This Kitchen Tool Taught Me a Valuable Lesson About Change

How one kitchen tool taught me a valuable lesson about change

It all started last month when I spent two hours doing a deep clean of our condo before friends and family arrived for my son's birthday party, and while I was up to my elbows in towels and non-toxic cleaner, I made one very small change in the kitchen. I moved the sponge.

Our sponge rests on a ceramic tray painted in an abstract teal and navy pattern. Its home is usually on the counter, to the left of the sink, but to free up the space and make it feel even cleaner I moved it to the right side of the sink, on the silver lip where the dish soap and hand soap used to be.

It was one of those seemingly insignificant changes that actually made me feel better about life for a few minutes.

But what happened next surprised me. For about four days, whenever I picked up the sponge and dish soap to wash the remnants of our meals, I would place the soap bottle directly onto the ceramic dish.. Within seconds, I realized the mistake, but it got me thinking about muscle memory and change.

How one kitchen tool taught me a valuable lesson about change

(It probably warrants a mention that I’m in the middle of reading a great memoir called Stir, where Jessica Fechtor recounts the experience of her brain aneurysm and recovery. One of her symptoms after surgery is the loss of vision in one eye, throwing off her depth perception and making simple tasks like pulling down a mug from the cupboard excruciatingly challenging.)

So, I’m standing at the sink, forgetting the new order of things because for months I’d done things one way. And if it takes me a week to retrain my brain about where my sponge and dish soap belongs, why in the world am I giving myself such a hard time about everything else?

Real change, sustainable change, the kind of change a year or two from now we’ll be able to look back on and really see, takes time. Longer than you might think. Longer than we ever want it to.

When I moved my sponge, I wasn’t just moving my sponge.

I was in the midst of an upheaval, leftover from earlier in the year when we moved, and the circumstances of my job changed, and dealing with the reality of my baby turning one, and trying to finish my cookbook and switch gears to what might come next. We had family in town. Our garbage disposal stopped working and took two days to get fixed. The city trimmed the palm trees in front of our building and left a mess of debris on our patio. It was one of those when-it-rains-it-pours types of situations.

And I know this seems like nothing, moving the sponge, but it’s a whole lot. It’s bigger than cleaning, bigger than me.

Life is always changing.

Sometimes we choose it, sometimes we don’t.

The thing about email or online communities, or anything about how we interact nowadays is nothing is as it seems. We’re not necessarily trying to be secretive, but the nature of our real lives is not always front and center.

I guess what I’m saying is, there’s more going on with you than I know. There’s more going on with me than you know.

@@The best we can do is be patient with ourselves and try to do one thing, every day, that makes us feel good.@@

It might be writing. It might be journaling. It might be checking in with a Facebook group. It might be exercising, petting your dog, or walking your child to school.

Whatever it is, find a way to feel good, wherever you are.

@@Change one thing, change your life.@@

And whatever you’re working on or working for, you’ll get there eventually.