Over the last few months, as I've been mentally preparing to sell all my stuff, my house, my land - the last tangible ties to life with my late family - I've noticed a strange thing happening. The closer I get to actually making real progress toward leaving, the more depressed I get. Instead of getting more excited, I retreat. From hearing the stories of others, I expected every box or bag removed from my house to leave me feeling lighter and more ready to move forward. For me, the opposite is happening: each box I remove, no matter how little I care for the stuff inside, feels like it's taking a piece of my heart with it. Each day spent clearing clutter results in two or three days where I am too emotionally exhausted to even think about it. I began to wonder: Am I that materialistic? Am I really this upset about getting rid of old socks and office supplies? What is my deal, anyway?
Today, seemingly out of nowhere, I finally realized what was going on. See, last September, after an extended vacation, I decided I was finally ready to move away from home. I had grown too much for this house, and this town, to hold me anymore. But my mother's health was poor, and I couldn't just leave her alone. I began to resent that - knowing it wasn't her fault, but wondering why I had to be stuck this way while others my age were free.
Then, without warning, she had a heart attack. I spent several long, dreary days in the ICU waiting room, hoping she'd wake up enough to know who I was in the five-minutes-per-hour I was allowed to spend with her. Not having anything else to do in those other 55 minutes, I sat in the hospital's computer lounge reading about fulltime RVing, wondering if I could live like my friend Shannon who had just rolled into town in her bus. I swore to myself that if my world was going to come crashing down around me, I was going to rebuild it into something better.
It took a lot of healing time after my mother's death before I could bring that dream to mind again. And even though I've been making definite plans for a few months now, I haven't been able to make myself act on them. I didn't know why that was until it dawned on me today: I am getting what I wanted because my mother died. I lost my wonderful mother, who never wanted anything in her short life except to have me and to make me happy, and I am benefitting from that loss. My life will be big and exciting because, and only because, hers ended too soon.
Needless to say, that doesn't feel so good.
But I think it's definitely the root cause of my self-sabotaging inaction: It is easier, on a certain level, to mope around and to let my mother's death ruin my life. After all, losing someone you love dearly isn't supposed to make your life better. It's supposed to ruin it. It's supposed to leave you crushed and broken. At least that's what my subconscious seems to be telling me. Mourning forever is a sign that I really, really loved her, right?
Of course, that's not at all what she would've wanted for me. She spent her whole life struggling to get me the things I wanted. Rolling pennies to buy me Barbies, carefully rationing her Social Security checks to rent me a clarinet, scraping up money so I could go to Williamsburg. She always wanted to go to Graceland, but there were things I wanted to see, and that came first for her. There is absolutely nothing in any of her actions, in any part of her life, to suggest that she'd ever want to see me make my life small and sad.
And yet, I still find myself having trouble letting go of all that my family spent years accumulating and building for themselves. My family put a lot of money and dreams and love into this place: moving this house here, building a stable, maintaining the land, and creating everything else I am about to leave behind. Worse still, I am thumbing my nose at the importance of owning land - a notion that perhaps only my Southern readers will understand, but one that has been ingrained in me all my life. "Always hold onto your land," my great-aunt warned my mother at every turn. "As long as you have land, you'll always be okay." Yet here I am, selling Tara. Selling the place my family worked so hard on so they could have a horse, and breed dogs, and raise a little girl with the freedom to run across acres of grass and woods.
What I need to remember is that what my family was truly trying to build was a bigger life - not just for themselves, but for me. I am the only one still here to live that life. If I make it smaller for the sake of people who are gone, I will be wasting not only the effort they put into building a home, but also the effort they put into building me. I am who I am - free-spirited, stubborn, an incurable dreamer - because of them. I am not benefitting from losing my family; I am benefitting from having had them. The biggest thanks I can give them is to live the biggest, brightest life that I can - even if it means giving up some of the things we loved together. Even if it means leaving the place I grew up and never coming back.
Because my family didn't just want to give me a piece of land. They wanted to give me the world.