The Day After Trash Day

It was trash day in mid-July.

Actually, it was late afternoon the day after trash day. I made the discovery that no one wants to ever make. It was bad.

A rotten egg exploded inside my trashcan coating the inside with bad, bad egg. Then, the trashcan and its coating of bad egg sat and baked in the July sun. It was bad. It was so bad it not only had a smell, it had a taste.

I held my breath while pulling the can back from the road, “Someone ought to do something about this.”

I looked around to find that responsible and brave soul. There was just me standing in the driveway, alone with the stinking can. I sighed, this was a mistake. Waiting for a hero would only make the bad situation worse. And it was foul enough already.

So, it has to be now, and it’s only me. I sighed again, but very shallowly, this time, because the whole area had a bad-egg-on-a-hot-summer-day miasma.

While I was untangling the hose and dragging it around to the driveway side of the house, I mulled over how much I really, really didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want it to be me. I wanted someone else, anyone else, to show up and tackle this particularly nasty job. I wanted any hero to take over. In fact, anyone that volunteered right now would be a hero.

I finally got the hose around to the driveway and ambled back around the house to turn it on. Even though I dawdled, pulling a few weeds along the way, Wonder Woman didn’t show up. Dang it.

I really didn’t want to face opening that trashcan lid again. Courage comes in a lot of shapes. It’s rarely the kind of courage that roars and wields axes against zombies or grizzly bears. There’s just not that much opportunity for that kind of focused bravery.

Courage generally looks more like responsibility. It manifests when you decide to do the right thing, the hard thing, rather than taking the easier path.

I turned on the hose and walked reluctantly back along my current path, tipped the can on its side, faced the top downhill, selected the ‘jet’ setting and waited another 30 seconds. Still no Wonder Woman, dang it.

The truth is that no one wants to clean up a stinking mess like this, clearly not Wonder Woman or she’d be here instead of me. Everyone wants it to be someone else. We all want to walk away, shaking our heads and muttering, “Someone ought to do something about this.”

But, Wonder Woman and the entire Marvel Universe of Super Heroes are away, making increasingly implausible movies. Looking around for any hero to clean up this mess, any mess, all I can see is us, standing alone.

We will have to be our own heroes. We are all faced with problems that don’t go away just because we wish them to. Some issues, maybe most, get worse when we ignore them waiting for someone else to deal with it. Hoping it won’t have to be us. We are all faced with our own personal, metaphorical, rotten eggs.

“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor — the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds.

But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage.” — Brene’ Brown

I held my breath and began spraying the inside of the trashcan, washing away the mess. The air gradually cleared. I decided that the inside of the can had needed cleaning even before the egg debacle. Once the water ran clear, I turned off the hose, wound it up and went inside to make some iced tea. I picked a few sprigs of mint on the way. My inner hero and I had earned a treat. It takes everyday courage to do the hard thing; to have the hard conversation, to walk away from the harmful relationship or job, to ask for what we need.

It takes everyday courage to clean away a nauseatingly, horrible mess, for example. It’s not comfortable or easy but the ‘someone’ in, “Someone ought to do something about this.” The ‘someone’ might be us; it probably is.

It’s easy to do nothing; doing right is harder and requires. You guessed it. Courage.

How do we find our everyday courage. That July day, I decided that not facing the mess would be worse in the long-run. Maybe that’s how we all do it. We know that things will get worse if we don’t do something; we decide that things will be better if we do. Ultimately, we have to decide that we, ourselves, will be better by acting.

Responsibility? It looks like courage.

Courage? It’s our responsibility. “Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” — Albus Dumbledore