…PurgE, The year of The
Last year’s overarching goal was to purge. Every spare moment was devoted to sorting through a lifetime (JD’s) of “stuff”, and deciding to recycle, toss or save.
In the end it took filling seven 14-yard dumpsters and creating untold number of tons of recyclables (mostly paper, cardboard and metal) to empty out the building I live in now. I should have kept track of all the bags of garbage I put to the curb. It wasn’t unusual for me to put 20+ bags out per week, for weeks on end. I nervously joked to people: If the City introduces a 2 bag/week garbage limit, look at yours truly to find the catalyst for this decision.
The night before garbage pickup day was like Christmas Eve for me as I anticipated with
way too much excitement coming home the following day from work to see that week’s crop of lumpy black garbage bags and (dozens of) cardboard boxes of recyclables “magically” gone from the curb.
The lady at the other end of the phone at the bin rental company would chuckle when she recognized my voice. Sometimes I was able to fill a dumpster in less than a day…by myself (!)…if the sorting went easy. But mostly it took longer. I am so grateful for all the hours, days and weekends family and friends so graciously spent helping me get through the towering piles of stuff in each room.
It was a similar story at the home I owned before JD came into my life. In the 11 short years we were together, he had managed to fill the garage, basement, and spare rooms full of things his OCD would not let him throw away, and at the time the cancer struck he was slowly but very surely crowding me out of the other rooms in the house.
In the months before JD’s diagnosis, I was coming to the realization that sooner or later I would have to rent a room somewhere for just myself…a place to breathe for a couple of hours, a place that the OCD couldn’t touch…in order to maintain both my sanity and my marriage.
The Year of the Purge started the November day after his peaceful death in the ICU and continued until the following Thanksgiving weekend. I had estimated a year for this project and that was pretty close. It took 11 months of back-breaking work to get to where I could tackle that last room in the remotest corner of the basement of my building.
People asked why I just didn’t hire one of those services that advertise to come and take the junk away. There were several reasons. For one, I had no idea what was in many of the rooms – as I had been forbidden by JD to disturb their contents, or even cross the threshold for some. But most importantly, I so needed this very physical “therapy”.
I was working through my grief and anger and frustration with every box and bag I sorted through during this Year of the Purge.
I learned so much about JD the man as I uncovered some of the secrets he had kept in those rooms. Some of these things shocked and hurt me terribly. Many nights found me wailing and cursing like a madwoman down the hallways that I paced alone for hours, in the wake of these revelations. But most of the things I found just made me so deeply sad for such a troubled soul as he.
Eventually I was able to feel even more compassion for my husband. It took longer than a year to work through the pain and anger and put my discoveries in some kind of perspective. Some days I am not sure I am fully “there” yet. But I am definitely in a better place today than I was a year ago. I realize now more than ever the extent of the cruel grip OCD had had on his brilliant mind and how it had warped the essential self I fell in love with – the one I felt I alone was privileged to know – right down to the core.
It turns out that the Year of the Purge was about much more than just getting rid of the junk.