And hopefully the last of it:
Pieces of trash have reappeared in my neighborhood, but not to the extent we had before I became the anti-litter-lady. I’ve wondered about that. It occurred to me that when trash is lying about, I notice it. Every time. So it seems like always trash, even if it’s the same trash. And then another piece and another piece joins it, so it’s eternal trash, strewn around by cretins I can do nothing about. Trash upon trash upon trash, a mental mountain at least. But if I dislike the litter, and if I pick it up on a semi-regular basis, the original trash is gone. If I took it home, put it in the kitchen garbage, never took it out to be carried off by curbside service, my house would quickly fill up with other people's trash. But I do put it out to be hauled off, and the neighborhood is a bit cozier, and I’m a bit happier. I don’t like trash—but instead of having to change all the world’s litterers, I can simply change my bit of the world.
Gotta admit, I still have trouble with the social interaction trash…somebody says something unnecessarily mean or stupid or—Big Not Fair—something untrue, or I’m waiting in line at the big box store check-out while the clerk counts the cash she’s handing back fifteen times so she can finish her personal conversation with the customer in front of me like she’s doing official business and not just chit-chatting, while I have official business of my own to take care of just as soon as I can pay for my goods and get on my way. Instantaneously, the chemicals flash and I’m looking at some trashy feelings.
Nevada Barr in Seeking Enlightenment, Hat by Hat, her book on her spiritual evolution, said she went to a refresher course for park rangers. A guest speaker, a sheriff, asked the group what they did when somebody ‘talked back.’
One young man said, “I don’t take shit off anybody. They give me shit, I take action.”
The sheriff set him straight. “As a law-enforcement officer it’s your job to take shit. Punks smart mouth you, you take it. Drunks vomit on you, you take it. Ladies spit at your because you wrote ‘em a ticket, you take it. Taking shit is what we do. You damn well better get good at it.”
Though I still hate taking shit, I’ve come to realize the first thing I have to do is notice it’s there. If I’m living in a reactive trance and somebody gives me shit, what I’m feeling will seem real, and I’m just going to get madder and madder. I’ve got to claim the garbage first. That’s just the first step. Even if I realize what’s happening, if I cling to my own outraged righteousness, I’m going to be hauling that trash around, and collecting more to pile up on it. But if what I really want is peace, love, joy, I’ve got to share it with the cretin, um, fellow creature in front of me. I’m going to have to claim those outraged feelings as my own garbage, and then let them go.