These days, I usually try not to delve into the past. It's just one of those things you learn your lessons from and move on. But I see a lot of people in bad situations they're afraid to alleviate. I see a lot of folks who think of themselves as "locked" into bad situations that are better to ride out than fix. Some of them think things will get better. All of them could benefit by the inspiration to seize control of the situation, realize they run their own life, and make the necessary steps to extricate themselves from an unhealthy situation. I'm always amazed at the degree to which people fail to take control of their lives. I was reminded of this while watching "Hoarders: Buried Alive" on television, where The Learning Channel has made a television show out of craven laziness masquerading as a mental disease. I realize a lot of people coast on the inertia of their situation and recoil from the steps necessary to make life changing improvements. I thought I'd tell my story as a "you can do this" sort of example.
I moved to Satellite Beach, Florida around Spring of 2008. It's a beautiful place. I got an apartment within walking distance from the beach. It was fantastic, really. I found out I love Florida weather, the beach, the people there are nice, and the scenery is quite awesome. I could live there the rest of my life. I hooked up with a woman beforehand, and it was understood and confirmed by her that there would be "dating", but the ink wasn't dry on the lease of my new place before her room mates, tired of her crap, were asking her to leave. So, her things were soon at my apartment before even I had a chance to move my things down from Georgia.
I suppose I ignored a lot of warnings. I suppose a lot of it was the inability to believe such a level of depraved pack rat absurdity could be someone's "normal" existence, or that such an abjectly lazy person could be this way while still given a chance. I suppose I refused to believe someone wouldn't WANT to get better. For someone with no money, she'd sure managed to accumulate an insane amount of items. My bedroom was filled with boxes, piles of clothes, and the walk-in closet couldn't be walked into any longer. The clothes took up every inch of hangar space. There were old dresses and things she couldn't wear because she couldn't get to them due to all the boxes piled from the back of the closet all the way to the door. I have a simple rule when I move. If I haven't used anything in over a year, I obviously don't really need it. I don't like to carry a lot of dead weight. My initial reaction, from the very beginning, was that this wasn't the way it was going to sit and she was going to have to work on sorting it, cleaning it, and getting rid of unused things.
She brought in two cats. I didn't want more cats. She had a strange way of relating to cats for their unconditional love. Cats that were used to going out doors want to go out doors. They're going to show some semi-feral behavior. She assigned human emotions to felines that strayed from her old apartment, claiming they don't love her when they leave the house. It was silly. I should have seen it for the stupidity that it was, but I pushed it down, ascribing it to the kind of absurdity that's easy to express on the internet, but has no real impact in life. She brought a gray cat that was pleasant enough. And a cute black and white cat that loved to pee on things, especially piles of clothing like the one she loved to keep on the floor next to her bed. I'm not sure if she had a problem with her nose, or if she was too lazy to care when she caught a whiff of something disgusting. I would smell cat urine in the bathroom on occasion. I hunted the source of that smell for weeks so I could clean it. I was looking around the low places in the bathroom where a cat could reach. Then I noticed the white towel that she was using to dry herself off with hanging on the shower bar. It had a prominent discolored yellow patch on it. She was so oblivious to such disgusting slobbery that she was drying herself with a foul smelling towel and either not caring or noticing.
She wanted me to buy her things. I did at first. It's one of those things guys do. Nothing too absurd. But she would discuss more expensive things eventually like some of the surgeries she wanted to have. She was a stripper and wanted breast implants. Another warning. She was an exceptionally lazy stripper. Walking and stooping was her real forte. So she didn't earn a lot of money and loved to skimp on how many days she would work out of the week with a milieu of conditions and illnesses, not the least of which was insomnia where she would allow her medication to run out without replenishing it. At the time I would have been content with a woman who earned no money whatsoever if she wasn't destroying my apartment as well. A live-in who helped keep things clean would have been fine. But she couldn't even do that.
After about a month I could see the chances for improvement were well beyond the depths of hell I was willing to go through in an effort to even try to rehabilitate an obstinate slob. "This is going to get cleaned up" became "This is going to get cleaned up before Anthrocon". I could have had that apartment cleaned in a single weekend with the help of a friend, a lot of Hefty bags, and a dumpster. There were tubs stacked in my bedroom full of garbage. Plastic trinkets. Busted nothings. Scraps. Bullcrap you'd never pull out and go "here we go, I was just looking for this to use for ____". None of it was useful and it was becoming clear to her that it was jeopardizing the stability of her living condition by earning my ire. My unhappiness wasn't a mystery. My expectations weren't kept inside. They didn't burst upon the scene "suddenly" and without warning. They were well known from the beginning. She would sometimes "work" on the problem. She would go into the bedroom and gather up a few things here, and a few things there, and organize them into a box or two, and then go back to the internet and play around, or sit in front of the television. "Working" on the problem was good enough for her. She could tell me she "worked" on it even just that little bit, so I couldn't be too angry about the lack of completion to the work.
