Washing the Dishes (Jun 1998)

Two photographs this month, one of Dad pouring cold water into a copper pot so that once the water was heated, it could be used for washing faces and dishes. Soap was whatever we had on hand. Sometimes it was left-over slivers of hand soap, sometimes it was the liquid from a squeeze bottle. One year, Mom tried to make soap from a big old bear that had lots of fat. She rendered it, boiled it and added lye to it, but it didn’t take out the bear smell. I can’t remember if we used all that soap or gave some of it away.

The other photograph is of Paul and me doing the dishes, as we were the in-between kids. The older boys had other important things to do and the little ones didn’t have the motor skills or concentration necessary to stay on task for the hour. I learned to wash the glasses first, and then the silverware and plates. By then the water was cooling off and the soap suds were gone, but I usually continued on, letting the rinse water take off some of the grit. Scrubbing the pots in dirty water made sense to me, and helped me to finish off using the last of the water before it got taken outside and thrown on the rhubarb plants. The pots got a quick splash of hot water from the dipper to sterilize them for by now the water was scummy.

Once, when special guests were coming, Paul and I had to scrub the bottom of Mom’s pots with a special copper cleaner. We rubbed them till they shined, and I complained, for it made no sense to me why we had to do it. I knew that as soon as she put them back on the wood stove, the pots would be black again. I guess Mom figured that everything had to glow for company was coming.

Washing so many dishes for so many years taught me lots about working hard. Helping my family to grow and to live instilled in me a sense that hard work done with love is what the world needs. I am glad I had the opportunity to learn that lesson well. Once in a while, I would rather have been busy playing with my friends, but we didn’t have many of those where I lived, and I felt good helping my Mom.

I was a pre-teen when Mom and Dad split, and the boys moved back to Michigan to live with Dad. I shed no tears because I was grateful not to be washing so many dishes. After two years a few of my brothers returned, but by then Mom and I had moved into town, which allowed us the luxury of instant hot water. Since we were all older, the jobs got shared, for there was less wood hauling and no animals to take care of.

When I got married, my husband bought me a dishwasher so that he wouldn’t have to help. He didn’t like cooking or cleaning as that was woman’s work, besides he was busy outside fixing trucks. At first, I balked at the thought of spending five hundred dollars on a dishwasher, for there was just the two of us and a baby. Life was pretty easy and I couldn’t see why we should spend money on a machine. Buying the dishwasher proved to be a good investment for as the family grew, it allowed me time to do things outside of the home. The boys took turns clearing the table and loading the dishwasher and afterwards putting things away. I felt thankful that I only had pots and pans to scrub.

When Rae and I divorced, I got to do dishes again. Washing for one was fun and if I got busy, I let the dishes stack up. Some days, doing dishes felt like a meditative experience, for the time alone helped me to sort out my feelings as I let go of any resentments around housework and dishes. I started to enjoy watching the soap bubbles once again.

Moving in with Gerry and sharing this job is yet another adventure, for he has his own style of dishwashing. It is fascinating to watch, for he washes the dishes much more thoroughly and slowly than I do. One day I had gotten the dishes started and then went to wipe the table. When I came back, he had his hands in the water and said “I feel like finishing the dishes.” I was speechless, as I felt my body lighten with joy for never in my life had someone volunteered to wash my dishes. Lately, I feel like I am on a magic carpet ride: hanging on and enjoying the ride is all I have to do, as things and people just keep showing up. I know this manifestion is happening because I allow the time it takes to heal myself. Listening to my body, discovering what it is that makes me light and happy versus what makes me tired and complaining is helping me find balance. The rolfing, yoga and emotional release work that I have been doing for five years is certainly paying off, for I have never felt so balanced when I walk or sit. My shoulders no longer tighten up as the day progresses. I feel like I am in the flow, and I love it.

Just noticing and watching myself breathe has become an awesome task that I have taken to heart. As I listen, subtle impulses let me know what they want me to do. Intellectually, I would prefer not to go through the pain of being Rolfed but at the same time, I know I would prefer to do it now while I am still young enough to change physically and emotionally than later, when it would be so much harder. Each time I see a person that reminds me of how I looked ten years ago, I feel so grateful to be doing this work. The lightness and joy that my body feels after going through a session are indescribable as is sometimes the experience, but I usually do try to put that it into words to share with you.

The last several sessions have been about releasing energies deep within my bones. As I got on the table I was light and bubbly for the Spring Festival was magical, the financing of the Holistic Health Centre building had gone through without a hitch, and I had just finished having a great week on the road doing distribution. Ken, my emotional bodyworker’s, first question was, “How good can you really have it?” I was about to answer when my body started reacting… I could feel a lump rising in my throat. What was this… I know I was feeling happy, so why the tears? As I tuned in, there was feeling of separateness, no one to blame, just me. I could feel myself as soul, choosing my parents so I could learn the lessons that they would teach me. As I breathed, this very subtle and deep ache pulsated through my right hip. I mentioned the sensation to Ken, and he asked me to ground the energy. He had me put my feet on the table and lift my pelvis. Pushing hard with my feet and grunting, I could feel the energy in my jaw bone start to move down the centre of my body, through my hip and right leg, and into the table. I stayed with the feeling, growling and grunting as I pushed harder and harder. My teeth started to chatter and my body started to vibrate. I started thinking about something that needed doing next week. “Ah, ha,” I said to myself, “I see the pattern … my mind manager is trying to protect me from feeling any more pain.” I blessed that part of myself and said, “But I want to feel deeply. I want to be strong, I want to do well.” I could see myself as Daddy’s little girl with many brothers and me wanting his attention. I chose not to be physically strong so that I wouldn’t be like my brothers. I asked my body to support the new me and help me to grow strong so that I may have the energy needed to do what it is I need to do. I want body awareness, and I want a strong heart.

After about six or eight minutes my teeth stopped chattering and I felt complete, I had done good work, pushed through another block, and was ready to rest. Afterwards, I realized how deep and unconscious core belief programming is. I am now allowing myself the time to go slowly and enjoy the process, instead of rushing through it just to get something accomplished. That includes cooking and doing the dishes. It also includes taking the time to watch my breath as I ask myself what is it that I feel like eating or not eating. This is an experience I am not used to but it is a skill that Gerry has, and so with his help, I will learn quickly because I can see the importance of using the breath as an indicator of what my body wants. I know my mind has been programmed. Each session I have with Jeff or Ken takes me deeper into my core and I learn to be more present with each situation. I love learning new skills, for I so want to change.

Namaste

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