In the wee morning hours, I was summoned from sleep by a grinding and screeching sort of noise that is universally recognized as the sound of a garbage truck doing its business.

Panic set in. We hadn't pulled our garbage to the curb. Did we - gulp - miss garbage day?

I was now wide awake approximately 90 minutes before my regular getting-up time. If that's not a way no one wants to start their day, I'm not sure what is.

But back to garbage day. Was it ours? I hoped not. I wracked my brain. What day was it? Was it garbage day for us?

The answer was no. Our day is Monday. It was a Tuesday. The garbage truck on my street was picking up the neighbor's trash.

Still, I was wide awake and that made me think - about garbage and garbage day and the obvious metaphors related to the not-so-tidy concept.

We all have a garbage day because we all have garbage. Every single one of us. Garbage is practically inescapable.

But our days are different - even when we live across the street or next door to one another.

One would think garbage would be a more coordinated effort, with everyone having their pick up on the same day. But life isn't coordinated like that. Neither is garbage.

There are different garbage companies with different schedules. We are free to pick our vendor of choice. Free to make our own garbage. And apparently, freewill is running rampant in my neighborhood. Either that or we have a lot of garbage.

Maybe both.

Garbage trucks frequent my street nearly every day. I see and hear them all the time. We do our best to remember our allotted day and at the assigned time we haul our trash down to the curb and the truck picks it up and carries it away to be forgotten and never thought of again.

Wouldn't it be nice if life was like the garbage? We'd pick a day and wheel our proverbial garbage down to the curb so it could be carted off and forever forgotten. The garbage truck would arrive and haul away all our mistakes, regrets, worries, burdens and disappointments leaving us with an empty can to refill in the coming week.

Wouldn't it be nice? Sure it would, but real-life garbage isn't as easy to get rid of as an empty can of chicken noodle soup. It doesn't work that way.

Real-life garbage is stickier than that. It hangs on. We have to live with our choices and decisions and move forward one step at a time.

And, during the times when our garbage can feels overly full or too heavy to carry down to the curb, I think we perhaps should give ourselves some slack and realize we aren't the only ones in the neighborhood with garbage. When our can is so full the lid won't close, we can look across the street and see that our neighbor is in the same situation.

It may feel like we are the only one with garbage or with too much garbage or with too much garbage to deal with, but we aren't.

That sort of thinking is a waste of time and, quite simply, fodder for the rubbish pile.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.