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No, I'm not mad. This is a good thing. Um, I think. Let's talk.

This is one of the main reasons I started this site with Patreon supporters. What you say, pushes me. I may not always like it at first, I may resist, but invariably something comes out of it.

So earlier today I read the following comment from Saga supporter NancyL:

Maybe you were not ready to accept how much greater you are, and will be, than the sum of your fabulous belongings - but we are here to tell you. There will be time enough, and friends enough with invitations, when you are ready to rest. Perhaps some of the treasures can be given with a string attached: a promise that you can drop in to visit them for a few days. Perhaps some of them can be sent off on sabbatical to friends who will host them until you feel the need for their return and have a new place in which to house them. There are options here. It's hard to take off with a house on your back. I expect we are all part turtle, part soaring bird - and you are shedding your turtle self quicker than planned. But think of the soaring...

That was in response to an earlier story about letting go of things. I am well aware and have been for along time with what she says in the first line. However that doesn't mean I always act in alignment with that understanding, witness a house full of stuff all over again. However, and here's the piece.

Nancy's comment got me thinking. Every time I face a really big transition where there are huge losses (at least the perception of them) and potential gains, I am given the chance to assess. Ask why. How did we get here?

This time around, I asked a wholly different series of questions about hoarding. I've looked at one aspect of it, as though I am trying to hang on to those experiences I've had over the years, trying to hoard time. Yes, but that's not really it. A part, surely, but not all of it.

As a writer, and as someone who studies the human psyche and our condition, and who turns the spotlight onto the self regularly (and squirms, thank you), this comment caused me to ask a far more difficult question. We aren't born hoarders. That's a learned behavior.

A protective one. Utterly fear-based.

That led me to go digging in to my early childhood. I've shared this before but not in this context, and I think it may  be useful here. My mother told me, decades before I was prepared to hear such a thing (if we ever are, thank you) that when she heard that she had birthed a girl child, that she immediately wanted to drown me.

I will let that sink in. I believe I was about eight at the time when she handed me that lovely time bomb.

Then, after my brother began to molest me, I would act out at the dinner table. My father, who sat across from me and who was at his wits' end, would do one of two things, or both:

make me eat off my plate on the floor without utensils like the family dog,

or he would send me to bed without food entirely.

I admit to being a particularly emotional and intense person, with deep and abiding vulnerabilities. I had been told quite young that my mother wanted to murder me shortly after birth. Then my father in his infinite wisdom either forced me to eat off the floor or took food away entirely.

In other words, it felt like my parents wanted me dead, and I only had one use for my big brother. No bloody wonder I hoarded.

Now look. As with all things, my folks, who had never wanted kids until they found themselves isolated on the family farm, did their best with what they had. I could armchair quarterback all day and never find an answer. Or an apology, which never would have been forthcoming from either of them.

My folks were Depression-era, so they themselves hoarded every tiny thing, quite understandably. They lived in terror of being without, and passed that along to us kids.

My parents' pain was not mine to carry, nor my brother's. Yet I can still hear all three of them blame me, at a counselor's office, when I was barely ten years old, for all the family's issues. All of them, including their alcohol and drug issues. At ten, you figure that if your family says you're the problem, you ARE the problem, and it simply  adds to the feeling of being utterly unwanted, in the way and the source of the family's despair.

When I was in high school, a cute blond guy gave me a quarter once. No reason. Just did. I kept that stupid quarter for years and years and years. As if that small piece of stamped metal proved my parents wrong. Someone cared enough to give me a quarter. I didn't date, never went to a prom, but I got a quarter.

I have masses of things I have kept for the same reason. Some part of me has to ask what this says about my need to validate my right to have been born.

I have to ask, since my father was fond of calling me a loser, if this house, this vast testament to gorgeousness, wasn't just a blowup of that quarter? A primal scream to an unfriendly world that I have the right to be here, that I have a voice, that I don't need to apologize for my existence? Did this big house not prove that finally, I was all right?

Truth? No clue. But I'll bet it's part of a very deep dynamic.

the house that was Julia Hubbel

Geez, Nancy. Thanks a lot.

No, really. The journey is most worthwhile. I'd be a liar if I said otherwise.

While I don't have an answer, nor will I never, the purpose, perhaps, is to gain a bit of insight into the compulsions which drive us, and to find some kind of peace with them. No thing will ever suffice for a mother's wholesale and unconditional love and acceptance, which I did not have. No item on a wall will ever make up for a father whose dripping condescension tore holes in an already threadbare curtain of self-love, one which was shredded early on and I've been trying to mend since.

Those things speak volumes about the state of mind of my folks, and the emotional landscapes they themselves carried, that they would cascade this on us kids. My brother didn't fare much better; he took his life in 2012 after decades of drug and alcohol abuse. I am still standing.

I'm the only one still standing.

In no way am I screaming victim here. This is just a statement of facts in a life, as I once again do my best to make happiness and hilarity out of a combination of bad luck and bad news. Those will morph. And I will indeed soar. However, as I age, and ask different and better questions about how I got here, why I am alone at 70, and why I am negotiating this very different kind of life, it makes great sense to question.

I may not like the journey.

I may not get or like the answers I do find.

But I believe we need to keep asking. For in asking, we invite understanding to grow, forgiveness to bloom, and evolution to continue. The questions get harder, better and deeper as we age, and as we are willing to bear the pain that such queries carry.

But no pain is greater than continuing to carry the burden of blame, guilt and anger that others are happy to lay on our backs, for they cannot carry their own.

With thanks to NancyL for the inspiration and the subsequent soul-searching.

I'd be curious if any of you have had similar insights or revelations later in life and if so, where did they lead?

Chuckanut Mountain treed path
Photo by Patrick Fore / Unsplash

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