Washing Dishes By Hand

So, my dishwasher broke. It’s a long story and I won’t get into the long saga of my Google searches involving the overall dishwasher decline in the 21st century and the subsequent ordering of sulfate-laden detergent via Amazon, culminating with the final demise of the 2-year old dishwasher where not even a cup of water seems to swish water around in the tub. But that doesn’t even matter. I’ve called the Nameless Fix-It place that stood me up on Friday and now calls me relentlessly to reschedule, even though I’ve already rescheduled for next Friday, so I know that ultimately, the machine will be fixed or replaced sometime in the next year. In the meantime, however, I am hand washing all the dishes.

But I’m here to tell you that something to be said about the zen of washing dishes by hand.

A few times a day, I stare at the handwritten sign I have posted above the sink which reads, “Please wash and dry your own dishes!” Occasionally some of our teens will feel bad enough to wash their dishes, but generally, the dishes sit in the sink until I walk in.  (Luckily, this isn’t a parenting blog. I’d never profess to tell anyone how to parent a child, even though I have five. There just are no answers when it comes to that, but I digress.)

I lift the dishes from the right side of the sink and place them in the left side. I pile the rest of the dishes from the counter and the stove and then fill up the right side with hot water and soap.

I begin washing each dish and and all of a sudden, something soothing sets in. It’s the same way I feel when I’m tapping along on the computer and a character is running down a hallway into some darkness where who knows what will happen. What will be around the corner?  Will she escape? Will she have a realization?  I don’t know, but as my fingers make their way across the keyboard, I feel alive because I am Accomplishing Something. I am Creating.

To be honest, when I wash the dishes by hand, I may not be creating much. I may simply be creating orderliness out of chaos, just as when I clear a room of thrown shoes and socks and tossed textbooks and pens, but it is still a form of creating and that alone is something.

I wash the dishes and rinse them. One by one. Each one with focus. Then, unless I am really pressed for time, I dry them and put them away. I rinse out the sink and light a candle or some incense.  If I’m really on the ball, I will sweep and mop the floor and at the end of that twenty minutes, I will have accomplished something. And that alone is a reward.

The key is to focus on the task at hand. The hot water. The soapy bubbles. The plates smooth under fingertips to guage their cleanliness. One by one, they become clean.

And that goes for everything. It is the same, whether I am washing dishes, creating a presentation at work, sewing a skirt, or writing a story. It is pleasing. It is real. It is creating.

Which is why I am completely okay with waiting yet another week to fix the dishwasher.

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