Years ago, I read several books by Thich Nhat Hanh because the first one was so helpful that I couldn’t resist reading more of them. Soon after, my life was taken over by baby books and then babies. I think I threw Hanh’s books out with the bathwater, so to speak.
Since Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk, his books often focus on meditation, gratitude, kindness, mindfulness, acceptance — you know, important stuff that’s super important to the life of neurotics.
The thing that really struck me, and then stuck with me, was this little anecdote about doing dishes. No one wants to do dishes. Everyone wants the dishes done, so they can do whatever comes after the dishes. So we view the dishes as a chore, and we put off doing them, but as they linger there, waiting for us, we cannot properly relax. We give the dishes the power to rob of us our enjoyment, and this causes the dirty dishes to seem malevolent, and this builds our resentment in doing them. We act like washing the dishes will take away the entire evening, when it takes mere minutes.
The key is to do the dishes with joy.
(I’m supposed to do everything with joy, but I haven’t figured this out entirely. How can I learn to have a root canal with joy, or run from yellow jackets with joy, or find joy in tragic events? Gah, I dunno, I’m a work in progress!)
So when I do my dishes, I think about all the things that Thich Nhat Hanh taught me to. The craziest being more dirty dishes are better. Each dirty dish represents bounty. Not just food, taste, and nutrition, but also as an indicator of how many shared that meal with me.
Doing dishes is a prayer of gratitude.
While I do dishes, I am grateful for food, my husband, the job my husband works, our children, our health, our home, hot, running water, a deep sink, my sprayer, my garbage disposal, my Fiestaware, the use of my hands, my sink not being in Georgia, lemon Joy dish soap…
I still do not love to do dishes, but it’s better this way. Doing dishes is the suck if you think about why Sassy uses 3-4 glasses a day, or why Moo left that milk in her room all weekend, or why The Mister screws the travel mug lids on so tight — the answer to that is, “Because they hate you, Joey.”
I ironed today.
Ironically, I usta find joy in ironing. I think I enjoyed taking a sloppy mess and making it sharp and crisp. Then suddenly, I had so much ironing to do, that it no longer felt joyous.
Sincerely, there’s a difference between the pleasure of a stiff white shirt for yourself as opposed to a freshly pressed dress that your child will soon cover with watermelon and sweet corn. Don’t even get me started on uniforms or patches. Ugh.
But something happened to me today while I ironed.
An unexpected smile came upon me.
I started thinkin bout The Mister, and how handsome he is in that blue shirt, and how nice it is that he has a job where he wears the nice shirts, and how he does not work split shifts at the goddamned box factory, thank you very much 2002. Instant happiness in gratitude.
My life is rich with beautiful simplicity.