Saturday, September 14, 2013

Another episode of 'From the Mouth of a Hoarder"

My plan of only calling/speaking with my hoarding mother once every 3-4 days is working well overall, and our conversations have been relatively short since I am still recovering from emergency surgery six weeks ago.  She gets negative?  Gotta go.  Gets intrusive?  Gotta go.  Gets off-the-hook batshit crazy?  Same result.  I knew that at some point she would push back or rebound a bit when I was not paying attention, and this conversation yesterday was that day.

I am transitioning back into work, and for me, this week has been a steadily improving one.  I attended a meeting in a nearby large town that is about 80 miles away, and I called her when I was about a half hour out.  

She asked what I was doing, and I told her I was driving back from the 2 day membership meeting, and had a good meeting, a good time seeing friends and colleagues, and shopping.  (Of course I did not share with her that the new pants I bought was a size 00, and that I had the lovely BP drop that has been happening and passed out with a mirror in my hand that broke.  Luckily I was not cut.  I also did not mention the shock of folks when they saw me.  I did not want to hear it from her... I think she is secretly convinced I have cancer somewhere... She has often criticized any type of invasive surgery because 'when the air hits the cancer it runs and hides everywhere'.  It is cancer, Mother, not ollie-ollie-oxen-free...)  My visit was culminated by seeing and having a lovely lunch with my former elderly neighbors who had moved to that city about 2-3 years ago.  I was coming home, and had an appointment to meet the sales manager and a sales person to discuss a deal on a (newer) car for me.  

She started rapid fire asking questions about me working, and making statements.  When I apprised her that:

  1. I was doing extremely well, and I had been fine on this trip...
  2. The surgeon had released me to do this...
  3. I was released to start working out/running, as my endurance/energy will allow and to only lift weights at 60-70% until three months out...
She demanded to know if it was three months from surgery or three months from my appointment.  I informed her that any benchmark like that is from surgery, and 3 months from the appointment was CRAZY.  She immediately took offense.  Whoops.

She started awkwardly trying to find a way to get her opinion in regarding the car I am considering.  
  • First she wanted to know 'how much something like that would cost' and I told her to not worry about it.  She gets so angry at prying people, but she will be intrusive in a heartbeat.  She would love to know how much I earn, what my rent is, and now, what my car payment will be.
  • She asked if it was a large car like I have now, and no, it is not.  It is a smaller car, but is all-wheel drive.  
  • She started to make some comment about how much I am in the car and how dangerous small cars are.  I cut her off and let her know that it is much smaller than the Acura TL I drive now.  However, it is comparable to the size of her Accord.
Egad... perish the thought that after almost 6 years of driving this car and putting 170,000 miles on it I would consider trading before I have to spend quite a bit in tires, alignment, services, inspection, and any repairs it might need.  That I would make a cost/benefit analysis and make a logical decision rather than be forced into a decision by default when I have no choice later.  The estimated costs of those items will almost exceed the actual cash value of the car, and that is if nothing is wrong.  And since it is almost 8 years old and has not had any repairs needed, it is coming.  And it will be expensive.  An alternator perhaps?  Or maybe struts or a CV joint?  Oh I know... the manifold cracks...   Older/high mileage car problems.  The reason I am considering revising my plan to drive it for another year or two and take it to 250,000 or 300,000 miles is when my ex-husband asked if I was limiting what I do and where I go because of the age and mileage... I had to answer in the affirmative.  Especially in light of my recent medical crisis, life is too damn short to live it constrained by things that do not have to be limits.  I wanted to drive to NOLA, but changed my mind and flew.  I have friends that live a few states away that want me to visit. I keep demurring.  If I do not follow through on this car, I will keep looking.  

The biggest thing is, I refuse to JADE.  That is justify, argue, deny, or explain.  I am middle aged, have bought many, many cars in my life, and am not doing this impulsively.  I can afford this car, and it has less than 50,000 miles and has that in a warranty left.  Yes, it is a luxury brand, and for the first time in many years I will buy something outside of the Honda line.  

Seeing she was not getting anywhere, she started on hated neighbor and asserted that he keeps coming out on the porch to 'glare' any time she is outside.  She also asserted that his dog must have died and she has determined this since she has not seen it in over a month, and that all kinds of people are walking their dogs out the street.  

In the next breath she tells me how it is so weird, she does not see ANYONE ... it is so dead.  HUH?

