Bathing in Self-Love
The attendant guided me to a private room where a steaming, bubbly bath was waiting just for me. The whole room smelled like chocolate. The lights were dimmed. A glass of water and more chocolate laid on the side of the bath waiting for me to indulge.
I removed my flip flops and soft robe and slid into the bubbles. The warm water felt therapeutic against my skin.
I laid my head back on the pillow and sank into the chocolate paradise and closed my eyes. But, only for one minute.
“Oh no, my hair is getting wet. It’s going to look terrible when I get out.”
“Look at my fat flabby stomach peeking up through the bubbles. I’m so f’n fat.”
“I wonder if everything is okay with mom? Maybe I should check in with Dan.”
There I was in a high-end spa- the kind that most women would give an arm and a leg to visit, and once they do, it will cost them just that to have a treatment- for a whole day of pampering. It was a Mother’s Day gift from my eldest son. My family had been to hell and back over the past year, and my son knew I needed a break. So, he sent me a gift card for a full spa day, WAY too much money.
I was in the epicenter of self-care and indulgence and all I could think about was my shortcomings and how my very capable husband was dealing with a day alone with my mom who suffers from Alzheimer’s.
What the hell is wrong with me? Or more to the point, what the hell is wrong with us, as women?
Even when we are handed a free day, a golden ticket to relaxation, we don’t use it to the full capacity that we should. Because even in that moment of pure bliss, I was focused on my fat belly and on someone else’s comfort instead of mine.
I’ve been consumed by grief since the end of April when my dad passed. CONSUMED. It’s like I smile. I work. I get through the day going through the motions, but I’m weighed down by the invisible baggage of grief.
My inbox is full of emails from self-care and self-help gurus that I’ve looked to for help during what seems like a series of never-ending transitions that keep occurring in my life. One son graduating college and moving across the country. The passing of my dearest confidante. My youngest son graduating and staying in the big city. Hello, empty nest! Becoming my mom’s full-time caregiver in light of dad’s death. It’s a neverending search for something, anything that will give me comfort.
Most of these emails get deleted, as I find no comfort in so of the empty dribble these enlightened ones churn out. But, today was different. Today, one of the “Quotes of the Day” actually made me stop and think. And, brought me back to the luxurious spa day, and was the impetus for this particular day’s rambling.
“I define comfort as self-acceptance. When we finally learn that self-care begins and ends with ourselves, we no longer demand sustenance and happiness from others.” ~Jennifer Louden
It hit me.
I preach a lot about self-care and I have had every well-meaning person I know tell me that I need to care for myself, make time for myself, spend time on my needs and not just those of my mom and others around me. And I do, in theory, but not in practice.
I’ve gotten better at asking for help. We have a home nursing agency on call, so I can leave the house for a few hours to go for groceries or get my nails done. That’s all well and good, but what happens when I do leave the house? I am STILL focused on what’s going on in those four walls.
What happens when I take a few minutes for me during the day with a magazine and a cup of coffee? I keep one ear open to make sure Mom isn’t in harm’s way back in her part of the house.
What happens when I’m out for a dinner date with my husband, for the first time in, honestly, five months? I’m worried that the new nurse back at our house is opening the door and letting my much-loved dog out the front by accident.
This brings me back around to the quote from this morning. Self-acceptance. Self-care might be easy — going out, asking for help, taking a spa day — but self-acceptance seems to be the difficult part of the equation.
In those moments when I am in the practice of self-care, I’m still not accepting my self.
Once more, for those in the back. You cannot truly practice self-love or self-care if you are, at that moment, not accepting yourself.
When I was immersed in those chocolatey waters, I should have just enjoyed it. Relaxed, even. Sat in the moment and took the time that my son wanted me to when he gave me such an extravagant gift.
Every time I leave the house, I just leave the house at home and accept that I’m a caregiver who is taking a normal, and much-needed break from an overwhelming duty.
The rare date nights I get with my husband should be focused on accepting myself as a wife and knowing that every woman needs to feel loved and special.
So, as I close the door on the hardest year of my life, I open the door to a new year that might finally bring me the elusive self-love that I need to truly practice self-care effectively.
And it gives me another excuse to dip my toes in that chocolate bath of self-love that I didn’t enjoy in 2019.