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Do the Damn Dishes

Fun fact: The other title I thought of for this piece was: Change the Way You Think About Self-care You Giant Jerkface (side note: this is a very un-Julia Cameron approved sentence).

We had hosted a family for dinner tonight. Some of our COVID buddies. Five in all, two parents and their adorable pigtailed girls. I cooked for them, panic cooked. I had created quite a mess in the kitchen. My husband and I had a fight that morning. About what? What we always fight about… house work.

When the house is messy, it feels like hands on my neck. It feels like not just the couch is cluttered but also my brain. I didn’t used to be this way. I wish I didn’t care so much. I wish I didn’t yell and get upset when the trash didn’t get taken out or the laundry wasn’t folded. But I do. I get upset about these little things, especially when I am upset about big things like how there’s a virus all over the world and people are dying. It’s hard to be upset about people dying in hospitals and not hospitals in the United States and it seems like everywhere else. It’s easy to be upset about the dishes.

After our fight today, I cleaned the house. My husband is a Marine. He worked incredibly long hours and is one of the most dedicated people I know. Sam cares. He cares a lot. He cares about being a good dad, he cares about being a good husband, he cares about being a good brother and son, and he cares so deeply about the people in his life. Sam cares about his Marines and he would do anything to help one. One time Sam woke up to a call at 4:30 AM from a Marine who had gotten a flat tire and didn’t know what to do. Sam drove out to help him at the crack of dawn to help this poor kid out. Sam cares very deeply about people. Sam does not care about the dishes.

To be fair to Sam, I would rather be married to a person that cares about other people and takes care of people than a person who obsessively does the dishes. He’s kind. He’s kind to the very depths of his soul. He also is incredibly oblivious to housework.

Sam just doesn't notice things. He does not see the dishes piled up in the sink, the laundry on the chair, or anything else. He notices people.

I often think of self-care as this thing you do to comfort yourself. And a lot of the time it is. I know I need to get good sleep at night. I know I need to eat healthy food. I know I need to relax. I know that I need to exercise. But lately, I’ve started to think about self-care as what I need to do to be my best self emotionally. Noelle not even a month ago, would have gone to bed and prayed that Sam would do the dishes in the morning along with taking care of the baby and folding the laundry and counseling a twenty year old thinking about getting married. But something stopped me tonight when I went to fill up my water glass. You know he’s going to forget tomorrow morning. You know that he’ll be busy. Or… or he’ll do them and he won’t cuddle with Joy on the couch… and that’s the only time of day he gets to cuddle with her, when I’m asleep and they're watching a show.

What would you want him to pick?

Joy. Of course I want him to pick a connection with his daughter. I knew that tomorrow Noelle would want him to do that too, but she would also want the dishes done and she would also be pissed that they weren’t.

I had a choice, do I go to bed and let later Noelle figure it the frick out? Or do I take ten minutes and make a dent in the dishes and give everyone a break, including myself?

So I did the damn dishes.

Selfcare means cutting yourself some slack. Sometimes it means cutting your future self sometimes slack, sometimes it means cutting your present self some slack, and sometimes it means cutting your past self some slack. Sometimes self care looks like manicures and smoothies and yoga and sleeping in. And sometimes self care looks like pushing yourself to do the work to make life easier for you and the people you care about. Sometimes selfcare looks like choosing to do the hard thing, instead of the lazy thing. Sometimes it looks like cutting yourself a break tonight and curling up on the couch and watching the Great British Bake Off and eating chips. Sometimes it looks like going for a run. Sometimes it means throwing out something that no longer brings you joy. Sometimes it looks like letting the laundry sit unfolded to play with your kid some more. Sometimes selfcare looks like doing the damn dishes.

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