Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thoughtful Thursday: Doing the Dishes

Right now, my mom’s flying from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Flint, Michigan, to visit me and the hubby in what she likes to call our “natural habitat.” For several summers, Dan and I have been staying in the idyllic woods beside Big Bear Lake in the northeastern portion of Michigan’s lower “Mitten,” and no one in my Southern family has yet to see this rejuvenating place. This afternoon, after Dan and I scoop up my mom at the Bishop International Airport, all that will change... and two of my worlds will finally meet.

I’m excited, of course, but I’m also nervous about Mom’s reaction. Will she like it up here? Will she understand why we love the trees, the air, the lake so much? Why we value our summers in the isolated wilds of northern Michigan? Probably. Though she’s lived in a city all her life, my mother has always been a forest lover at heart.

So, the real question is... will the house be tidy enough for her? Now, as I recall, Mom and I were never the best of housekeepers. We lived together – us two girls – for fifteen years, from the time I was almost three (when my parents separated) to the year I was turning eighteen and headed off to college. In that time, we certainly did our share of vacuuming, dusting, laundry, and the like – but we weren’t exactly clean freaks.

Like many people, I suppose, we saved the extra-special cleaning frenzies for certain occasions, such as parties and family visits - which is why I, a world-class procrastinator, still have some cleaning to do before we head south to Flint in a few hours. The funny thing, though, is that I don’t mind such menial chores. As a teenager, I wasn’t overjoyed about interrupting my homework (yes, I was indeed a nerd) to clean the dishes or fold the clothes, but nowadays, I welcome such tasks.

Perhaps that sounds insane, but I find such chores meditative – especially the rhythmic, mind-numbing act of scrubbing dishes in steaming-hot water (while using my "mad scientist" gloves, of course). I even have a routine, whereby I scrub the plates, bowls, silverware, and other items in groups of ten, then rinse them and set them in the dish-drying rack, before scrubbing the next ten items. As I admitted yesterday, I have a touch of OCD, which might explain the need to count the dishes in my head. But, regardless of my crazy inner workings, I find such a focused act like “doing the dishes” exceedingly therapeutic.

I have two theories as to why: First, it uses a completely different part of my brain than my normal work does (such as promoting my travel guide, editing my novel, writing blog posts, or commenting on others’ blogs), and second, completing the dishes gives me a sense of satisfaction and a dose of self-confidence. After all, no matter what I manage to get done on the computer, I can go to bed at night knowing that I’ve accomplished at least one task during the day. And sometimes, that’s enough.

Speaking of the dishes, I’d better head downstairs. I have a stack of dirty plates (from last night’s dinner with friends) that’s just calling my name.


Stephanie Faris said...

They say that if you're having a hard time writing, get up and do some routine housework until words start forming into sentences in your head. I think it's for that very reason. It just uses a different part of the brain. Plus, if you're up moving around, your heart beats faster which pumps the blood which pumps more oxygen to your brain and you think clearer.

Weronika said...

I, on the other hand, despise cleaning. Enjoy the dishes and I hope you have much fun with your mother. She sounds like a great woman! :)

Laura Martone said...

I think you're right, Stephanie - doing housework sure does rejuvenate the writing part of my brain. Of course, so does lying on a hammock. :-)

Thanks, Weronika - I did, in fact, enjoy the dishes. Mom even helped me with them when she got here - we're having a good time already!