My dishwasher was an exotic beach.

It was impossible to notice until it happened. It was early in the morning, but not so early that I could’ve blamed any sort of pre-dawn grogginess. Not so early that I could brag to co-workers about how early I wake up and how productive I am.

The morning, like every morning of my current life, was unremarkable aside from the transformation of my household appliance into a far off land. I woke up. I stumbled down the stairs with phone in hand – already checking my notifications within three seconds of opening my eyes. (When it comes to checking my phone, I have the response time of a firefighter and the attention span of a firefly). I made coffee. I spilled coffee. I made more coffee. Somewhere in-between all of that, I sat down on the toilet for 15 minutes. Not because I had any gastrointestinal issue, I was just in firefly mode with my phone while mentally preparing myself to face another day.

The dishwasher was nearly full, so I absentmindedly took the last few plates and cups from the sink and tetris’d them into the rack (since when did we have so many dishes? Only two of us live in this overpriced luxury box). I closed the dishwasher, hit the “go” button, and sat down with my (second) fresh cup of coffee wishing I had a “go” button that magically motivated me to embrace life with the same skill and energy as my dishwasher. Seriously, just one button and the little box is off to the races.

And that’s when it happened. I sat in my chair sipping my coffee as my mind allowed itself to become flooded with to-dos and the stressors of the day. I lacked the mental fortitude to fight off those unpleasantly mundane thoughts and keep this quiet morning moment for myself. No head space or calm morning meditation here.

But, behind the scattered noise filling my thoughts was the soft crash of a wave, And then another. And another. The sound of water trickling up a soft sand beach and then retreating to make way for the next crest of foam and bubbles and cool water on a warm day.

My eyes were open but unfocused, unaware of the growing pile of junkmail on the counter, oblivious to the messages already flooding my phone as the more enthusiastic coworkers started their day before the rest of us unenlightened folk. With each crash, the ocean waves washed away any hint of stress. The water tugged at my mental to-dos and pulled them down into the depths of the sea, wiping all the trampling footprints and drawings and markups from the beach of my mind, leaving only pure, perfectly smooth sand.

Then came the birds. Little chirpy ones who sang stacatto right on the border of human acoustic perception. When was the last time I’d even noticed birds chirping outside?

And then my dishwasher changed cycles with a big ka-chunk and the illusion was broken.

I blinked back to the present. The ocean waves? Just the water swishing around, cleaning grease and spit from our plates. The birds? A squeaky wheel or gear somewhere in the guts of the machine.

Dishwasher hallucinations: the final death throws of my psyche drowning in the rising tide of domestication.

I put the dishwasher out of my mind so I could focus on the present. You’re familiar with the present, right? That place people say you should be in like it’s a good thing. As if the present is a place any of us actually want to be. I focused on the present, which is to say I put aside any creative whimsy or far off thoughts so I could answer emails and work on problems that never seem to go away.

The next morning, I sat there with my coffee, staring at the dishwasher.

I turned it on, just to escape for a few precious minutes. Domestication had taken hold.

I’ve been doing the dishes now every morning for eighteen months. I don’t even use the dishwasher anymore. I splash my hands and wriggle my fingers in the hot, soapy sink and I’m suddenly on the other side of the world soaking my arms in a geothermal pool on a cool mountain summit. I scrub the sticky grime from a soup bowl and dream that I’m happily cleaning sweat from my body after a long day exploring a new city in another country. My silverware sparkles and gleams like the night sky on a clear night as I camp in the wilderness, stargazing with a warm drink.

I love it, but I hate it. It’s a lie, but it’s soothing. And our kitchen has never been cleaner.

Someone save me. I’m supposed to get groceries next week and there’s no telling what’ll happen to my mind there. I’m scared to find out.

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