The predictability of established routine is a sedative in a tumultuous world. There’s comfort in the monotony of the mundane, a sense that we have a modicum of control over something in a world that is largely beyond our control. This morning, I found myself engrossed in the necessary routine of cleaning the kitchen. I wiped off the stove, scoured the sink, washed the counter tops, wiped off the window behind the sink, hand-washed the wood floor, and polished the stainless. In the midst of doing these chores, it occurred to me that sometimes I bore the living crap out of myself. Yawn.
I needed to do something to break routine, something unexpected and out of character. I put the rags from my morning’s work into the washer and sat down on the sofa to figure out what I should do. You know what? I had no clue. My mind was empty. I’ve become so routinized that I could not imagine one truly unusual thing to do. I needed something that was out of the ordinary for me but that could be completed in under three hours. It needed to be something that I would never think of doing, but if I would never think of doing it how could I generate the idea? Suddenly, I was in stuck in analysis paralysis. (Analysis Paralysis should honestly be my middle name.) I was flat-out stuck.
In times when I forget myself, I seek counsel from a friend, the kind of friend who will tell me truthfully when I’ve walked around all day with spinach in my teeth because no one else would tell me that I had spinach in my teeth. I texted my friend Heather with the simple request to find me something I could do that was uncharacteristic for me. Her first response was swift.
Go to church. I laughed out loud at that one. I had to hand it to her for her quick wit. I asked her what else she had.
Run down the street scantily clad. I’d probably do that if it weren’t just 20 degrees instead of the 60 degrees it was yesterday. Plus, I’ve already done a polar bear plunge twice. I’ve been there and done that. Next.
Take a long, hot bubble bath with a glass of wine.
That one hovered in the air for about five seconds, but I knew she had me pegged. Ding. Ding. Ding. We had a winner.
I am a rare breed of woman. I do not take baths. When I’m in the tub, I feel like an ingredient in a soup consisting of dead skin cells, random germs, and dirt. Worse than that, eventually the bath water goes cold. Then I am in cold soup and need to warm up, which requires a shower, which is clearly where I should have been in the first place. And don’t get me started on the whole, great-now-I-have-to-clean-the-tub thing. No. Thank. You.
But today was about changing my routine, so instead of going to my usual yoga class I filled the big bathtub in our room, the one that I’ve only sat in maybe twice in the 12 years we’ve lived here. I added bubble bath and this fizzy bath ball thing I bought eons ago for who knows what reason, lit a couple of candles, and poured myself a glass of wine at noon because, dammit, it was 5 o’clock somewhere. Then I grabbed a book and eased myself into the tub. In the middle of the freaking day on a Wednesday for no good reason.
The first few minutes felt bizarre. My mind could not let the me who needed peace break away from the me who was secretly wondering how much of her own filth she was sitting in. But as one minute eased into five, then fifteen, then thirty, and then beyond thirty, I discovered something. I had become a shriveled fruit. But then, after that, there was peace, quiet, stillness, and solitude. Time for me to just be. Nowhere to go. Nothing to do. So I decompressed while I was decomposing, and I felt better. The busy-ness of the morning had given way to tranquility in the middle of the day just because. It was an incredible luxury.
As I continue to practice kindness with myself (and it’s going to take me a lot of practice), perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to be kind to myself in other ways, like eating better, taking long walks, and maybe occasionally indulging in a mid-day, relaxation bath for no reason. Maybe over time I can get myself out of hot water with myself by getting into hot water more often.