Saturday, September 06, 2008

Up To My Elbows

Dirty dishes in my sink
Gives me time to stop and think...
What it means to wash a glass, a mug, a spoon, a plate and knife
Contributes to your well-being and purpose to my mundane life.

I don't like doing the dishes. Other days I hate it. My emotions fight it every time it is time. See? I'm here at the computer, instead of washing the morning dishes. It only takes about ten minutes or so, but it feels like an agonizing endless chore. I did time myself once or twice using the microwave clock-timer. I set the countdown at ten minutes and I raced through the whole pile give or take a few seconds.

Now a good stack of anxiety could consist of about four to five dinner plates, five glasses, several cereal/icecream bowls and assorted utensils. Throw in a coffee mug, some of those Chinese take-out bowls that accumulate even though you just want to throw away, and of course, a greasy frying pan with matching flipper. If I can arrange and rinse the mess in some sort of order on the counter before I begin, the roar and growling from irritated food particles isn't as audible. I robotically fill up the stainless steel sink with hot water, add about seven or eight squirts of liquid soap, swish, swirl and animate my sculpture of suds. There's no turning back now.

I have the classic set-up. My back is to the room and I have a window with a view. A view of the driveway, old mother tree, and the tree lined road. Like I said, I have the classic set-up. My back is turned, I am banished; facing a spotted and smudged, cobweb laden window. My anguish soars along the tree lined road hoping someone will rescue me.

I don't slip into latex gloves like some ladies. Indeed I have a pair. I even bought the hot pink Playtex ones over the yellow thinking I could fool myself to add whimsy to my cleaning experience, but I really only use them for the real scrub jobs. This is a ten minute dig compared to a hour scourge in the bathtub but that's another story.

Dishes stacked. Check. Sleeves rolled up. Check. Nose is itched. Check. My hands glide into the steaming water and my thoughts drift through the window screen as suds stick and roll along my hands and arms. If I hurry, I'm sure I'll break something, but if I can focus on the diligent rhythm of dip, swirl, dip, swirl, stack, rinse, stack, then this task will not reach that nerve. So in the words of the famous zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, "The time of dishwashing is as important as the time of meditation. That is why the everyday mind is called the Buddha's mind." (from Present Moment Wonderful Moment Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living)

The moment arrives when the last orphan spoon shines in the running water and plops into the draining cup. Down goes the water. Down goes the soap. I'm free! I'm free! I have put aside all traces from my transcedental meditational session, and I turn around to embrace my release. I whisper never to wash another thing for the rest of my life and then I gasp and witness my youngest son filling up a clean glass with refreshing, cold milk. "Thanks Mom!" Ah Heaven.