Finding Joy in a Sea of Trash.

Around 3 AM last night, I was startled awake. I don’t even know why I woke up. I do that a lot these days. And any hour close to the dreadful 4 AM hour, means lying awake indefinitely.

There’s something about 4 AM.

So I’m lying there thinking about all the ways I’m screwing up my life, my kids’ lives, their future kids’ lives and the lives of people who are not even born yet because that’s what 43-year-old suburban women do in the middle of the night when they can’t sleep, right?

(No? Just me?)

Anyway, I notice that our light turns on out back. It’s on a motion sensor and I think, “Well, it’s probably just Jon Snow.” (The feral cat we have living in our screened-in porch.) The light goes off after a few minutes. Then it flicks back on again. This happens at least four more times.

I know what you’re thinking: I should get my lazy ass out of bed to check on things. But I do really believe that it’s Mr. Snow and if I get up and feed him, I’ll have to feed the indoor cats and then the dog will want to go out and I’ll never get back to sleep again. So I decide to continue lying there watching the light go on and off until at some point right around 5 AM, I fall back to sleep.

This morning, as I return from my morning run (which was absolutely dreadful because it’s hard to run after being up most of the night counting the ways you’re screwing everything up) I notice our trash cans are on their side. I move closer and that’s when I notice the sea of trash. I mean, our driveway is covered in trash.

Then I remember the light show from the night before. This animal party must have been wild. And it wasn’t some lame ass pack of squirrels. Oh no. This was a party of raccoons or opossums or possibly even dingos.

I start coming up with a strategy for how I’m going to get all this trash up off the driveway. I mean there are coffee grounds, used diapers, bags of dog poop, cat litter, lettuce, beans, rice. And right as I’m about to burst into tears, I notice something that changes everything.

Among the otherwise catastrophic mess, the shrimp I had boiled and chilled a few days earlier hoping to kill the funky smell they had had before heating—the entire pound I ended up throwing out because I didn’t trust it after all—had been perfectly peeled and eaten, tails set aside in a neat little pile like someone with opposable thumbs might do at the local Red Lobster.

It brought a smile to my face. It’s hard to get mad at that. And I mean, that was a lot of shrimp. I’m glad someone enjoyed them.


  1. The least they could have done, though, was clean up after themselves! Kid raccoons!


  2. Just wanted to chime in with my support of the “OMG it’s the middle of the night and I am awake and everything is going to hell and it’s all my fault and how am I supposed to do anything about it?” phenomenon. For some reason, I did not have this problem when I was young, unemployed/under-employed, and unsure of life in general (read: every reason to be nervous about the future). Slept like a baby. Now that I have a career, a stable marriage, a child, and a home (read: life is good damn it), I can’t sleep through the night. Brains. They’re weird.


  3. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I love your writing and the way your brain works.


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