No, that’s not a picture of my kitchen! But anyone who knows me knows that I hate washing dishes. I do it when I must, but I’d much rather watch tv or read a book after dinner. While I love getting up to a clean kitchen in the morning, it never seems worth it the night before.
So there I was, scrubbing the previous night’s pans and thinking about all the other things I could be doing. Writing. Organizing my office. Loafing on the couch with a book! Grumbling doesn’t help, I told myself. So my mind wandered to what was for dinner, how to solve a plot problem in Rescue, the fact that I needed to go to the bank for my son, and on and on. You know, all the side-effects of a too-busy brain.
And then a cardinal flew past the window. I watched him peck at the bird seed and I smiled as I became aware of my surroundings.
The sun shone gloriously on that snow-covered day. Chickadees, nuthatches and cardinals lunched until a blue jay bullied his way in. Inside, the soapy dishwater was warm and smooth on my hands. I had a rack full of gleaming pans, clear counters, and a sense of accomplishment. The refrigerator hummed in the daytime quiet of the house and I had a great day ahead of me.
I’m not particularly good at staying in the moment, at being present. “Mindfulness”, if you will. I think too much and don’t take time to feel, to be truly aware of what I am doing. But when I do, the joy comes.
There is pleasure in doing a task, no matter how monotonous, and it’s more than simply crossing something off the to-do list. If we can stay aware of the sensory feelings – the touch of water, the airiness of the bubbles, the pressure of our fingers – it slows us down and helps us stay in the moment. It doesn’t matter if it’s mowing the lawn, raking leaves, scrubbing the floor, or (like me) washing dishes. In some mysterious way, staying in the moment helps cultivate joy.
I’m not an expert. I struggle to turn down the activity level of my brain and focus on what I’m doing. But I’m going to make this my effort to Take Joy this week, and I’ll let you know how I do.