This is going to be one ranting moaning bitchfest from the off, I warn ye, there is no joy in this post. So if you want fairies and unicorn enemas, jog on.
In no particular order, we shall begin with fear and threats.
I live in a big jumbled pigsty of a house. When my Mum got diagnosed with terminal Cancer in 2015, my Dad destroyed the house and got the builders in to renovate. All the stuff from the rooms to be ‘done’ was stuffed into other rooms. Crammed, rammed, bullied and packed into every inch. Think a tiny Japanese guy eating 35 hotdogs in 40 minutes. You know the stuff. Like a cartoon. Since my Mum’s death, we’ve been trying to sort out the house. The ‘we’ is mainly me when it comes to sorting. My Dad takes months to build a box round the gas meter. I am left with the sorting and throwing out. We have a shed bigger than most London flats full of my Dad’s things, but I have to throw mine out. When I was employed, I bought a LOT of stuff. Over the years since then, I have rid myself of most of it, but three things remain: jewellery, shoes and handbags. When I was employed, I went out a great deal, and actually used the handbags – but I stopped using them, but still added to the collection. The shoes are a different and deeper matter. I’m not going to lie, it’s very basic. As a child and teen with large feet (uk size 9) that were also deformed, I could not get shoes. Bingo! The internet and shops deciding to go over size 8! And also a wage and big time depression= shoe problem. I have whittled my shoes down to: formal flats I can genuinely wear, heels I had a fucking good time in, heels I love. I’ve rid myself of about 30 pairs of shoes already, and numerous handbags, also 3 bags of jewellery and hair accessories. So, I have been getting rid. A decade ago I was in bands and in videos and needed ridiculous clothes and jewellery to perform. Nearly all of that is gone. Those things were my history. Other people have houses and children and certificates on the wall. I had my things. But, as I’ve said, nearly all are gone. My Dad has no idea of how many of my things (that I paid for from money gained in jobs that broke me physically and mentally – all were gained before I became disabled) have left the house. But there is still more to sort. He has been going on and on at me to sort. And I have, little at a time. Last week I had bronchitis and was sick, then this week I got hit with a bolt of pain I’ve not had for nearly a decade. I took every pill, many that I should not have, but nothing would shift it. The next day I had the second worst migraine I’ve ever had, cold, cold sweats, vomiting, everything. Terrible. But my Dad asked me if I was going to clear the room. I told him I would when I was able. Wednesday I was at the hospital to have a tooth out – but they didn’t do it – sensibly they decided to wait until I wasn’t full of Rizatriptan. I still couldn’t do anything physical – I was still in pain and still dozy from the migraine. Dad came upstairs to where I was sitting at the computer and joked ‘There’s not a lot of work going on here’. I swore at him and told him I would do it when I could, that I was in enormous pain, had taken all the pills and could not haul all the shit from the room. Thursday I emptied some of The Room. 2 Black Sacks of rubbish, 3 large plastic boxes, 2 sacks of clothes for the freezer (to moth proof before giving away), one bag for charity. All were in the hall. Dad came in to the computer room again ‘There’s not a lot of work going on here’, I swore at him again. ‘You’re over reacting’, no, I said, I was re-acting. He said the same thing as last time and got the same response. He provoked me. ‘You’re over reacting’ , no, I’m reacting. It’s only an ‘over’ reaction to you. To me it’s just a ‘reaction’. He told me not to get into ‘a ruck’ with him, because I would be sorry, because I would ‘lose’.He’s always done this. The phrase ‘Do not try to get into a ruck with me, because you’ll lose, you’ll be sorry’ has been a theme in my life. It’s a threat. A real and proper threat. A way of him asserting his power over me. I do everything he wants as fast as I can, but he still doesn’t get that I can’t do what he wants when he wants it and how he wants it. I’ve not seen friends since Christmas. I’ve gone out to 3 exhibitions. Every other ‘out’ has been hospitals, volunteering, class, or something to do with the house. The week came to a close with this hanging over me. On Sunday I was woken up by him shouting at me that if I didn’t get up and do some more to the room, he’d do it and he’d do it ‘good’. Basically all my things would be gone. I eventually went down stairs and he said the same thing ‘I mean it, I want it done by the end of the week or I’ll do it’. I gave monosyllabic responses ‘Yeah, ok’, then he asked me if I was alright ‘Have you got a migraine?’. I didn’t but I did feel fucking odd. I was swaying inside and my blood pressure was all over the place. I took my beta-blockers and my Diazepam, even a migraine pill, but I felt very weird. I had to go lie down again. I slept for a few hours, but woke up with heart racing and stressed to my scalp. I didn’t do anything to the room. I did my calligraphy homework. The threat is still hanging. So much of my life is in that little room. It was my childhood bedroom. I lived in it from 9-20. And then it was turned into a study/ TV room for me. It saved my sanity in 2007, but then, when my parents decided to have a loft extension and put me in it, it was filled with things from the loft. Then when Dad kicked me out of my bedroom (before the loft was finished) the remaining items of mine from my room were put in there.
Please remember, that when I moved from the little room into a different bedroom in 2000, the room I moved into was still full of my Brothers things (including the wardrobe – I’ve never had a wardrobe). I wasn’t allowed to re-decorate or anything. My brother moved in with his wife in 2002, but we still have much of his stuff. Indeed, all his knick knacks only moved to him in 2016. In fact, I’ve found 2 boxes of his stuff, in the little room. In addition to this, in 2008 when the loft conversion was going on, there was a flood that destroyed my books and many other things, so much stuff had to be moved higgled piggiled into the small room, to save it from damp. Over and again my things have been destroyed, moved and packed away. I’ve discovered the amount of stuff I’ve re-bought because it’s been packed by someone else somewhere I don’t know. So unpacking and finding stuff is not as easy as it should be. I’m finding things from when I was a teen, from when I had break downs, from the flood, from broken relationships, the paperwork from CBT. And I’m trying to sort it out and throw it out sensibly. Some things I will never let go of: my Baptism dress made for me when I was 5 by the Aunt I loved, my Communion dress, made for me by the Mum I loved. But my Dad does not understand this. He does not understand this because he doesn’t throw anything away – he puts it in the shed. He recently got rid of a canoe he half built aged 14. That’s 60 years ago. He never finished it. I’ve got another 20 years before I can match that.
This may read as spoiled brat. It’s not. It’s an on-going problem. If you never have the space, the cupboards, draws, wardrobes to put your things in, you not only don’t have any idea of what you have and don’t have, but you learn that your things don’t matter. My Dad has a shed just for his woodworking tools. He has a room for books and a room for TV and music. I don’t have a wardrobe, the draws in my loft are from my Gran’s house. I was told that for my 35th birthday I would get new draws, but am still waiting. I don’t have the money, or the physical ability to buy and assemble new furniture. I don’t have anyone (partner, family) to call to help. And if I did bring someone in to do it, I would not have a good time with my Dad. People don’t come in our house.
The title of this piece refers, specifically, to a Nick Cave song, which sounds like my current anger feels. Stagger Lee is a figure in many old blues songs, but Cave’s version is my favourite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nbe5RERDh4k – warning, contains swears.