Garbage Can 2/18/23

Thoughts with Richard Bleil

On this dreary overcast cold day, my garbage can sits on the curb empty.  I have to go collect it and put it away but today is that day that the garbage collector comes and empties it out of all of the bags of rotting food, used tissues, discarded containers and junk that I no longer need.  And it occurs to me that my life is also a garbage can.

Suffering from manic depression (as my therapist called it so many years ago), I hold on to so much garbage from my past life.  They come to the surface, usually at night, as I dwell on the insults, the hurts, the injustices, the mistakes and the regrets from my past that I can no longer do anything about anyway.  And they have a profound impact on my mood and my thinking patterns as I sometimes dwell on these things for hours or even days to come.  It’s not that I enjoy this, but it’s what I do.  And I mope around, not wanting to get off of my couch, go out, or do much of anything.  I just dwell.

Fortunately, my garbage can also be discarded.  I have a friend, just a friend although I would be so happy if it could be more, that I get to meet.  Not often.  We speak often, but unfortunately we cannot meet in person nearly as frequently as I wish.  And in those all too brief times, my garbage can is emptied.  Everything just disappears.  She tells me that everything is alright, and more than that, she shows me.  Because of her, I get a brief reprieve from my garbage, and I always part sad but feeling unburdened refreshed, renewed, ready for the next load of garbage to begin accumulating. 

I honestly don’t know where she puts it all.  She takes my garbage away from me, sometimes sifting through it and helping me to make sense of it, and it just seems to drift off to the cosmos, powerless in her presence.  And she doesn’t usually do anything special in these times.  We have lunch, we might find a place to walk around or see a movie, but she’s just with me.  She reaffirms my worth and reminds me that I, too, am unbelievably worthy of feeling unburdened, loved, and empowered.  These are things that I tend to lose sight of in her absence. 

To call her my “garbage person” sounds like an insult, but having lived through New York City garbage strikes, I really do have an appreciation for what these amazing people do.  They don’t get nearly enough credit for the important job that they do and are often scoffed at and the butt of far too many jokes, but they’re doing the job that nobody else is doing.  Many people, including myself, complain and drag their feet at the simple little task of simply picking up the garbage in the house and taking it out to the trash.  These remarkable people take the garbage out of the lives of the entire community so none of us ever have to think about or deal with it ever again. 

The garbage I’m talking about is never really gone.  It comes back in the dark of the dreadful, silent and torturous night, but my garbage woman always takes it away from me, and always helps me to deal with it.  Even when we’re not together, she’ll hear when my bin is full and ask me about it when we text or call, and she’ll help me take care of it even then.  It’s nowhere nearly as effective as when we are together, but she takes the time to help me sort it all out, and put it away.

I try to thank mine as often as possible, and show her just how much I truly do appreciate her.  I’m going to suggest that, as you read this, you think about the garbage person in your life.  Do you treat that person like a joke as so many do, or with respect as those of us having been through a garbage strike do.  How do you show them appreciation for the dirty work that they do to help you keep your mind and heart clear of the refuse that builds up from the stress of your day, from the damage of the past, and the worries that cloud your mind.  Where would you be without that person?  I’m always lost without mine, and I hope she knows just how much I appreciate and need her in my life.


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