fear and hoarding in athvegas

alternate title: how i cleaned out my closet.

yeah, i’m still circling around the way i have fear based mechanisms in place all over my life. they keep appearing, new cogs and gears, moving me in directions i thought i was programmed to. it turns out, maybe i’m not supposed to be this way.

i watch a lot of netflix in the evenings after zoe goes to bed, and much to the chagrin of spencer and pretty much all my friends, i love the show hoarders. and anything dealing with hoarding. in the past, i used to watch it, think to myself, well thank God i’m not that bad.

does that sound like a verse? luke 18:11 says “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” so yeah, maybe there was some judgement, but there was a whole lot more convincing myself that my small piles of clutter were fine – sure, i totally need 18 cardigans, or 8 pairs of jeans i don’t wear. or chairs i can’t use in my house yet. or extra wool blankets. or books. and books and books and books.

and in my attempt at justifying my own hoards, i completely missed the point. well, two points. one, that there’s a deeper reason for my holding onto things. and two, i was super close to falling down that hole myself. anyone who knew me 10 years ago, and saw the insane amounts of stuff i kept filling our house with probably knows how close i actually was. and still am sometimes.

so what about my closet? i had dresses i hadn’t worn in years, jeans 2 sizes too small, and cardigans in every color of the rainbow, even though i only wear 4 or 5 of them. for me, with the homelessness, the joblessness, the despair of our previous years still written on the back of my eyelids, every time i looked in the closet, i saw money. the fact that i had so many clothes meant that no matter how broke we got, i’d still have clothes. sure, i hated half of them, but at one time i loved them, and if i really had to, i could wear them.

the phrase “poverty mindset” is thrown around the american church, and i think it is grossly misused and the solutions presented are often trite and meaningless. the thing is, poverty thinking is focused on the now. you’ve got 20 bucks? okay, put gas in your tank, buy 10 bucks in groceries, and pray nothing breaks. spending 5 dollars on thrifted shoes instead of saving for new, more expensive ones makes more sense. you know why? because as soon as you save some money, something bad will happen, and you won’t get your shoes. you’ll need your money elsewhere. your paycheck is completely allotted to food and gas and groceries, and bills and rent, and there’s no room for new clothes. better hang onto everything, because there’s no telling when you’ll get to buy something for yourself or your husband – any money for clothes goes to the growing child.

how do you escape that? i don’t know. i’m only now having to confront it, because we’re actually slowly digging out from that hole. are we rolling in it? not hardly. but the recent lowering of gas prices has given us breathing room in the budget in a way we’ve not had in years. it’s weird to be such an economic statistic, but we are. lower gas prices has freed up discretionary income, and forced me to look at my hoarding habits.

so i still watch hoarders, and i will likely keep doing so. but now, i can look and see people who are sick with fear, and somewhere along the line, something convinced them that they can’t get rid of anything. whether that something is mental illness, trauma, or other adverse events doesn’t matter. i watch it, and i want to get rid of half the things in our house. in a way, it’s cathartic for me, because i have to confront my stuff. i cleared out half my closet last night. and i’m not even kidding. i’ve only got clothes that fit me, and not only that, clothes that i like.

i kept a couple of tee shirts that don’t fit, 2 dresses and one pair of jeans. everything else is stuff i like, not just stuff i have. and that’s freeing. the act of taking the clothes off the hangers was a step towards walking away from the fear of not having enough. i still need to confront my emotional eating, and my poverty food habits, but i’m taking baby steps. i will be able to get the things i need, and i don’t need to hold onto everything just in case. the things i carry with me should be tools and not chains, assistants not weights.

i know this is a very long blog post to just talk about cleaning out my closet. but i had deeper issues to confront, and i want to keep doing it. i’m cleaning out my mental closet, trying to put away mindsets and attitudes that do nothing but destroy me. i want to walk away from fear.

