Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Friday, March 9, 2012

Taking Out Each Other's Trash

Gretchen Rubin's latest happiness tweak is throwing away someone else's trash.  

I get the whole thing about doing something small for someone else.  And not just to "boost your self-esteem."  The application with which I am most familiar is related to stress reduction.  It is said, and I have experienced, that the act of slowing yourself down by letting someone go ahead of you in traffic, or in the checkout line--especially when you are feeling rushed and short on time--creates the perception of more time.  It works.  It really does.

Not incidental is the positive feedback that generally attends such public generosity--although occasionally the response is more like "What are you?  Nuts?"  And you can end up feeling a little sheepish.

But the kind of trash that troubles me most in my own environment, I think of as "life trash."  In this category are undone tasks, unfinished projects, and unfulfilled dreams.  It strikes me as a particularly appealing kindness--one I'd love to be on the receiving end of--to help another dispose of detritus of this sort. 

As a mom for more than half my life now, I am in a great position to help out in this way.  Living with two young adult men, I find myself frequently hip-deep in refuse, life- and plain old.  But as a mom, I have learned--not without pain and stumbling, on my part and theirs--that it isn't always a purely good thing to rush into the breach without summons.  

Yet another opportunity to practice that all-purpose virtue--BALANCE.  

But it does feel really good to magnanimously offer to move a load of wash to the dryer for one of my roomies.  Or to put gas in the car when they're running late.  Or to post a letter they forgot to send.  And helping them to experience life as a bit more doable helps me to believe that I can manage, too.  But it's not so much fun if they begin to rely on my rescue.  And if they ask, it had better be done nicely.  I don't do demands from this crew.

And just for the record, if someone offers to do the dishes I haven't gotten to, I'm taking it. 

1 comment:

  1. You make such a good point. My daughter is a young adult and, while I love to dump all my life learning on her, I've learned to stand back and "speak when spoken to". Great post!

    When you have a moment, please come pickup your award