The Allegory of the Dirty Dishes

I love washing dishes. Ok, I lie. Sometimes I hate washing dishes. But dishes are a very tangible task that I can get through and feel like I’ve accomplished something at the end of my time. I know exactly what I need to do to get things done; I am willing to put in the time and effort to reach a different state. I give myself something called the “Clean Sink Award” whenever the dishes are done and I can see the bottom of the sink again.

Some people don’t like washing dishes. I am not one of them. To me, washing dishes has a lot to do about life.

When I start washing dishes, I am often overwhelmed by the sheer options in front of me. By options I mean thoughts like, “Do I wash this pot first” or “If I move this plate, will the entire mound come crashing down and splash water on me.” And sometimes there are so many dishes in there that I don’t even know where to start at all.

But start I do. Dishes are one of those things that even chipping away at a little, helps a lot. And I’ve found in my experience, it makes sense to tackle first what I want to do last. Another way of eating the frog, so to speak. So I dive right into washing that large cutting board that is sitting diagonally across everything, even if it means a little bit more effort. I start the hot water soaking under the mashed potato encrusted pot and move onto the big mixing bowls. I rather start tossing the small stuff into the dishwasher but I tackle that smelly tupperware first that has some rotten leftovers from who-knows-when. In this sense, I tackle the hardest things first and get a little bit more momentum every time.

If there’s a lot of dishes I don’t try to finish them all at once. Sometimes I won’t have time to do so. Sometimes I can’t because I haven’t emptied the dishwasher or our dish rack, so the clean dishes won’t have anywhere to go (I refer to this fondly in my head as the “vicious cycle”). But I try to do a little bit here and there, if it makes sense to me. So I’ll maybe wash a few things in the sink, and be content with leaving the rest of them for another time.

Just like in life, sometimes you can’t or won’t have the energy or time to tackle everything all at once.

Sometimes you gotta chip away at it, little by little.

Sometimes doing a little bit, even if you don’t get to the final end result and you have to let go of that and be happy that you did something, if not everything.

I know that I cannot ignore dirty dishes for long. Without dishes it would be hard to enjoy some of my favorite dishes or otherwise result in a lot of waste. Whenever I wash dishes I feel a sense of peace that comes from knowing that I am preparing myself for another day, for another way to enjoying myself. It is a way of taking care of myself that actually does not require that much energy at all when it comes to it. In fact it may require more mental energy to think about it, as opposed to doing it.

I like to find joy in the simple things in life, a cliche for sure. But I wonder how long of my life I have spent trying to control the things I cannot control. Trying to force instead of enjoy, letting go, surrendering. Trying to judge instead of loving. There are so many small moments in my life, pockets of opportunity, that I am starting to appreciate more and more. I love the small moments of peace that come with writing, with playing classical music, all while trying not to worry about my cats romping around the apartment. It is a different kind of peace and a true gift that I really enjoy.

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