What I learned about half-empty glasses (by handwashing them)

Sink of dishes. Copyright 2015 Abbey Dupuy. All rights reserved.

Sink of dishes. Copyright 2015 Abbey Dupuy. All rights reserved.

Some people are perpetual positive thinkers. Do you know them? Maybe you are one of those happy souls who can always find the bright side of a situation, who sees silver linings and half-full glasses everywhere you go. I’m more of a glass half-empty person by nature. Ever since I was little, I’ve tended to look at the shadow side of things. I can remember tightly grasping my mom’s hand as I skipped along beside her in a shopping center parking lot and telling her, “I want to be lighthearted and lively! Am I lighthearted and lively?” She paused before saying something diplomatic about how I certainly could be that way if I wanted…and many times after that, I remember her asking me, “Are you being lighthearted and lively now?”

The answer was usually no. It still is. And as an adult, I’ve come to accept that God made me a person who sees things that might go wrong. It’s not always a bad thing…lots of things do go wrong in the world, and we need people who can look out for pitfalls and be aware of things that might create problems down the road. Those are important skills. They’re necessary and valuable traits, even if they aren’t always popular at parties.

On a day-to-day basis, however, seeing things negatively can make it hard to rejoice in what is good. It can make it hard to set an example of gratitude for my kids. It can make it hard to tell my spouse the best parts of our day–by the time he gets home from work, often the things that stand out most are the things that went wrong.

Most of my daily crises aren’t really crises. In fact, I tell myself a lot when things start to feel stressful, “This isn’t an emergency–it just feels like one.” Still, putting out small fires all day can be draining, and it’s easy to dwell on the little piles of figurative ash all around me when I reflect on the day.

Recently, our dishwasher (which came to us used and had already had a long, productive life) decided to stop working. No amount of pleading and begging (on my part) and tinkering and poking (on my husband’s part) could convince it to work again. He finally disconnected it and announced we’d need to wash dishes by hand until we could replace it.

My heart sank. Wash all the dishes by hand? I thought of all the little plastic bowls and cups and plates the kids use during a day…the pile of silverware I had to put away every morning when I unloaded the dishwasher. Now, we’d not only be putting those things away, we’d be washing and drying them, too. With four kids six and under, this seemed like a disaster. How was I going to survive?

To my surprise, I found it soothing to stand at the sink several times each day and make things clean. My kitchen window overlooks our backyard and has a great view of the mountains to the west. Every night, there’s a beautiful sunset out there after dinner, when the sky glows with streaks of pink and lavender outlined with gold. The warm water in the sink feels good on my hands. My kids are excited to stand on a stool and help wash spoons, or help wipe dishes dry and stack them on the kitchen counter, or help put them away. We assign a job to each child who is old enough to help, and we all stand around together, working, chatting, singing and laughing as we work our way through the dishes.

I liked the togetherness so much after dinner that I started initiating it after breakfast, too. It kept things from piling up quite as much, and it was a way to get the kids involved. We put on music and sang along as we worked. Sometimes we listened to an audiobook. The post-breakfast dish time became a time I actually anticipated, and I found myself feeling happy at how we were all working together.

Maybe the efficiency of a dishwasher saves me time, but I learned this summer that slowing down and paying attention to the work I’m doing (and the people with whom I’m doing it) can make the whole process more rewarding. Instead of a curse, the broken dishwasher turned out to be a blessing for our family as we learned to work together and appreciate each other’s company.

That said, I won’t actually miss washing all those plastic plates!

Can you think of a time when a bad situation actually turned out to be a blessing?


Copyright 2015 Abbey Dupuy
Photo copyright 2015 Abbey Dupuy. All rights reserved.


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1 Comment

  1. Abbey, this is beautiful! Makes me (almost) want to go wash some dishes…

    To answer your question, I’ve had that thought in the past when we had a power outage. The inconvenience was outweighed by the fun of huddling together with flashlights to tell stories or hang out… sometimes it’s great to get back to basics!

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