This is a story about changing my perspective. And the epiphany came at the bottom of my garbage disposal.
For the last several weeks, ever since I returned early from my most recent research trip due to a broken ankle, the sink on the garbage disposal side hasn’t been draining correctly and the garbage disposal wouldn’t run. All last night, my garbage disposal gurgled and made very annoying digestive sounds. If I had been even remotely attempting to sleep, it would have kept me awake. I remember being curled up in all of my blankets and knowing that it was unpleasantly cold outside the small comfort of the couch and that I would deal with whatever was in the kitchen making noise in the morning.
After a restless night and an emotionally draining morning, I finally got out of bed to the 56 degrees in my apartment. I did my morning exercises and still had residual heat from being warm on the couch and went to take a shower. I turned the water up as high as it would go and I stayed there until the water went cold. I pulled on my fuzzy, wool socks and my fleece-lined jeans and my giant, fuzzy sweater. The cold still made its presence known and I shivered through my breakfast around noon. I have not been a fan of the cold for about the last 9 years. And now that I have metal parts in my ankle that do not like being cold, the cold has become something of a huge annoyance in my life.
So why is it that I was allowing myself to be so cold if I dislike it so much? Other than me being stupid and stubborn, I’m not really sure. The cold in my apartment was making it hard to motivate myself to get things done that I know need to get done. It was easier by far to stay curled up in my blankets on the couch than it was to face being cold and trying to get things done, which meant I would then feel crappy because I didn’t accomplish anything during the day. It’s funny how small things can combine and create bigger things. Today, I actually asked myself why I was prolonging my misery. Why didn’t I just turn on the heat and make it warm enough inside my apartment to be bearable, if not comfortable? I turned the heat on and in just a short period of time, my apartment became comfortable enough for me to look towards other tasks.
I went to wash my bowl and my spoon from my breakfast and looked down to see that the garbage disposal hadn’t actually drained at all from yesterday. I don’t know why I thought it would magically fix itself. I played with the on/off switch and nothing happened. No buzzing, no whirling, nothing. I hobbled around and turned on all the lights in the kitchen so I could better see what I was doing. I thought it might just be clogged and I stared down at it and that’s when I realized something very, very important. At some point, I was going to have to get my hands dirty. And this one thought was enough to make me realize that I’ve been going about a lot of things in my life the wrong way.
Making sure the garbage disposal was off, pulled out my trash can and dug out all of the food and bits of things that may have been living there for a very long time. It turned my hand and arm orange. More than the smell was the texture of the slimy food bits I removed from the garbage disposal. I scrubbed and pulled out every scrap of food or whatever was down there until I could feel and see no more chunks. But the water still wasn’t draining. I’d done all I could, the water was still there, and the garbage disposal still wouldn’t run. What happened? What had I done wrong? It was messy and I cleaned it. I used the switch. It should work, right?
I searched through my kitchen, looking for the instruction manual. Nothing. So I went back to the sink. Having recently spent Christmas dinner at a coworker’s house, I remembered there was a problem with their garbage disposal. A few of them worked together to take the disposal unit out and to clean it. I thought about doing that, so I cleaned out the entire area under the sink and inspected the garbage disposal unit very carefully. Tucked up in a place I almost couldn’t read was a tiny label that said, “THE RECEPTACLE TO WHICH THIS DISPOSER IS CONNECTED MUST BE CONTROLLED BY A SWITCH.”
Well, of course I knew that. There was a switch on the wall, but it wasn’t working. So I kept inspecting the disposal unit, looking for how to remove it and trying to figure out if I could do that safely. And then, at the very bottom of the disposal unit, I found a small, red button. I pushed the button. The garbage disposal whirred to life. I turned on the water and watched as it happily spun and spun and spun, adding in some dish soap to help clean out those last bits of whatever.
All I needed to do was to push the reset button. It helped that I had already cleaned out all of the crap that I could reach. But all I really needed to do was to hit the reset button.
This one, simple thing, made me realize something really, really profound. All of my friendships and interpersonal relationships have all been like the garbage disposal. I keep washing dirty dishes and putting the remains of leftover meals into the garbage disposal and letting things get all bottled up and rotten. What I really need to do is to clean things up, get rid of all the crap and chunks of nastiness that are preventing things from working correctly, and hit the reset button. Cleaning up interpersonal relationships means that I have to take all the crap from the past and throw it away. Get rid of it for good. It’s not doing me or anyone else any good. It’s clogging up the system and preventing me from working correctly.
I’m very stubborn and thick-headed, you see. Making or accepting changes is very hard for me. Many of those close to me have felt the need to figuratively hit me on the head with very large, very heavy items (like frying pans) to get me to pay attention to something. And that happened today. Between two conversations, I feel like I’ve been whacked upside the head and that I’m now awake and ready to actually start cleaning.
All I can do now is hope that my cleaning of the system works as well as I want it to and that this epiphany hasn’t come too late. Cleaning out the system and hitting the reset button will be really, really good for me, regardless of what happens elsewhere. I suspect it’s going to take time to honestly clean things out and I suspect it’s going to be nasty, ugly business for me. Please be patient and bear with me through this. I know that it’s my job to clean it all up and make things better, but I won’t say no to offers of assistance 🙂