Composting our Mistakes
Updated: Sep 18
Having grown up in Suburban Seattle where composting kitchen scraps is highly encouraged, my daughter wished to continue this environmentally friendly practice when she moved to New York City. When you get used to tossing avocado peels, three-day-old take out leftovers and apple cores in with the yard waste, you feel a pang of guilt if you have to throw these items into the regular trash.
Unlike the suburban scenario in which a recycling truck drives up in front of your house each week to cart the biodegradable materials away, in her urban neighborhood she has to carry the container of waste a couple of blocks to the collection site on Saturday mornings. On her first trip to do this, she was nervous about how exactly it all worked. She approached the large collection bins carrying her small container of smelly materials in various stages of decay with some apprehension. As she tried to dump the messy contents into the bin, she accidentally spilled some onto the cart of an elderly woman who was standing nearby. Of course, she was horrified at her mistake and was on the verge of tears and apologized profusely, offering to try and clean up the cart even though she had no towels or supplies.
The woman could have cursed my daughter or yelled at her to be more careful, etc. But instead, she reacted with absolute grace and even introduced some lovely poetry into this messy, embarrassing moment. She reassured my daughter that it wasn't the end of the world. "This gives us an opportunity to talk to one another and problem solve together," she said. "If this had not happened, you and I would not be interacting now." She asked my daughter if she was familiar with a poem attributed to the English actor and filmmaker, Charlie Chaplin, called, "As I Began to Love Myself" and suggested that my daughter look it up, paying particular attention to the last lines:
"We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations, or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing, new worlds are born. Today, I know that is Life."
The grace of nature allows our waste products to be transformed back into rich soil to promote further growth. Likewise, our mistakes can be composted for further spiritual growth and evolution because we possess this same power of grace within us. I'm grateful to this kind woman for sharing her grace and wisdom with my daughter. She took a potentially ugly moment and made something beautiful of it.
Below is the poem, "As I began to Love Myself" in its entirety. Although it is believed to have been written by Charlie Chaplin and read on the occasion of his 70th birthday, some credit Kim and Alison McMilen for a similar poem titled, "When I Loved Myself Enough."
As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.
As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody if I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me. Today I call it “RESPECT”.
As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow. Today I call it “MATURITY”.
As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm. Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.
As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.
As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.
As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.
As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worrying about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.
As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”.
We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born. Today I know “THAT IS LIFE”!