During summer breaks in college, I would return home and work manual labor to accumulate money for the coming year. My father got me a job at the City Garage in Columbus, Ohio. The Garage offered trash pick up, brush removal via a chipper truck, compost pick up, street patch repair and other assorted services.
I often worked on the chipper truck, stopping rain or shine on the route, feeding limbs and logs through the chipper truck to make mulch. Occasionally, I'd show up at work and be assigned to the compost pick up. The compost vehicle was a garbage truck that picked up compost instead of garbage. You'd ride on the back and stop and pick up trash bags full of grass clippings. You'd set the bags on the edge of the truck, take an razor blade and slice them open, dump the clippings in the back and then throw the trash bag away.
Seems harmless enough, right? But these bags had been sitting in the sun for days—decomposing. They were wet, smelly and often contained dog shit. When the juice from the bags leaked out, it saturated you, and it wasn't easy to remove. Showers were longer and scrubbing was vigorous, as you desperately tried to remove the stench.
In the morning, I’d work really hard to avoid getting the decomposing sun-rotted grass cocktail on me. I’d often succeed for hours. And yet, despite my focus, I’d inevitably get the putrid juice on my shirt and arms. No variation of tactic could alter the outcome. I was frustrated and exhausted.
I realized I was suffering and using a lot of energy trying to alter the unavoidable. I thought, “What if I accept the inevitable? What if, instead of fighting to avoid getting dirty each morning, I surrender and resign to this eventuality?"
The next day, we rolled up to the first stop. I hopped off, sliced the first bag open. I grabbed the rotting grass and braced myself for what was to come. Fighting the repulsion, as if I was holding a dirty diaper, I brought the dripping grass towards my arms and shirt and proceeded to smear it onto both. After the initial horror, I moved quickly into that afternoon ease of being dirty and not having to worry anymore. I could just work. After all, I couldn't get substantially smellier. All I had to do now was finish more work and look forward to that long shower.
Sometimes resigning yourself to the inevitable allows you to be more present and actually diminishes the suffering.