She then starts chattering about... get your barf bags ready... a crusty huge mole on her breast that is coming off.  I quickly advised her to change the subject or the call was OVER.  

She started lamenting she needs a med-mal attorney to sue a physical therapist for malpractice... and she does not want anyone around her home area.  Do they still make books like 'Best Doctors, Worst Doctors' that she saw 20 years ago... and do they do that for attorneys?  Um... yeah.  It is called Yelp or Google.  She blustered and changed the subject.

The final straw was...
"I am going to ask you a question."
I am breathless with anticipation....
"Do you have hair on your upper and lower lip?"
DEAR. FREAKING. GOD!  We are not having this same inane conversation that we have already had 50 million times!
"Well, I am just ASKING! Does anyone you know have that?"
I am sure someone does, however most folks have boundaries and do not discuss this stuff.  They wax it, get electrolysis, laser hair removal, or shave it daily when they shower...
"OH!  I could not shave it every day! That would make the hair stiff like a man's beard... What I do..."

Gotta go.  BYE.  

Recently she also opined when I mentioned getting estimates for someone to come in and clean once a month that I should have one of my friends come over and do it... that I do enough for them.  

How would she know?  And I quickly told her friendship is not transactional.  It is reciprocal, but she has no concept of that.  Many friends offered to vacuum, to take out the trash when I could not do it for myself, and I let a few folks and was grateful.  But, I do not invite folks over based on what I want them to do for me.  This is not about my being unable to do certain things any longer.  This is about, both long-term and short-term, the quality of my time and my life.  I keep a pretty spic and span, minimalist place.  I would like a deep dusting, baseboard clean, and the 'hard turn' that many cleaning companies do, because I do not enjoy those activities, and they have to be done.  I am willing to pay someone to do them, and if I cannot, then I will do all of them without editorial comment or delay.  She has spent many conversations criticizing the lovely couple across the street who have a beautiful home and have a lot of pride in their home, car and their own personal appearance.  My mother also criticizes a 'wonderful stranger' she has groomed because she also is very particular and diligent in her housekeeping.  

Her disdain of those who dress and treat their spaces with the respect in which they wish to be treated is definitely a common 'hoarder think' trait... to my mother, that is some sort of character flaw, and a definite form of snobbery... that you would put everything back as soon as you are done!  That you have nice things, sometimes expensive things that are loved, used, and have a place in your life and in your home.  That like things are grouped centrally and in places that make sense rather than having multiple little 'stations' with all kinds of things.  That you are 'too good' or 'too busy' to be bothered with certain house chores and hire it done.

It is not the first time I have thought about this, but it hit me again.  She has such poor insight that she will not see any other perspective but her own that has been twisted by mental illness and paranoia.  She has effectively isolated herself with her hoard, physically, emotionally, and in every other way possible.  The hoard has become her moat and her dragon.  She also does not see folks as individuals, but merely as extensions of her will and what she wants them to do.  Everyone is something to be controlled, to be manipulated.  She also has little concept of happiness, of seeking peace, and of actually living life, rather than just existing in it.  Life is a series of disappointments to her.  I am sure that my life, my thoughts and things that I hold as values are as foreign to her.  She has a constant internal dialogue or tape that seems to be running 24/7, and it seldom changes.  She seems to be aware that people such as doctors and others are pulling away from her, but she does not know why, other than the blame game she plays.  And she sits in the hoard, day in, day out, and watches crappy daytime television, old reruns, and does nothing stimulating that empowers her to learn something new or even have a new experience.  It must be like being stuck in an alternate reality loop... or being in the movie 'Groundhog Day' with Bill Murray.  

What a sad place eh?  Hoarding... No one wins.  NO ONE.  I have some more work to do personally, some more introspection as I move forward.  I have had a brutal reminder of how precious life is, and how you are as happy as you choose to be.  I want to make my life count... 

Have a great week, and hopefully I will be a little more consistent as I get back into my life.  


  1. JADE. Stealing it! I've said for years that I do not owe anyone an explanation, justification or an answer of MY doings. Now that I have the perfect acronym for it I can beat that into my head. Thank you.

    I'm so proud of you!

  2. Thank you so much! That is a drug and alcohol rehab worker's term, so I cannot claim credit for it at all, but it is so appropriate with 'Momsters'.

    DARVO, JADE, so many acronyms... And we move on! Hang in there:-)