I recently read a Facebook post by a popular blogger about seeking out beauty in all the parts of our lives — the worn out parts, the broken parts, the every day parts. The post is going viral so you’ve probably read it. It”s on a blog I love by a writer I respect. At first, I was thinking, Right on! Yay beauty! Then the post mentioned dirty dishes. I felt my heart growing tight and small. I felt my mind start to put up its fists for a fight.
Uh-oh, I thought. I stopped reading. I took a deep breath, and I started again from the beginning. I was thinking that maybe this was something I really needed to pay attention to. I was thinking that maybe I was having that oh-man-I-am-about-to-learn-a-reaeeeelly-important-life-lesson-that-might-be-easier-not-to-learn feeling. Because sometimes that’s how my mind works — the thing I most need to learn is the thing I fight the hardest against.
So I kept reading reading reading. I set it aside. I read it again. A let a day go by. I re-read. A few more days passed. I read it again. And each time, I just felt . . . tired.
I understand the post. I really think I do. The post is about gratitude and finding beauty in all areas of our life — including dirty dishes, cluttered houses, and aging, painful bodies. I get it. I can see the appeal of it. And I can most certainly see the beauty in it. I can even do it some of the time. But it comes down to this: I need people to leave my damn dirty dishes alone.
I’m all for joy and gratitude and beauty. I can find beauty in a lot of things. The double dimple in my daughter’s cheek, the deepness of the sky just as twilight seeps into the yard, a Lindt chocolate ball. I am grateful for so, so many things. Sometimes I am so grateful, it brings me to tears. But I’m tired of feeling like I’m not grateful enough or joyful enough, and like I’m not finding beauty in enough things. I’m tired of everything having to mean something. Do dirty dishes have to mean I am lucky enough to have a family and food to feed them? Do dirty dishes have to mean I’m a mother who can’t keep her house clean? Do dirty dishes have to be yet another commentary on my life, good or bad, and how I choose to live it?
Sometimes my dishes are just dirty dishes. I can glare at them or smile at them or leave them to soak in the sink. But they are just dishes. They are not a sign that my life is lived well, or not. They are not a marker of imperfect beauty or unexpected joy. Maybe the dinner that came before the dishes – the one where someone laughed so hard that peas came out her nose – that was beautiful and joyful. (And kind of gross.) But the dishes? Not so much.
I don’t want to feel pressure to look for beauty or dig for gratitude. I just want to be okay with whatever I am in the moment. Happy, thankful, sad, resentful, peaceful. In fact, that’s what I’m trying really hard to do. Be here. Be now. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway? Being present for this and this, and oh yeah, this too — no matter what it is. And, quite frankly, being present most of the time is pretty damn hard.
We are all in this moment – whether it’s beautiful or painful or lonely – until it turns into something else. Which it will. When the beauty comes — which it will, oh it most certainly will — I want it to surprise me, smack me upside the head. I want the joy and gratitude to lift me off my feet. I don’t want to be squinting my eyes and papering over my thoughts to make beauty a trick of the light.
Life is hard. Life is beautiful. But it’s the movement between those two states that creates the gratitude and joy. Sometimes life is a gentle flow, and sometimes it’s a head on collision. But in all the crashing and the drifting — in all the motion — just let me be present. Don’t mess with my dishes.
When I do the dishes, let me feel the tickle of warm water over my hands. Let me lose myself in the rhythm of the scrubbing and the rinsing. Let the sounds of my daughter and husband laughing in the other room wash over me. Don’t make me turn it into something else. Let me do the dishes. And then let me move on to the next thing, the next moment of my life. Let the dishes be done, or let the dishes stay dirty, and that is all.