Friday, September 5, 2014

How it Began (Part Three)


Okay. If you did not catch Part One and Part Two, feel free to use the links to do so. Or just read on.

So here is what finally pushed me over the edge, onto the floor, where God picked me up, dusted me off, and gently adjusted my trajectory. It is sad. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I have a dear friend that I have for many years admired greatly as a mom. We became friends in jr. high, and continued on through high school, college, marriage, and kids. She got me my first job. We worked saturdays at a medical scrub company. It would have been the most flat-out dull job on the planet. But as two dorky private high school girls, we had a pretty good time, arranging the scrubs, vacuuming the taupe low-ply carpet, and restocking inventory. We played volleyball together at school, sang in ensemble, and babysat church kids at Bible study. I graduated. She graduated. I travelled and worked at a coffee shop. She married one of the guys from our high school. I visited them in their little apartment in Corvallis. She prepared a home cooked meal and the three of us talked about their hopes and dreams of someday being cattle ranchers. They moved, and we lost touch for a few years. Then their family moved back in my area. By this time they had four great kids, and I had one of my own. I loved getting to know her on this new plane. Her kids were a joy to be around, truly. The sort of children that make you want to have more of your own and work even harder to raise them right. She moved again, and we kept in touch through Facebook. We each had another baby, and her family moved back into the area. I was overjoyed. Not only did I love her company, but I loved watching her patience with her kids in action, and picked her brain as I sought my way with my husband through the wild crazy woods that is parenting. She wasn't a perfect mom (psh. Who is?), but she was one to be emulated. Shortly after they moved, she went in to the chiropractor's office to have her back adjusted.  She figured she had strained it somehow during the move, and it just wasn't feeling right. The chiropractor quickly referred her to their local hospital, and on her 30th birthday she found herself at OHSU, diagnosed with cancer. 

In less than two years, she was gone. Just like that. Oh, we had lunch a few times with the old group of gals from high school, prayed at the hospital, chatted at church while the kids ran around. But it went so fast. So very, very fast. For the bulk of her illness, I held out an optimistic hope. Because mothers of young children cannot die. They are not supposed to die. Not a sweet, devoted woman, who loves Jesus, her husband and children faithfully. Nope. All the boxes were checked. She should live at least into her 70's or 80's, growing old with her husband, living their ranching dream. I still do not know why the Lord chose to bring her home. I have asked him why, but have not yet heard a reply. It remains an unfathomable mystery to me. As each day goes by and she comes to my mind, I pray for her husband and five children, now holding tighter to one another.

Grief is a different beast to each individual. Since her illness, I have had dreams. Sometimes it is the old gang from school. We are all together, youthful and healthy again, laughing. Then, as her death has sunk in, I began having other dreams. 
The one that changed it all came in June. In it,  I had two days to live. I was walking through my home, and all I saw were things. I was raging mad in my dream. All I wanted was to spend time with my family and in my dream, I felt responsible for all this stuff. I felt robbed, cheated into believing what I had invested time and energy in saving was valuable, when the reality was, it did not matter at all. I awoke boiling angry. I had similar dreams since, but from that night on, the veil had been lifted. My view began to drastically change. I no longer saw piles of memorabilia to cherish. I did not see "collectable items" that might someday be worth something. It was just stuff. Stupid stuff that was in my way, keeping me in one spot, trapping my today, enchaining my tomorrow. Suffocating me with no mercy. I had no desire to leave my kids a huge pile things of mine to keep. I wanted to overflow their days with experiences, memories, love, and joy. I wanted that to be my legacy. I did not want to keep running out of inspiration, energy, and space to create for and play with them. Do you know my most precious memory of my (still living) mother? The years of bedtime stories she would read to me. Books upon books, those hours were perfectly invested as far as I am concerned. I do not care what she leaves behind for me physically. My heart will remember what it will. 

I knew from the onset of summer that I had to begin purging after our family vacation. I looked up "steps to purging" and "how to downsize to a tiny home." I still felt a bit aimless. Then a friend posted on Facebook a link to The Minimalists #minsgame. She asked if anybody wanted in. It was not even a choice for me to say no. I was compelled. Honestly? It was easy. I would walk through the house, picking things as I went. I could not explain it, but things that once had power no longer held that authority in my heart. Halfway through the month, I knew the shift was happening. I decided to "face my fears," so to speak. My storage shed. It was my dirty (big) secret. Chock full of stuff. I poured myself a cup of coffee early one morning, put on my boots, and went out to have a look. Just a look, no commitment to touch anything required. Ugh. It was quite as full as I remembered from the last time I had attempted to "go through a few boxes." But I prayed over it, and gave it to the Lord. I shut the door to it, and walked away. I knew in my heart I would spend the rest of that month building my "minimalist muscles" to a day of purging it. And it would happen, this time. It would. 

As July wore on, I recognized that I was starting to evaluate everything. Really, what did I need for a fruitful and happy life? Each item in my home began to come under scrutiny. I had a series of questions I began to ask myself about any item I encountered.
1. Can I live without it?
2. Can someone else use it more?
3. Is it really something of value?
4. Would it bring more joy to someone else than it does me?
5. Is it worth my freedom?
So, that first question is minimalism at its most basic core. But I confess. My son's paper mache coke bottle from preschool that sits on my windowsill? I can live without it, but I can also use it to hold a flower. Can someone else use it more? Nope. A donation center would toss it into recycling. Is it just trash? Hmm, kind of, but not. Would it bring more joy to someone else than it does me? Well, that is where it gets interesting. My mother-in-law has next to no crafty preschool goodness from our kids as of yet. Truthfully, I get to enjoy the little stinkers every day in the flesh. So my should-I-keep-it coke bottle suddenly became a sweet, practically free gift I can mail her across the country. It will make her day brighter, and I will hardly miss it. Okay, so I am afraid I will miss it, at least a little. Do I love my son any less, simply because I give his art project from three years ago to his grandmother?
 But that last question. Is it worth my freedom? Is a coke bottle worth feeling enslaved by my stuff?
The more I asked these questions, the less power my belongings had. There is a lot of neat stuff in this world, but there is very little I am willing to trade my freedom for. 

There you have it. This is a brief sum of what has brought me to today. Now you probably want to know more about the shed of shame, right? Alright. I will give you the scoop soon.

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