Two weeks before Anthrocon she indicated that she wasn't going to have enough time to make the deadline. One could still have finished the job if they worked at it. One could have had it done if they were serious about getting it done in the first place, instead of piddling with a box here for a day, and then piddling with a box there for another day. I explained how I could have finished the job in a week AND still work my job. Her retort was that she wasn't like me. I remember thinking... what does that mean? She has two functioning arms and two functional legs, just like me. I couldn't imagine at the time I was looking into the eyes of someone surrendering to their own behavioral flaws, adopting them into her life like a well adjusted human being adopts actual strengths and accomplishments. She was showing me her irrational laziness and declaring it an in-born trait like one's natural eye color. Even if it was in-born, did I deserve to suffer for it? From the very beginning I warned her not to use her flaws and weaknesses to get sympathy from me because it wouldn't work. We're meant to improve our lives and be proud of ourselves when we accomplish things, not flaunt out greatest sores as a claim to a stake in the lives of others. It wasn't: "I deserve your love because I'm a strong wonderful person!" It was: "I require your love for the very reason that I'm wretched and unworthy of it!" By that point, having it in my face and so deeply entrenched in my life, I could no longer divorce my intellectual assessments from my emotional senses. They were now in agreement with each other. My heart and my brain were like two parties, traditionally at war, realizing they are so much happier pursuing the same ends together. I can't love things my mind doesn't respect.
I broke up with her right before Anthrocon. She was still living there. She wasn't on the lease. The place wasn't hers in any sense, but it was the roof over her head and it was where her stuff was. I still made it clear her things had to be straightened out. She was distraught. After about an hour of pleading, and making up vague messages about being so distraught that her body aborted a zygote (an extra creamy helping of bullshit - she'd had her period a week or so before), things died down into a calm routine. By this time I'd already set up an air mattress in my studio that I used to sleep on. I couldn't use my living room without sitting around her garbage and tacky shit. I pretty much just lived inside my office. No pleadings would work. My mind was declaring that my life was mine and I could do with it as I pleased, and that I didn't *deserve* to be unhappy. I didn't *deserve* to live in this kind of hell. I didn't deserve to coast on momentum, letting this absurdity play out and become a huge part of my life. I could extract myself, and I *would* extract myself. She declared she would "work on things" to get me back. Fine, I thought. We'll see if she improves. My apartment was still trashed with her things and she still had a deadline to clean it. These passed, just like the others, despite her promise to "work on things to get me back". The greatest birthday present I ever gave to myself was giving her until October to leave. It felt like planting a flag with a gigantic J on it declaring my life as my own property. No, you aren't my girlfriend. I deserve better than living in a pit of filth and hell. My life was mine and I was doing what I had to do to be happy. She'd refused to give herself the same courtesy months ago. I wouldn't refuse it for myself.
Around this time I took photos of the bedroom. They don't do justice to the musty smells.
If you're unhappy with your relationship, never be afraid to be single. Ask yourself if you're happier available than stuck with this person who's making you unhappy, and the choice should be clear. Your life is yours and you're not obligated to be unhappy for their sake.
Despite what she claimed when her eyes were full of tears and her voice was whiny and pleading, she actually did find a place to go. Her things were cleaned out, bit by bit. It was pretty phenomenal to see the stuff moved out within a time frame that was far shorter than she was given to clean it up. It was like a ray of cleanliness and light slowly creeping back into the living room. As her stuff left, I straightened furniture and vacuumed the rug. I moved my recliner chair out of my office to the living room with my television and video games. My leather couch had been destroyed by her psycho cat's piss, but I replaced it once the cats were gone, with a less expensive futon couch. My bedroom, originally gigantic before her things moved in, was gigantic again. The walk-in closet could be walked into. As she got the few remains of her stuff, more carpet got vacuumed. She could see the possibilities of what was a clean apartment becoming reality and taking over one square foot at a time. When she was done and gone forever, I had a great pad. I could bring friends over. I could rove Florida, free and happy. I've rarely felt better than I did then.
Bonk visited. We hung out with Arphalia. We played video games. We chatted while hanging out near the beach at night. We smoked cigars on the patio. It was glorious.
After this I heard she wrecked her car while on sleeping pills, which was actually her ex-boyfriend's car. It was a great way for him to get out from under any further fiscal obligations to her. She later appeared in a local Florida article with a sob story about being a victim of the recession. There were comments in the story from people who knew her, about how she always lived like this, even when the economy was fantastic, and she was a victim of her own behavior. The story stopped accepting comments. She claimed she had lost weight due to her situation, but the photo accompanying told the opposite to those who knew her beforehand. It further reminded me of her inability to learn. It only further showed me that I'd done the right thing for my sake.
Whenever you find yourself in a bad situation, just remember that you can control more of your life than you realize. You never have an obligation to suffer. Now, I'm with Mahrkale. She's the opposite of the abomination from Florida. She enhances my happiness. She's extraordinarily independent. We've been together longer than I've been with anyone and I don't really see an end in sight. These are good times and they wouldn't be possible if I kept hoping disgusting people would stop being disgusting, without taking active steps to extricate myself from them.
If you can't change the people around you, change the people around you. They'll hate you for denying them a stake in your life, but their hatred tastes delicious.
Update Some folks are conveying to me the primary defense she had for being a hopeless slob: she worked two jobs. She worked for Blockbuster one day out of the week and would work a strip club when she felt like it, which was maybe two or three days if any. There's more going on there than hoarding. There's a complete responsibility crack up. Nothing I've said here is a lie or an exaggeration. There are people prone to hate me no matter what, which means they'd defend a man caught raping a boy scout if he was an old roommate I disliked. If you want to hate me no matter what, that's really perfectly fine. This isn't the hill you want to look stupid on, though.