Call me crazy, but I hate dishwashers. Okay, maybe hate is a strong word. And I don’t exactly hate the dishwashers themselves, or rather the idea of a dishwasher. I actually think the invention is rather ingenious. A machine specifically designed to wash your dishes for you, theoretically freeing up all that time that you would be spending washing and drying the dishes by hand, so you can go out and do more important things.

I say theoretically freeing time though, because how much time does it really free up when you have to pre-rinse and pre-wash many of the dishes, then load them, then unload them, making sure you set aside the forks and cups and random dishes that somehow still have bits of crusty food stuck to them which forces you to either load them back in the dishwasher to run with the next load or actually wash them by hand yourself? And then there’s the fact that a lot of the dishes don’t get dry in the dishwasher, and some (like bowls or coffee mugs tipped at just the right angle) actually seem to collect the water and bits debris so that when you pick them up to unload them, they spill their questionable contents all over the rest of the clean dishes, leaving you to wipe off and dry everything as you put it away. Really?

Growing up, the chore I dreaded most was loading and unloading the dishwasher. There were a couple of times I flat out refused to do it, begging Mom to please let me vacuum or dust or clean the bathrooms instead. If she wouldn’t budge or if the other chores happened to be done already, I would often resort to washing the dirty dishes by hand and then putting them away, rather than having to use the dishwasher.

It wasn’t until I spent a summer sharing an apartment with my friend Jenny in Omaha that I ever willingly used a dishwasher. See, Jenny’s rule was that nothing was to be pre-washed, pre-rinsed, or otherwise prepped for the dishwasher. After all, it’s job was to clean things. She even yelled at me once to stop rinsing the peanut butter off the bowl and spoon I had just used to make a batch of Puppy Chow. “If it doesn’t come clean in the dishwasher, then it’s not worth having anyway. Just throw it out!” And I’ll be damned if every last plate, cup, bowl, pot, pan and utensil didn’t come out sparkling clean. I don’t know if Jenny just happened to have the superhero of dishwashers, or if perhaps the dishwasher somehow knew that if it didn’t do it’s job the way it was supposed to that Jenny was likely to tear it out of the wall with her own bare hands, but that was the first, and last, dishwasher that I can honestly say I ever enjoyed using.

There’s just something about doing dishes that is actually kind of relaxing for me. Yes, I’m weird. I know. I’ve never been able to meditate in the traditional sense. I tried it a few times and it just wasn’t for me. I can’t sit in a darkened room and chant and clear my head completely. Thoughts just have a way of sneaking in when I try to hard to keep them out. I do find though that I can meditate in my own way though when I practice being mindful, when I allow myself to be completely in the present moment and focus on the task at hand.

Washing dishes is the perfect exercise in mindfulness. You have to be focused on what you’re doing–the temperature of the water, scrubbing all of the dishes just so, being careful not to accidentally cut yourself with the knives. About halfway through the day’s pile of dirty dishes, I feel any stress and tension and irritation melting into the water and slipping away down the drain. By the time I’m finished drying everything and putting it all back in the cupboards, I am completely at peace. Funny how something so mundane can be so therapeutic.

Today’s 365 Project entry is dedicated to my dish washing weirdness. And yes, that is an unused dishwasher sitting directly beneath that big pile of dishes I just washed by hand.

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