I almost never do things half way, which is a polite way to say I usually am obsessive about any task I begin.
Last weekend a friend on Facebook mentioned she had just watched an episode of the television show Hoarders. I rarely watch TV, but I have seen snippets of this series online and I have found it terrifying and tragic to see the out of control lives of the individuals profiled.
I couldn’t imagine anything more upsetting than watching this show. So, being me, I pulled up the website and I proceeded to watch 15 episodes consecutively. Fifteen hours, over a day and a half, of filth, roaches, mice, ceiling high garbage and fractured families. I felt like I needed a shower after each one. Because of my immobility, I cannot keep my bedroom the way I used to, which was pristine and orderly. I kept looking around my presently cluttered space repeating “I am not a hoarder. I am not a hoarder. I am not a hoarder.”
Right. The truth is, I could be in a heartbeat.
I reluctantly recognize I am inordinately attached to many of my belongings. I apply sentimental value to things I probably should have thrown out years ago, mostly items that are associated with my children and their early childhood, which was one of the happiest times of my life. Or things from my own childhood. My mother saved nothing from when I was little, so years ago I went on Ebay and bought some of the things that had meant the most to me, Sleeping Beauty paper dolls, Miss Cookie’s Kitchen Colorforms, the Little Red Spinning Wheel. I don’t do anything with these things. I rarely even look at them. I just like knowing I have them. I take after my grandmother, who always had an immaculate and neat home, but kept many, many things that others would have long disposed of. In their nineties, my grandparents were moving in with my aunt. One of the things discovered in cleaning out their apartment was the deed to the grave of my grandfather’s little sister, who had died in 1909. Everyone was shaking their head at the folly. I could totally relate.
I am also a fabric junkie and my craft room is overflowing, but I do utilize those things, I don’t just collect them. While I feel defensive and do have a lot of things and I do have a hard time letting go of them, I take comfort in the fact that no one will discover long dead cats buried under four feet of debris in my living room.
Anyway, inspired by my obsessive Hoarders marathon, I have begun to purge my bedroom of unnecessary items, the biggest offender being clothes that no longer fit me. In the past I would have had a great deal of difficulty with that, which would account for the fact I have about 100 t-shirts in varying sizes that I have accumulated over the years. I have kept them because they are great for pairing with shorts or sweats and then going walking. But I can’t walk anymore. And many of them are over 20 years old, so discolored and stretched out they aren’t even suitable for rags. I am very proud of the fact I am throwing them out.
But then I came to my shoes. I have never been a huge shoe person, certainly never on the par of, say, an Imelda Marcos. But I have always liked good, comfortable, high quality shoes and I have about 40 pairs all together. Practical shoes. Shoes that are pretty and maybe a little unusual. As a true aging hippie, I love all my Birkenstocks.
My shoes are an eclectic bunch, chosen depending on the occasion and the statement I want to make. Sturdy and professional for work, fun and funky for play.
This past July, my legs and feet suddenly swelled up like the Michelin Man. This has happened a few times before since I got sick, but they have always gone back to normal within a few days. Only this time they have stayed that way. Buckets of Lasix, hours of pumping away on a little foot cycle, keeping my feet elevated and daily, panting struggles with getting compression stockings on have made no impact. My left foot especially looks as though someone stuck an air hose in it and pumped just short of the skin bursting off. And my doctors cannot offer any reason for this horrifying development.
In my own research I have found that this is a common problem in people with spinal cord damage, which I have a significant amount of due to MS. So all those aforementioned shoes? They no longer fit on my feet. And when I manage to squeeze on a pair, the swelling oozes out and over the edges of the shoe, creating the ever so attractive image of marshmallow leaking out of a hot s’more.
Here’s the thing: I don’t want to throw out my shoes. It is a very real stumbling block in my organizing project. What’s worse is, I am experiencing a terrible, weepy bout of self-pity. I look at each pair and remember. They represent the life I had. Here are the ones I wore to the interview for my first job as a department director.
These are the ones I bought for my oldest son’s engagement party.
Then the ones for his wedding. I actually danced in these. I could still dance then.
The ones I bought for a special date. The relationship didn’t last, but the memories are fond.
And here are my walking shoes for the walks I can no longer take.
It is Thanksgiving week and with all that I am losing and have lost I am struggling with finding much gratitude. Grasping at straws, I finally decide I have to be grateful I still have feet. I am not being facetious. They are swollen and uncomfortable and pretty much useless, but they are still there, so it could be worse. I also do not have a house crawling with vermin or a pile of clutter we need to make paths through and that blocks windows and doors. And I never will, thank you Hoarders. I also have many people in my life who care about me and for me, and I will be eternally grateful for all of them.
So I give thanks for feet and floor space and light and air and a relatively clean house and friends and the one pair of shoes I can still get on. I’m not throwing out my shoes yet, because I still have some shreds of hope that things might change. And I am grateful for that little bit of hope as well.