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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Kay

Litmus Paper and Washing Dishes

If you are 40- or even 50-something, you may remember science classes when the students tinkered with beakers and bunsen burners, flint strikers and test tubes. Sometimes the task was to determine whether a solution was acidic or basic (alkaline), and litmus paper would make an appearance. The litmus test wouldn't give the precise pH, rather it indicated whether the solution was sitting to the left or right of neutral. Next steps could be determined once you knew which type of solution you were dealing with, and which type of solution you desired.

Often in life we can find ourselves feeling like something is not quite right, and that somehow we are off-course and missing out on our best life. Possibly we're so busy and don't have the time or energy to consider what changes should happen. Likely we're so hurried and stressed that we don't even realize our culture of "hustle" is pulling us increasingly farther from finding fulfillment. Maybe the details are elusive but we know we were meant to live lives of purpose.


Washing dishes is my litmus test.


I have wonderful memories of my sister and I washing dishes at my Aunt's home, shoulder-to-shoulder and chatting, sometimes singing or flinging some suds. We learned at a young age how to navigate the sharp things and manage the slippery ones. We learned how to be responsible for the stuff we had used, and also how to relieve someone else's burden by helping. We learned to handle that which is delicate with utmost care. We used very little water, biodegradable soap, and basically no electricity. We learned how to work hard by adding some "elbow grease" when the going got tough.


Now as an adult I see how beautifully this task aligns with my deepest values, and how it continues to be work worth doing, despite the enticing convenience of the machine. The warm water soothes the soul, calming and grounding; inspiring prayers of gratitude for the food I enjoy and those dear ones I am able to share it with. The lessons and applications are numerous. Above all, my ability (or inability) to accomplish washing the dishes by hand lets me know if I am off-track. If I notice that 2 days have passed and I feel stressed whenever I look at the growing pile of dishes in the sink, I know my life has become too hectic. I know I need to slow down, or life will skim by without having been truly lived.


Washing dishes is my litmus test. What's yours? Is it making your bed in the morning? Reading? Walking with your dog? Giving a long, much-needed hug to a loved one before rushing out the door?


This January, instead of making a list of new-things-to-do, you are invited to do less. Take something off the list. Open up space for slowness and intentionality and creativity. Maybe you have a mentor or someone you can check in with who can help bring your blind spots into focus. Maybe you have a pet who will stare at you until you make time to share loving moments with them. Maybe you have no accountability at all and you just know you are way off track. Maybe you need a Coach.


May you find renewed purpose in slowing things down. May you find grounding and calm in a bowl of hot soapy water.


Jennifer Kay is a Certified Life and Wellness Coach, Clinical Somatics Exercise Instructor, and Founder of LIBERTY PURSUITS Integrative Awareness TM .


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