Bag Lady’s Bliss
One woman’s quest for happiness in the land-fill of life
So, I’m thinking I want to do my part to save the world and all and I have even have this awesome red t-shirt that says, “Change the universe. Start with yourself,” or some such simply profound thing and it – the t-shirt ‑ attributes the quotation to the French philosopher and mathematician Renè Descartes. You know Descartes, right? Sure, you do. You don’t have to study metaphysics to be familiar with the phrase: I think; therefore I am. Or for the lofty: Cogito ergo sum. So, here I am and I think okay I’ll start small like always putting the grocery cart back in the stall or smiling at a stranger or picking up a piece of trash in my path. And that all goes quite well and I’m feeling good about it. Quite good, actually. I’m making a difference. Every day I’m just walking around making the world a better place and I don’t even have to try. I mean what’s the cost to me? I get a little more fresh air returning my cart. I smile more. I kneel to pick up some trash and find a shiny penny. I feel great.
So, what if I could do more? How great would that feel? I start carrying a small plastic grocery bag in my car and when it gets filled up with parking lot debris or whatever else I’ve seen fit to pick up that week I toss the full and bulging bag of my contribution to the planet in the big black bin conveniently picked up weekly and taken away out of sight. (I have a separate bag for recyclables.) I feel complete. I have found my peace.
Now, my first thought after that is of course I have got to share this feeling with the world. If everyone could feel the way I do there would be no war, no injustice, no poverty, no pain.
But, there is a problem. Sometimes I come across items that are too big to fit in the small plastic grocery bag, so I start carrying a large kitchen trash bag in my trunk. You can’t stash those things in the door panel. So, here I am with my 15-gallon trash bag, and I can’t seem to fill it up anymore. There doesn’t seem to be enough garbage left in my path. Well, that’s strange. Where has all my garbage gone? My happiness wanes. I must not be doing my part if my bag is not full of trash at the end of every week. I’ll never fill the big black bin at this rate! What can I do?
Oh look! That person has tons of trash in their path. Lucky bastard. I’ll just go see if he would like some help. Absolutely? You were just thinking how nice it would be to have someone help get you started? Great! I have this 15-gallon bag that can hold big items too. You are SO welcome. Really it’s my pleasure. You know, that small plastic grocery bag you have is nice but sometimes it’s just not enough to get the job done right. Ah! There. Now we are done and you are trash-free my friend! How wonderful. What a gift. We shared the joy of picking up trash together and made friends out of strangers. Ah, this is bliss. No, thank YOU!
So, now I’m carrying this large kitchen trash bag all around town with me and taking it along with me to everyone’s house just in case they can’t bend over anymore or they’re too tired or too lazy and picking up their trash just because it feels good and I can and most of them seem to really like it. I’m just a big ball of trash picking bliss. Smiling and cheerful I point out all of the trash you seemed have missed in your life or maybe you just forgot. But don’t worry, I’ll pick it right up for you, take it away. And not a nod or a thank you do I require for this service. It just makes me feel good. Some people seem offended when I suggest that what they’re holding on to is really just garbage, but I don’t mind. Not everyone can appreciate the favor.
I’m picking up broken things – things I think I can fix.
I’m picking up old things that have outlived their usefulness to others but who knows when I might need it or know of someone who might need it.
I’m picking up rotten things and dead things and things people have spent decades of their lives, not to mention thousands of dollars in therapy trying desperately to discard.
I’m clearing the path for all mankind.
I’m picking up whole people, entire households of waste and refuse.
My bag is getting very heavy.
But, I’m still smiling from under the strain. I just wish someone would notice how hard I’m working. I wish someone would comment on how much progress I’m making. How much better the world is with me in it. No one does.
I’m picking up banana peels so no one slips and gum so no one sticks. I picked up all the dog poop in an entire neighborhood once with a Cheshire grin on my face so wide you would have thought it was the moon.
But now the bag is starting to smell and I would really like to get rid of it because this is getting to be a drag. No one even notices my efforts and some people have the nerve to tell me I shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. Can you believe that? They’re probably just jealous because they haven’t found their own peace.
I’m not smiling anymore. I need to find a place to dump this. It’s way too big for the big, black bin now. Who will take it all of this rot off of my hands? I mean it really reeks and I’m barely dragging it along and it’s not even mine. I resent this trash for stinking up my clothes and my life. I resent the people who made the trash even though they never asked me to pick it up in the first place. I did it out of the kindness in my heart. – for you. Not me. For you!
