The Big Purge

Adventures in real life.

I left Vancouver on May 29th to help clear out my family home in Minnesota and get it ready for sale. My parents bought the house new in 1984 and it eventually inherited the detrius from my grandparents’ homes as well. Plus, my parents never threw anything away. Broken, cracked, obsolete…it was all packed away somewhere for us to find now. Most things still with owners manuals, some dating back to the 60s. What fun.

My dad had worked in local television. His hobbies were amateur theatre, model trains and jazz drumming. My mom had been a medical technologist. Her hobbies were serving on boards and committees and giving to charities. They both were active in politics in the DFL. Last year, at 75, she lost her five year battle with cancer. Two months after her funeral, my dad had had a stroke. Two months after that, he was gone. Also at 75.

Because I tried to economize on my travel costs, one of my flights was a redeye to Chicago with an early morning connecting flight to the regional airport near my hometown. I worked my butt off the week prior to leaving to try to make extra cash for my trip and was exhausted. I had the chills on my flight and kept trying to dig in my bag for clothing to layer. As a result I lost my Bluetooth keyboard, presumably under the seat in front of me. When I arrived in my hometown, I called a cab since I still don’t believe in Uber or Lyft. The cab arrived, a car with a magnet on the side and a meter. The interior stank of cigarettes, body odor and cat shit. The floor was covered with a smattering of ashes and cat litter. The driver, a young woman, muttered that she was new to “ this taxi driving thing” and then promptly missed my exit off the interstate, making me wonder why I hadn’t just given in to the Uber devil after all.

Upon entering the house, the enormous amount of work ahead smacked me in the face and so I dug in immediately, even though I was only on 2 hours sleep. My parents’ car was in the garage with a dead battery so I had planned on biking into town to grab some food and supplies. The bike had a flat so I ended up walking, getting drenched in a sudden rainstorm, then lugging a heavy backpack home. I worked all day on clearing out part of the master bedroom and then got some sleep.

The next day, Thursday, I was still chilly and not hungry. I worked half the day then my cousin came to visit so we went out for dinner and a drink. But again, I only finished a third of my meal. Still chilly. Friday morning I woke up with a fever, and began violently vomiting (and diarrhea) for 8 hours straight. Just as my brother was arriving to help with things.

After 8 hours of vomiting even any sip of water I’d try to take, I had nothing left to give. That’s when something totally alien came out of me that completely freaked me out.* I thought I was dying. And the nausea still wouldn’t stop. My cousin was worried. So she took me to the ER where I was told I had picked up a nasty virus and was given fluids and anti nausea meds. So thankfully, I finally stopped throwing up. I got home, crawled into bed and slept the rest of the day and through the night. So I lost an entire day of work on the house. Great.

Saturday I was still cold, weak and nauseated, but worked my butt off anyway, wearing one of my moms old sweaters jn the 90 degree heat. We kept uncovering stockpiles of stuff. Boxes and boxes of model train gear. Cases and cabinets of theatrical lighting and sound gear. Bags of obsolete cords and cables. Bins of old photos and mementos we’d never even seen before.

My dad with his mother, grandmother, and great grandmother on her 80th birthday, 1945.
Alder, Ruth and my little dad, Tom.

Over this past week, I have had little to no appetite. All I ate for five days were some saltines my cousin mercifully bought me, a pack of deli shaved turkey, some celery, baby carrots, some potato chips and one can of soup. I haven’t even had coffee in a week…just some peach iced tea. But I’ve been driven with a strangely focused energy which kept me going for hours on end without rest. I worked nonstop 14 hours or more each day packing, lifting, loading, unloading, carrying heavy boxes up and down stairs, in and out of cars…it’s like the most emotionally charged cross-fit diet plan you can imagine.

We made countless trips to various donation sites with cars FILLED with stuff, took 95 lbs of documents to be shredded and completely filled up a dumpster the size of a small bus with memories, stuff and nonsense. When I get home all I want to do is purge through my own stuff so no one ever has to go through this hell on my account. I want to only gift and receive experiences, adventures and kindness. No more meaningless bits of stuff.

On Sunday we tried to have a bit of a garage sale while we were cleaning and made about 500 bucks, which at least offset some of the costs of cleaning and recycling. We posted some items on Craigslist, but with such a limited amount of time to show them, it’s nearly impossible to sell anything.

My brother left on Tuesday and I kept working. On Wednesday morning I had to crawl up into the dumpster and jump on things to make more room. Which I’m sure is SUPER safe. I went out and bought the cast iron planter stand that fits into the hole drilled in my parents memorial and went to the cemetery to install it along with a nice big planter full of cascading burgundy petunias.

I blew out the only pair of shoes I brought with me and had to run out and replace them.

Thursday was my last day at my family home, and it was a marathon. I started at 8am and powered straight through until everything was finally finished at 3:30 in the morning. I shipped a 52 pound box to myself and packed another 50 pound suitcase. I went to the cemetery to pay mom and dad one last visit. I moved all the boxes and storage bins downstairs to one area for easy pick up.

I packed the heirloom Haviland china and crystal and cleaned the house, staging it with the remaining furniture and my other brother’s original paintings for the realtor.

Then finally, at 3:45 am that night, I lay down in my mother’s childhood Jenny Lind bed, every part of my body throbbing with pain and exhaustion. My back, thighs, calves, neck, head…even the tips of my fingers pulsed with a throbbing ache. I knew I should try to sleep but I was too exhausted to drop off. Plus, I knew it was the last night I’d ever spend in that house. I lay awake listening to the silence and the low hum of the refrigerator. A half an hour later; bird song. Again, I’m on 2 hours sleep. And traveling. Three flights to get to Sudbury ON. Whee.

Today, June 9th, is the one year anniversary of my mom’s death. I am safe and sound in the comfiest bed ever in Sudbury courtesy of my amazing hosts here and got a good night’s sleep. I will be spending the day doing what I love: performing. And then on Sunday, another thing I love: sharing skills and knowledge with other performers. After that, finally, I will come home. Home to my own family. The love of my life, best friend and partner, Doug. And my other furry little loves, Snowy and dear sweet Velvet. I’ve come out of this purge reborrn wih a calm, strong, resilience. As if the weird thing that came out of me was essentially me purging my last fuck. Finally. I have no fucks left to give.

This purge has been epic. A physical manifestation of the piles and piles of *stuff* in our lives that we allow to weigh us down. Stuff we allow ourselves to be buried under. Because we’re too afraid to say goodbye. Too afraid to let go. Afraid we might need that *thing* someday. Even though the stuff no longer serves a purpose. Stuff that’s broken and irrelevant. We let it pile up until it becomes a mountain which seems insurmountable and too scary to deal with. But in actuality, all we need to do is just simply let it go. Say goodbye. Let the weight of it all dissolve. Rise up lightly, ready to fly again.
You are not this pile of stuff. And the stuff is certainly not You.

*Curious side note…after I’d mostly recovered from my vomitus illness, I needed a little Netflix therapy to lull me to sleep at night and started watching a new show I’d downloaded called SANTA CLARITA DIET. Uhhhhh…. I was flat out STUNNED at the similarities in that show to what I’d just been through. I mean, hopefully I’m not undead, haha, but I’m definitely a changed and charged-up woman. And well, I DO crave a lot of protein…;-)


3 thoughts on “The Big Purge

  1. I am so on the same page as you whennit comes to letting things go. Every item I give away I picture the next person who will receive joy from it. I want to make my life full of people and experiences not things that I will have to dust or keep track of. I love you. This inspires me to be renewed with my quest.

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