Use the Good Dishes

Many years ago I read Use the Good Dishes:  Finding Joy in Everyday Life by Elaine Dembe.  Dembe urges the celebration of ordinary things to awaken a sense of joy.

This is one of the many self-help books that left a lasting impression.  I sometimes quote the title (‘use the good dishes’) as a mantra/reminder to live large, to take risks, and to believe that the universe will provide needed gains and rewards.

blue green and white floral ceramic plate
‘Use the Good Dishes’ –photo by Michael Dziedzic courtesy of Unsplash

The mantra, ‘use the good dishes’, reminds me to value the joy of the present rather than waiting for some future event.

Postponing Joy Doesn’t Work

When I worked I often postponed joy.  I postponed several trips until retirement — some of which never happened. I put off seeing friends because I was too busy.  I missed soccer games that I should have attended to cheer on my son. In retrospect, many joyful experiences fell through my fingers because I hadn’t learned to savour precious opportunities when presented to me.  Sadly, some such opportunities never recurred. I did not ‘use the good dishes’ in those times of my life.

The recent celebration of another birthday made me decide that I must seize every opportunity to savour moments of joy.  I know planning ahead is important but postponing joy doesn’t work.  Those future events may not happen.

With joy in mind, I’ve resolved to drink that special bottle of wine using my best crystal glasses rather than keeping it in a dark cellar for some celebratory event.  I’ll eat the dark chocolate with sea salt rather than saving it and risking the chocolate turning white during storage.  I’ll accept invitations to see friends now that vaccines are creating safe encounters. I will wear real jewellery every day rather than storing it in a box in my dresser.  Who says that you can’t sport a string of pearls with blue jeans?

white pearl necklace with box
‘Use the good dishes’ — and wear pearls when you feel like it! Photo by Cornelia Ng on Unsplash

Celebrate Ordinary Moments

After retiring from work, most of us stop getting awards and other tangible recognitions for things we accomplish. Without concrete rewards such as a raise or a bonus, we need to focus on everyday accomplishments or we don’t feel successful. That’s a good reason for the mantra to ‘use the good dishes’ and celebrate the fleeting opportunities to delight in what’s happening before me — no matter how mundane!

It’s easy to diminish the ordinary moments when we are acculturated to expect the extra-ordinary. At school we learned to strive for high marks; at work, we learned to exceed our goals. The mediocre didn’t cut it. We needed to pursue the exceptional. Sometimes it’s easy to ignore what’s good before our eyes as we look for the extra-ordinary.

Cherishing ordinary moments takes reflection.  It means taking the time to check out the little things that go unnoticed. Observing my husband’s beautiful smile as he thanks me for making a sandwich at lunchtime, seeing the anticipation in the eyes of my grandchildren as they wait for their serving of a special dessert, or watching raindrops slide down window panes on an overcast afternoon — none of these qualify as big-deal moments yet honouring each one with attention and gratitude makes it special.

In adherence to my mantra ‘use the good dishes’ I try to focus on the beauty and love in ordinary moments. All it costs is a few seconds of attention celebrating what is around us. It’s a skill worth pursuing!

Thanks for reading my post.  I see that Dembe has updated Use The Good Dishes.  It was re-published in June 2020 but I have not read the new version.

4 Replies to “Use the Good Dishes”

  1. Strangely I’ve just decided to embrace exactly the same philosophy and yesterday collected 2 sets of pearls that I’ve had restrung by the jeweller. I used to wear them often when I worked but they have been neglected during retirement. Tidying a drawer a couple of weeks ago, I spotted them and decided it was silly keeping them for formal attire that I wear rarely nowadays; why not enjoy them more often? So that is what I am now determined to do.

    1. Like you, I wore pearls and other ‘real’ jewellery every day when I worked. My decision to wear pearls and other jewellery every day creates a special feeling. My husband encourages me saying, ‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it!’ I’m not ready to wear pearls for gardening or exercise, but they do go to the grocery store!
      Be well,

  2. Such a beautiful post! Writing my gratitude journal (at least once a week) encourages me to notice the joy and beauty in the ordinary. Sadly, we can’t go back and recapture the lost moments we wished we would have treasured, but we have it in our power to do that as best we can going forward. I always enjoy reading your posts. I rank reading them right up there with using the good dishes! That is, they are something which adds joy to my day. Thanks for your post, and enjoy your day tomorrow.

    1. Thanks for your kind comment about my blog posts. Writing your gratitude journal is a wonderful practice. I try to include ordinary moments of gratitude in my journal along with family relationships. Writing about gratitudes helps us realize what blessings we enjoy.
      I seem to have lost the subscription to your blog and I’m missing your posts and lovely pictures. It may have happened with a WordPress update. I am re-subscribing!

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