This past Sunday my brother, sister, niece, sister’s partner, my mother, and I tackled the condo where she used to live. Having recently moved into an assisted living facility, she has already had to pare down what she has brought with her into her new apartment, but on Sunday decisions had to be made on the things, the stuff of her and her husband’s lives. We also met the people on Sunday who would be selling all this “stuff” at an estate sale later next month. We thought we were all prepared, physically and emotionally, for this day of going through everything in the condo, but, not surprisingly, it was intense and difficult.
I have posted quite a bit on this blog about how my mother has transformed into the mother I have always wanted. About how her Parkinson’s has strangely given her the gift of letting go and just being compassionate and non-judgmental. About how almost zen-like she has managed to turn her life. Well, Sunday she reverted back to her former self, full-blown and mean-spirited. And I reverted back to my former self as well in the way I used to respond to her drama–victimized, self-righteous, distraught.
I don’t need to go into the details of it all, but suffice it to say that after working 10 hours together, we were all pretty wiped out and anxious and tense. But by the end of our very late dinner, sitting outdoors in a nearly empty restaurant, we had all mellowed out. As I drove my mother back to her “apartment,” she apologized to me for her behavior. We had a long and tender conversation about how hard the day was for her. I know it was hard for her to let go of all the pieces of her former life. Sunday’s immersion in the stuff of her life made the transition to her assisted living facility seem final, a closure she hadn’t expected. She was very tired.
My mother and her husband never threw anything away. They saved all their pharmacy receipts and all their bills dating back many, many years (in their envelopes). They even saved the plastic or cardboard that was attached to the gift cards they received. Every birthday card and thank you note, every invitation and notification was piled in boxes, in drawers, in bags, on shelves, and in closets.
And so it is with those most challenging parts of ourselves as well. It is hard to entirely throw those pieces out. We sometimes inadvertently open a box stored in a corner of the closet and all the old stuff is still there, the rubber band breaks, the envelope tears, and boom, we are right back where we began.
The good news is that we’re no longer stuck there. The good news is that although we are still somewhere hampered by that load we carry, now we are really much more interested in healing. That weight doesn’t seem as perpetual as it once did. Bringing compassion to bear somehow transforms it all.
I don’t know who Pearl Williams is, but when we discovered her record (pictured above) in one of the many boxes we opened Sunday, we found the title to her album quite amusing. “A trip around the world is not a cruise,” I read aloud with great drama.
“That’s for sure,” my mother said.