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Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Has Been Haunting Me All Of My Life

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out is a poem by Shell Silverstein.

I don’t think it’s the first poem I ever heard from this amazing weaver of words, but Miss Stout has been haunting and taunting me my entire life.  You can hear the poem, read by its author, above.  Ironically, this is not the way the voice in my head reads the poem.

I wasn’t even born

When the collection of children’s poetry, Where The Sidewalk Ends, was published but I can remember this literary masterpiece referenced through my entire public school education.  What better ways to teach children lessons than to put them in rhyming story form?  Yet whether I listen to the poem recited, or read it myself, there is something about it that makes all of the lighthearted alliteration turn into a tale of horror in my brain.

As an adult

I’m trying to teach myself that I am not a messy person, you can read  more about that journey here.  Instead I am a person who was never taught, or empowered, to create an organized space that worked for my own way of living.  I had become so passive in making decisions that I allowed others, even as a married adult, to tell me how to set up my own home and maintain it.  Let’s be honest, I am always welcome to new ideas, but perhaps I wasn’t allowing myself to have my own ideas about things?

Growing up

We often lived in a state of chaos, and that included a messy house.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell my own story because there are so many other stories wrapped up in it, but I can safely say, without insulting anyone, that we were messy.  So hearing about Sarah Stout perhaps felt a little like someone tattling on my own home life.  Perhaps we didn’t have

With bacon rinds and chicken bones, drippy ins of ice cream cones

Prune pits, peach pits, orange peel

Gluppy glumps of cold oat meal, pizza crust and withered greens

And soggy beans and tangerines and crust of black burned buttered toast

And gristly bits of beefy roast

But it felt awfully similar.

Although we moved a lot during the first decade of my life, I know that I was a rather outgoing child.  It was incredibly isolating, however, knowing that my home life was chaotic and messy.  It wasn’t that we couldn’t have friends over, it was that I constantly was in fear of what they must think about me.

Fast forward to my teenage years

My parents divorced and my father remarried a woman who was incredibly clean and tidy.  I am so thankful for those years and what she taught me, but it really wasn’t “my way” of cleaning.  So as I became an adult and moved into my own spaces, I didn’t have the knowledge or training to maintain a clean space without someone telling me what to do!  How odd life can be.  When I finally got the freedom to create my own space, I was frozen in fear.

Currently, the garbage does need to go out, but it is not overflowing.  There is a sink full of dishes, but not a counterful.  I have a stack of papers on the kitchen table, but I spent some time clearing away all of the other odds and ends over the weekend.  The floors need to be swept and the counters need to be wiped down.  There are just as many baskets of clean clothes waiting to be folded as there are dirty that need to be washed.  But I am learning that perfect is the enemy of done, that lived in homes are rarely spotless, and that I was never Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout.  The rest will come in time.


So if you are feeling unmotivated, just work on getting one thing done today.  Perhaps it is taking the garbage out?  Check just one thing off of your to-do list and know that you are doing everything you need to be doing.  Take care of yourself, be your own first priority, you are still learning to navigate and that is a great gift.

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