lets throw rock and roll in there too. Why not?? I have to deal with underage drinking, bad grades, messy rooms, rebellious attitudes…all the normal issues of dealing with teenagers…plus cooking, cleaning, and laundry.

I secretly fantasize about being an empty nester. I want it to be all about me. I don’t want to have to worry about anyone else…I don’t even want to have to take care of pets anymore. I am sick of having to get a pet sitter every time we want to leave. I hate it when the pets bring fleas into my house…or when the dog gets into the garbage…or puke on the carpet…the constant crying for food the minute I wake up in the morning or right when I get home from work…the poop on the floor right outside of the litter box.

Last month my brother Luke and his family lost their family dog. The were heartbroken at the death of a member of their family. Last week they got a new puppy. I feel guilty for not wanting any responsibilities. I will gladly take care of the pets I have until they are gone…but after that…I don’t even want a fish!

I am also a completely vain person. I envision myself always looking great in a bikini while I gaze at my reflection in the pool. I want to tell my classmates that I was carded this year. I am getting younger while my classmates are so old and weathered that I don’t recognize them anymore. I couldn’t possibly look as old as they do, right??

I also have Mary Poppins syndrome. I think that I am practically perfect in every way. I never admit to having any faults. I strive for perfection.

On a side note**I wouldn’t recommend making deviled eggs for Thanksgiving if you are a perfectionist! Grrrr..

As a child I was punished for making mistakes. One bad grade in elementary school and all of my dolls were taken away for a semester. I was so afraid of making mistakes and not being good enough.

Sometimes I think that harshest judges have been most harshly judged.

I’m working on it, okay?

Yesterday I just realized that my criticism and annoyance with others could be viewed as annoying..

As I sit here gazing in self reflection…I realize that I am probably not a narcissist. I just need a little responsibility free time to myself. I love my family and pets, but sometimes taking care of them all the time can be overwhelming. In a few years I probably won’t know what to do with all of the ‘me’ time.

I figure if I am so worried about being a narcissist, that I am probably not one. Narcissists don’t worry that they are narcissists…Do they?? No, just anxious people worry…Boy, do I feel better..

To think…for a few minutes I thought it was all about me!

29. What people misunderstand about me

Day 29: What do you think people misunderstand most about you?

Let me give you a brief overview of what I told you about myself so far…

I am moody.

I have a tendency towards melancholy.

I overthink and worry too much.

I am honest, sometimes too honest.

I seem to lack genuine compassion or sympathy if I think you caused your own problems.

My life is all about structure, schedules, routine, practicality, organization, detailed planning, and control. I lack all sense of spontaneity.

I am stubborn and resistant towards change.

I am a clean freak. I don’t ask others for help, yet complain when I shoulder all of the work.

I am so highly motivated and hard working that I often make others around me feel bad.

I am a perfectionist with very high standards.

I don’t listen to the advice of others. I could care less about doing what others want me to do and fitting in.

I have a very intense personality, especially under stress.

With that being said, I can see how you could misunderstand that I am a drag to be around! I come across as shy at first, but I really am a lot of fun! Seriously!!

There is never a dull moment when you are with me. I am eccentric enough not to be boring. I am up for just about any new adventure. I have a quick wit and a great sense of humor. It doesn’t matter if we are friends or strangers, our table will likely be the one filled with laughter. I absolutely love making people laugh and play the part of comedian.

Just this week, my employee and I were reminiscing about our grandmothers. Just as she was on the verge of tears, I was able to bring her to tears of laughter. She said that she really likes that quality in me. I have the ability to have deep meaningful conversations about serious issues that end in tears of laughter..

I didn’t always play the part of comedian. Previously, I played the part of serious and overly responsible first born. My baby brother was the clown. The funny thing is that over time, our roles flip flopped. He has become more serious and I have become more of a clown. I am not sure how or why this happened…

I don’t know how it happened, but I am going to celebrate the fact that someone with an anal personality can be such a smart ass. Nothing but wise cracks here. Better keep it clean though…Ha ha ha ha… Just the clean freak in me, no pun intended!

Now get back to work!

