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On using a dishwasher to fight relativism, a pirate looks at 40, and getting uncomfortable
Buckle up, friends.
It's been hard to avoid the doldrums lately; even before this last week. There seems to be a gray cloud enveloping even the cheeriest amongst us. It's like languishing in a state of exhausted hyper-awareness, waiting for the other shoe to drop. So many shoes have dropped already. I have no idea how many could possibly be left at this point, but it feels like we’re all in a millipede’s closet.
Yet, it seems as if we're all waiting for something. Maybe we're waiting for the next disaster, or perhaps for the return of "normal," whatever that is.
If you grew up with a sibling, you know the feeling when holding a rubber band stretched taut with some entity at the other end over which you have no control. Will they let go? Will it break? It's a game of anticipatory dread chicken. When you give two young children a rubber band, the only sure thing is that at least one of them will end up crying.
Like human rubber bands pulled too tight, the tension has manifested itself between our shoulder blades. It travels up and out the top of our heads like an electric current.
There was a viral meme last week. As someone who loves a good Venn diagram, it seemed apt.
This rubber band feeling is significant and widespread. If you're feeling it, you're not weird, and you're not alone - the real question is, what now? How can we find peace and even joy when there's this unmistakable dark undercurrent?
About a week ago, I sat in front of my computer before the sun rose, my older son (he's four) plodded barefoot down the stairs. He quietly perched himself at the breakfast bar next to me as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. The first thing I did that morning when I woke up was to start the dishwasher as soon as I realized I had forgotten the night before. I have to run it every night because it sterilizes the buckets we use to milk goats in the mornings.
My son sat quietly next to me for a few minutes, listening to the gentle whir, and remarked, "Why is the dishwasher going now?" "I forgot to run it last night." "What is happening in there, exactly?" Maybe it was because the day hadn't yet started its frenetic pace or because I saw an opportunity for some rare one-on-one time, but I replied: "Well, Buddy, let's see if we can figure it out together."
We sat and googled videos for what dishwashers look like inside when they're running (the youtube videos were brought to us by dishwasher pod companies, of course.) We watched dishwashing videos on repeat. As he awoke further, my son started to imitate the jets, swirling his arms in our kitchen and spinning around - cleaning his imaginary dishes.
"Wow, dishwashers are amazing!" he exclaimed.
I felt ashamed that just 20 short minutes earlier, I had cursed this amazing appliance upon starting it.
It is constantly running through the dish-drying solution like water. Because we're on a well, it needs to run a few vinegar cycles to descale it. It's not shining dishes the way it did before. And on and on. But, looking at it through my son's eyes, it suddenly became the astounding cleaning invention that it truly is, and my gray veil of annoyance and ingratitude melted away.
By the way, lest you think I'm actually good at this parenting thing, I offset this win just a few minutes later by allowing him sugary cereal and to try a sip of my coffee, which he promptly spit all over the floor.
The point remains, though, it's so easy to forget even in the middle of these society-wide "blahs," how awe-inspiring everything is with the right perspective. We all fall into the relativist trap. The same dishwasher that annoys me today is the one I coveted for YEARS (it's a Bosch). A few years before that, cleaning dishes by hand, I would have loved any dishwasher at all. A reminder, incidentally, that everyone should be poor in college and eat ramen while your metabolism can still take it.
Anyway, you don't need a four-year-old spitting age-inappropriate beverages on your floor to remember how breathtaking our lives can be. I know it's such a cliche, but at the urging of my brother, I have restarted yet another "gratitude journal." It seems when I'm down I start one, and as soon as it starts to work, I stop. You would think that I could learn a lesson from that by now. I'm no Pollyanna but 22-year-old me would be amazed at my life, and some days I need to remember that fact.
Speaking of gratitude: being married is a constant state of being slightly annoyed and finding gratitude simultaneously.
Mark, my husband, took the mower out last weekend to cut down the weeds that had gotten absolutely out of control. It was something for which I was grateful and very much appreciated him doing.
He ran the riding mower with our older son (yes, we make him wear eye/ear protection; I'm not THAT bad of a Mom.) They knocked down everything around the edge of the garden but, little did they know, they mowed down all our potato plants, too.
Though mildly irritating, this was fine, as the potatoes are almost due to be dug out anyway. I know mostly where they're buried. However, it has occurred to me, as I am digging for tubers this weekend I will basically be a pirate. My favorite potatoes are the ones I planted this year: Yukon golds. Seriously. They're the best potato varietal, hands down.
No joke, though; I will be digging holes all over the yard in the approximate locations where I think my gold is buried. After running around with my shovel, it's sure to end with a hot bath and some serious backaches since I've hit that 38 mark.
The upshot? This weekend I will LITERALLY BE A PIRATE LOOKS AT 40.
Finally, thank you, thank you, thank you to all my fabulous friends who have supported me in this Substack endeavor. Maybe, at some point, I will finally get to wear the mantle of "writer." If that's the case, it will only be because of your support.
If you're not yet a premium subscriber, please consider joining the crew. I will post a free update on Thursdays and a premium post on Sundays. My idea is that goat stories are worth the $5 a month subscription to help stave off Sunday night anxiety.
One of my besties, Mandy, called me right after reading the post about my layoff. She gave me some very good advice that I am trying to take to heart. "You have spent an entire career making everyone else 'the product,' and it's time to make yourself the product, unapologetically." It's so true to hear and yet is hard to do every day. We naturally shy away from self-promotion. Yet, if I am to chase this dream, it's time to get uncomfortable.
So, I am not awkwardly and not apologetically (can’t you tell?) asking for you to subscribe to my premium stack:
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And please share this post if you found some value in it. Maybe you're feeling frustrated and alone, maybe your husband mowed down all your potato plants, or maybe your friends are giving you the BEST advice and you're just struggling to follow it - no matter what - look at your dishwasher, it's basically magic.