Yesterday in the Al-Anon book Courage to Change, I read a story about dirty dishes. I'm sure I've read that story more than once but yesterday it was as if I was reading it for the first time. The story was about a woman who was ready to throw out someone she loved over some dirty dishes.
Sounds crazy right?
Well guess what? I can so relate.
I can't tell you the multitude of times when I have come home after being away for a few hours to find my house in total disarray. I have come home to find piles of dishes in the sink and on the counter when only a few hours earlier the sink and counter were empty. I have come home to find not one single horizontal area free of clutter. When I come home and find my house in such a state I can almost hear my deceased mother saying, "A dirty house is a disgrace to the woman of the house." The thoughts that race through my mind will inevitably set the stage for disaster. My serenity is lost and the monsters of self-pity and martyrdom take control.
In days of old, I would have spent several hours stomping about trying to clean up the mess that the people who professed they loved me had made. I would, of course, make sure that my huffing and puffing could be heard for miles, especially by those who live in the same house. My day would be ruined and I would try to make the rest of the day equally as miserable for those I professed to love. "I'll fix them, they will never do this to me again. I'll show them exactly how they make me feel." Yeah, that didn't work.
Through the gift of Al-Anon, I don't perform as I did in days of old quite as often. I have come to understand that I don't have to be everything to everybody and I don't have to be any body's live-in maid if I don't want to be. When I stomped about cleaning everything up I didn't give the people who made the mess the ability to rectify what they had done. Why would they if I was going to do it anyway? A change had to be made and it had to begin with me because lord knows my loved ones weren't taking the great hints I was beating them over the head with.
Today, when I walk into my home and see the mess created by the ones I love, I can take a deep breath, close my eyes and say the Serenity Prayer to help ease my discomfort. I can go to a quiet place and take a few minutes to pray and meditate so I don't give my peace of mind away. I can even sit on the couch and play with my dogs and leave the dishes and clutter out of my mind. Can I do this all the time? No. What I can say is that when I do "go there" I don't "stay there" for as long as I used to which in my mind is progress.
So, you might be thinking to yourself that I can now sit in a house filled with clutter and dirty dishes. On some days I can and I live through it. The more important blessing is that my husband has found an activity that he enjoys doing. He tells me that when he does dishes he can totally remove himself from all outside interference and stay in the present moment . . . . washing each dish at a time. . . . drying each dish at a time....living each minute at a time.
Maybe someday I will learn that trying to do everything robs others of finding what they need.