Monday night I was watching an episode of Hoarders on A&E. It is grotesquely intriguing to get a glimpse of people’s lives in this state of dysfunction. Although it is hard to imagine getting to a point that you wouldn’t even know you had dead animals decomposing in your bedroom, or maggots breeding in your kitchen, it is very real. Many of these families are at risk of losing their homes or even facing losing their children because of the extreme health risks. I have witnessed people either at this breaking point, or possibly on the verge of heading into this darkness. DW and I have also watched Clean House with the kids before, and most of that he thought was staged until I showed him what a Hoarder looks like; he was in shock.
The thing is, though,these professional clean-up crews and counselors can come in and try to strip the home of as much disease as possible, but the illness still remains intact. The state of the home is really just a reflection of the state of the person’s mental health. Every cluttered room, unwashed dish, rotting meal or unopened purchase is just an emotion left unresolved. Which makes me wonder – how many of us walk around everyday appearing calm, cool and collected, when inside we are battling years of unresolved emotions? Even though some of our homes and personal appearances look normal, inside many of us are emotional hoarders.
I have definitely been guilty of this at times in my life. In fact, this week I was consumed with emotional baggage I seemed to have still not totally unpacked from my first marriage. Because of these unresolved emotions, I have trouble sometimes really hearing what people say. Their comments take on much larger meanings than I think they intended. For instance:
What was said: “Besides taking care of your family and exercising, what else do you really have to get done?”
Although still a ridiculous comment however stated, what I heard was: “Having a clean house and making sure you are physically attractive to your husband should be the only things that matter in your life. Your music and your writing are just hobbies and can’t get in the way of what is really important.”
Based on what I heard, the last several days have been spent scrubbing toilets, keeping up with every article of clothing possible and cooking healthy meals while my artistic drive was put in time-out. It wasn’t until I introduced myself to someone this week and heard myself say, “I’m a freelance writer and a musician” that I was reminded that what makes me uniquely myself is my passion to create. It also helps that DW asks me everyday, “So, what did you write about today”. He has never once asked me what did I clean today.
Sunday afternoon I played with the Ypsilanti Symphony Orchestra in a special performance showcasing jazz musician Paul Keller and some of his amazing jazz ensemble. The music was written by Paul Keller for us to celebrate our community and it was indeed one of the best orchestra concerts I have ever participated. Not just because the music was well written, but because of the way I felt afterward. My spiritual consciousness seemed elevated, much like a person might feel leaving a tent revival, a reminder that we are all a part of something bigger than ourselves. Sharing myself with a room full of like-minded people, opening up our hearts unconditionally on the stage, is something I wish happened more often. It creates bonds of friendship and respect that would otherwise take years to achieve in most circumstances. All my emotional baggage seems irrelevant in the middle of a performance like Sunday’s.
I don’t want to be an emotional hoarder. It isn’t any healthier to hang on to unproductive or irrational emotions than it is to live in filth. Mental chaos is still chaos. Perhaps a true sense of balance is a home that is simply lived in and comfortable. There might be some dishes in the sink because I was too tired to clean everything up before bed, but at least our family shared a meal together. Or maybe a load of laundry needs to be folded because I decided to spend some quality time with DW. And yes, maybe I didn’t get that workout in first thing in the morning because I exercised my mind instead. Maybe a house and body that are pristine is just as revealing to the state of a person’s mental health and self-esteem as a hoarder’s environment.
It’s just more socially acceptable.