Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Autism Answer: Pick up the Trash


Waves hitting rocks by the river

The morning is dark, overcast, rain falling heavy for a moment then sitting in wait the next. I'm walking - coffee in hand - along the river. The crashing of waves on the rocks is my music. I'm staying near the cover of trees, prepared for the moments of hard rain. I am not alone. Surrounding me are busy squirrels and seagulls. The wildlife is close, but not scary close. I love this.
I see something on the rocks and recognize it immediately as a discarded mask. They are everywhere lately. 
I'm deeply enjoying the sound of water, the feel of the morning air, the smell of rain, the animals that are giving me my space while I spend time in theirs. Even the sound of a few cars driving past on wet pavement enhances the feeling of quiet joy for me. The mask bothers me and, for a moment, I want to walk a little ways away rather than pick it up and take care of it. I want to ignore it and simply pick a different spot to stand by the water where the mask can be easily forgotten.
But, I don't. 
Me and my coffee carefully make our way down to the litter, on the potentially slippery rocks, and pick up the mask. It's soaking wet but new looking, and I consider keeping it. My "reuse" reflex responds in this way often, and sometimes I agree with it. Often when I pick up trash I discover it is not even trash. But, not today. I will throw it away. There are so many trash bins here it's a simple thing. 
Heading to a bin I notice my moment has been changed. I no longer feel the same sense of peace, calm, and joy I had been oh so deeply enjoying. It had been a delicious moment, until that mask. 
And I could have walked a small ways away to continue the feeling. I could have easily forgotten the mask. I mean, it's one mask. I didn't save the world by picking it up. Pollution is still a thing. Heck, there wasn't even anyone there I was being a good example for. It was just one girl choosing to pick up one piece of trash rather than ignore it because it interrupted her moment of joy. 
Not allowing joy to be harmed is often the right choice. A choice that is different than not allowing it to be interrupted or shifted. 
My walk to the trash bin brought me farther away from the sound of water, toward the playground where I had parked my car. I tossed the mask and stood still for a moment. Which direction should I move now? Back to the water and attempt to recapture the sensory delights I had been immersed in, or toward the car where my mobile office waited and work wanted to get done? I chose the different joy of getting work done. 
My walk through the playground toward the car brings visions of my grandchildren to mind. I imagine bringing them here while their fathers (my sons) get work done. I imagine the little ones running around filled with joy while I play alongside them, thrilled to be a part of their lives. Thrilled to be part of my son's lives and able to help them get work done. 
It is a joyful imagining! A separate kind of fun from the quiet peaceful moment interrupted by the mask. But still lovely. Also, imagining the grandbabies reminds me of why I like to pick up the trash. For the future.
When I see it, something that should be cleaned up in order to not hurt someone or something in the future, that's the time to act. If I ignore it, it might fester. If I just don't want to do it and tell myself I'll do it later, I may lose it or forget. 
Now, if the rocks had been dangerously slippery, I would have not picked up the mask. Sometimes you see it, the trash, but it is not the right time to clean it up. Timing matters. 
I usually know when I'm avoiding something because I just don't want to take care of it vs when I'm waiting for the right time. 
Waiting for the right time is part of taking care of it, though. It is proactive. It is aware. Heck, sometimes it is enough. The shifts in behavior that happen while being aware sometimes clean up the trash. 
The morning is still dark, the rain is heavy now. I'm sitting in the car near a library while water pours down around me. The busy squirrels appear to have hidden in the trees. An airplane is roaring overhead and my mind soars with it, wondering when the next time will be that I fly somewhere. Will it be to visit my grandkids again? Or will it be to travel for the first time with my love to his long ago home, in Australia? A place I've not yet visited. 
I picked up trash that threatened, in a small way, the future. It was not what I felt like doing at the time. It shifted my mood and interrupted my joy. 
I love this. 
Hugs, smiles, and love!!