First off, Happy Birthday to my daughter Stephanie. Please forgive me in advance if I embarrass you with this blog post. I am your Dad though and that’s in my job description.
It’s been a long while since I’ve posted something on this blog. I’ve been kind of busy and didn’t really have anything to say. This morning however I opened my dishwasher to get something out of it and unload it. I looked at the arrangement of the contents and was flabbergasted. I was in a state of anxiety and shock. For about one second!
Keep in mind I have a system for loading my dishwasher. Plates and the containers I heat my lunches in go on the bottom arranged in nice symmetrical lines. Very orderly. I keep all the silverware nicely organized. Knives in their place. Spoons in their place. Forks in their place. The top is reserved for bowls, containers that won’t fit in the bottom and the lids for my lunch containers.
This morning my dishwasher, which had clean dishes in it (of which I am very grateful to my daughter Stephanie for doing) was sheer chaos. Small plates were in the top. Large plates had other dishes in between them. Bowls were sporadically placed anywhere they would fit. Even my cutting board was in the dishwasher. (And it looked amazing by the way. Great idea Stephanie!) I was flabbergasted and as I said earlier that lasted about one second.
In my 100 Questions of Transformation group that I’ve been posting for since January 1st, I have talked about gratitude and how that is necessary for joy. In my yoga classes they talk about mindfulness and being intentional when acting rather than reacting. So with those things rolling through my brain as I gaped at this chaos in my dishwasher, I remembered how thankful I had been for Stephanie doing this the previous night, and I shed those thoughts about how my dishwasher should be loaded. Then another thought popped out. (If you had been in the house, you might have actually seen a light bulb above my head. Well actually, you would have for sure as I was just below a recessed light in my ceiling!)
Everyone approaches life in different ways. Everyone sees friendships in different ways. Everyone loads the dishwasher in different ways.
The thought that popped into my head is that how a person approaches relationships is a lot like loading a dishwasher. We all have different ways of organizing the dishes in the dishwasher and arranging the friends in our life. Some of us are very orderly and organized in how we do this. Some of us seem to be barely able to stay organized and over commit to doing things just like the person that overloads their dishwasher so badly that the rotating sprinklers can’t rotate. Others clean off all of their dishes of excessive residue before putting them in the dishwasher while others take pots or casserole dishes straight from the table to the dishwasher and in real life some people accept messy relationships, people that aren’t perfect, and all the residue that comes with that. Add to that we all use different dishwasher soaps just like we all like to do different things with our friends.
So while this analogy of friendships and dishwashers was rolling through my head, I also thought that I love my daughter no less because she loads the dishwasher in a different way. I think that is the way we should treat people in our friendships too. They may handle their life and their relationships differently than we do but, like the dishwasher differences, in the end we all come out clean. (Unless you have a baked on mess in a casserole pan and you don’t use the right dishwasher detergent to get it clean. Then you get some crusty residue. But, hey, some might say I have some crusty residue on my soul.) I don’t always do this with my friendships, but that is partially due to some of my own issues (those crusty residues on my soul.) I have the greatest intentions but my actions don’t always follow my intentions.
As a recent example, I’ve always felt like I did a poor job raising my daughters. I felt I let them down at inopportune times. I was having dinner with a friend last night and I told her that. She reminded me that I showed them unconditional love as they were growing up and that no matter how badly they messed up or got into trouble that I was there for them like a rock. So even though I didn’t feel like I loaded my dishwasher the best way all the time, i.e. make all the right decisions with my daughters, I at least loaded the dishwasher. My intentions of being a great father weren’t followed up by the right action. Almost all of us do the same thing.
So if I can accept the way that my daughter and others load their dishwasher, I (as well as you) should be able to handle the fact that other people handle friendships and relationships differently than you. They may not like conflict. They may love conflict. They may show too much affection. They may show too little affection. They may not be willing to talk about their feelings. They may talk too much about their feelings. They may like all of your interests. They may not like all of your interests. We are all different in some ways. But if you value their friendship and if they bring some value to you, then be willing to cut them some slack if they like to put their bowls on the bottom of the dishwasher (or have other friends they like to do things with, want to be left alone when they are stressed, want to never go out, want to always go out, want you to lighten up and not be hard on yourself, etc.) I value my friendships and I have them ordered neatly into my world and hopefully always will. But they may have me somewhere in their disorganized, busy world and I may be out of sight at times. That’s okay. We are all different and all of us, including me, are right in the way we handle this. Just focus on how you load your dishwasher and not on someone else.
For now, I’m going to do some work to get rid of that crusty residue on my soul. It could be hard work. It’s really baked on.