Woman washing upDid I leave you hanging? Enough time has gone by that it’s like we’re in a new TV season and it’s time to resolve the cliff hanger. Well I’m sure I’m not that riveting in my blog posts (yet!) 😉 But I do want to continue my story.

So to catch you up from part 1, one lesson from Healing at the Bottom of a Dishpan was to choose empowerment rather than persecution. Instead of being a victim of a dishwasher fiasco, complete with shame, defeat and a scarcity viewpoint, I chose to get creative – avoiding the Drama Triangle and instead choosing to work in the mindset of Co-creator. But there was more! So this idea of being a Creator/Co-creator doesn’t end with the first creative choice. It flows and moves into more, much more in this case. Healing at the bottom of a dishpan, part 2!

My choice for empowerment took me into a mindset I call Learning Mode. I think I’ve written about it in previous blogs. It’s a concept I learned in my coaching training classes and share with my clients. I often refer to it as my favorite dance– the LM/PM ! Instead of hunkering down in negative victim-hood, I dance out of Protection Mode and into Learning Mode as I choose to create. In Learning Mode I am open, reflective, observant, and relaxed, so the warm, soapy water was soothing and cleansing on so many levels!

I reflected back on the many years of my childhood before automatic dishwashers. To my surprise, dishwashing carried with it a bit of a negative charge – to use energy terminology. My memories around doing dishes were generally not pleasant. This surprised me. I hadn’t realized this until I felt the warm, soapy water on my hands again, assuming I’d probably be doing this for weeks, maybe months to come.

In my family the kids did the dishes. My sister Paula and I carried the responsibility for this since my oldest sister was married by the time I was old enough to do dishes. As I reflected back, I remembered feeling very conflicted and frustrated. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t seem to make the right choice about whether I should wash or dry. My goal was to get the job over with as quickly as possible. No matter which I chose, I was always left holding the towel – or the dishcloth! If I dried, she would finish far ahead of me and I’d be left alone with stacks of dishes overflowing the dish drying rack, with pots and pans perched on towels on the counter or table. If I chose washing, she’d quickly run through the dishes I’d washed and either leave to watch TV or off to another place. Either way, I just wasn’t fast enough to be the first one finished.

Looking back on this I realized it might not have been about the speed, or the laziness induced desire to get it over with. I might have been a bit lonely doing them by myself. Healing came when I realized, it was “community” in dishwashing I longed for, companionship, not just to get ‘er done and move on. I also realized I was judging my ability and efficiency using an unfair standard, comparing my dishwashing prowess or lack thereof against someone with previous experience. Maybe one who even felt like I did when she was the younger dishwasher! Add to that the 6 year difference in our ages and that I really was a pretty little kid, and I was able to see little Terri in a whole new light. I chose to be kind to myself as I reflected, releasing those old energy feelings of negativity and not feeling like I was enough. I chose forgiveness for my sister’s impatience and insensitivity to her kid sister who was probably pretty annoying at times. I chose love not fear. Healing at the bottom of a dishpan! Who knew?

But this wasn’t the end of the healing. I recalled an even earlier memory. I was only about 6 when we first moved to San Jose. We lived in a lovely community called Willow Glen, where I am so blessed to live even all these years later. We had found this quaint little rental house through our church community and it came complete with a little old lady neighbor. She and my mom worked out some pretty nice babysitting arrangements for me. Mrs. Hall would babysit me from time to time and I became an instant “mini-maid” for this lady who believed all little girls should be taught to do chores and do them perfectly! So my little six-year-old self, washed dishes, pulled weeds, learned to dust – and got paid a dime! (Yes this sounds like I am old enough to be raised during the Great Depression! – no I wasn’t! This was the 70s!) Years later, I am close to many of this woman’s descendants and apparently her reputation as a strong taskmaster still stands.

As I continued to recall these memories, I could picture this tiny girl washing the same glass over and over again. Then I realized the memory was shifting focus. I once again danced from the negative into gratefulness. I could see that same tiny girl with this white-haired Swedish woman standing side by side as the old woman’s wrinkled, age spotted hands demonstrated the best way to clean a glass, the best order to wash the dishes to keep the water at it’s cleanest for the longest and how to stack the dishes in order. (No dish Jenga allowed!) I chose to forgive the demand for perfection and instead see it as a mentoring– even if not delivered warmly. Thankfully the water was warm and soothing. This new dishwater washed away old hurts, old unkindness, old roots of perfectionism. Forgiveness flowed. Gratefulness and healing followed. In time, so did a water softener!

Terri Shannon Renfro is not a medical doctor or licensed medical professional. She is not presenting information to substitute the advice and care of your physician or other medical or psychiatric professional. Please see the about us section of this site for more information about Dr. Shannon-Renfro's qualifications. These blogs are for educational purposes only. The opinions expressed here belong to Terri Shannon-Renfro or the author quoted and do not constitute treatment in anyway. Dr. Terri Shannon-Renfro does not diagnose, prescribe or treat any medical or psychiatric condition.