"If you can't be happy washing dishes, you can't be happy."

Written by Cole Schafer


You don't have to be Dr. Fucking Phil to thumb through my work and see that I struggle with sadness.

I'm always hesitant to call this sadness "depression" because I do think there is something to manifestation and because I know damn well there are people in this world who legitimately feel that getting out of bed in the morning and facing the world is akin to sprinting into World War I.

For these people, I'd advise them to do the same thing I'm doing now... taking themselves out of themselves and recognizing that someone else out there has it worse.

Like the guy at the Kroger beside my house, who has no arms yet finds a way to fill his cart with food and push said cart through the aisles of the store, guiding it with his knees and the insides of his feet like some masterful soccer player, grabbing food snuffs with his mouth, pressing the self-checkout with his nose, forgetting that he left his bottle of coke, opening his mouth, again, and biting down on the neck of the bottle like a dog on the head of a bone, dropping the coke in his cart, leaving the Kroger, not realizing in the hour he was there he did something harder and more impossible than what most people face their entire lives.

You follow this man around for a good while watching him exist in this world with no arms and you won't leave feeling sorry for him (because he doesn't feel sorry for himself and because it's an unwritten sin to feel sorry for someone who doesn't feel sorry for themselves).

And, you certainly won't leave with your depression cured.

But, you will leave with the conviction that if this man can get out of bed in the morning and take on life with no arms, you can find it in yourself to get out of bed in the morning, too, despite demons humming about your skull like snarling chihuahuas with dragon wings.

And, if this doesn't work, I'd say it'd be worthwhile to open the phonebook and find a therapist and pay this therapist a visit versus reading the newsletter of some twenty-six-year-old kid who is wildly unequipped to give any sort of medical advice on the subjects of mental health.

And, if this therapist doesn't help, I would read a line that the late great Nora Ephron once wrote...

"If you can't be happy washing dishes, you can't be happy."

I was sitting across from one of my best friends two days ago and the two of us were shoveling chips in our mouths, quickly, steadily, careful not to disrupt the salsa pooling, nearly overflowing, in their concave centers.

He told me he was struggling with loneliness –– romantic loneliness –– the kind of loneliness where you long for a person you feel you've known your entire life but have not yet met –– the kind of loneliness where you're ready to love someone more than you love yourself but for whatever reason, this person isn't showing up.

And, I told him that I think that he should somehow, someway, find happiness (or at the very least fulfillment) existing in this loneliness because… if you can't be happy washing dishes…

This is something I've experienced so many times in my life, where I find it unbearable to exist in my room, alone, where I find that this existing feels akin to hell and I then lie to myself, telling myself that loving someone will somehow solve this.

I will then meet someone (manifestation works both ways, mother fuckers) and I will fall in love with this someone and in some strange way, those Sundays lying next to her, sometimes naked, sometimes not, sometimes having made love, sometimes having not, feel like I'm existing alone in that room, without anyone.

And so, I'm living by this idea that to enjoy the dessert we must enjoy washing the dishes the dessert will eventually be served on and, ironically, to do this... we can't be thinking too much about the dessert as we're doing this washing.

So, how I'm combatting sadness is that when it's time to do life's proverbial dishes, I'm running the water good and hot, I'm turning on some Peach Pit, I'm making the sponge nice and soapy and I'm fighting like hell to grin.

Because thus far, the dog hasn't done it and the house hasn't done it and the Klonopin hasn't done it and the alcohol hasn't done it and the savings account and the other savings account hasn't done it, either.

And, I often think back to the days when I was first building my career as a writer, putting in seven-hour shifts in old apartment buildings hot enough to roast a chicken, tearing out carpet ridden with cat piss and dog shit and the occasional needle used for God knows what.

I was as happy then as I am now and isn't that both terribly discouraging and, at the same time, beautifully encouraging?

That we can find happiness in hell and be miserable in heaven.

But, I digress.

By Cole Schafer.