My sweetie and I purchased our current home nine years ago, from the original builders who erected the structure in the early 1980s. A modest three-bedroom, one-and-three-quarter bath, split level floor plan located in a safe neighborhood, the house provided everything we needed at a (then) reasonable price. Over the years, my sweetie and I engaged in the annoying process of redecorating and remodeling, transforming the very beige, bulky, outdated decor into a colorful, sleek, modern environment that is much more our style.
Two years ago my sweetie and I decided it was time to tackle the main bathroom – and over the course of two weeks a contractor gutted the space and replaced everything. Wall paper was removed, disco-style light fixtures were taken down, the high-water-volume toilet was tossed, and the grimy brown tub was smashed to pieces and extracted bit by bit. In came green paint, blue lights, a low-flow toilet, and a crisp white tub.
As I watched the instillation of the pristine tub, my mind produced the thought: “Hey Stef, now you can take a bath whenever you want!” I had refrained from taking a bath for the previous seven years because the original tub looked too gross; sitting in grime (real or perceived), surrounded by cracking and craggy grout (real) is not a relaxing experience. As our very adept handyman applied the finishing touches to the sparkling new bathroom, I smiled slightly at the image of me leaning back onto a tub full of hot soapy water, maybe listening to classical music, perhaps even being surrounded by candles, and experiencing stress slowly seep out of my muscles and my mind.
Yet here I am two years later, still bath-free. I simply haven’t made the effort to gather the candles, tune the radio, run the water, and slide into the tub. I find it amusing that the two puppies have experienced multiple baths in our home, yet I have not. I guess this means that I’m just not a bath kind of gal; yet I feel like I “should” bathe in our tub at least once, if for no other reason than simply to be able to say that I have used all of the features within our house.
Yesterday evening as I sat down in the living room, I felt heaviness around and within me. The past few days have been difficult for me. Long story short, all of the key factors in my life are unstable right now (i.e., work, pets, family, friends, personal health), so I feel like I don’t have anything solid to buoy me in rough waters. Add to the mix cold weather and increased fatigue resulting from daylight savings time, and it’s little wonder I was a teary puddle at the end of Toy Story 3. (Ridiculous, but true.)
By the time last night rolled around, what I really wanted was to crawl into my parents’ arms and have them rock me to sleep. I wanted to feel their strong physical presence and gentle soothing spirit, and have my back rubbed and head kissed. Unfortunately, my parents and I live 2000 miles apart (that, and I’m no longer four years old), so I had to find a way to soothe myself.
Since crawling back into my mom’s womb also wasn’t a viable option, I decided to do maybe the next closest thing, and slip into a warm bath.
So I finally took the initiative to light a few lovely candles, set the portable radio next to the sink, and allow a warm, powerful stream of water to fill the still-crisply-white basin of our no-longer-new tub.
Once everything was ready, I slipped off my clothes and gently slid into the bath. I rolled a fluffy towel into a make-shift cushion and placed it in the crook of my neck. I rested my head against the back lip of the tub. I lowered my eyes, and just let go.
I was immediately surprised at how large this tub is! When I have taken baths in the past, I have not been able to stretch my legs fully, nor have I been able to let my arms float freely (they always felt a little pinned by my sides). In this tub, I could lie down almost completely flat, and my arms had lots of space to drift wherever they wanted. Nearly immediately, I surrendered my bones and muscles to the buoyancy of the water, and literally felt gravity release me.
Suspended in the warm, clean water, I softened my gaze, and let the glow of candlelight be my only visual stimulus. A darkened-yet-peaceful exterior helped me replicate that energy interiorly, and quickly I felt my mind and emotions become calmer. I gently breathed in the light sage fragrance emanating from the candles, and marveled at how this subtle scent element strongly enhanced the bath experience and prompted an even deeper relaxation response within me. At this point, a female radio announcer made her presence known and introduced a piece by Handel; seconds later, a mellow-yet-joyful orchestral tune played lightly.
I marveled at the transformation I was undergoing. This current environment was in strong contrast to my usual daily routine. As a result, my body was allowed to experience an entirely new package of sensations – and my mind, having no habitual response to the novel situation, was allowed to shift from a conditioned state of being alert/wary/anxious to a more open space of acceptance, equanimity, peace.
I consciously breathed in and out, feeling my chest expand and contract, and noticing the scents that arrived at my nose and traveled to my lungs. I allowed my skin to enjoy the warm fluidity of the water that surrounded me, and let my mind rest in the quaint village where Handel composed his complex-yet-lyrical masterpieces. I let go of concerns, of to-dos, of woulds and shoulds, and simply acknowledged and accepted all that was immediately present. And it was wonderful.
After fifteen minutes, the bath had lost most of its heat and contained only tepid water. My fingertips were wrinkly, and the back of my head began to feel flat from resting all that time against the tile shower wall. Handel’s piece had ended, and the radio announcer was about to cut to a commercial. I calmly lifted myself from the tub and wrapped my dripping body in a large white towel. From there, I gently turned off the radio, softly blew out the candles, and peacefully flipped on the overhead light. I blotted my skin dry, then slipped into comfortable fleece pajamas. I stood up straight and tall, and inhaled deeply. Exhaled with a sigh. Repeated.
My bath was a mere 20 minutes from start to finish; and yet, in that brief time I experienced some rather dramatic changes. I was (and still am) surprised/slightly amazed at how a few very simple actions can yield such powerful and positive results. I likely won’t be taking baths every day (and realistically, probably not even every week), but I am now aware that this resource is available to me whenever I need a recharge or reset in my sometimes stressful/annoying/tense day-to-day life. I really had no idea that I would receive such benefits from a simply bath – which only reinforces to me why I felt compelled to create and pursue this 101 list: while I may not know what might happen in the 1001 days it takes to work through these seemingly bizarre/motley/rambling tasks, Someone has a plan for me, nudging me to learn things for myself through willingness and experience. Who knew a simple bath could teach me (and remind me, and awaken within me) so much?