What I learned about life from dirty dishes.

the girl is happy summer sun

I love a clean sink.

I breathe easier when the dishes are clean. I sleep better when everything is put away. And I feel happier when the counters are clear and ready for a new day’s worth of food activity.

And I’m not alone. There is research that shows how clutter increases your stress and reduces your focus. Also, I bet you find your life more relaxing when things are tidy.

Knowing this, I still resisted (and denied) that truth for a long time. I’d leave dirty dishes in the sink for days hoping that someone else would do them. Some days I even resented that no one else was doing them (though I didn’t really ask them to, I just assumed they’d do it because we were out of clean spoons… as if a couple of teenagers are going to voluntarily and spontaneously do the dishes. Facepalm).

Why do I have to be the one to do the dishes all the time? My inner teenager would whine.

I didn’t want “doing the dishes” to be part of my job description. Even if you set aside gender role stereotypes and all that, I never liked doing the dishes. It always felt like I was a wayward teen who was scolded into doing it because it was something my parents decided I needed to do. Even though I’ve been out of my teens for a long time. Even though I’m the parent now. Even though I want clean dishes.

It’s time to grow up.

I’ve realized that I get to have a clean kitchen… I just have to do the work to make it happen.

How often do we do this to ourselves? At home, at work, with family, and friends… we complain about our current reality and wish it could be different as if it were completely out of our control.

The laundry is always overflowing. I wish someone would take care of that.
My schedule is always overbooked. I wish people would stop inviting me to meetings.
I wish I had more time to spend with friends / exercise / play guitar / _________.

It’s so easy to give away your power. To corner yourself into this place of overwhelm and dissatisfaction. Wishing and hoping that someone would just do something to make your life better.

You are that someone.

But I don’t wanna. (Folded arms, pouty face, stomping your foot.)

I hear you… it doesn’t sound fun on the surface. But underneath it, once you accept your grown-up-ness, it’s actually pretty fun and full of possibility (which is one of my favorite things).

The argument for growing up.

Being a grown up is not nearly as scary or boring or lame as I thought it would be. I had the image of a crotchety old fuddy duddy who yelled at the neighbor kids and never had any fun. Also he put an end to all dreaming. Kind of like Mr. Wilson from Dennis the Menace. (When you think about being a grown up, what do you picture?)

But it turns out, being a grown up isn’t about being stern and serious and not-fun. It’s not about eating brussel sprouts and skipping the brownies. It is not about being a cranky, overwhelmed, harried stress-monster.

Being a grown up is about doing the stuff that matters. <- cick to tweet In Steven Pressfield’s language, it’s “turning pro”… which means showing up everyday and doing your work. Not letting Resistance win (and keep you operating as an amateur).

Turning pro is a mindset. If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don’t show up. Amateurs crap out. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.

~ Steven Pressfield

I think being a grown up is a prerequisite to turning pro. It includes doing the stuff that makes it possible to show up everyday and do your work. (Stuff like making your bed and writing in your journal, among other things).

It’s about creating the space for your own success. Recognizing what you can’t control and letting go of it (instead of throwing a tantrum or being passive-aggressive about it). Also: knowing what you can control in your life and doing your best with it.

More than anything, being a grown up is about building habits that lead to success. Like doing the dishes, eating healthy, and flossing. And committing time to your important work (the startup you want to get off the ground, the book you want to write, the art you are called to create).

It’s not about “sucking it up” and “toughing it out”… it’s about realizing why it’s actually important and honoring that with your daily practice. It’s about acceptance. And gratitude.

A practice is a habit with purpose. <- click to tweet That’s my definition of a practice anyway, and I believe that any kind of success in life is built on a foundation of practice.

Doing the dishes is about creating a home. It’s about loving my family. And it’s about my own sanity. This is why doing the dishes is important to me. And this is why I practice keeping a clean sink.

There is something very liberating in accepting that I’m a grown up. I GET to create the space I want to live in. I own my life. This is so much more than just getting to have a dream. It’s accepting that I also have the power to make it happen. (Woah)

So every evening I put on the rubber gloves and wash the dishes. I no longer think about “whose job it should be” or “why do I have to” or “I don’t want to”. I just do it. And then I happily tick off the checkbox for it (and therefore I get my dopamine hit, yay!… see the Simon Sinek reference below).

And this is one way that I’ve grown up. I’m creating the practices that allow me to do my important work, and ultimately to be successful (and happy).

What does being a grown up mean to you? And where in your life do you still need to grow up?

Go Deeper:

  • The War of Art and Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield
  • Why Leaders Eat Last – In this 45 minute video of Simon Sinek talks about brain chemistry and leadership. And in the midst of talking about dopamine, he talks about why we love checklists so much. Fascinating stuff. (Also: here is a link to the book with the same name – I loved the audiobook).

Photo:© Konstantin Yuganov – Fotolia.com

Disclosure: I use Amazon affiliate links for books that I recommend. This means if you buy a book through my link, I’ll get a few cents from Amazon. Someday it might even add up to enough to buy a latte.

One Reply to “What I learned about life from dirty dishes.”

  1. I love this Patricia! It was a really inspiring read for me as one who loves a clean kitchen however doesn’t always appreciate the dishes. :) The kids are gone this week and some things I “blame” on not having time still haven’t gotten done and those are the areas where I need to grow up. Love to you and glad I get to see you soon. xo, Amy

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