If there is one chore I hate doing above all others…it’s the dishes. I hate hate hate doing dishes. That’s crazy right? The dishes? But that’s one of the easy ones! I know, I know. But I still hate it.
I think it’s because it’s so endless. Every single day, every time I eat, there are dishes to be done. And it doesn’t get any better when I’m living somewhere with a dishwasher. Loading and unloading the washer is right up there with filling the sink, rinsing and drying off the glasses.
It’s like, I don’t relish cleaning my toilet, but at least you can put off doing that to once a week (maybe once every other?) and still get by. Same with dusting, vacuuming, etc. Yes, you still have to do it. Not as often, and there is a certain satisfaction that comes with it. Wiping dust off a bookshelf is satisfying. Wiping sauce off a plate, is NOT. I don’t know why this is, but it is.
Okay, I think you get it. It’s a weird quirk of mine. It’s a chore I hate, that I still have to do every day. And there is no way around it. Unless of course…I let the dishes pile up.
When I am busy, the number one thing that changes in my household is the dishes pile up. Sometimes, I’ll let them pile up to every single dish in the house. Where I literally have to wash a dish/pot/pan in order to use it. Not something I’m proud of, but hey! I’ve never been shy on this blog about my shortcomings before, why start now?
Before you get too disgusted, I only have four plates, four bowls, four salad plates etc. But in my tiny apartment, even a set of four can take up over half the counter space. It’s very, very inconvenient. Why don’t I just wash as I go? I know! WHY DON’T I JUST DO THAT?!?!?!? Your guess is as good as mine. It would make everything easier. But remember? I also hate doing the dishes.
This past month has been no joke. It’s been a weird combination of being super busy with work, and super intensely filled with dread and malaise at the state of our country. Every day, I feel like I’m in sort of an obstacle course. Deftly trying to decide if I should read the article my friend posted, or if it’s going to send me spiraling into despair. Every day I’m trying to figure out how to be in the #resistance, and also a functioning member of society.
I’m trying to keep it all going, but things slip. Things get over-looked. Dishes pile up.
It got so bad, that when I came home late from work the other night, I looked at the kitchen counter. In fact, it was no longer my counter, but a virtual Jenga tower of dirty dishes, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen it clean.
So you wanna know what I did? I binge-watched 3 episodes of Parks and Rec and went to bed.
The next morning I woke up, and I knew something had to give. I had to find a way to get back on track. But I literally couldn’t bring myself to stand there and scrub that pile of dishes. It was too much. It was overwhelming.
Overwhelmed? By dishes? Man, I sound fragile like a baby bird don’t I?
But I know I’m not a fragile little bird. So what’s really going on here? I don’t usually get bogged down with housework. Something else must be happening. It didn’t take long for me to discover that the dishes weren’t the illness, they were a symptom.
Have you ever heard that thing people say about “How you keep your home, is how you are currently keeping your mind?” I’m sure I mis-quoted it, but you get the picture. When my mind is a million places, my house is a pit. When I’m clicking on all cylinders, my house is a well-oiled machine.
And sometimes fixing one thing, helps fix the other. So to calm my mind, sometimes I start by making my bed. You know, that sort of thing.
In acting, this is called an “Outside In” approach. Meaning that an actor can create a character by figuring out the way that it walks, and how it holds a coffee cup first. Y’know, the Outside stuff. And in the doing of these actions, you then discover the thought process or feelings of that character. Aka, the Inside stuff. You start on the outside to figure out the inside.
I was/am in no mood to tackle all the things that have been swirling around in my mind. But perhaps, doing the dishes will help calm my brain. Maybe I can’t control the world, or society…but I can control my counter space.
But it had gone too far. I didn’t know where to start, and I didn’t have much energy to spare. When things get like this, I can always hear my dad in my ear, “Well kiddo, first A then B.” So I decided to step it out.
I learned this trick when I was getting life-coaching a few years ago. At the time, I was having trouble opening my mail, and I was letting my papers pile up. My life coach had me set a timer for 5 minutes. I was to open and sort my mail/papers for 5 minutes. When the timer sounded, I could be done. Regardless of how far I got.
I was to do this every day, until my mail/paperwork was sorted.
It didn’t take long, before I was all done. There were a few days that I even got into the zone, and just kept going. Soon, I was setting the timer to 10 minutes, then 20. It helped because when I started, I was overwhelmed by a daunting chore that seemed too big to tackle. By stepping it out into very manageable time chunks, I was able to stop and still feel like I accomplished something.
That feeling of accomplishment eventually superseded that overwhelmed feeling, and before I knew it, that insurmountable task, was done.
So back to the dishes. I set my electric timer to 15 minutes. I told myself, “Just clean for 15 minutes. When the timer beeps, no matter how far you got, you can be done.” So for the next few days, when I got home from work, I would hang up my coat, and without sitting down, I would set the timer and just begin. Bit by bit, this task would get done.
And guess what? The dishes are done, man. The dishes are done.
In all sincerity, it took about 3 days to complete my giant pile of dishes. But I also hung up all my clothes, did a load of laundry, prepped some meals for the the week, etc. Is my house ready to be photographed for a magazine? On no. Nononononono. But it’s better. I have counter space. And sometimes, that’s enough.
So why did I feel the need to talk to you about doing the dishes on this lifestyle blog for a gym? Well because, my health, and my relationship with my body seems a lot like a chore I don’t want to do sometimes. It often feels like the “dishes” of my life. Something small and never-ending, that if I just did every day and just stayed on top of, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Because I don’t, it can feel too huge to tackle.
There is so much to know, so many ways to potentially fail, that sometimes I can be overwhelmed by it all. There are weeks when I am triumphant. And then there are weeks where I just get by.
There are months when I monitor my sugar, and my body is grateful. And then there are months when I can only make it to the gym once a week.
And it’s work. And it’s hard. And in between the hard work I am doing physically, there is the inevitable hard work I have to do mentally as well.
But bit by bit, I keep noticing changes. Like the fact that I miss the gym, when I have to be away for too long. Or even if I fall down, and find myself knee-deep in donuts (see last week’s blog), I will actually want to eat differently the next day… and do.
Bit by bit, the unknown is replaced by knowledge. The shame is replaced by forgiveness. The fear is replaced by action. And eventually, the dread that I once associated with how I felt about my body is replaced with joy. Like, clear-countertop joy. The good stuff. Some people can do this all at once. Some people like me, need to do it 15 minutes at a time.
But now I know, that if I just keep going… bit by bit, the dishes will get done.