There are many places in life where I never thought I would find myself.
Like inside of a dumpster.
For many reasons last week, I was ready for the weekend. I mean, most people usually are, but I was really ready for that week to be over and forgotten. I walked out of my door Friday morning to leave from work and mentally reminded myself that I needed to start thinking positive thoughts about everything going on.
I was taking my trash to drop down the chute on my way to the parking garage and had a million things going through my mind at once. Normally I’m very careful in the trash chute area, making sure anything in my hands that’s not trash stays in my hands. I would never want something accidentally to slip down the chute with the garbage.
But sometimes we get the things we don’t want.
My keys were in the same hand as the trash, but I had a pretty good hold on them. I heaved the bag toward the chute, and a very horrible disaster occurred: The keys had become tangled up in the drawstring ties on the bag, and they went flying through the air with the trash. It felt like an awful slow motion scene that I couldn’t stop, yet everything happened so quickly, and I watched as my keys disappeared into the wretched black abyss.
“SHAST!” was all I could say in that moment.
I ran down the stairs to the garage and to the room in the garage where the dumpster is. An immediate stench filled my nose, and I was practically blinded by the swarm of flies hovering over the bags of discarded food and God knows what else. I peeked over the edge and saw my keys, which were still clinging to the bag I had tossed. I couldn’t reach that far down to get them, though—I was going to have to go in if I wanted to retrieve them. I briefly considered letting them go. I had a spare car key in my purse, and I had a spare key to my apartment in my car. It actually wasn’t the worst situation. But then I thought about the clicker that gets me in my garage and apartment building and about how replacing it costs something like $70 or somewhere in that range.
And then I did something that makes me cringe just thinking about it.
There were boxes to the side, and I stacked a few on top of each other and climbed on in there. As I did, I said a quiet prayer that no one would throw trash down the chute while I was in there. I quickly grabbed my keys and had to pile a couple of bags on top of each other to get back out. IT WAS SO DISGUSTING. Then I rushed back upstairs to shower for the second time that morning and change clothes. (Side note: It’s amusing to me how everyone I’ve told this story to has asked me if I showered after. I didn’t realize I gave off such a vibe of not caring about my sanitation.)
As I scurried off to work, I just kept thinking, Surely the day can only go up from here, and while I was in the dumpster (a phrase I never thought I’d say), I had thought, Is this really my life right now?
Life is rough sometimes. There are going to be times when we are down in the dumps (maybe not literally like I was) and feel like our situations can’t get any worse than they actually are. Whether it’s been from heartache, ongoing kidney issues, or trying to figure my life out, I’ve had a lot of dumpster days in the past year. It’s yucky, and it’s stuff you want to run far, far away from and not have to deal with ever again.
But sometimes a period when you feel like you’re in a heaping pile of garbage actually leads to better things than you would have imagined. For me, not only did I get my keys back, but I wasn’t really thrilled with the original outfit I was wearing, and I ended up having to change. I also learned a lesson in paying more attention to even the little things when I let myself get lost in my seemingly endless thoughts. I tossed something very important down that trash chute, and I would never want to be so careless and caught up in my own stuff that I become the cause of someone else feeling down in the dumps.
And this whole experience made me feel more sympathy for others. Some people literally dig through trash on a daily basis, and others are more figuratively in their own dumpsters. We don’t know the stories of all of the people we encounter, but it’s important to remember that they could be facing really tough situations or going through extremely difficult times. And often the only thing we can do is show them love—even if that’s simply through smiles or kind words or being present.
We’re going to have wonderful days, and we’re going to have days we just want to end. I would never wish dumpster days on anyone, but I know they’re going to happen. The good news, though, is that a dumpster is not actually meant for humans, so you will make it out of there someday. And finally climbing out of a garbage bin filled with what’s causing you pain and an array of emotions you don’t want is a beautiful thing.
Especially when you actually get what you were hoping for when you ended up in there.