I was only 23. I had a stressful job and an apartment and I had it really, really good. I went to the city twice a week and sat in Carpo’s Café or the Angelika Film Center and took in the world. Everything was art, or experience. Everything. I loved going to the Laundromat; the people-watching was great. I brought a little notebook. So romantic! And I had a dishwasher I never used.
“I love washing the dishes! I get it from my grandmother. It’s meditative!”
And it was. Because back then, in my off-hours, my mind automatically refilled with poetry or Camus or the Tao of Physics. Ahead of me waited a ten-hour Bear Mountain trip; behind me sat seven hours of real, restful sleep. I would play my Palisades Parkway mix tape all the way up, and no one could contact me but Eric from the passenger seat (most often looking to question or celebrate his bodhisattva nature). After an afternoon of rocks and streams and the steady surety of my own body, I’d go home to another bookend of sleep in my cozy rented cottage. With no washer/dryer and a small, but operational, dishwasher I had never once considered turning on.
Now, in my off-hours, I plod through files many times plodded through, doing pointless tricks for trainers in offices who watch me beg and then cajole, “just one more.” I am panting with the wanting. Please. I’ll even take the same little well-chewed bone I had before. A big, clean new one would be wonderful, of course, but not if I have to dance around on my hind legs until one a.m. every night.
I just want it to be over. I just want to curl up in a comfy spot and settle in.
But I can’t. I must keep performing for distant assessors on the concrete floor of this apartment. Once in awhile I take a break to gather up bedsheets for the dreaded Laundromat, or to hand-wash the dishes. Shouldn’t I be thrilled that the cycle of life has brought me back to a state of no spin cycle?
Actually, I find myself furious. Why? Why can’t I love the Laundromat; why am I paying for drop-off service with the little cash we have? Why can I no longer commune with a sponge?
Maybe it’s the fact that a short-necked bathroom faucet has been installed in a deep kitchen sink so that I must thrust myself forward and crane my neck the way the faucet should, toward me. Maybe it’s that my neck can hurt, and typically does, worsening with each dirty dish, whereas a faucet could curve toward me for the next century without so much as a cramp. And yet it refuses to.
I hate to admit it, but perhaps it’s resentment. Not only does the girl upstairs have a washing machine and a dishwasher, but when she runs them, our own water supply is reduced to a single white-hot spindly thread. This includes our shower.
Though it could simply be that before the storm I had a perfectly good dishwasher in a perfectly good kitchen in a perfectly lovely house; or that I bought an even better dishwasher over a year ago when I thought we’d be rebuilt by (last) April. I had come to rely on these machines. To get stuff done while getting stuff done, so that maybe before bed I could sneak in a chapter or two.
So it could be that, but there’s this too: I don’t feel well. Also, the job came to another standstill last week, and NY Rising needed more paperwork, the very hour our printer died.
And that was on Steve’s only day off.
The aloneness doesn’t help. My husband has basically contracted his life out to his new job. Over the last five days I haven’t seen him once–so he could make money, while over that same span of time I had to write out checks totaling fifteen times his paycheck.
So it’s hard to be meditative. It’s not going to happen while I’m washing the dishes. It takes a lot of effort now.
Tonight, I will try. I will soak my feet, and turn on my back massager and the “Soundscapes” channel. And I will force myself to fill my belly with air. Soon I will change the channel, to free yoga on demand. And I will stretch away this tension headache using the inversion table I got from two women I met through a Sandy Swap site. I will take a long, hot shower, all the while hoping that the dishwasher upstairs is far from full.
Before bed, I will be behind on a lot of things: my New York Rising paperwork, my teacher plan book, my thank-you cards—and, of course, my dishes.
So I will wash them. Suds and sponges once seduced my twenty-something mind into engaging with all that entered. I could flirt with Henry Miller quotes, or soar above it all on Jeff Buckley’s voice, or wonder about the colors my artist friend had chosen for painting my soul.
Now, I can only hope to free my mind of all that has entered throughout the day. I will spend the evening clearing the pain, the resentment, the wanting–soothing my emotions so that when it is time to wash the dishes, I will not be furious.
This is growing up, isn’t it. You have to work. You have to find your way. You learn that writers, poets, and artists aren’t going to give you your own answers. And you might find the spark in a film, cafe, or Laundromat, but you must have kindling ready. And you must be willing to fan the flame tirelessly and tend to it every day, whatever winds may come.
I have to work. I have to find my way, myself. I have to feed my own fire.
And one day, when I sustain it and it keeps me warm, I will sink back comfortably into my music, my authors, my beloved places.