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It’s Ok To Run the Dishwasher Twice

How the pandemic made me re-examine the rules that dictate my life.

By Literature

This semester I have been struggling with my physical health, which has made mental health much harder to manage. Recently, I stumbled on a post that changed my thinking. It was about a patient whose depression was preventing them from completing everyday tasks. Everything seemed overwhelming and impossible, even something as simple as washing the dishes. Their therapist’s advice? “Run the dishwasher twice.”

I’ve had the phrase “run the dishwasher twice” on repeat in my head for over a month now, and it’s made me realize yet another way in which I need to rewire my brain and re-learn what I previously accepted. When I first read this, I couldn’t get over the thought of running a dishwasher twice. “That’s just … illegal,” I thought to myself. The dishwasher is the control in the dishwashing process, and based on the dishwasher, it is my responsibility to adapt so that the dishes are washed. But wait — that’s not logical! So if a dishwasher doesn’t logically need to run only once, what does that mean for sitting in the shower, or waiting for a taxi with a specific advertisement? What if I didn’t swerve to let people keep walking straight, or what if I actually hibernated like I’ve always wanted to?

Suddenly, I was questioning everything. I was able to articulate that many of my preconceived notions and their justifications are no more complex or nuanced then “because that’s how it is.” One meaningful application of this questioning of rules that just “are” has been my battle and ultimate divorce from the phrase “You’re welcome.” There are many issues with the English language, but why is “You’re welcome” the most accepted response to “Thank you?” What does it even mean to welcome someone?

I found that if I must welcome someone after being thanked by them, I had been exhibiting hospitable, courteous, and cordial behavior that I performed with pleasure. This is not a logical statement, because I do many things worth thanking not out of hospitality, courtesy, or cordiality, and very rarely out of pleasure. If someone drops something and I pick it up, I do so because I believe that person deserves their belonging back. I don’t enjoy bending down, nor bringing attention to myself as I wiggle and squirm to retrieve the belonging. Conversely, even if I didn’t want to be courteous or hospitable to someone, I would still help them out. I realized that it is a value of mine to try hard to bring comfort to others, and I believe everyone deserves what I am able to give. So for myself, and I believe for many others, “You’re welcome” is not a logical statement. I instead say “of course” after being thanked, because I believe what I do for others is at its most reduced form simply the right thing to do.

Of course I will listen to you when you need it (even if I’ve heard it a million times). Of course I believe you are doing the best you can do with what you’ve got (even if you don’t have much). Of course I will accept you for who you are (even if inconvenient). Of course I will help you (even when it is hard). Of course. (Always.)

I’ve found a clearer and more logical way of framing the legitimacy of rules — not by “why it is the way it is,” but based on “why it is the right thing to do.” It is not wrong to run a dishwasher twice, same as it is not wrong to speak outside of programmed responses like “you’re welcome.” The sense in which two comparable things are different is the key to understanding the nuances that surround us. Too many concepts exist legitimately in America only because they are legitimated by consensus. In fact, it is this supposition with lack of regards to what is the right thing to do that is undoubtedly responsible for most of the massive scale suffering that takes place here. “Because that’s the way it’s always been” and logic are so far from one another that mixing them together is like mixing oil with vinegar.

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