The Room

February 12, 2012

I’ve been in my current apartment for about a year an a half. It is a two bedroom apartment and one bedroom is almost half filled with boxes that I haven’t done anything with. At first it was a matter of “I’ll get to them soon.” Then it was “I have unpacked what I need and that’s what’s important.” Now it has become a monster that haunts me.

This story has many levels. First of all, I’m not a hoarder, but I am a pack-rat. So, I have stuff. Everybody in America has stuff. It’s what we do. Imagine the stuff they have in Europe. They’ve been there for thousands of years, not just hundreds. Those attics must be full of pieces of furniture that are hundreds of years old, but that they just can’t bring themselves to part with. Crowns from wardrobes long since removed, doors from buffets. Me? I just have boxes of things that are mostly useful, if I would just sit down and use them.

For instance, I could put some things on my walls. I have one picture hung. That’s it. I have many framed pictures, wrapped in newspapers in boxes along with other pieces of art. I will say for myself that I did unpack a lot of ceramic art and put it on shelves. And, my bookcases look nice… two of them anyway. The one in The Room still needs attention. I can’t get to it at the moment, though. I mean, I literally cannot get to it because of the boxes that are stacked in front of it.

So, what’s going on? I just can’t face it. It’s that simple. It’s like mail. A couple of months ago I overcame my phobia of checking the mail. I think that taking small steps is healthy, as long as I keep taking those small steps. Now that I have begun checking the mail, I need to do something with that mail. I remember there was, when I was growing up, a table by our door that had stacks and stacks of old mail. My dad’s truck had mail completely covering the dashboard and the passenger seat and the floorboard. I’m not trying to slander my father, but I do remember those stacks and my fear of them is one of the things that contributed to my fear of checking the mail. Not checking the mail leads to the post office thinking you’ve moved without telling them and they start returning your mail and soon the companies you do business with start asking what’s going on and then you start saying thing like, “I have no idea why the post office would send my mail back to you marked ‘No forwarding address on file’”, which is a lie and lies only compound themselves and soon you begin to look and feel like the true hoarders and alcoholics who lie and make excuses to justify their behavior while hiding bottles of vodka in the toilet cistern and/or unopened boxes of things they’ve ordered online in closets.

I could come out and say it. I’m a mess. There, I just did. The problem is it’s not cute. When a twenty-something thin blond female says that she’s a mess it’s adorable. When a 40-something, balding overweight single man says it, it’s pathetic. That’s just how I feel about it. When I was a twenty-something thin gay man it would have been adorable as well; I just didn’t realize it at the time.

Recently I got a little sick. I think it was allergies – a really bad case of allergies that kept me in bed for two days. This was the Thursday before Christmas and I was supposed to go to San Antonio on Friday to be with my family. On Thursday I didn’t leave work early because I had gone the entire year without taking any sick time and I wasn’t going to blow it 4 working days before the end of the year. That’s not to say that I was the most productive person that day, but I was there. Friday I got up and was getting ready to go to Boerne to pick up my dad and take him to my sister’s house in San Antonio. I was moving slower than usual, but I was moving. Then I had to sit down and rest just a bit before I took off. Somewhere around 10 AM I realized that I wasn’t going to make it, so I called my sister and she sent her husband – who is just the most awesome person alive – to pick up my dad. (The fact that he drove to Boerne to pick my dad up says a lot about how awesome my brother-in-law is.)

The point of this rambling story is that I stayed in bed all afternoon Thursday after work and then all day Friday and it was WONDERFUL. I read Agatha Christie mystery novels and I slept. I got up every once in a while to get water or soup. My cat, Anastasia, laid right beside me the whole time, just purring away to have me in bed so much. We were a happy house. I repeated this on the day after New Year’s Day and I’m not sure that I was even sick. I think I just wanted to stay in bed all day long and that’s just what I did. I went through many mystery novels during that time. (I choose mystery novels at these times because they’re light reading and don’t take a lot of thought. Notice that I didn’t say Kathy Reichs mystery novels.)

All of this is not getting my second bedroom emptied of boxes, though, nor is it getting anything on my walls. I was looking forward to living on my own so that I could arrange things my way and have fun doing it, and so far I haven’t done very much of it at all. Plus, those boxes are truly becoming the fodder of nightmares and bouts of depression. After a while a person will just lay in bed, immobilized by the pressure of it all.

Another trick is to leave the house. Last weekend I was going to work on that room and then suddenly, inexplicably, I had the Very Urgent Need to have a pouch to keep my rosary in. (That rosary is a story in and of itself.) Obviously I can’t put my attention on the project at hand until I’ve taken care to make sure that my prayer beads are in a pouch and not just thrown carelessly into a drawer of my nightstand or a pocket of my messenger bag. Then, somehow, that trip to find a pouch ended up taking all day and then it was time to go to bed and the next day was Sunday and I spent it with friends and then I was back to work and who could possibly address an issue of this magnitude on a work day?

So, now I’ve decided to address my spare bedroom the same way I would address an overwhelming issue at work. People say that it’s not good to take your work home with you, but if I spent my time at home the way I spend it at work I wouldn’t have issues like this. Somehow I’m very efficient, dedicated and thorough at work. It’s home that I don’t want to face. So, I’m facing it as if it were somebody else’s issue and suddenly it’s become an issue that it much less daunting. I don’t want to jinx myself, because I haven’t actually cleaned out the room or opened all of the boxes. But, I did empty one and peak into some of the others and I think that if I just make piles of like things then it will help 500%. (The boxes were packed rather hastily while I was at work by my ex-roommate who was inordinately anxious to have me out of his home.) So, I stopped to breathe. I stopped to write this down. I stopped to have a salted caramel mocha latte at Starbucks. (I actually was dreaming yesterday morning about a caramel coffee beverage before I woke up.) Now, I sit here at Starbucks and I think I’m ready to face the bedroom that has taken on dungeon characteristics in my mind.

Who knows what I could accomplish next?