Zen and The Art of Pressure Washing by Alice Absolutely

I admit it: I am an addict.  My fix is mindless coloring.  “Adult” coloring has become a widely accepted stress reliever lately.  Adult coloring books and “advanced” markers can be found anywhere from the local bookstore to the grocery store checkout lane.  Like many adult colorists (color-ers? I have mixed feelings on both terms), mindlessly shading in the empty spaces between the lines with the back and forth strokes of color is soothing for me.  Adult colorists come in several hues: some prefer colored pencils, others crayons; some will color any blank page, others want intricate patterns wrought with fine lines; some need the feel of heavy weight paper, others can work with any dime store recycled stock they come across. 

Me?  I want markers gliding to and fro across heavy weight paper filling in the spaces of cartoon characters and Disney princesses.  My stress relief comes from escaping into the simplicity of my childhood to moments when my mom was taking care of me while I was sick (so a new pack of markers and a new coloring book came back from the pharmacy with mom and medication), when we were taking a long road trip (so mom made sure good markers and an adequate supply of coloring books were in the back seat of the car to keep me busy for the drive), when a holiday came around (so mom wrapped up my favorite candy with a holiday appropriate coloring book and markers for a gift). 

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I think my obsession with coloring goes all the way back to before I was even born!  SURPRISE! My mom is an adult colorist, too.  She was bed-ridden for an especially difficult pregnancy and spent her days coloring to keep her occupied.  I think the fruity scents of the Fiddlesticks Markers (by Mr. Sketch…this is not a sponsored post) were probably the first smells I ever knew.  They are still my favorite markers, even though Mr. Sketch brand changed the shape of their marker caps (yes it matters and yes I am bitter). 

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I still have the coloring book, Ruth Heller’s Designs for Coloring: Snowflakes, she colored in while she was pregnant and now have my own copy of the coloring book, too.  Par for the course, the book is filled with deliciously heavy weight, smooth textured pages all printed single-side only to optimize the book for densely pigmented marker ink.  The paper absorbs ink without spreading marks outside the lines and stays wet long enough to allow the back and forth marks to blend together seamlessly.  When a page is finished it looks perfectly, commercially printed rather than shaded by hand.  Replicating that coloring experience is #lifegoal!

But this blog post is about pressure washing…

I shamefully admit that I found another addiction.  As much as I may love the stress relieving escape of adult coloring, it is not productive.  As a newly-minted “Stay-At-Home Wife,” I have founding a mounting to-do list of house projects all with heightening senses of urgency.  This week pressure washing rose to the top of that list.  Previously, my D.I.N.K. (dual income, no kids) household did not have time to entertain projects like pressure washing—I was doing great to get laundry and grocery shopping done each week.  My how times change!  I bought a pressure washer.  I donned my DIY work clothes.  I set aside two days to pressure wash the driveway, house, gates, shed, and pool deck.  Clearly, I was a noob to think that was all going to be done in two days, it took me four days of back and forth swinging across three-inch swaths in blistering hot September-in-Florida weather to finish the work.  I braved wasps, mud, sunburn, and thundershowers to clean more than thirteen years of yuck off the concrete around my home.  (Don’t judge…remember…D.I.N.K.) 

Pressure washing is GOAT!

Most people will focus on the negatives in this situation.  I’ve been slathered in aloe to calm the sunburn and each of the four days felt more and more like stepping into a blast furnace melting my skin off.  I have several bug bites and stings.  My fingers AND the space BETWEEN my fingers hurt—how is this even possible???  The steady left-right rocking twisted my back and shoulders into a posture at least forty years my senior.

But, PRESSURE WASHING IS GOAT!

Pressure washing is mindless erasing!  It is 100% Zen. It is the erasing Yang to the Yin of coloring.  A friend of mine tried to convince me of this a few weeks ago which is how pressure washing ended up on my to-do list in the first place.  I was absolutely embarrassed that an aspect of my home was so dirty a guest would offer to clean it up for me.  At the time, he insisted he wanted to do the pressure washing as stress-relief.  I frankly questioned his sanity.  Hot, grimy outside work is stress-inducing!  For the record, he was right.  I was wrong.

The Zen of the experience is about self-discipline, order, and forgiveness.  Lofty principles for pressure washing, right?  There is quite a long list of reasons to never even think about pressure washing in the first place and yet only one real reason to start: a clean driveway.  Beginning the task requires self-discipline.  The process seems designed to make a person stop at every turn: electricity and water don’t mix, anything requiring two water hoses should be an automatic no for all parties involved, the soap has be diluted before it gets diluted again by the machine, special soap for different surfaces, choosing the correct wand attachment (color coded, but not labeled on the machine—labeled, but not color coded in the user manual), hoses and cords have be drug all around the property to reach the dirty spots.  I had to develop the mindset that this machine was not going to defeat me: I had the self-discipline to be focused, patient, and persistent with it.  Nature is against pressure washing requiring self-discipline to overcome the elements.  I kept repeating, “Wax on.  Wax off.” channeling my inner Mr. Miyagi to find purpose in the tedious back and forth sway of my body extending into the wand.

Overcoming the elements quickly began to require order.  I had to develop a system to optimize my time in the shade rearranging my schedule to get up earlier, work in this spot, then move to this spot, change to another activity in the garage for these hours, before taking advantage of growing shade over there.  I ordered my work to the sun and carved out patches of concrete to trace back and forth. When this block was done, I took a water break.  When that block was clean, it was time for a snack.  Tuning in to the slopes of my property in new ways ordered my progress as much as the sun—always washing the dirt away from the house towards the boundaries of land and along the downwards slopes to work in harmony with the flow of water.  Complex order arose from two simple principles: stay out of the sun and water runs downhill on the path of least resistance.

The lessons of self-discipline and order were taught in the first day.  Only after mastering those concepts could I see the lesson of forgiveness and embrace it as motivation.  Forgiveness is the ultimate result of self-discipline in that one must forgive the obstacles along the path in order to overcome them and the ups and downs of life.  Cleaning is about forgiving the dirt, forgiving the mess, forgiving the person who made the mess, forgiving the accident that caused mess, forgiving the passage of time that ushered in the dirt and the transgressions which occurred during that time.  Forgiveness is about spiritually washing away the emotional mess attached to the dirt washed away by the clean pressurized water.

Pressure washing is Zen because it restores balance.  It brings the Yang back in place of the Yin which in turn gives way for Yin to arise needfully searching again for Yang in the comforting back and forth sway of the Universe.

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