Over the past few weeks, I have noticed a trend developing. I don’t get much allow myself to get enough reading done during the week. So I end up saving all 200+, 300+ or even some 400+ page books to devour all day every Saturday (and sometimes into Sunday). Now, this is not a problem if:

a) The book is totally awesome.
b) I can get through it quickly (especially if I am not digging the book).
c) I want to make plans to do something other than reading.

This occurrence of the weekend reading slam-and-cram has, as you can probably imagine, left me feeling a little off-balance, a little chained to the project and a little bit cranky about it. And I haven’t even hit the halfway mark. What’s an over-committed-but soon-to-be-committed-reader-if-I-don’t-make-some-changes-and-fast to do? Chill out and pick up another book that can remind me of the simpler things and how to get in control of myself. Duh.

The book I chose to revolutionize my life–or at least provide some perspective–was Karen Maezen Miller’s HAND WASH COLD: CARE INSTRUCTIONS FOR AN ORDINARY LIFE. I came across this book when I was actually searching for another of Miller’s books, Momma Zen, that I found through a blogger I follow, Kerenika. Part memoir, part self-help guide on Miller’s path to finding balance and appreciating life, HAND WASH COLD seemed to fit the bill I needed to pay.

I don’t want to get too much into comparisons (as Miller says that’s one of our biggest problems worrying too much about how others do things, live or navigate the world), but her account had sprinkles of similarity to Elizabeth Gilbert’s wildly successful Eat Pray Love. I say that because, I don’t think this quiet little book has the backing or support of Gilbert’s, but I found it as nugget-worthy about living in the now and living our life’s purpose, whether that’s eating your way through Italy, praying through India or possibly finding love in Indonesia (no spoilers here, but really hasn’t everyone read Eat Pray Love?) as Gilbert did, or becoming a Zen priest as Miller did.

Miller is restless, hyper-critical of herself and unfulfilled. It’s only through the demise of her first marriage and losing everything that she takes time to reflect and take care of herself through focusing on her spiritual health that she finds her way and the real ease that exists in just living life and focusing on the here and now.

Miller is bright and clearly a solid writer. Those factors may have contributed to the book feeling little more literary than conversational, and that’s my only real complaint. I am not knocking a smartly written book. It just created, for me, a bit more distance from her than I would expect when reading such a personal story. Despite this, it did inspire me. I am going to work to make one hour of reading a daily priority. I am going to focus on one thing at a time. I am going to put my phone not just down but away when it’s mommy-kiddo time. I am also going to return to these (among the many other) gems Miller offered up:

On time:

Time doesn’t even exist. You are what exists. Time is what you are doing at the time you are doing it. There is no other time than this, so stop searching for the perfect metaphor for time and pick up the rake already. It’s time to rake, it’s time to cook, it’s time to clean, it’s time to write, it’s time to drive, it’s time to rest, it’s time to pay attention to how we use our time.

On seeking perfection:

We must go farther and completely forget ourselves to see that there is no need to perfect the life that appears before us. It is already perfect as it is.


On balance:

When I grow weary of what’s undone or anxious about what’s to come, I remind myself that I am not the maker or the order-taker in this life. I am this life, and it is unfinished. Even when it is finished it will be unfinished. And so I take my sweet time. Time is savored when you take it by the hand.

Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Memior/Spirituality
Pages: 200