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On Dishes, Discipline, and Living the Life of our Choosing

 

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Written by Amy Sedgwick,  one of two sweet, sweet members of The Red Tent Sisters. Amy is one of our  Superhero Eco Sexperts, along with her sister Kim. Read their bios here.

Breakthroughs seem to be coming fast and furious for me this year, and one of them has been an insight into my relationship to discipline. Although I am a mother, I'm not talking about disciplining my daughter... I'm talking about self-discipline.

I'm extremely lucky to have a husband who cooks. (And I mean cooks - every night, yummy food, frequently better than I could get in any restaurant). The only down side is that I am in charge of cleaning up. Because our dishwasher is barely working, and because my husband cooks with a lot of oil, kitchen cleaning can take upwards of an hour. At the end of a long day and a drawn out process of getting my feisty daughter to bed, cleaning the dishes is usually the last thing I feel like doing. However, if I leave them the situation only gets worse. In the morning I am set off by the mess around me as I prepare my morning breakfast, and the next night there were would be twice as many dishes to contend with.

So, for the past many months I decided to do them every night, regardless. Unfortunately, "forcing" myself to do them would usually lead to an evening of crankiness, thoughts of resentment, and feelings of being overburdened with the responsibilities of life.

And then it dawned on me one night what the real problem was. I have a resistance to discipline. To having to do the same thing every day or week or month. To having to do something when I feel tired and would rather lie in a hot bath. The reason? Growing up we often do things because we are told by others to do them. Rarely is the motivation intrinsic. We do our schoolwork. We do our chores. We do what our parents tell us to do. When you finally hit adulthood it feels liberating to be able to do things on your own schedule. To defy discipline and mostly only do things when and if you feel like it.

I realized in an instant that every time I stood doing the dishes there was an inner child throwing a temper tantrum. "I don't want to do the dishes!" it screamed. "Why do I have to do them?!" "This isn't fair!" And I knew where that came from. That came from growing up with divorced parents and feeling both a real and imagined sense of burden and responsibility for keeping things running smoothly. When I recognized the source of this pain, it was surprisingly easy to release it. I turned to that inner child with love. I acknowledged that frustration and pain, and then I gently said to my inner self - "You're not a child anymore Amy. You are an adult now. You have a responsibility to take of yourself and your family. You are not being told to do these dishes. You have a choice. If you want yummy family dinners and a clean start in the morning, then doing these dishes every night is in service to you and the life you want to lead." Suddenly doing dishes didn't seem so bad.

I know my grandfather would be proud. He has staunchly refused to get a dishwasher his whole life and does the dishes every day by hand. I have teased him in the past but as with so many things these days, I am ready to eat my words. For my grandfather, doing dishes is like a living prayer - a discipline of humble thanksgiving. I hope one day to be able to do the dishes with as much joy and devotion as he does. In the meantime, I am still doing the dishes every night, in gratitude for the meal we just had - appreciating the gift of good food, family, home, love... and finally, in gratitude for the gift of a clean kitchen and what it represents... a fresh start to every day. :)

Question of the Day: What chores do you avoid the most? How do you get around to doing them?

10 Responses to “On Dishes, Discipline, and Living the Life of our Choosing”

  1. Danielle said…
    I've read a few articles these past few weeks (and several years ago The Happiness Project). All suggest the 2 min rule. Spend just 2 minutes doing a task (often a task you don't want to do). I've found this to be very helpful! 2 minutes doesn't seem that long and it's a great way to get things done. I am not a fan of drying dishes!
  2. Jayme said…
    My Mom, like your Grandfather, told me she really likes doing supper dishes. It is a time, she said, that she can stand and do the task, look out the window and enjoy the birds, and reflect on the day that just passed. I, like you, really dislike doing dishes! But I do carry some guilt as it really does set the tone - tidy house, rested mind and spirit. Just need to jump in I guess!
  3. Judy said…
    This was excellent. I loved the words "a living prayer......discipline of humble thanksgiving....joy and devotion". I never associated those with doing dishes, or any repetitive daily chore. Thank you for sharing this. I intend to do my work today with an attitude of gratefulness.
  4. Jen said…
    Laundry and cleaning... but it is more of a resentment because no one helps with meals and household chores...
  5. Raeanne said…
    What a great attitude to adopt! Love it (and need to adopt it myself)!
  6. Christa said…
    I LOVE this: "... doing dishes is like a living prayer – a discipline of humble thanksgiving... in gratitude for the meal we just had – appreciating the gift of good food, family, home, love… and finally, in gratitude for the gift of a clean kitchen and what it represents… a fresh start to every day." This is how I feel about having to clean up a million dishes/appliances when prepping/baking/etc., for the week. Yes, it's a daunting task, but I am so grateful to have a home to live in, a kitchen to cook in, and dishes to clean because I am fed. Thank you for a beautiful post and reminder of all of these things!
  7. K said…
    wiping dirty counters! cleaning the toilet
  8. Melinda said…
    "...doing dishes is like a living prayer-a discipline of humble thanksgiving... in gratitude for the meal we just had..." These words are so lovingly written, I am having an instant attitude adjustment towards the dreaded vacumming... It's really not so bad, and the joy I get from clean floors far outweighs the task itself... This is the most valuable post I have read in a while, thank you, Mx
  9. Stina said…
    I hate cleaning the bathroom! Fortunately I live with a roommate who makes sure I hold up my end of the deal (we take turns cleaning). :)
  10. Marilene said…
    What a great post! I often feel annoyed at all the daily cleaning tasks to do (especially sweeping and washing the floor). You have shone a new perspective on things---stop complaining and try to see the good in what needs to be done. I have heard the phrase "duty of the moment" which implies that we all have things we need to do in the moment and while they are not glamorous, they are still important and exactly what we are meant to do at that time.thanks for this light shining post Amy!

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