a year of baths : on learning the art of self-care
I took more baths in 2014 than all the years combined since childhood.
When I look back on 2014, I picture myself either being asked 20 questions about my large belly or sinking into a (not too hot) bath. From February to May, I would sit in the bathtub ridden with nausea. During the hot summer months, the bath relieved my backache and seemed to calm my anxiety about work. And during September and October, I only felt comfortable with the weightlessness of the water over my belly—which means I sometimes took a morning and night bath.
I was pregnant for 40 weeks of 2014. Pregnant Ruthie was very different than not-pregnant Ruthie. When I was tired, I took naps. When I was starving or nauseated, I ate at McDonalds. When I needed to, I relaxed in the bathtub. When the house needed to be cleaned but I was too large to fathom wiping baseboards or scrubbing toilets, I asked Michael to help.
If I learned anything in 2014, it was the art of self-care. I learned to listen to my body, my needs. I respected my limits and said ‘no’ and went to bed crazy early. Some days, I took naps during lunch in my car instead of eating at my desk. I had afternoon ice cream on scorching summer afternoons.
I remember a mentor telling me that I’m really hard on myself. I bet you are hard on yourself, too. It’s entirely too easy to pick ourselves apart and never feel good enough, isn’t it? To chastise ourselves for failures and let little victories go uncelebrated?
My mentor also told me that if I didn’t slow down and take care of myself, then I would burn out. I’ve burned out enough times to know that she was right. But apparently not enough to learn my lesson.
2014 didn’t give me a choice: I had to take it easy and care for myself. I was growing a baby and the tiredness and the nausea weren’t going to let me continue at 900 miles per hour. I felt guilty about slowing down, and most days didn’t even feel like myself. Who was this person sleeping until 7:00am and only staying at the gym for a grueling 30 minutes? I did not know her, nor know what to do with her.
Everyday I had a choice: I could be hard on myself for not over-performing or I could practice the art of self-care if I hadn’t accomplished anything that day. I didn’t work a 60-hour week? So what. I can still go get a pedicure or pick up my favorite Starbucks drink. Or perhaps splurge on a new outfit that made me look feel less whale-like. That’s what self-care looks like.
I love what Anne Lamott says in her new book Small Victories:
“You can change the world with a hot bath, if you sink into it from a place of knowing you are worth profound care, even when you’re dirty and rattled. Who knew?”
Knowing I am worth profound care, even when I’m not an A+ performer is what 2014 was about for me. My challenge to you: if you haven’t learned the art of self-care, let 2015 be the year you learn to slow down, listen to your body and soul, and perhaps sink into a hot bath knowing you are enough. Whether or not you lose ten pounds.
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