I’ve backed up dumpsters, shoveled (yes I said shoveled) out rooms, and held various hostage negotiations with my mother over her stuff for years. But there was one place I avoided like the plague, the absolutely disgusting, scary, pit of anxiety that was my mother’s kitchen cabinet ledge.
I got into big trouble once trying to climb up to “help” my mom clean the ledge when I was a kid. I was quickly reminded that what was up there was precious, could not be touched, and definitely could not be thrown away. I’ll get to an itemized report of items held captive there in a minute. After the last big hoard clean up, my brother told me that he saw a dead rat up there. This lil revelation truly sealed the terror of the ledge for me. Granted he didn’t dispose of the dead rat, no he just laughingly reminded me of it over and over.
Sadly my mom had 2 more strokes that landed her in permanent long term care..a little disclaimer. I love my mom.fiercly. She’s struggled with mental illness my entire life, this is not an indictment of shame on her, but rather an opening of dialogue for those who have struggled with similar situations themselves. Our family fights to seal secrets, I am in sooooo much trouble….But we are destined to repeat the same trauma over and over if we aren’t able to, in a healthy way, talk about our pain.
Back to the ledge. After it was clear my mother was not returning to her house, I decided to face what had been haunting me at night. Dead rat and hideous clean up be damned, I was going to clear the last nasty bit of my parent’s house. I was so proud of my impending bravery I sent a text to my sister saying I was finally going to tackle cleaning the ledge. Oh Em Gee! Seconds later she called from work, which meant I was in.for.it. “What do you mean, tackle the ledge? The fruitcake tin, well Papa gave that to mom with his last bit of money. The vase from Roses, the golden turkey, the miniature handmade moonshine gin, the antique children’s stove….they all are YOUR FAMILY HERITAGE!!” You have thrown everything away. Clean them up and put them back, you don’t care about your family”…etc.etc. rant, cry, slam bam. I pretty much answered with, “there’s a dead rat, I’m not exposing asthmatic self and kids to cleaning these things up. They have no value whatsoever, but I’ll just box them up “as is” for you….” enter my “Aha!” moment of clarity and silence.
It hit me, the ledge was like slaying the last dragon in the clutter kingdom. But there would be no “last battle”. Instead there was the realization that where my mother left off, there were two people ready and willing to fight for the hoard. I waved my white flag and stepped down from the ladder. This is how part of the ledge looked the day I left. All things precious, untouched as they were my entire life.
It wasn’t my fight anymore because it wasn’t going to be a part of my life anymore.
Psalm 40:1-3 “I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”
I’m singing a new song and living a new life. I’m also dealing with my own struggles in how to view possessions in a healthy way. My mother will not die in the mist of clutter, I’ll no longer bear the weight or guilt of being the one who threw it all away.
I’ve been off that ledge since November, but it feels like years since one of the most positive decisions of my life.