Monday, February 1, 2010

Help - Late night melt down

This is my first post of the New Year. I have a whole list of topics I want to write about in 2010, including spotlighting some very cool things that I have done with a couple cool organizations. Tonight however, my heart is heavy with something and the only way I think to work through it by writing.

Several months back I wrote about moving out of my own home of 12 years and moving in with my parents. It was really hard to leave my house, but it was made easier because I did not have to pack everything up at the time, just the things that I needed with me. I knew that sometime in the future the condo would go up for sale and everything in it would need to be sorted, packed up, given away or put up for yard sale. When I started thinking about moving in with my parents I thought about what it would be like to “dissemble” my house and in essence my life. The thought of it was too much for me, so I put it out of my mind. I told myself that it was something my family would be dealing with and I most likely will all ready be gone by then.

One of the things about knowing you are dying you can push the stuff you don’t want to deal with on the back burner saying that someone will have to cope with it all after death. Well, I am still alive and although I have been feeling sicker the last couple of months, I am not showing any signs of dying in the near future, it looks like I have to deal with this.

My mom wants to put my condo up for sale on March 1st. She approached me tonight and told me she wants us to go over to the house tomorrow and start going through things. I wanted to scream and rage NO at the top of my lungs. Instead I sulked. She said she understood how hard this is for me, but how could she. How can anyone who has not gone through this have the slightest idea how this feels?

For the past two months I have visited my place roughly once a week. Nearly every visit I would end up hauling stuff from my place and try to find a place for it in my parents’ house. These items have been as simple as a book, sweater, winter boots, a few of my kitchen items that I found I did not like cooking without. We have been slowly emptying the pantry when we use up an item at my parents house and replace it from my stash. None of this has been particularly difficult, mainly because it was just moving stuff from one place to another. These future visits have a different meaning entirely. The purpose is to get my house reading for sale. The idea of going through my stuff overwhelms me. I know I have a file cabinet filled with irreverent stuff that needs to be reviewed and purged and the important stuff needs to be brought to my parents where they will be needing it. I know I have a closet full of clothes that I cannot fit into and going through these and donating to charity is a good thing. Put these are just two of the many things to be done, just the tip of the iceberg.

How do I empty out a house that I loved for nearly 13 years. What do I do with the stuff my family does not want. The big stuff is easy, but what about the drawing picked up in Monterey, CA, reminding me of the otters I saw play that day. How about the hat that looks like a lampshade that I wore all around New Orleans on my birthday. What about all my books, my cookbooks, or novels that I love to re-read. I already have a list of a few items I would like certain people to have, but what about the stuff that is not deemed important enough, what happens to them? Are they going to end up on a garage sale table for $2.00? How can I decide what to do with that stuff? It is important to me… is me.

Sometimes I wonder if cancer is the evil beast or if the evil is really all the stuff that comes with it; treatment, finances, lose of health – not actual illness, but the loss of being able to do the things I love live hiking, lost of independence, and so much more.

I try not to feel sorry for myself because it does not seem productive. I try to stay in the now and appreciate everything I have each moment and live today and love it as much as I can, but right now I am not there. I am mad. Since 2007 I have fought for my life going through painful treatments, losing my hair, my energy, losing part of who I was while trying to balance the new part of being a sick person. I am not working, stopped driving and depend on others to get me around, had to stop living alone and move in with my parents, now I am selling my place. I don’t want to decide what should happen to a knick knack that I bought in The Bahamas on vacation twenty years ago. The stuff in my house represents who I am a person, examples of events and places that have shaped me. If feels like having to go through them means it is time to get rid of me. I know I am dying and I feel life slipping away every day, but this just makes me feel like “what do I have to live for?”. I never had the delusion that I would get better and move back into my place, but I am not ready for this.

So many people tell me how strong I am and how I am an inspiration. We the truth is I am not that strong, I have just been avoiding the things that make me weak, I have been a coward. I am sitting here at 3am crying my eyes out and dreading for the day to come. Maybe if don’t go to sleep the morning will not come and I will not have to go over to my house and begin getting rid of my life. I know that morning will come and I will do the responsible thing and go over and get started, but this is breaking my heart and I don't know who will be picking up the pieces.

Please send me a comment if you have any advice for how I should deal with this.


Anonymous said...

Im so sorry that you feel so sad. I can not imagine what you are going through. Maybe you should tell your parents how you are feeling. Can they wait till you are ready to take this next step? Giving up your home and your "stuff" is a big step and you are not ready for it. Let them know whats going on and I bet they will understand. You really are an amazingly strong person. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

Robin said...

