THE BLOG
02/26/2016 03:45 pm ET Updated Feb 26, 2017

Lessons Learned From Dirty Dishes

Thomas Northcut via Getty Images

One of the things I miss most since getting divorced is my dishwasher. My new rental home doesn't have one.

I took for granted that wonderful machine. Upon dirtying a dish or glass, into the magical contraption it went. I pushed a button and a short time later clean dishes appeared, ready to be placed back to their appropriate locations.

Sometimes I pretend I don't see them. The batter glazed bowl, cheese and pasta crusted plates, juice coating the bottom of the drinking glasses.

It's hard to avoid them though as our kitchen is the first room you walk through upon entering our house. It's also the last thing you see when heading out to start your day.

The pile gets so bad that there are days both sides of the sink are full with some creeping out onto the countertops.

I've tried to recruit my children to wash the dishes. They do their best, but I usually end up having to wash them again.

There are days those dirty dishes make me feel like I'm a total failure and cause me stress and anxiety. I feel shame when I come home and am greeted by the mess. I feel even worse if a friend stops by and sees my sink full of filth.

I think I make this daunting task bigger in my head than it needs to be.

For starters, the world isn't going to end if I don't wash my dishes. My grandmother once told me if given the choice between going out and doing something fun or washing the dishes, always ditch the soap suds.
Maybe my dirty dishes serve as a friend barometer.

No one really gives a hoot whether I have clean dishes or not, in fact it probably makes them feel welcome, that in my home you can relax and it's okay to make a mess in my home.

For those that it does bother or who snub their noses at me, chances are I don't want to be friends with them in the first place.

The reality is, it's just a bunch of dirty dishes, it's not hurting anyone other than causing me aggravation and adding one more thing to my never ending list of things to complete.

Lately I've been trying to wash a little at a time so the pile doesn't get too overwhelming. That seems to help and remind me that if you ignore something bothering you, it's not going to go away. It's going to keep building until you reach the point where you want to break every damn dish.

You may not be able to tackle the problem head on. Sometimes it's okay to walk away to get a fresh perspective, too. Leave the dishes, play with your kids, then return to the sink when your mindset is less frazzled and washing the dishes doesn't create such irritation.

When I do finally get around to tackling them I usually feel better. It never takes as long as I thought it was going to and there is something rewarding about seeing sparkling clean dishes piled high in the drying rack. It's kind of like, "Hey! See! You can do it! It's not as bad as you think!"

It's like that with many things. I worry about my finances and my chest tightens looking at my collective debt. But I chip away at it and do my best. I have weight to lose. I get discouraged when only a pound comes off per week, but it's better than gaining a pound or remaining stagnant. And really, who cares other than me what I weigh anyway?

I worry about my kids constantly, did they have manners when visiting a friend's house, are they getting good grades, are they happy, healthy, are they preparing for their futures? Then we sit together snuggled on the couch playing cards and I realize it's okay to just chill and let them be kids and figure some things out on their own.

While having a dishwasher would certainly relieve some of my stress, I'm learning to appreciate the lessons learned from a sink full of dirty dishes.