• We Can Sort It Out

The Maze

"My sister and I turn the corner only to realize it's another dead-end. We turn toward each other with a look of defeat, we exhale, and lower our heads. How can this, too, be a dead-end, we think. It seems like every solution is a dead-end. It's like we're in a maze, you know the kind you built as a kid for your pet hamster?

My mother has created this maze, with her OCD, her controlling, her anxiety, that cause her to numb out instead of caring. An emergency caused us to enter her twisting, turning path in life. She has rodents in her house. She's lived with them for several months, in denial, as she likes to be, about the severity of the situation. When mom told me one day that it was a little unnerving to see a "mouse" jump from the top of the china cabinet to the top of the fridge, I became worried. Little did we know what we were entering.

The two of us spent weeks in this maze of my mother's mind. She had a problem, we would discuss solutions. If she could just have more bookshelves, it would help get stuff up off the floor. If she had a little sign to remind her to do the dishes, she could make her sink "shiny." If, if, if. We would dutifully consider her ideas and, like most people, find a logical conclusion for the situation.

But logic has no place in my mother's maze. This isn't reality; it's a fun-house with wacky mirrors and hidden doors. We'd walk down the path, make a turn and find a dead-end. We'd turn around and take the fork in the road, make a right turn and left only to find another dead-end. Every solution we presented to mom, she would answer with a "no." Again and again, sister and I bumped into one dead-end after another.

There we were, with our masks and gloves, reminding her that these cute mice, which were in reality rats, had contaminated her precious possessions. Our language became stronger throughout our days in the maze. We tried to get mom to see reality by dropping the word 'poop' and moving to stronger words, 'feces' and 'urine.' Still mom lived in her alternate reality as we sorted through junk mail and library books and family photos that had been the raceway for rats. The term 'packrat' brought a whole new meaning. Mom was a giant rat, making a nest of useless stuff as her home. And we found ourselves caught in her maze.

After several weeks of paths that led to dead-ends, we completed a path from one entry door into the house to the sliding door on the patio. We knew this was our chance to escape but we were still drawn to our mother. Once dear and sweet and caring, she now had learned to live in filth, rooting around for treasure to pass the hours, and had built for herself a well-padded nest that kept family and friends at a distance.

Sister and I looked back from the doorway, seeing our mother in a whole new light. Realizing her transformation was complete, we also realized we needed to leave this maze in order to save our sanity. With sadness, we stepped across the threshold and into the fresh air outside. The blue sky and singing of birds revived our clouded thinking. From the outside, we could look into the maze and see mom, running over and over on the same limiting path. Dead-ends mean nothing to her, they instead bring comfort. Watching her find joy and comfort in churning her possessions over and over was our undoing. We had tried to release mom from her maze through an open door but she would not, could not, leave what she had built."

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