It was an older apartment, old enough that the kitchen sink was shallow and rectangular with separate hot and cold taps. Old enough to have a clawfoot bathtub. For some unknown reason the landlord had built a wooden box around the tub, so the beautiful sides and legs were hidden. There was a little door near the end so he could reach the shut off valve and a good sized gap near the top.
The previous tenants were disgusting. The landlord was just finishing cleaning up the last of the mess when my ex and I viewed the unit. I was shocked. The garbage was expected considering his warning of messiness, the spray paint all over the spare bedroom’s walls a little less so, that someone had slept in that narrow, windowless, lightless crawlspace was a wow moment. But we moved in and I enjoyed the huge dark wooden baseboards and trim and all the windows (just not, you know, in the crawlspace). There was one fly in the ointment, that previously mentioned gap behind the tub.
Every time I sat on the toilet, I looked directly into that gap and it was gross. The previous tenants must have used that gap as target practice with their garbage, it was full of a variety of crap, and my skin crawled just thinking of it in my apartment. And I continued to think, “those previous tenants were disgusting!” Every single time.
Then one day I’d finished scrubbing the whole bathroom, except for that disgusting cesspool in the gap above the tub. I muttered my usual, “those previous tenants were disgusting!” then the thought struck me. Those tenants were gone. Completely gone. They no longer cared about the apartment (if they ever did) and they certainly weren’t coming back to pick up after themselves. They. Were. Gone. It was now my place and my mess. It didn’t matter who made the mess, all that mattered was who would clean it up. It was time for me to take a deep breath, put on some rubber gloves, and make myself a pretty view. It was awful, I hated it, but then it was done and I had an empty and basically clean area to look at.
I think that’s something we all forget on a personal, regional, and global scale. Sometimes it doesn’t matter who made the mess, we have to roll up our sleeves and get busy with the solution. It doesn’t matter if you were involved originally. It doesn’t matter if you’re completely blameless. Just try to make things better. You can’t go wrong with making things right.
So many times I’ve heard the phrases “It’s not my mess”, “It’s not my problem”, or “Why should I clean up after them?” and I’m going to lay it out to you. Life is not your Mom doling out candies, making sure everyone gets the same amount. It is not fair. That’s why there’s people like Jeff Bezos building himself a rocket just so he could enter space for a minute and say he did so. And why there’s babies in such poor households they are skin and bones, literally starving to death. Fair would be a hell of a lot more equal.
I’m not saying to do all your coworker’s duties or 100% of the housework (I mean unless you’re single, cat’s really suck at washing the dishes). You have to be fair to you too. But picking up garbage on a nature hike? Yes. Putting that shopping cart into the corral on the way into the store? Go for it. Not your job but who else is going to do it.
You can even step it up a bit. I was in line at the grocery store with an elderly woman ahead of me. Her face fell when she saw the price and she slowly began handing items over to the cashier. A bag of cookies, a tin of tea, a packet of soft jelly candies… they were all nice, little treats for the evening or for if a grandchild arrived. When she was done she had nothing special left, she didn’t have enough gift cards to cover any of them. So I bought them and made sure she knew they were there and were hers (in case she tried to return them or walked away without them).
Volunteering is a wonderful option as well. My parents have been volunteering for Meals on Wheels for years and my Mom volunteers for the local senior centre when there isn’t a pandemic. I’m not currently volunteering but I do donate blood regularly, which is greatly needed. If you’re worried about medication just bring your list in. I’m on a fuckton of medication and they’re all approved. The worst thing that’ll happen is they’ll turn you down and they’re kind about that (I’ve been anaemic enough times to know that).
We’re all on this wild, spinning ride called the Earth together and if we keep working together we’ll make it through just fine (with time enough to throw our arms up in the air and shout woo-hoo). If we all keep saying “not my mess” then turning our backs on the problem(s), we’re going to end up chin deep in waste and sinking while still trying to point fingers. I’d prefer the less smelly one.
And onto a totally different subject, Lara and Smudge have their own Instagram account. If you search for lara_and_smudge you will find them!