May 8, 2017

8 05 2017

Spring cleaning.

I had started on the basement last fall, but ran out of steam. So I am back at it. The work bench area is particularly daunting. It includes paint, house maintenance, and gardening stuff. Piles and stacks and boxes and bags, unused, half-used, barely used, nearly empty, congealed or solidified into uselessness. I steeled myself to it.

There is no point to saving things if you forget they are there. If they become so lost in the strata of other saved things that you couldn’t find them even if you remembered you had them. Part of the problem is sharing storage space with someone who has different ideas about how to organize and keep track of things. Another part is sharing the space with someone who gets an idea for a project and goes out and buys all the supplies, then never gets around to the project. Or worse, gets part-way through and then abandons it.

When I think of how frugal I was, how restrained in my spending, denying myself things because I could do without and I didn’t want to spend the money because we had bills to pay, and then I see this accumulation of impulse purchases, I want to weep. It happened while I was cleaning out the office he used to use. All the software and gadgets and equipment he bought for himself while I was telling the kids, “No, I’m sorry, we can’t afford it.”

Never mind, never mind, that’s all in the past. Nothing to be done about it.

He was also a hoarder. Old tools, odd pieces of wood, half-used boxes of mismatched linoleum tiles and flooring, entire boxes of obsolete technology, parts of toys, broken appliances. Hauling away the pieces of a battered, disassembled, metal shelving unit, I came upon a filing cabinet. I groaned. More disorganized files to try to sort through and make sense of. Most of it could probably go directly into the next bonfire. I pulled out a drawer with a faded label that just had his name on it. This should be easy. Just dump it all into a box to be burned.

There was a file labeled, “Birth Certificate, etc.” In my handwriting. WTF?!? Here was another, labeled (this time in his handwriting) “Legal and Important”. My heart pounding, I began to go through it. I found my old diploma from both grammar school and high school. I found copies of our original wills. And assorted other legal papers which I had tried to find during the divorce proceedings, when I was attempting to take over the files and organize them. And…damn it. My older son’s social security card. Son of a bitch. Just a few years ago, he had gone through hell’s own labyrinth of paperwork because he needed his card, and couldn’t find it. And his father had no idea where it was (it should have been in the strong box with other important papers) and implied my son must have lost it. Because heaven forbid he ever admit he was at fault for something.

I felt a flood of rage. I trusted this idiot. I let him take over the financial and legal tasks. Whenever I offered to help because he was expressing frustration with it, he always said no. And now, since the divorce, I have come to find out just what a mess he made of things. How could I have been so foolish? Because I loved and trusted the man.

Never mind, I told myself again, it’s all in the past. Nothing to be done about it but to sort through the catastrophe and move on.

Sitting with my tea this morning I mulled over it. I have learned so much about the man in the course of salvaging a life out of the wreckage of the marriage. He was terribly insecure. So much self-doubt and self-hatred. He needed other people, other things, to make him feel good about himself. A wife that catered to his needs and that he could control. He bought things for himself to make himself feel better. He built up an image of himself through his purchases and accumulations, his projects and ambitions. What he was going to do. If he made mistakes, forgot to pay bills or lost important papers, no one else knew, because he was in control of it all. Criticism, even constructive criticism, upset him terribly. He never apologized, because it was always someone else’s fault. It had to be, because admitting his own failures was too threatening.

I actually felt sorry for him. The poor man. And he gave up all this, the life we built, the wife who was devoted to him, his kids, all we had. So much he has lost because of his own flaws and insecurities. And now he has gone on to someone new, a new life, new things and projects to make him feel good about himself. What a pity.

I suppose he could not help being what he was. A scorpion cannot help being a scorpion, but that does not lessen the pain of its sting. And I am under no obligation to feel fondly towards it or give it a home in my boot.

I cannot help being who I am, either. I haven’t the strength of character to forgive him and feel kindly towards him. Trying to put aside the anger and bitterness, telling myself it only does me harm to dwell on negative emotions, simply doesn’t work. I can’t help feeling what I feel. It’s all I can do to refrain from bad-mouthing their father in front of the boys, and damn it all, the truth still slips out. I could not keep the emotional undercurrents out of my voice when I gave my older son his missing social security card and told him where I’d found it.

Today I will continue spring cleaning. It is good for the soul.

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