A Moment Like Any Other

This post is part of The Write On Project
Topic: Exhaustion

It was a familiar spot and a moment like any other. It may have been yesterday. It may have been last year.

My reflection in the window looked old. The light bulb above me and the absence of light outside worked together to show my face drawn and dramatic in the shadows. I hadn’t bothered to pull the curtains yet and I stared at myself for a moment. I laughed without a sound thinking of how much I have aged over the last four years. I barely resemble who I was then. My hair is long now and noticeably grey. The skin around my eyes speaks of late nights and early mornings. Wrinkles born of worries and joys I never before knew trace my mouth. I look old, but I look happy. And I look tired.

I pulled the curtains shut and turned on the water.

An old friend once taught me about reconnecting with myself as I travel through my day. He would stop as he walked through a doorway to be aware of his body. Feel your toes, he would say. Remember they are there. Wiggle them. Think for a moment what your pinky toe feels like. Then move up though your legs, through your hips, through your belly, your chest, your shoulders, your ears. Reconnect. Center. Then move on. I stood at the sink and thought of him, as I often do, and thought of my toes. My poor, neglected toes. Shoved into shoes because barefoot on my feet all day makes my old knees ache. I allowed my awareness to move past my entombed toes and climb through me, feeling every inch of my body. Every weary muscle and sore joint recalled a moment. My hips were open and loose from squatting down to speak with my girls on their terms. My belly felt empty because it was not the one I was focused on filling at the dinner table. My throat was dry from all of the stories and answers and explanations and singing.

I felt my body. It felt tired.

The steam from the water, now hot, felt like a warm cloth as it reached my eyes. I held my head still to let my face absorb the heat. This is my spa, I thought. Each moment is what you make it. The weight of the water gathering on the sink full of dishes caused them to shift and I grabbed the sponge, returning from my little vacation.

Some nights, standing at that sink with the sponge in my hand, were welcomed and even enjoyable. Agatha Christie once said the best place to plan a book is at the sink washing dishes. I liked that. I liked that there could be some other end in mind when accomplishing such a mundane task. I liked that I got to think about something other than how I would be washing these same dishes tomorrow. I liked that it allowed me to be somewhere else, doing something else.

Some nights, though, each pass of the sponge across a plate or a pan was done absent of thought at all. Some nights I was too tired to think of anything but what my hands were doing. Some nights those dishes were just the physical reminder of the mindless repetitiveness of it all. Sometimes all I was doing was washing dishes. Sometimes all I ever do is wash dishes.

Exhaustion is funny that way. At the end of a day filled with purpose and meaning, exhaustion can convince you that your whole purpose has no meaning. I try to teach and support and love and inspire. I try to cook and clean and wash and do. I try to be the best father I can be. I try to give everything I have. And I usually succeed, leaving me at the sink with nothing left. Nothing left to recall the successes. Nothing left to enjoy the simple beauty of being a father. Nothing left on which to build or create or conceive.

It was a moment like any other. I finished the dishes and did it again the next day.

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About Mitchell Brown

I am a stay at home dad with my two daughters who are a lot stronger than they look. When I'm not cooking, cleaning, dancing, reading, teaching, playing or protecting my eyes and groin, I am writing about this whole experience in all of its ridiculousness.
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15 Responses to A Moment Like Any Other

  1. I love this post.
    A LOT.

    Thank you.

  2. Maggie Batt says:

    Loving this. You relay so much how all of us full-time parents feel. I often do my deepest reflections over the dishes. I actually quite dislike doing the dishes and put it off more than anything else. So I force myself to dive in and chant my mantra “I love doing the dishes. I love doing the dishes.” Thich Nhat Hahn in The Miracle of Mindfulness says, “Do the dishes for the sake of doing the dishes.” In other words, be in the moment. Usually when I’m feeling this exhausted state as you’ve written, I know I need a break from the chores and yes, even the kids. I come back so renewed. Family Dharma states that parenting is the most spiritual experience of your life. I have so many personal goals and I tend to put them aside to do this thing called parenting. I shift my reality to see that this moment in my life is fleeting and the job at hand is so imporant for the future of the planet.

    • Thank you, my dear friend. As always, I so appreciate your thoughts and time.

      I love the works of Thich Nhat Hahn – his books have been unbelievably beneficial to me in my life and in my parenting, particularly The Miracle of Mindfulness that you mentioned. Discovering the meditative possibilities while doing the mundane like dishes has opened up whole worlds to me – and made me a better person and father.

  3. Justine says:

    Sadly, the sublime in parenting usually doesn’t even get noticed by anyone other than those who are doing everything they can to make sure that the extraordinary is part of the ordinary.

    What a gorgeous post. Thank you for sharing this moment with us. Like any other, sure, but definitely no less special.

  4. Jared Karol says:

    Mitch, you old man, you! I feel this way often as well, as I imagine every parent without a team of nannies and night doulas does. There is something quietly enjoyable about the exhaustion though that I don’t know how to explain.

    Write On!

    • WE are old, aren’t WE, my man?

      Holly and I were talking about that very idea – the satisfaction that accompanies the exhaustion – and concluded that the joy comes from the purpose of your task. I am doing the dishes to take care of my family. That is an infinitely motivating goal and the exhaustion that I feel while doing it is then intimately tied to my purpose.

      Write on, brother.

  5. Jack says:

    You old man you. 😉 Very nicely done.
    At the end of a day filled with purpose and meaning, exhaustion can convince you that your whole purpose has no meaning

    So very true.

  6. What a beautiful post…and how true that sometimes it is the simplest of repetitive tasks that allow for reflection and self awareness.

    • Thanks so much, Melissa. Life is so full of tasks such as these that the ability to be mindful while doing them can open windows we never knew existed.

      I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

  7. Holly H. says:

    Mitchell, on behalf of all the full time Moms I know, thank you. And on behalf of someone who knows, respects, and loves you and all 4 of your girls, thank you 🙂

  8. Pingback: A Moment Like Any Other | Story Bleed Magazine

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