I’ve lost my peace. Somewhere back there, maybe on the street where you live? If you see it will you let me know? Because this trash is really reeking now and I’d like to get rid of it but I really can’t until I’ve found my peace. And not even a thank you or a nod in my direction. Now no one else wants to be around me because I stink of all this rubbish and who can I get to take it from me?
Who is strong enough to handle this immense pile of rubbish?
Who is the strongest person I know?
Who can I trust to get rid of it once and for all?
Who has proven they love me despite the wretched stench that follows me where ever I go?
Come here. Come closer. Let me tell you how much I love you. Let me show you how much I trust you. See? I still smell pretty under all this trash.
Oh? You love me too? Hooray for love! What a day for love! Let’s put on a parade for love and forget all about that gigantic bag of filth I brought with me. Although, as wonderful as you are, I still can’t quite find my peace. I might have left it somewhere. Hmmm.
Hey, I think something is wrong. Do you smell what I smell?
Oh, never mind. It’s just a passing garbage truck.
No really, I can still smell it. Can’t you smell it?
Don’t be silly. This place is immaculate. I picked up all the dog poop in the neighborhood weeks ago and brought it home and put it under the bed.
You WHAT? WHAT IS THAT SMELL?
Well, it’s NOT me! How DARE you ask! Are you saying I stink? Maybe you found my peace and you are keeping it from me until I deserve it. Maybe you think you’ll just hold on to it until I’m ready. But I AM ready. I had it before and now you’re making me earn it from you? I did my best for as long as I could without it and I thought I was pretty amazing. I thought I could do no wrong – even without my peace. So why aren’t you giving it to me?
Why can’t YOU give me MY peace? It’s MINE afterall.
YOU DIRTY, ROTTEN SCOUNDREL GIVE ME BACK MY PEACE!
Oh now you’ve done it. Now you DESERVE to have this bag of trash dumped right over your head and I won’t feel bad about dumping it on you all at once because you took my peace. You stole my peace and you are holding it ransom!
But I love you! I gave you everything! I gave you my peace and now you won’t give it back. And you still love me, right? I mean it wasn’t my trash to begin with. It was theirs. And they didn’t even say thank you and they all ran away from my stink.
Everyone ran away except you.
You’re the only one left. So you must have my peace. It must have been buried somewhere in that bag of hate I dumped on you so give it back. Dump the trash back on me…PLEEEEEASE. I mean it. I need you to dump the trash on me! I NEED you to give me MY peace!
Oh, please…can’t you see how I’m suffering? I’m begging you. I’m sorry I misbehaved. I’ll be good now. I promise. Just please, can I have just a little bit of my peace?
I’ll do better. I’ll earn it back. You’ll see. I’ll work harder.
And if that doesn’t do it, I’ll break every coffee cup in your house until you hand it over.
Give it to me! Give it to me! GIVE IT TO ME!!!
What do you mean you have nothing to give?
You have my peace. I know you do. I can see it in your eyes. The way you look at me with love.
What do you mean you’re not strong enough? I know you are! I can feel it in your embrace. I can tell by the way you hold me when we sleep.
What do you mean I have to find it myself? Where did you hide it? Why are you doing this to me? Why can’t you just love me and be happy and GIVE ME MY PEACE
WHY do you torture me? Tease me with my OWN peace? Dangle it in front of me like bait on a hook and then swipe it away just when I’m about to strike? Why do you HATE me? I GAVE YOU MY PEACE!
Oh. There it is. It must have been buried there beneath all that trash. Here, look. It’s been right here the whole time. Right under my nose! Thankfully, it’s no worse for the wear. But for the stench I would have known it. Oh, bliss! Oh, happiness!
But now you are left holding my big empty bag, trash strewn all around you. Oh my! I’m so very sorry for the bother. And what WILL you do about that horrendous odor?
I can read the look on your face and between your tears it clearly says, fuck you. This stinks.
But, wait! Please don’t cry. Please don’t be angry with me. I can help you get out from under all the other peoples’ trash I dumped on you! I’m more than happy to help. It makes me feel good. Don’t you see? We can do it together and it will make us both happy again. Look, I have just the thing. Here is a small plastic grocery bag I found in my path…