As “Simple” as a Bath
BY LAURIE KATZ
Laying down in my too short and too shallow bath, I have to bend my knees. I’m not especially tall, this tub is just especially short. Once I’m in, I wish I could say it feels sublime. I create a mountain of bubbles just to attempt at covering my upper half. The water could be hotter, but I’ve put the tap as hot as it goes. I lay in the water feeling different parts of my body meet the cold air as I adjust and add more water and add more bubbles and more water again. After some moments of adjusting and sculpting, the bubbles cover me up. I made a bath time playlist on YouTube and the commercials are annoying, but not overwhelmingly so. The lights are turned off and the room is covered in a mix of a yellow glow and shadows from two candles. That’s maybe the nicest part. I put in a Lush bath bomb in the shape of a turtle that is supposed to make you think of your carbon footprint and all that (or so the kind woman at lush says). I just thought he looked nice and smelled good. It makes me feel guilty looking at the little guy disintegrate into more clean water than the people of Flint have had in four years. Music continues to play and I lean back, finally giving into the fact that my hair getting wet is an inevitability.
Self-care is not exactly easy to define or to execute. Well...the definition is actually very simple, Google defines it as, “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one's own health.” So, action to preserve or improve one’s health. For me, and so many others, physical health may seem easier to preserve. Break a leg? I’ll bet you’d go to the hospital. But, actions to preserve and improve your mental health? That’s where so many people can struggle. But it doesn’t need to be extravagant, it can be reading, going for a walk, drawing-anything that takes care of YOU.
I think of what I feel my friends deserve and it’s so clear that they deserve to relax and feel good about themselves. It can be harder to apply this logic to ourselves, but my friends deserve to relax and you do to!
A few years ago, self-care was foreign to me for some time and felt extravagant and selfish. I think it can seem this way to a lot of people. Taking time to take care of and love yourself? Impossible.
Self- care can be so many actions and even inactions (saying “no” and not doing something can be a huge act of self-love) that can have a lasting impact on your mental health. I’m not an expert, I’m working to figure out the best ways to take care of myself, but here are some things that work for me and maybe they’ll work for you.
Write. Just write. Write anything. Sometimes I just write down the lines that come to mind. Like a terrible disjointed poem that sometimes isn’t so terrible. Write about what happened in your day, what you wanted to happen, write what you wish you’d told that co-worker or that friend that let you down. Try and fill a page with whatever comes out and you may just find some mental clarity and sense of calm.
Crying. I cannot explain how important crying is in taking care of yourself. When I first started therapy, my “homework” was to let myself cry. If something is upsetting you, let yourself let that out. And a good cry doesn’t even have to be about something. The emotions can get so full inside of you that there may not be an obvious cause when you finally let it out. One of my best homework cries was over a peanut butter commercial where a young boy makes his mother a sandwich. Dear me did it just seem so sweet and heartfelt and yup, here come the tears. The emotions just need to come out and they’ll find a way. Crying in the shower is good too. Just let it happen, stand under the spray and let it all out. The water covers any noise and it’s actually relaxing and of course cathartic.
Music. I know I’m not the first person to come to this conclusion, but music can be such a powerful tool to change your mood or at least effect it. It’s like how if you make yourself smile, it kind of can trick your brain into thinking you’re happy. So a happy or upbeat song can pick you up and a sad song can bring you down and sometimes that’s a good thing. A sad song can lead to a good cry and can give you the space and the trigger to let out those feelings that are aching to get out. Tread carefully though, sad songs can be self-care or self-torture. Recognize your limits and if it gets to be painful, find a new song or a new activity. I’ve had some tremendous cries to “Wait” by M83 and “The Rip Tide” by Beirut. Pick me up songs? “Can’t get Enough of Myself” by Santigold, because honestly we rock and I love a song that owns this. I also love Becky G’s “Shower.” Was it written for a 16 year old girl audience? Probably. But what’s wrong with that?
So here’s the thing, self care doesn’t always feel “good.” Self care can be messy and awkward and it can be work. I had to scrub my tub in preparation for that bath! Self-care for some can be showering and making a meal and even just getting out of bed to change your pajamas and then getting back into bed. Self- care can be taking care of that broken leg or taking the time to go to the doctor’s when you just know you need antibiotics. In the moment, self-care may not be fun or relaxing, but that in no way makes it not worth your time. If it is fun, well more power to you. You deserve to be cared for in every way and so do I.
In the end, I relax into the bath. I decide that I deserve this time and this bath bomb and hey, I’m not taking the world’s most voluminous bath, my bath is too shallow to even cover me. “Redemption Song” comes on and I close my eyes and breathe in the mix of Lush bath bomb and drugstore brand bubble bath. The warmth of the bath suddenly feels just right and I’m maybe even overheated. The bubbles have faded. I don’t love looking at my body, but in the hazy darkness, I decide it’s ok. I drink some cool water. Always bring a large glass of cold water to the bath. I’m in the bath for far longer than I expected and my playlist ends. I sit in the silence and watch one of the candles flicker. Every movement in the water seems to echo and fill my small bathroom. I can almost see noise emanating from the ripples. I don’t need to justify this time. I feel relaxed and maybe, grateful? But, I don’t need to lie to myself and say it’s perfect either. I don’t need the pressure of a perfect bath or a perfect night or a perfect anything. A rogue piece of Lush turtle glides by wishing me peace as I close my eyes and just be.