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luck be a lady…

so i’ve never really believed in luck. i mean, sure, i had my silly rituals as a kid – don’t step on the cracks, heads up pennies, fingers crossed – but i never really believed in it. so now, whenever i say things like – fingers crossed and wish me luck – in the back of my head, there’s a little voice that reminds me that i’m being foolish. there’s no such thing as luck.

i don’t know where fate falls into things, i’m not a strict calvinist, so i’ve had a hard time believing in my life being chosen for me. but i still have moments of nervousness – i don’t want to tempt fate. or really, God. because i have a hard time not attributing a capricious nature to the God i claim to follow. i know it’s not scriptural, and sometimes i truly believe in His goodness or faithfulness. but a lot of times, i have a Jonathan Edwards type view of God – i’m a sinner, and He’s angry. and though i know that sermon is really about the grace of God, my head tells me that grace is for someone else.

so what does this have to do with luck? the other day, i mentioned a possibility that i was excited about. i was hesitant to mention the details, because there was this fear that if i told everything too soon, then it wouldn’t work out. foolish, right? but somewhere in my heart, i was afraid. afraid that a capricious god would hear my hope and decide i was unworthy. afraid that a trickster god would fool me, afraid i was somehow unworthy of blessing. notice how the g is not capitalized? that’s because it was a god of my own making. fear of being unworthy. of not being enough.

and in answer to my fears, i was blessed beyond expectation. i applied for a job at my alma mater on monday of last week, after hearing about the job opening on sunday. by thursday i had an interview, and this week – monday, to be precise – i signed my name to the offer letter and sent it in. i have applied to many, many jobs at UGA over the past few months, and never even got an email response. let alone an interview. let alone a job offer. let alone a start date.

so now, we’re on precipice of moving back to a town that has felt like home for 4 years. this year away has been hard, illuminating, and absolutely necessary. i was seriously broken in so many ways, and spencer and i were in bad shape. depression wrecks a family, ruins their ability to be whole – cohesive – not shattered, and i certainly wasn’t present for zoë. so when this year started, i was not in a place to recognize the loss of job, house, and familiarity as a blessing. as grace. instead, there was a hint that perhaps God was angry at me for being so broken. that my depression was my fault and everything that happened afterwards was because i was a failure.

do you see where the fear of tempting fate comes from? the belief that every painful thing, every failing, every disappointment was my fault, because i was a failure. so if something good was going to happen, i better not screw it up. better keep my mouth shut. and not tell anyone, and certainly not tempt God.

and yet, i was offered a position anyway. we have an apartment tentatively lined up, anyway. zoë will be returning to her beloved school, anyway. that regardless of my ability, or my lack thereof, or the luck i don’t profess to believe in, i am taken care of. we’ll have health insurance again. spencer will finally get his debilitating back injury repaired (he’s looking at surgery, or at least intensive physical therapy, not even including the week he will be out with his dental surgeries – which is why i was interested in the position at all).

and more importantly, i think i might have learned something. that luck isn’t a lady, and fate is no longer a trickster, or three women spinning yarn and forever cutting it, or that grace is not reserved only for the damned. that once again, the god i feared showed me He is a God who loves me. even when i don’t believe that about Him. even when i fear Him.

spring is… cold?

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so here we are, two very cold rainy weeks later, and i didn’t take near as many pictures as i had anticipated. sure, we went on our hike up a part of the appalachian trail – it was an adventure just to get there! friends of our decided to join us, and they brought their 10 year old and almost 8 year old. so naturally, zoë was a happy camper. or hiker as it were.

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she got to ride with them on the hour and a half drive to the trail head. at one point, we were driving 15 miles an hour on a steep, windy, gravel, ONE LANE road. i think the trail head was 20 miles away. which, if you think about the history of settlers moving into georgia, or even the US, it is incredible to think of pioneering homesteaders making their way through the mountains and trees to eke out a subsistence living on a small hilltop. we actually passed a couple of places that dated from the early to mid 1800’s, and those people came up on foot, horse or wagon. and not the sure footed subaru pseudo-wagon we were careening in. careening is perhaps a bit strong. we only went about 15mph, but when you look down, it felt like careening madly. it certainly gave me a healthy dose of respect for the folks that settled the area. it takes an iron spine and a lot of grit to be a pioneer. though i think that is true in anything.

