Coming to understand myself and the “whys” behind my beliefs about the world and the people in it has always been of interest to me. I am also just as interested in others and their stories. As I tend to be rather curious and analytical, I have often been told that I “would make a good counselor.” I am not sure that it is truth, but I do see that I am willing to look in the mirror and find the connections with others and the correlations of experiences. It requires us all to be more vulnerable.
Recently, I have begun to “look” beyond some of the issues that have presented in my life. They seem to be inter-connected in so many ways.
It has been more than two decades since I have truly done anything to “celebrate” the Christmas holidays in my home. There have been some moments where one may have seen a glimmer; however (for the most part), it has been non-existent. I have cooked or helped to cook the holiday meals elsewhere, but it was never the same. Much of the time, I went to a restaurant for a meal…sometimes with a friend, sometimes alone.
“Hoarding,” or just Scared?
This past summer I began to open up and admit to “shutting others out.” The easiest way for me to do this was to not deal with clutter in my home. This way, I did not allow others into my space.
I could have let others into my home, but there would have been some who would have been judgmental and then would have told others how awful it was…I was. Some would have accused me of being “a hoarder,” likening me to the extreme hoarders featured on the television show.
Truth be told, I bought into those visions of myself. I did not see reality, but saw myself through the judging eyes of others. So, I shut down not only from others, but myself.
One of the things that I would never have been able to tolerate is the filth of rotting foods, the scampering of rodents, and the other horrors that are sensationalized with the show.
Yet, the piled-up, unpacked boxes from previous moves kept me from “LIVING” in my home and accepting others into my home to celebrate life, friends and family, and the holidays we share throughout the year.
Preparing to Die
I moved into my current townhouse in September 2013, preparing to die. It was a year-and-a-half earlier that I was diagnosed with stage 4 Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs)/Carcinoid cancer, and told by an Army Lt. Col. and surgeon that I “…(had) six months to a year, two…if lucky.”
So, when I moved, I truly believed that I had less than a year to live. That being the case, why unpack?
Looking back, I understand the ideas or thoughts and how they manifested in the way that they did. But I also recognized that how I choose to look at my life and what I think, believe or do is MINE to choose, despite what others will tell me, think of me, or treat me.
Starting to Live Again
This summer, I have started to “let go” of the accumulation. I am unpacking and donating items that I no longer need to friends, family, and organizations. I am beginning to see a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. It has much less to do with the condition of my home, but the condition of me and my view of life and the people in it.
I call this my “Clutter Project.” I am facing my inner turmoil around letting others see who I am on the inside, which is difficult. It is not easy to be vulnerable. It is not easy to be open, knowing that there will be some who will act in judgement, and then reject and abandon. It is downright painful, and then very tempting to pull back and shut down even more deeply. It is not easy, and their is so much more to do, but I have started.
This is where the choice to keep moving forward is so important. Trusting when it is scary to do so.
I have allowed two trusted friends to see the chaos on the inside of me and in my home. Each has been invited to dine with me, including Thanksgiving Dinner. Two other friends have come over (separately.)
There was an online friend from Australia who stayed with me for a week this month. We had only spoken by phone for an hour total (two calls) in the 18 years that we had “met” online.
Last week, I committed to hosting Christmas Day dinner here in my home. It will not be formal, but rather informal. There will be seven of us for certain, and maybe a total of three more. I must admit that I am a bit anxious about it.
Since I have opened up about my struggles to one of my sisters, and to my best friend (BK), each has shown me so much love and support. The relationship between my sister and I has strengthened in ways I never imagined, and it is much more authentic than
any other relationship that I have had with a family member.
If not for BK’s help in going through things here in my place these past five months, I would feel paralyzed. She has been here to help me as I push through the process in my own way. She and I (together) are learning our own lessons of telling our stories, and listening with more love. Of course, it requires us to be truthful with one another, but more importantly…truthful with the person in the mirror.
So, Christmas get-together at my place!
I will likely invite others over during the season between now and the New Year holiday. It is getting easier to allow people that I know care and who are not going to walk in judgement of me into my home…into my heart. I am also confident that if I felt there were others who would walk in and look down their noses, I would be gracious enough to offer a coffee, but cut the time short.
Keep telling your story
I know my story. I know the characters in the story, up to this point in my life. I understand how the story has been written, but I also know that there are twists and turns in every story, and that we never know how any story will end.
Is it not wonderful that we get to write more chapters and change the direction of the plot of our stories? We find other characters along the way. When the story is all-told, as we come to the end, it is a far different story than we expected.
I am grateful to all who have become part of my life. I thank each for taking time to read and “listen” to more of my story. I appreciate all who have shared their stories with me.
And I look forward to continuing the journey.
(Note: Edited from original post by the author, “There is always MORE to the story, if one is willing to listen to the storyteller” written and published on 13 December 2017 at myLot.com.)