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Voices of COHP



Control.  The root of every hoard.  I had an epiphany this year, which answered so many questions.


My mother, Jane, is a hoarder.  She has been since before I was born.  The levels fluctuate over time and circumstance but one thing is constant ... it all has to be controlled.  Her compulsion to control is the root cause of so much agony in her life, and occasionally, mine.  It spills, splashes, and oozes out of her sphere into all her relationships. 


Jane likes to solve your problems.  She fancies herself an uncertified therapist.  After all, she “took several psychology classes in college.”  She dictates how to diet, parent, cook, decorate, garden, dress, act, & talk, etc.  In her mind, she *isn't controlling at all.  She's always demure, supportive, and encouraging.  Yes, that's it...”encouraging.”  (*Begin sarcastic tone.)  Jane is also single.  Divorced twice.


I've developed strong, healthy boundaries over the years, but that doesn't stop the sadness, anger, and frustration I still feel on a regular basis with Jane.  I'm the only child who still talks to her. 


A little history:  My family lived several hours away when the kids were little.  We drove down for Christmas, and a visit in early summer.  We always spent nights at my dad's house because it was pleasant, sanitary, and sane.  Jane would badger us about how much time we spent at my dad's house vs hers.  She'd have to know the EXACT time we arrived at my dad's each day.  Then she'd calculate the number of minutes we were at each house.  If we spent even 10 minutes more at my dad's she'd throw a hissy fit and insist we extend our trip an extra day to devote solely to her.  Recently, we started telling her we would arrive in town on Sunday, when we actually arrived Friday.  A few times we didn't tell her or see her at all. 


While we were there she'd harass us each day until we agreed to stay for dinner.  We never ate before 10 pm.  It was a combination of the inability to make decisions about what to cook, the irresistible distractions at the grocery store, and manipulation to rack up more time with us vs. my dad.  Quantity over quality is always her norm. 


Fast forward 20 years.  Jane had been living with serious issues in her apartment for 2 years without putting in a work order, either online or by phone.  I made note of all of them when I recently visited, and told her I'd put in the work order myself.  Yet, she suddenly had the urge to be pin prick accurate in the descriptions of the problems.  She had to know EXACTLY how I worded it, did I include everything, read it back 10 times, change this, add that, send her a copy via email, etc.  When the maintenance man came to start work, she “had to direct him” all day long.  Poor old guy. 


The set up for the epiphany: My son, Jack, was working toward a big goal in his life.  It would've opened some doors for him in the future.  He'd been working at it a long time.  If he didn't complete it in time the window would be closed.  Jack decided to change direction and stop pursuing this goal.  Jack, his dad, and I spoke about it over the course of a month.  We let him know how it might affect his future if he followed through, and how it might if he didn't.  We also let him know we supported whatever his decision was, and are proud of him for the work he'd already accomplished.  He was sure this was the right decision. 


Jane asked me about his progress one day.  I told her about his decision, and our stance. 30 seconds of silence.  Then she launched into a lecture about how I should've pushed him to finish, and he'll regret it forever, and he'll blame me the rest of his life for not forcing him to follow through, and blah blah blah.  I put down the phone and let her spew.  When she finally ran out of steam, I picked it up again and told her calmly.  “He's an adult.  We gave him wise counsel.  He made the decision.  We respect his autonomy and choice.”  Jane was silent.  That only means one of two things: her severe disapproval has rendered her speechless, or I've ignited a nuclear size emotional napalm bomb.  In this case, it was the former.  I changed the subject.


Fast forward 2 weeks.  This issue was obviously on her mind.  She said, “I CANNOT believe you let him make his own decisions.”  I said, “Let it go, mom.”  She says, “I can't.  I can't fathom why he would make that decision after coming so far.  I can't believe you and Mr. let him decide on his own.” 


The epiphany: She views life through the eyes of abandonment.  Her greatest fear.  It is the one thing she alternately passively pursues, cultivates with passion, runs from, and claws at.  People abandon their relationships with Jane because of her own words and actions.  She believes Mr. and I neglected our son's well being by “allowing” him to stop pursuing the goal.  We abandoned our obligation as parents, which in turn, is abandoning him. 


My sadness for her is overwhelming. My anger at the mental illness is like a volcano.



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