I am haunted. I can’t sleep. I never watch the news before going to bed- but I did last night. The body of a young girl was found. She was an American teacher in Japan. She rode her bike home after the earthquake and must have been hit by the ensuing tsunami.
My mother might be dying. She was told last week that the radiologist saw stomach cancer covering her lining and cancer covering her pelvis. The news has sent me into a panic. It feels as though I am racing against the clock. I need to spend time with her. I need to help her get her will and papers in order. I need to clean my basement.
It is overwhelming to be in my house. I have children who refuse to part with anything. I buy so many clothes to accommodate my changing sizes. We have been surrounded by clutter and I have been too busy to focus on it. My friend who is a therapist has suggested that I live in chaos so that I do not have to deal with the real stuff that is wrong in my life. She’s right! Death puts a sense of urgency into the need to organize and clean. To strip away what is superfluous. I have an urge to get back to the essence of what matters.
The last time I felt an urge this strongly to simplify, I chalked it up to the nesting instinct. I was eight months pregnant. I had been on bed rest for months and I was finally able to get out of bed. It was a beautiful day and the World Trade Center had just been hit by planes. My husband was stuck in Manhattan and I did not know where he was since the phones were down. I needed to clean. I had read about the “nesting” phenomenon but did not experience it with the first child.
We have reminders of our own mortality at every turn. As for the lives that I have helped to bring into the world, I mentaly tick off their milestone events. I have an illogical sense that if I can hang on just long enough, my children will not need me. I am trying to control the uncontrollable.
Cleaning and purging might well be a survival instinct. The need to prepare for a new life or to prepare for death is all about being able to get in touch with what you will really need in the event of crisis.I am not prepared. Do I have a choice?