“When you don’t know what to do, do the dishes.”
When I was part of a group studying contemplative prayer through Thomas Merton’s writings, our facilitator used to say this. He meant that when we are confronted with the big mysteries – God, peace, eternity, fulfillment, silence, what does it all mean? – sometimes the best response is to do the menial, daily task that happens to be right in front of you.
Pretty good advice.
There are so many things I should be doing at any given moment that it’s easy to get lost in the midst of all of them and end up doing nothing. Or end up doing a lot of things, but not doing them very well. When all of the tasks – menial and monumental – are swirling around me, calling for my attention, sometimes the best place to start is the dishes. There is comfort in picking up each one, rinsing it, putting it in its proper slot in the dishwasher, and in its proper place in the cabinet. I may not know where I’ll be in five years, but the dishes? Those I can do.
If only the rest of life were that simple – pick up a dream, a goal, a career, put it in the right spot, and everything falls into place. Voila! Your messy life is clean, your sink empty and gleaming.
So it’s not that simple. But at least it’s a start. Now please excuse me. I have to go do the dishes.