It’s garbage day. Streets to the can by seven a.m. I’ve also been known to take the cans to the street. [i]
We have new, clever cans that get picked up by new, clever trucks. Hydraulic arms lift and dump the specially-designed bins into the truck. Three bins per house – compost, garbage, and recycling – means three trucks per route. The trucks still need drivers, so those jobs were spared, but give it time. [ii]
The local politicians tell us the colossal expenditure will save money in the long run. The job loss is also good for reasons I can’t recall. There’s no money for the homeless, the drug-addicted, or the poor, and no room at the inn should pregnant travellers wander through, but for trucks, wallet flaps will open.
I live in the bible belt: the lack of charity will blow your mind, and it’s the rule, not the exception.
I find the new rules for can placement stressful. The cans were delivered six weeks before the change, along with a small book about all things local-trash. The new cans have specific curbside requirements: still at the street by seven a.m., but now the bins must be thirty centimetres from the curb and one metre apart, with nothing piled on top or placed alongside.
I like to do well on tests, and what is acceptance or rejection of your trash but a test? And one the neighbours will be privy to. The horror. In my determination to do well, I paced out bin positioning the night before. [iii]
I wonder where the old trucks went? Is there a graveyard for perfectly good trucks we’ve abandoned in favour of shiny? Ditto the garbage cans: where did the now superfluous bins from every household end up?
Thank God we’re going green. [iv]
Where was I? Oh yes, instructions. It would be helpful if writers included just a touch of ambiguity. Precision can be a problem for people like me. Watching me move the bins this way and that as I made sure I was meeting requirements would be funny if it wasn’t the tiniest bit tragic. I’ve relaxed a bit as the program has rolled on: I’ve observed the lack of divine justice levied at those who embrace eighty centimetres with reckless disregard. And although I lack the ease that came with placing bins for collection by humans, I worry less about overloading hydraulic arms. I don’t have to leave sticky notes apologizing for the can’s weight anymore.
The return trip is also a problem. One, the bins are loud, and I’m embarrassed and apologetic. That every bin on the street makes the same obnoxiously loud rumble is irrelevant.
Inside isn’t a refuge either. I’m overwhelmed by the things that need doing: in addition to the daunting everyday tasks, I have patches to paint (picture hanger holes), kitchen drawers to repair, a furnace filter to clean, exterior windows that need to sparkle, and a house that needs to be organized into perfection.
Insert commercial break here. I can only sit for so long now. Pain isn’t interested in my schedules and plans. Doing much of anything for more than minutes is no longer a thing. So I sit, stand, and then sit again. Shift, wince, stand, pace, repeat. Lying down helps some, except when I’m trying to sleep. The only sleeping position that works is flat on my back, and I hate it. Luckily, it often fails too (lumbar disc issues), leading to insomnia and three a.m. bouts of weeping and despair.
My piano is covered in dust. The television cabinet is covered in dust. So is the fireplace mantel, and in fact, every horizontal surface in the house: I’m not doing a good job with my chores these days.
I’m also not that guilty regarding my failure to get it done. My brain is an ingredient-heavy emotion soup these days: it’s got grief, sorrow, despair, pain, anger, fury, and contempt ringing the hours. Perhaps my brain’s just distracted, and guilt’s coming?
Or not. I’ve acquired a life lesson through no fault of my own. Later is valid, most of the time, especially when it comes to getting shoulds done. [v]
I’ve even evolved past the trite and facile “perfectionism is the enemy of done” – one of those phrases that sounds good, but isn’t. It’s telling you to keep going regardless. Perfectionism doesn’t lead to happiness, but neither does “carry on regardless.” I’ve been working on a soundbite of my own – “done is the enemy of happy” – but it’s not there yet. Oh well, I’ve time.
I worked hard trying to reach the world of Done. I’d stay up late, and then later, to finish work or household chores. “Almost there,” I’d think. “Once I’m finished, I’ll take a break.” But the things you dust get dusty again, the weeds grow back, and floors remain clean for mere seconds. Gratitude was also rarely forthcoming. I feel freer since I stopped trying to reach the mythical land of Done.
“It’s nice that I no longer do that,” she said, finishing off some ledger work that absolutely could wait as the clock chimed midnight and her yawns challenged jaw structural integrity.
What would we be like as a species if we weren’t so often ridiculous?
Boring, I expect. Meanwhile, the first draft of this essay is on day three, proving well (and again) my point: it’s entirely possible to put off until tomorrow things that could be done today. It doesn’t make you evil, it requires no apology, and it doesn’t need to be justified.
What you don’t want to do doesn’t need to be done. Maybe that’s the soundbite? Except for its wild inaccuracy, it’s perfect. Letting some things go isn’t a dereliction of duty. It is, instead, a better understanding of what things are indeed necessary.
As it turns out, furniture dust you can write your name in doesn’t lead to the destruction of the universe.
header photo credit: Hygger
[i] I kept the typo in because spoonerisms are a big part of my verbal communication (or lack thereof). It’s been a challenge, losing my oral fluidity. I feel the impatience of people as I struggle with this word or that. Invisible illnesses need to be otherwise. Perhaps the different mental illnesses could come with distinct colour changes that would communicate certain traits and tendencies (I have multiple neuroses: I’ll get mermaid-hair).
[ii] Does anyone else still call it a “dump truck?” “Garbage truck” seems to be the preferred term these days. They must have had a good lobbyist.
[iii] We can’t put cans out the night before because local bears treat nighttime garbage cans as buffets. Then they get habituated to people, and then they get shot. So, we put the cans out the night before. Thirty centimetres is one foot, and a metre is a fraction more than a yard. And yes, I ended with a preposition. I do it frequently.
[iv] I’m pretty sure the irony gene dies when you enter politics. If you feel like doing math, we’ve 75,000 households, or thereabouts.
[v] Absolutes are almost never a good idea.