I’ll never be tapped to give a commencement address, but should the impossible happen I’d model my pep talk after U.S. Navy Admiral William H. McRaven’s 2014 University of Texas speech.
If you somehow missed that sensation, among other important nuggets, McRaven advised college grads begin each day with a task that would set them on a positive daily track to complete other tasks. Like building blocks. He said, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”
Heck, yeah. Hand me that baton. I firmly believe in the made bed. But I would take the idea a few steps further and title my speech “Yes, That, But Also…”
The “But Also” would address the other end of each day. I would say, “Kids, never flop into your made bed if your kitchen sink is still full. Wash and put away every dish, vessel and utensil, preferably right after dinner. Because a dirty, chaotic kitchen will drag down your mood any time of day. It would also attract little nocturnal critters. You’d be like an indie health code violator.”
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I can’t claim to have perfect household habits, but I have always been diligent about conquering dirty dishes. By evening, after the day’s post-meal spurts of scraping and loading every used plate, pan, glass, mug, fork, spoon and spatula, I always announce with fanfare to anyone in the vicinity, “I’m gonna run the dishwasher now!”
I don’t know why I do this. Every proclamation is greeted with crickets, or the sensation of a single down feather floating to the floor without witnesses. Only in my imagination, I think I see the faintest uptick of another’s eyebrow.
Chore-wise, I live in my own little Tide Pod of optimism. The dishes must always be on their way to salvation, to be neatly stacked in the cabinets while still slightly warm!
But this summer I was cruelly reminded that a habit might not break, but a machine will. My dishwasher threw in the towel. It got me thinking how clean dishes are, indeed, commencement-speech-worthy and life-affirming and all that.
But first, I had to suffer through weeks of the “sputtering appliance” denial stages: What’s that new vibrating sound?
1. These dishes have food specs. Maybe I need a new detergent brand.
2. Mustard splotches. Big ones. I’ll try the pots and pans cycle.
3. The Kirkland pod is still intact.
4. Let’s unplug this machine and plug it back in. That’ll do it.
5. Who was president when we bought this thing? Bush?
6. Darling, let’s go to Lowe’s.
I selected the appliance retailer closest to our house because as a homeowner I’m done with research and driving around and talking to people trying to sell me extended warranty plans. All I knew was dishwashers last an average of 10 years and we were overdue. Plus, during my stages of denial I defaulted to handwashing the dishes. Report from the frontlines: It takes much longer and I’m certain it wastes more water. Rinse, rinse, rinse. I don’t have Energy Star hands.
In one shot, we found a reliable brand we could agree on. It was on sale and boasted the lowest decibels of everything else on the display floor. Most weirdly/importantly, the racks glided out like they had a microscopic Olympic curling team erasing any friction in the gears. Whoosh. To hell with anything else, I decided to go for the whoosh.
Some might consider this whole topic mundane. It isn’t. Because if a Navy SEAL can captivate a nation by encouraging a generation to align pillows and smooth out duvets, I can assure you life is a bowl of cherries if that bowl is retrieved from a tidy, sparkling stack.