I am so sorry to hear of your sadness. I wish I had a great solution or word of advice, but I have learned that sometimes there are things that just don't make sense (i have a long list of things to ask God someday). But do know that you are in my prayers...for strength, for mercy, for hope and for courage to do the things before you. If there are ways we can help, please let us know.


Anonymous said...


I certainly don't have the answer. And I am not qualified to give any advice. But, I can tell you that I am pretty confident I would be having a late night melt down as well. I agree with Robin... some things are just not fair.
Is there a chance that you can remind your parents what it feels like for you to be in your position? It sounds like you are struggling with that as well. It just seems like you are being way too tough on yourself. If there is anyway that you can not take this big step right now, I would love to see that happen for you.

If you do decide to take the leap... maybe there is a way that you can find a way to celebrate the big and little treasures you have collected in your life. You could bring a story to their significance, or just spend some time enjoying the richness and significance in the way these items have shaped your life and allow yourself to get lost again in some of those precious memories.
I wish I had a better answer. But I will continue to keep you in my prayers...

Joan said...

Oh, for crying out loud, Allison - you DESERVE to be really, REALLY
mad !!! Even under the very best of circumstances, psychologists rank moving/downsizing (e.g., parting with memories that are still so much a part of you) right up there in the top 10 stress-related events in anyone's life. Heaven knows, you are also trying to cope with many other stresses in the 'top ten'. And being angry about any one of them is quite natural. Why not take control back in your own hands, and tell your family that (while you appreciate all of their help) you need to do this at YOUR pace....if the condo is ready to show by March, then fine. If it isn't - too bad !! Right now YOUR priority is to have the dignity to say 'goodbye' to this chapter of your life on your own terms. While they may currently be caught up in the logistics of helping you 'tend to business', I think they will ultimately understand what this means to you. You may be shrinking the physical 'footprint' that you occupy, but you still need that emotional 'space'. When you are ready, you will come to terms with these decisions. Once you feel you are back in control, you may even WANT to go back to the condo and get the stuff sorted that you know you want to go to certain people - and transfer the things (e.g. the memories) that you still need to keep close to you back to your parents house. Then, you can turn your energies back to more desirable activities - like writing your recipe book - something that will make new memories for us all to enjoy. You are - and always will be - an inspiration to us all.
Much love - Joan

Anonymous said...

I don’t have any advice, because I could never understand what it must be like to go through this, but I do have some words that might help you along. This is between us, I’m probably the most supportive within in the family for the fact that I was never mad. I’m here whenever you need to talk.

p.s. love your brat nephew

Anonymous said...


Like the others that have commented and those that are thinking about you without commenting, I wish I had the perfect thing to say. Every step you take in your journey is one step further than you have gone before. You were my inspiration to run 50 miles. When I reached the point in that race where I was running further than I had before, I struggled to keep moving forward. My mind told me that me that I should stop. I had to know that I was somehow strong enough to keep going. Without that experience and that doubt, I could not have finished.

Your race is so much tougher than mine was, but you can handle this. You are stronger than you know. Trust in yourself and in your faith. You will endure this and learn from it. You continue to inspire me.


Kris said...

Everyone's comments are relevant, however I think Joan is right on target with her remarks. You TOTALLY have the right to be mad and sad and like you are being eliminated before your time. I may be chiming in after things have been resolved, but I too wonder if you've been able to have a discussion with your parents as to why the condo needs to be ready by March 1. If there is not some essential reason, then it seems to me that things should go at your pace, allowing you to deal with the easier things such as donating clothes you're not using, books that others at a school, treatment center or senior housing, might be able to use now, while the rest waits for you to be ready or not. I'm guessing your parents' intention is to let you have a say in what happens to your belongings, but that just may not be right for you now.

I actually was thinking the other day about whether or not I will be able to make those kind of decisions one day, and how I will handle them. What to toss, what to donate, what to give, and to whom? Big decisions that make the reality of our mortality that much more real. And just when to we go from thinking about it to the actual deed of getting it done? Some might say you're lucky because you know your life is winding down while others go suddenly and never have a say in any of it. Either way, it's more of a cruel little twist of fate, and I think you should be allowed plenty of time and space to cry and mourn and then decide. That way, you might have a better chance of eventually making decisions fond rememberings, and some chuckles as to why things became a part of your life and what you think should become of them.

We've not talked in a long while (my fault) but a day doesn't go by that you are not in my thoughts and prayers. As I believe Dylan Thomas said, " not go gentle into that good night." Fight for your life until you know in your heart it is time to let go and become part of heaven as you envision it.


ajcmjan said...

