Summer has officially begun at the W house. This weekend has included a new grill and copious amounts of barbeque, bringing out the girls' backyard pool, drinks with friends on the patio and dinner with good friends inside where it was much cooler sitting on our new dining room chairs! I haven't had time to write lately, or at least I've not given myself time. I'm hoping to change that soon. The girls will be in summer "camp", I am taking two classes this summer, and I am only teaching two days a week, which will seem like a huge vacation. Really, I just wanted to say that I haven't forgotten about this blog and the 5 people who read it. OH! Also? My hairs are growing! See? That is all. Carry on.
Last night I hung out with some very amazing friends. The
conversation is always good with these people, and it ranged from standardized
testing to The Beastie Boys to hoarding. Somehow those things are connected,
I’m certain. Late in the evening, my friend Katie began to tell us about her
elderly next-door neighbor and how she was a hoarder. She has since moved out
of the house, and her children come by once in a while, but the home is not
being lived in (by humans, anyway).We all laughed a bit, I imagine we all were thinking about the TV shows
we’ve seen, those unbelievably sad and yet totally scary depictions of people
who can’t seem to throw things out. Then, my friend asked us if we wanted to
see the place – the neighbor didn’t live there after all, and the door was
unlocked.I felt a bit like a 12
year old again, creeping through someone’s yard in the middle of the night,
flashlight apps ablaze (well, that part was not like being 12, but you get the
picture). And then we got to the side door, which, as predicted, was easy to
Never. Never in my entire life have I seen anything like
this place. My friend Paul was brave enough to step inside and look around –
and when I say step inside, I mean that Paul stepped up on top of the largest
pile of papers, wrappers, food cartons and general junk that I’ve ever seen.
Tin plates from pot-pies, baby items, newspapers, all things that this person
could not bear to part with. I was reminded of the Shel Silverstein poem "Sarah Sylvia Cynthia Stout" who would not take the garbage out. We
were all clearly stunned by what we saw, and there was a lot of nervous laughter
as we got out of there. Afterwards, I came home and thought about it until I
fell asleep. And I woke up thinking about it.
People intrigue me. Human beings are strange, strange
creatures. I mean, I do understand that hoarding doesn’t just happen on its
own. There are likely a variety of underlying issues that manifest in hoarding,
but seeing it with my own eyes really shook me. The reasons that a person
behaves a certain way, or doesn’t behave a certain way for that matter, are
constantly a topic of conversation at my house. It’s not judging, really. Maybe
it is. I just think that when we stop questioning things, or being surprised by
things, we lose part of our humanity. Was that what happened to the woman who
used to live in that house? What do her children do in there when they come by, as my friend suggests they do?Was it always like that? These
questions kept me awake last night.
Yesterday at a Writing Project gathering, we read an essay
by Margaret Wheatley titled “Willing to be Disturbed.” It’s a piece I’ve read
several times and each time I revisit it, something strikes me differently. Today I thought about Wheatley’s words while I was processing what I'd witnessed. Wheatley writes, “Lately, I’ve been listening for what
surprises me…when I notice what surprises me, I’m able to see my own views more
clearly, including my beliefs and assumptions. Noticing what surprises and
disturbs me has been a very useful way to see invisible beliefs. If what you
say surprises me, I must have been assuming that something else was true…my
shock at your position exposes my own position…these moments are great gifts.
If I can see my beliefs and assumptions, I can decide whether I still value
them.” My beliefs and assumptions
about human nature were challenged last night. Once the laughing and joking
were over, I became very aware of how that experience made me feel. And frankly,
I’m not certain I like to think so deeply about why people do the things they
do. It’s scary stuff.