Leave It Broken

If it ain't broke, don't try to fix it.

-Old saying from someone, somewhere.


Our dishwasher finally gave out a couple of weeks ago.  It had been creaking and moaning and leaking just a bit (sounds like where I'm headed in my old age!!) ... but a few weeks ago, we knew it was done.

I told my husband we needed to start researching a new one, and he dutifully did so as I went about washing the dishes by hand.

By the time I had cleared the sink, I'd already changed my mind.  "Let's not worry about spending the money on a new dishwasher just yet", I told a very confused husband.

And this many days later, I still haven't changed my mind.

The money is, of course, a factor.  But we'd find a way to make it work if I really wanted one.  (And yes, I say "I" instead of "we" because "I" am the one washing the dishes.) 

Why leave it broken?


- We are far more mindful of how much we use during the day.  Instead of grabbing another cup for the diet coke after the iced chai, I rinse the cup out and re-use.  A bowl on the drying rack gets used for the evening meal instead of grabbing one from the nicely stacked ones in the cupboard.  We are using fewer dishes and less water this way.


- I've become more aware of how much I (we) am (are) eating and drinking.  A snack here and there means more dishes piling up.  The evidence of the amount of food (and drink) is right in front of me, not just creeping up slowly on the scale.


-  Washing dishes after every meal gives me space to pause.  In the morning, it is being able to watch for the deer while they scatter in the rising light while I scrub the final bit of soggy cereal off of the bottom of my child's bowl.  In the afternoon, after usually dining alone, it is a few minutes of sensual engagement with a dish that snaps me back into this moment instead of letting my thoughts race to what I need to do and where I need to be next.  And in the evening, after our family dining time, it is many moments to both practice not being resentful of all of the dishes and an excuse for time to myself...even if that means hands immersed in soapy water.


-  Each and every dish is a reminder of my conscious choice.  Have you ever shopped in a natural foods store versus a big box grocery chain?  When you buy something in the former, doesn't it feel just a bit better?  (It does for me.)  That item is a reminder that I'm "voting with my money", that I'm making a conscious choice to purchase and consume this item instead of another.  The dishes are the same way.  With each cup and each plate, I'm reminded that I'm choosing to be present with this task.  I'm reminded that I could be throwing it in a fancy new dishwasher, but that I've chosen to wash it by hand.  Instead of getting angry that I have another dish to wash, I sink into the soapy suds and gratitude that I've made this choice.


-  I don't feel guilty about buying the cool dishes.  We run across a lot of secondhand dishes, antique plates, and locally made pottery items.  While I've purchased a few, I've often held off because whatever I'm looking at, no matter how attractive it is, isn't "dishwasher safe".  Now, every item is safe for this dish washer.  (My kids even fought over the "cool bowl" the other morning.)


Allow me to clarify: I'm not anti-dishwasher.  Perhaps a big party at our home or a few more evenings of piled-up dishes in the sink will change my mind.  However, even beyond all of the practical nice-i-ties, there is this:

On a much more philosophical level,

the dishwasher was already broken when we moved in our home.  

I am just now accepting that.

And I don't mean that the dishwasher wasn't working and I just kept cramming dishes in there hoping they'd come out clean.  

I mean that everything is impermanent.  Everything is rising, falling, inhaling, exhaling, being born, dying, being created, and falling apart.


The dishwasher is broken now, but someday it will be the car on which I rely to transport my kids, or the expensive furnace we use to heat our home.  Someday it will be my child's leg or my back.  Someday all of this will be gone.

Instead of looking at this with an "aw man, life sucks" type attitude, I've decided to shift things up a bit.

I pick up a dirty dish, wash it, and leave it to dry.

One dish at a time.