Time to crank this blog back up.
I live with somebody who— I am convinced— is one of the most amazing chefs in the world: my wife.
We dine on local farm-grown vegetables here in the Hudson Valley and on organic meat we source locally. What my wife does with it is nothing short of miraculous. [I’ll write more on that in a later blog post.]
I often say that is a crime against humanity that only Georgia and I get to enjoy my wife’s art, but my wife once owned a cafe, and you couldn’t get her to open another restaurant even if you paid her more than the value of Mark Zuckerberg’s stock options and gave her a personal foot masseuse who’d follow her around and tend to her feet all day (picture somebody diving onto the floor at various times to get at the right massage angle).
But I digress.
Although I offer to cook— and I’m not bad at the 3 or 4 dishes or so that are my sweet spot— I am notoriously slow. My wife, on the the other hand, zips things out left and right with more cooking creativity in the tip of her little pinkie than I have for an entire decade.
Because she is quick, she enjoys cooking, and she doesn’t like to have to wait around for me to painstakingly pare the fat off of my chicken cutlets for 2 hours, it works out that my wife does most of the cooking in our home right now— despite my pretensions and self-image of being a feminist.
The deal though, is that whoever does the eating– and not the cooking– does the dishes.
So that task usually falls to me.
My wife’s brilliance in the kitchen means that there are often a lot of dishes to do.
That sometimes can feel like a daunting task.
But it also is an opportunity for me to reflect, and a few insights continually surface for me. These insights will be the basis for another periodically appearing mini-series of blog posts: Reflections While Doing the Dishes.
So, here goes with #1 in the series…
#1: When you’ve got a lot to do, do the big things first.
I went through a few years when looking at a sink full of dishes felt pretty overwhelming to me, including the last few years with my wife— because let’s face it, culinary brilliance and improvisation can get kind of messy.
I shifted on that, though, back in February.
That was when I was thinking about writing a blog entry on the Super Bowl, of all things.
I was going to write about the game-winning drive in that game when the Giants quarterback Eli Manning broke with convention and made the biggest play on the first play of the offensive drive that won the game for the Giants.
I was thinking about how that might be applied to real life and remembered how I used to do a sink full of dishes at some friends of mine’s house in San Francisco. They were always generous about letting me stay over every now and then, and to quietly repay them, I’d do the dishes in their sink from time to time. For awhile, I was frequently staying there on the nights when they would cook for Food Not Bombs (see http://www.foodnotbombs.net/), which meant that they made meals for hundreds of homeless people.
Talk about an overwhelming sink of dishes to look at.
But I remember trying something for the first or second time I did the dishes on a FNB night: instead of saving the big pieces for last, I’d start out doing them first— the gigantic pots and pans, the dirtiest, the nastiest things I found, I’d reach for them right off the bat.
It was the opposite way from how I learned to do dishes, but I found an interesting thing would happen when I’d start with the big things first: everything else— the rest of the task— looked relatively doable and manageable.
It was a real revelation for me.
Every night when I’d do the FNB dishes— even when the sink looked really full that time— I’d start out with the big things first. It was impossible to imagine, it was almost a leap of faith to believe that it would be easy afterward. But I did it anyway.
And it always worked.
And that is what I started doing after the Super Bowl. And wouldn’t you know it: doing the dishes became manageable again for me.
So try this: try thinking about something that you have been struggling to do for a long time. Something daunting, something overwhelming, something that feels too large. For example, maybe you’ve thought about all the things you need to do but bringing yourself to do them feels like way too much.
Now, try this instead: dive into the biggest part of your task first, and just start doing it. See what happens.
Try figuring out how to film the ‘unfilmable’ scenes first. Try contacting that connected person who might be the most help to you in your job search. Try writing that chapter that you’ve been dreading because you know how hard it’s going to be to pull it off. Try mastering the toughest passage in a song you’re going to play.
You might well find out that it’s not as bad as you thought.
In fact, you might find that once you’ve gotten it out of the way, everything else falls into place and everything feels more manageable afterward.