Today Fox and I cleared out the last of his stuff from his apartment. I spent most of the time bringing things either to the car or to the trash, while he sorted through and packed his belongings. Every time I was taking something not obviously garbage to the trash, I was filled with anxiety. He was getting rid of a thing that might be useful! Maybe he would regret getting rid of it. Maybe I wanted it. Should I pack it for him?
There were a couple of times when I said something, but for the most part I was able to talk myself out of it. I remembered how my mother could be about me getting rid of things: whether it was her intention or not, I tended to feel guilty about getting rid of whatever item she was commenting on. (“Oh, you’re getting rid of that?” “This is nice, if you don’t want it maybe I’ll take it.” “I remember when so-in-so gave that to you!” Etc.) It really doesn’t help the process, which I find difficult and stressful anyway. I need to be able to make a decision – and not second-guess it – if anything is going to get done.
Once I realized I was “being my mother” I was able to make the choice to stop. “He’s an adult. He can make his own decisions about what to and not to keep.” “We’ve been living without this thing for how long? You didn’t even know it existed! We really don’t need it now.” “There’s no way all this stuff would fit in the car, never mind finding space for it at home.” Whatever form the rationale took, I used it to try and ease my anxiety.
There was no need for me to make decisions about what to keep or trash, because Fox was the one moving; the one all the stuff belongs to. The decisions were his to make; part of my job was to trust him to make them. I was just helping him out by expediting the process of packing the car and tossing the trash, which had the added benefit of clearing out the space where he was working.
As I realized this, a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. I was already doing more than enough just by transporting stuff. I could easily do that – satisfying my need for exercise – and let go of any sense of additional responsibility. (Trusting that, if Fox needed me to do more, he would have asked.)