a year of baths : on learning the art of self-care

anne lamott quote

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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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3 Responses to “a year of baths : on learning the art of self-care”
  1. Elle says:

    Love this! Love seeing you back at blogging! I have missed your posts, and the topic is always so timely, this is just what I need to hear after a rough end to 2014. I’m trying to move forward and move on from a serious relationship that abruptly ended when I was so sure that an engagement was in our near future. It his me so hard and instead of rushing into busyness to keep myself and my mind occupied, I’m learning to give into Jesus and care for myself while He cares for me right now. It’s a daily choice for sure.

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Hi Elle, I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I’m SO sorry about your relationship. Goodness, that is hard. Just said a prayer for peace for you today…and each day until healing comes.

  2. Lianne says:

    Oh Ruthie, did this article hit home! A very close – and older, but much wiser friend – of mine continuously reminds me that I do not take care of myself nor do I listen to my body. In a way, I am an abuser and my body is the victim. I am a single teacher and I always put in late nights at school and home helping my students to succeed. I would skip meals, skip exercising, and not relax when my body would say “I’ve had enough!” I would work myself sick to the point I would end up in the hospital. I have had long chats with my friend, ally, and mentor, and together we decided that this year my health comes first. Even though it has been only a few short days, it has been a positive start. I have not skipped meals and I make sure they are healthy. I am getting some form of daily activity included, and I have been allotting some “me time” to read, journal, and/or meditate. It is hard to change this routine so abruptly – sometimes it is only for a few minutes – but I have to focus on the reasons and keep going. It is also a few minutes more I spend on me than I did before. I guess I really never thought about how much time spend giving to others and some time is OK; however, I am realizing there needs to be a healthy balance. It is hard to change, but I had a big enough scare last month that I realized a change is pertinent or the results could end up devastating. Ruthie, please continue to blog as I truly cherish your wise words and take them to heart. They, too, help keep me going. God bless you and your precious family!!

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