Dear Allison,
I wished I could be the one tellling you exactly what you need to hear to get through this but I'm not. I can't imagine how hard this must be on you and have to agree with other people that commented: you should do this at your own pace. I suggest you let your parents read part of what you wrote here, thus telling them they need to give you time to get ready for this. You'll get there on your own pace or not and if that is the case: you are right, it will be their problem to handle after you are gone.Be mad as long as you need to, be sad for as long as you need to but always remember that you are an inspiration to many and being sad or mad doesn't take anything away from that. The things you treasered will fidn a new place for that reason: they are important to you and therefor are important to your family and friends. I am one of the lucky ones: you gave me items that I will treasure for ever because YOU gave them to me. I hope you do feel better now (submitted this before but didn't see it so re-submitted, if not you know where to find me. Big hug, Annemieke

Adelina and Dori said...

Hi Alli!
First off, thank you so much for reaching out to me during my isolation period from radioactive iodine. You are never far from my thoughts. That said, I would like to respond to your recent post. Although it will be extremely difficult to part with your beloved items, it is what these items represent that is most important--all of your precious memories. And those memories, Alli, no one can ever take away from you. They are yours to keep in this life and to take with you into the next. A yard sale is definitely out...far too painful and impersonal. As a possible solution, perhaps you can get a bunch of boxes. Label each box with someone's name and distribute the items among the boxes. A particular item might even suit a particular person and that would be an extra bonus. Maybe even attach a small note with a little history about the item. Then invite everyone over to pick up their box, or ship the ones that need to be. Christmas all over again! Although the items hold so much meaning for you, that meaning will be twofold to the recipient, as they will own a very important piece of an incredibly admirable lady.

Love, Hugs, & Blessings.


Adelina and Dori said...

If this comment comes through twice, I apologize...didn't look like it went through the first time.

Hi Alli! First off, I want to thank you for reaching out to me during the radioactive iodine phase of my treatment. I appreciate your kind words of support.

You are never far from my thoughts. That said, I would like to comment about your recent post.

Although I know it will be extremely difficult for you to part with your belongings; it is actually what these items represent -- your precious memories -- that is of importance. And, Alli, these memories are yours to cherish in this life, and take with you into the next.

A yard sale is definitely out...too painful and far too impersonal. But, as a thought, perhaps you can gather a bunch of boxes. Label each box with someone's name (family, friend, etc.). Divide your items into the boxes -- being able to match up a particular item to a particular person will be an additional bonus. Maybe even slip in a note with a little history. Invite everyone over to pick up their box & ship the ones that need to be -- Christmas all over again!!

You'll feel better knowing that you've given your beloved possessions a new home of your choosing; and the recipient will be honored with a twofold blessing of owning not just a knick-knack, but a piece of a remarkably strong and incredibly admirable lady.

Love, Hugs, & Blessings,


Pat Steer (Gaelen) said...

Alli, I cannot make the feelings about dis-assembling your life go away. I have similar ones; when I gave away a lot of my dog training equipment, I thought I'd never need any of it again. Now I see crates labeled "Steer" in other people's setups and I realize that a piece of me goes forward, even when I get to the place where I do not.
But I can give you a thought for your books, if you haven't already handled them.
If there is a community library in your town, ask them if they'd like the books as a donation. My local library has already agreed to take mine (I have over 400 cookbooks, and another 100 or so dog training and breed books, some out of print now.) I printed up bookplates on self-stick labels and put them inside the books one chemo month. Now they are not only ready to go be treasures for someone else, but their new owner(s) will always know part of the book's history.
My strongest thoughts, Allison.

Anonymous said...

This is Braden's mom--you were sweet enough to post on our site so I looked up to read about your story.

I don't have any advice or help--this sucks plain and simple. I'm so sorry you have to do this.

We will be praying--I'm so glad we've connected. I've watched my mom die from brain cancer, now my baby has a version that doesn't have a cure and I have a very beatable type. EVERY day is a gift--EVERY day you have life should be lived for joy. So if this stuff is getting to you--rent a storage place, put it all away and let it sit. GO ENJOY LIFE!!! Don't waste a minute on this blecky stuff--live it while you feel good enough to do it. I guess that was advice, huh? :) At least it's my thought--enjoy every day you have left! Do something frivolous like sit under an oak tree and watch the clouds make shapes--just soak it all in.

Thinking about you and sending you lots of prayers!
Deliece :)