 

18. The most difficult thing to forgive

Day 18: What has been the most difficult thing you have had to forgive?

First of all, I don’t like this question. Thing? Really?? I have people to forgive, but not necessarily a ‘thing’. These questions are really starting to make me feel edgy. Some are just downright stupid. I mean, who really cares about my daily routine?? I will finish what I started, but I might change things a bit.

I am going to change this questions to…Who has been the most difficult person to forgive? 

The long hard thought out answer to that question is ME. Yes, me!

I have to forgive myself. For all the stupid things I have done. And even for the things that I didn’t do that I should’ve done. The hardest thing about making mistakes is the inability to go back in time and make the right decision. The regret over making the wrong choice or taking the wrong fork in the road. 

When I was younger, I used to worry and ruminate over mistakes. I used to berate myself for not living up to my expectations of perfection. I tried harder to make up for the times I didn’t try hard enough.

Now that I am older, I don’t think I am any easier on myself. But I realized as I aged that there was nothing I could do to change things that happened in the past. I had to move on or go absolutely crazy from it. I had to forgive myself…let it all go…learn from the experience…and move on…

Even though I strive for perfection, I cannot attain it….I realize that now…only God is perfect….so I can hand it all over to Him and He can figure the rest out… 

4. Ten things to tell your 16 year old self

Day 4: List 10 things you would tell your 16 year old self, if you could

  1. Spend as much time as you can with your grandparents. I hate to tell you this, but friends come and go. Your best friends now won’t even be at your wedding. Soon something is going to happen that will push the friends you have now away. Enjoy the times with friends in the moment. Remember that your grandparents won’t be around forever. They are the greatest source of stability in your life, not your friends.You will never regret spending a lot of time with them.
  2. Your strong work ethic will get you very far in life. However, don’t put work or your long to-do list above your relationships. Take the night off of work to go to your brother’s high school graduation. The $30 you earned that night will never make up for the regret you will feel for the rest of your life for not being at your brother’s only graduation.
  3. I know that you are dealing with some pretty hard things to handle and you feel like you are all alone. These are the hardest years that you will ever face in your life. Hang in there, soon it will be smooth sailing.
  4. Don’t think that you have to be perfect, or even good, at something before you are willing to try it. You don’t have to be good at something to like it either. You don’t have to be perfect. Quit being so hard on yourself. It was a big lie when you were told you had to be perfect. Put yourself out on a limb. Try something new even if you are not good at it.Who cares if you fail?
  5. Leave home when you turn 18 and do WHATEVER it takes to not go back. In fact, move far away. Do not take responsibility for your parents problems. Do NOT agree to be your brother’s caregiver. You should not be giving your brother a shower on a Saturday night. You should be out living your life doing the things that young people do. For once in your life, be carefree. You will already regret not having a childhood, don’t regret not living while you’re young too. Soon enough you will be tied down by your own responsibilities.
  6. Don’t be a caregiver for your brother or anyone else for that matter. Be a little more selfish. Do the things you want to do. Allow yourself to be stupid and make mistakes that you can learn from. Hold out for the library job you will be offered instead of turning it down to be a caregiver. You did enough care giving as a child. This will not be good for you.
  7. Buy an expensive pair of running shoes and start running. Trust me. You need a healthy way to relieve your stress. It is a lot cheaper than therapy and all those bottles of pills that never helped you anyway. Soon you will enter adulthood with enough baggage to travel the whole world. Once you realize their weight, you will have a lifelong struggle with depression, anxiety, worry, and anger. Running will help you get through all the years of repressing your feelings that you couldn’t handle.
  8. Keep writing down everything you experience and don’t stop. It is worth making time for. Some day it will make for a helluva story.
  9. You have to forgive the people that have hurt you for your sake. Pity their weakness. Eventually you will no longer be able to outrun all of the things that you are hiding from. It is going to take a long time to face your demons. You will spend a lot of time reflecting. But eventually you will have to let go..forgive..and trust that God has a bigger plan or purpose for your life. Be a beacon of hope for those that struggle around you.
  10. Try not to worry so much. It annoys me and the others around me. I don’t like it. I want you to relax. Please start working on that now so we can get over this someday.