Everything But the Kitchen Sink

We have a rule in our house that whoever doesn't cook the meal does the dishes. While it seems fair on the surface, I'm not so sure. I'm a one pot kind of guy, and I tend to clean as I go most of the time, so that by the time I serve, there won't be a sink full of dishes other than the ones we eat from. My wife is a chef. The table is her canvas, and the kitchen her palette. We own three generations worth of cooking utensils of every variety, and I'm pretty sure that she uses most of them whenever she cooks.

Now the bellywaddin' that I cook is comforting and filling. It won't show up on any Food Network shows, but for a hungry family it'll do just fine. Monica's meals are much more of a craft. She never uses recipes, except to bake, and she follows her whims and inspiration until there is a hearty, world class meal on the table. She's Italian, so most of the time it's Mangia! time around our house, which means that when she cooks, I do the dishes...

...All the dishes.

I've noticed a pattern for me doing the dishes.

  1. Dread
  2. Overwhelm
  3. Sigh
  4. Open the dishwasher
  5. Warm the tap water
  6. Soak the sponge
  7. Soap the sponge
  8. Pick up the dish on top
  9. Load in washer or hand wash
  10. Repeat 8 and 9 as needed
  11. Somewhere around the 5th dish a rhythm starts to develop into a nice flow
  12. My thinking slows down
  13. I start to feel very calm inside
  14. My imagination opens and new, creative thoughts show up
  15. I notice that I'm almost finished
  16. After the last dish is done, I empty the screen in the drain and rinse the sink and start the dishwasher
  17. I wipe the counters feeling at ease
It used to be that I'd let the initial dread and overwhelm turn into resentment. But now that I recognize the whole pattern, it's easy to let this chore become a creative and restorative activity. My experience of doing the dishes doesn't come from the dishes or the washing. It arises from my own thinking. Thinking changes, and sometimes quickly. And sometimes it settles down, and there is a calm reverie. 

I'm beginning to notice that I don't find dishwashing as dreadful and overwhelming as I once did. It has become a much more calming and centering part of my day, and I don't mind my wife's creativity one bit. I've noticed a similar feeling about other mundane activities. Where they were once burdens, now they are moments of reconnecting with my deeper self, the self within which I find calmness, security, peace, joy and love. We have this opportunity every moment.