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so after our hair raising adventure up to the high mountain passes (perhaps a slight exaggeration), we made it to long creek falls trail. which also runs concurrently with the appalachian trail for most of it. so though it was no 2100 miles, our 2 miles still qualified me getting to say we hiked the ap. trail. because we soooo did. and maybe again i’m exaggerating, but i don’t care. it was a lovely easy hike, perfect for a 6 year old who, for all her love of being outside, does not enjoy hiking. or so her whining leads me to believe. she got the experience of using nature’s bathroom (aka: a hole in the ground) but stage fright won out, and she can at least check “i tried” off the list. at the end of the trail hike, we walked a bit by the creek, and the kids all posed in a gnarled old grove of mountain laurels. directly over the water. i guess it was the look on my face that made it so perfect to them – kids.
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it’s a good thing we went when we did, because the weather has gotten colder everyday since then. at least it feels that way. after the hike, we went back to business as usual – hanging out at the library (and accidentally accruing a ton of fines. doh!), species identification, picnic blankets at sunset and all the sorts of things that are not quite as exciting (writing and subtraction). but last week? well, last week was glorious.

i had texted a friend about seeing them when we were in athens over the weekend, but she informed me they were going to be out of town. how convenient, and did she mind if we crashed her house? that’s how you know you have a good friend – when you can show up, and they’re not even there. so sunday was church, and lunch at last (the monthly pot-luck i help organize) and then monday was the dentist for spencer. he’s in the final stages of getting everything pulled and replaced – i can’t even begin to tell you how long we’ve prayed for that. his teeth were destroyed by years of stomach acid wear, thanks to the ulcers he’s suffered from. he jokes that he has the mouth of a bulimic without the figure, but i’m thankful he doesn’t have the figure to go with it. so tuesday, and wednesday and thursday were spent in the company of friends that we don’t get to see in our short lived moments in athens once a month. although by wednesday, the 10 degree difference between athens and dahlonega was showing up in the thick layer of pollen we were sneezing at. we all got some kind of allergy flare, and wednesday was spent hiding in the house, watching movies and staying in bed.

on a side note, spencer was concerned about me, because i was sleeping so much the last couple of days there. i realized there is a huge difference between the tired of “my sinuses hate me, i was up all night coughing and i feel awful” and the tired of “i feel awful and i don’t know why.” obvious to some, but seeing how it feels to be sick versus being depressed was illuminating. i can say, in all honesty, i’m sleeping more because i can’t breathe and i don’t feel great physically. emotionally, even this nasty weather can’t bring me down. i’ve been listening to a band that is new to me – pilgrim, with their down tempo, trip hop (although that may not be the best description, but they sure make me smile) being the soundtrack to the week. i particularly like #6, only your presence. at any rate, it’s always nice to say that i know the difference between tireds, given that i used to sleep so much and for no reason other than emotional duress.

so things are possibly afoot, but i am hesitant to say anything until we know for sure. just know that good things are happening, and will continue happening. more details on that soon. i’ve posted more pictures to flickr of our hike, and apparently forgot to take pictures in athens. right now though, we are shivering in the low 50’s and it’s the beginning of may. i think last year it went from ice storm to 95 and humid, so this prolonged cool spring is so very very welcome. i feel like we might even get 4 whole seasons this year! remarkable. so though the title might imply i’m upset about our cold spring, i am most definitely not. it’s glorious, because it means i can keep drinking earl grey and chai and coffee without feeling obligated to ice it.

i think that covers all of it – may the fourth be with you (hahahahahahah) and i’ll be back with more updates later.