A servant with this clause
Makes drudgerie divine:
Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
Makes that and th’ action fine.
George Herbert: The Elixir
This is the eighth instalment of 11 Ways of Dealing with Anxiety, an ongoing experiment in ordinary life.
Doing the dishes
Our lives are full of mundane, repetitive, quotidian chores. They have the potential to save us.
Most of the time we do the dishes in order to get the job done. We cook, we eat, the dishes get dirty, they need to be cleaned for the next time, and we push through it because we’d rather be doing something interesting, fun, important.
Time spent doing a chore to get it done is time lost. Living in the future, we might just as well be dead. Much of life goes like this, moving towards something that is not yet.
The root of anxiety is thinking about the future. We think about what we want to happen, what we fear might happen, what we would rather be doing, a goal we are aiming for. The simple jobs around the house or place of work save us from this. They offer us the gift of tasting life now: nothing special, nothing dramatic, but taking a breather from the forward rush, just being alive, with humility.
Stop hurrying on to a receding future. Stand at this sink, with these suds and these dishes. Slow down. Make the ordinary, simple movements that will clean this dish, the one you have in your hands right now: dust from a star, become clay in the earth, formed into this glazed plate and these soapy hands for a little while. We are sisters, brothers, carved from the same fundamental matter. Washing this dish is a loving act of service, and after a while we are not sure who is loving whom.
Doing the jobs around the house is coming home, ordering our lives, having the humility to love matter. We come home to this body, the moment-by-moment miracle of being alive, given to inhabit this world and do the dishes.