Musing on Doing Dishes


In her essay, “Trouble Man,” Dodie Bellamy states, “I’m a lousy housekeeper, and by the end of the week dishes are stacked on every available surface of my kitchen.”

Me, too. Surprisingly, even with an automatic dishwasher, the plates, cups, pots, and pans still pile up.  My problem is that the dishwasher needs to be emptied prior to loading in some fresh dirty dishes.  Maybe it’s not so much that I’m a lousy housekeeper, but that I’m a lazy one?  Emptying the dishwasher just seems like too much work.  In reality, it isn’t a lot of work when I actually do it, but my mind tends to make emptying the dishwasher seem like a huge task looming over me that will somehow disrupt my entire day.

Bellamy listens to Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man soundtrack while she’s getting caught up on the week’s backlog of dried on kitchen gunk.  Sometimes I listen to music, too—my favorite dish washing CD is the soundtrack to the No Reservations movie.  But usually I listen to the soundtrack in my head.  Either a song stuck in my brain, or just my quiet ruminations on life.

There’s something soothing, almost mesmerizing about doing dishes. The mindlessly repetitive, rhythmic movements.  The warm water and fragrant bubbles.  It’s satisfying to take the kitchen from complete disarray, and return it to a clean, shiny state.  Is that why I procrastinate?  Is it less satisfying on some internal level to just do little clean-ups here and there, but never have the transformational experience that comes from a complete overhaul?

Many things I’ve written have developed after a time of quiet personal reflection—believe it or not, usually while standing at the sink up to my elbows in warm, soapy water, gently scrubbing my plates and glassware.  Standing in one place, actively involved with a mindless physical activity, seems to release something creative in my mind.

Many writers over the centuries have used the mindless activity of walking as a physical meditative process.  For me, while I thoroughly enjoy a good walk, I tend to get so caught up in the sights and sounds, people and birds, creatures and weather around me, that my mind isn’t quite as free to wander as it is when I’m staring at a corner and small window of my kitchen.  The kitchen almost works as a sensory deprivation chamber.  There isn’t much to see, or hear, or experience.  Just the warmth, the steam, the water, the suds, the rhythms of the washing.

I wonder why I delay doing the dishes when it’s such a fruitful, creative time for me?  I have no answer.

But on that note, I have dishes awaiting me.  Meditation time draws nigh.

~Debi

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