Saturday, July 17, 2010

Taking Out the Trash

Last year, I wrote about having dinner at my mom's house with my brother and sister. Out of my four siblings, these are the only two with whom I share the same mother and father.

We three get along really well somehow despite being so different.  Not only from each other but maybe more so from the rest of the "normal" world.   Something I think we have all learned to embrace over time.

Personally,  I've gotten a lot of criticism throughout my life for being "too put together."  In Junior High School a girl caught me outside Science class and yelled, "OH, YOU THINK YOU ARE MISS PERFECT, DON'T YOU?!"  Then she punched me in the head.

I consoled myself with the thought that it must have been my new hairdo which sent her over the edge.  My "I'm Farrah Fawcett-Majors and I'm Worth It!" coiffure was simply too much.

Even within my own (step) family, I've endured the same judgement.  Ironic really.

If you know me personally or had read some of my more candid early posts (many of which I've since taken down as my my blog became more "public"), you know that my childhood and life through my first marriage was anything but perfect.

All that said, back to that dinner I was talking about...

Myself, my brother and my sister each had our respective partners with us; married (me), engaged (my brother) and "it's complicated" (my sister).  As I reflect on the conversations we all shared that night, I find myself creating possibilities of what each of our guests might have been thinking.

"Wow, and I thought my family was screwed up."

        "I can probably make it to the border if I start running now."

                 "This is why people drink."

Poor souls. Obviously, they really love us.  Or something.

Naturally we spent some time reviewing childhood memories. One topic which always seems to come up during these mini-therapy sessions is TRASH.

At our childhood home with mom in Suburbia, USA, we had this cute little shed in the backyard. When we had a full bag of trash in the house, one of us would carry it out and throw it in the shed.

Eventually the shed would be completely filled with trash. Wall to wall; floor to ceiling. Our rotting trash became a critical link in the food chain for several types of living things.

You'd think that when one of us went to throw another Hefty on the pile and saw the other bags moving, it would trigger a red flag to say, "Take the trash to the curb."

For a variety of reasons, that just didn't happen.

By the time we thought there might be a problem, it already seemed too big to handle. We were too tired to deal with it right then or had something else which needed our attention more. It's already a mess so what's one more bag? Let someone else deal with it; I got enough going on.

This would continue until there was simply no possibility of ignoring it. The shed was more than full. New species of insects were crawling around and flying out of the cracks. The neighbors were complaining.

I have many vivid and horrible memories of emptying and cleaning that shed. It was a chore made even more difficult because of the tears which blurred my vision and made me shake so badly I almost couldn't hold the bags.

The silver lining came when the shed was finally clean. I remember once making little curtains and turning it into a playhouse/secret reading spot. I felt proud of the accomplishment and enjoyed the space more because of what went into creating it.

However, the same patterns of action and inaction persisted. We never created a process or a plan for keeping the shed empty. The cycle always started again. It was such a chronic issue over so many years; no wonder my siblings also had nightmares about the shed, the trash and the bugs.

Although the story is pretty embarrassing, I've had many people tell me about problems in their lives which clearly relate to my "Tale of the Trashy Shed."

The mile-high, maggot infested trash might be debt. It might be excess weight, depression, failing marriage or out of control kids. Issues in our community. It could be a lot of things.

Somewhere along the line, we had warning signs. Somehow we at least helped to create our circumstance through action or inaction. We lacked process. We were lazy in some regard. We felt overwhelmed and helpless. We thought by ignoring the situation, it might just go away on its own.

   "I'm already so far in debt, what's one more charge on the credit card?"

        "I'll start my diet on Monday. Might as well enjoy these Oreos now."

               "I don't have time to deal with this right now."

Whatever that mountain of trash happens to be; it doesn't get there overnight and the longer you don't deal with it, the bigger it gets. Until it's just so big, you don't know what to do.

Until it's so out of control that you are forced to deal with it.

Like so many folks, Big D. and I have been going through a pretty trashy financial situation over the past couple of years.  Exactly one of those situations I just described with a lot of help from a stinking real estate market.

Again, overshare.  Yet I feel like maybe one of the reasons you keep coming back here is because I tell it like it is.  Even when it's not pretty.  Maybe you can relate?  Dunno.

The great news is that this past week, we finally saw the first glimpses of a clean shed floor.  Hope.  Light at the end of the tunnel.  New habits, hard work and following my own strategy (internal/external/support) is all finally paying off.    Okay, so a little dumb luck doesn't hurt either.

Where are you at?    Do you feel like you're in an episode of Hoarders, living in the light or somewhere in between?

Thanks for visiting,
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Sarah said...

I'm trying to take the garbage out, but it gets too difficult sometimes. I would suggest taking small steps when it gets overwhelming, an advice I wish I would heed.

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

This was a GREAT post!!!!! :)

Charlene said...

Thanks Amanda!

Sarah - Small steps are a great idea. The main thing is remembering that the steps are the activities, not the results. So many people focus on trying to get small results a little at a time and wonder why they continue to fail even at that. Small changes in behavior and/or new habits (even small ones) which eventually lead to great success.

Kim said...

That is a fabulous post. So many people have or have had a trashy shed in their lives. The hope is that they learn from the first time they have to clean it out, not to let it happen again.

Lynn from For Love or Funny said...

Lately, my trashy shed has been my (lack of) exercise habits. Aptly, "small steps" are exactly what I need! (Stopping by from SITS.)

foxy said...

Wow, I have a LOT of the "trash" you're talking about... debt, diet, exercise... UGH. They're all so hard for me. I've cleaned my shed before, but it's definitely piled back up and now I'm trying to clean it again.

And, yes, I like that you're real. I can relate to some of the things you're going through and coming here makes me feel like I'm not alone. That's why I keep coming back. ;)

Eileen Ludwig said...

Charlene, Very interesting story. Oprah talks a lot how we have warnings before it gets out of hand. She points it out in others. It is obvious to see in others and more difficult to see in ourselves.

My blog post for day 3

Argentum Vulgaris said...

Great post Charlene, I knew a family a long time ago where the back bedroom was the equivalent of your shed. I cleaned it out for the sake of the kids. But an excellent analogy for the trash we collect in our lives as well.


Laura said...

My trashy shed had to be my marriage. Stayed in it way too long. Of course, I've been separated/divorced since 1998, so now my shed is clean.

Stopping by from SITS Sharefest!

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