Emotional litter

Joey Garcia

I saw a man in a parking lot drop a piece of trash. I repeated, “I guess you think the ground is a trash can” until he heard me. He began insulting me. I said I was sorry that he felt that way, but the earth is my business. He followed me to my car continuing to insult me. I was frightened, but stayed calm and said I hoped that he would be able to mature and be calm one day. He acted as though he were writing down my license plate number, then left. I called the police. I think he was wrong to speak to me as he did, but I could have been more positive, like: “Sir, I noticed you dropped some trash.” I feel sadness about this incident, for myself, mostly.

War is sad.

In your eyes he was trashing the earth. In response, you trashed him. The translation of your wish that he would be able to be calm and mature in the future is this: he is not your equal. You set the standard that he should submit to. If he was searching the store parking lot for a role model in the dominating teacher/submissive student template, you might have walked away with someone to mentor. But it would be a relationship based in a lie, wouldn’t it? After all, calm was your veneer. Beneath it was a very frightened person. The reality is that you were both frightened (isn’t anger a fear response?). Your discomfort arose from being disobeyed and his, I suspect, was rooted in being seen as not good enough.

I love that you said, “The earth is my business.” A steward is a manager to whom something is given in trust. You can be a steward of the earth only if you cleave to truth because trust is only possible when truth (literal and symbolic) is established. Litter is unsightly and harmful to most living things, so we should avoid doing it. An attack such as the one you both engaged in litters the emotional landscape of the community and so it is environmental pollution.

Another path is to fall in love with litter. At a retreat in the early ‘90s my friend Bryon Katie said, “Litter is decoration for the earth.” Only after I could see litter’s nonsensical beauty was I ready to pick it up and only then could I begin to clean up the control-oriented thoughts that littered my mind.

It has taken me years to see through the hollow charm of my husband, a 50-year-old bed- hopping drunk. In defense of his betrayal, he said I betrayed him and flung your column (about friendship and love) in my face. I had always avoided the SN&R, but I picked up the next edition. After observing the clearly anti-marriage, pointedly selfish, sexual environment surrounding your feature, I could see why he was so distracted from our relationship. Your column has too much integrity for the ads around it. Bad media content does influence bad behavior.

We never have any real control over externals. We do have control over our own behavior and our ability to keep our promises. You both made promises, covenantal (religious) or contractual (civil) or both, when you stood up, in the presence of witnesses, to be wed. So you can let him off the hook by blaming the media, but I won’t. Your husband’s choices distracted him from the marriage. If he didn’t have a healthy value system to inspire his choices, then marrying him was not a good decision. As for the placement of my column, I’d rather “light a match than curse the darkness.”

Meditation of the week
I’ve been laboring beneath a list of deadlines: unpacking boxes, grading stacks of essays for my theology classes, moving my downtown counseling practice, etc. If I begin to worry, my boyfriend reminds me, “The man who made time, made plenty of it” and I laugh at myself. It’s not stress. It’s just my life. How’s your schedule?

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