In January 2010, my New Year’s Resolution was to take more baths. But then, I took no baths…for the entire year. I was “too busy” with work and life. I had a mental block. I felt that in order to take a bath, I had to clean the tub and there was no way that was happening. Or so I told myself in an elaborate strain of excuses that grew evermore lengthy and complex.
To my dismay, the one proactive step I resolved to take that year to calm myself down, relax, get perspective, get nourishment, moisturize and exfoliate proved to be the only action in life I was incapable of doing. I couldn’t make myself. I never felt I had the time, and when I did, I would contemplate taking a bath (or worse, remind myself of my resolution to take more baths), and I would feel stressed, pained, panicked, uneasy, stricken and paralyzed. I usually resorted to watching marathon episodes of House or, even better, hanging out with the wrong sorts of men.
For the record: I showered every day. But relax in the bath I could not do.
I write to you now, in 2013, having overturned this bizarre neurosis. A hot, steaming bubble bath is now my nightly ritual. And its rewards are everything I had hoped for three years ago: calm and peace of mind, healthy skin, quietness and escape, a new perspective.
And so I ask, with my skin still emanating lavender from last night’s soak, what the hell prevents us from doing things we know are good and right for us? Why do we self-sabotage our most mundane (and precious) goals? Whether it involves exercise, getting organized, ending (or simply putting distance in) a toxic relationship, eating better, cooking more, saving money (or simply not splurging), there is an infinite number of brain cells in our heads wired for resistance, battling our own good will, defending us from what’s good for us. How do we break through these cognitive barricades and take a freakin’ bath already?
Here’s how I did it and how YOU can do it, too:
1. Change Tiny Habits, One at a Time. There was lots going on in my head during those three years, but whilst spiraling in cerebral noise, I started examining small aspects of my behavior. I set myself an early bedtime (10:30pm) and a late bedtime (2am) and focused all of my energy on getting into bed at exactly one of those two times, no matter what, until it became the “new normal.” For the record, it took months and months, but whereas everything in general seemed crazy and out of control, by dictating a strict bedtime, I added important structure to my day and, consequently, my free-wheeling life.
If I had tried a complete schedule overhaul, with wakeup-times, lunch times, and who-knows-what-all-else, I don’t believe I would have been successful. My “new-and-improved daily routine” would have turned into another failed mission, like my unsuccessful resolution to take a bath. Credit due: Charles Duhigg’s fascinating book, The Power of Habit, was a huge inspiration to me. He talks about how tiny changes reap huge rewards over time. He talks about how to set up a chain reaction of success for your daily life (and/or your business). Read it!
2. Remove Obvious Barriers. “I felt that in order to take a bath, I had to clean the tub and there was no way that was happening.” I had to stop singing that song. This was such an obvious barrier, I had to take it down. One afternoon, I bought special cleaning supplies and spent 45 minutes scrubbing the tub. I still didn’t take any baths, but at least my brain was cleared of that particular excuse.
3. Just Be, Sometimes. I couldn’t take a bath because I always felt like I had something more to be doing. I needed to send that email, or put together that spreadsheet, or write that blog post. Ahhhhh. You hear me on this? You must learn to stop. Granted, your iPhone doesn’t want you to. There it is buzzing and ringing and beeping away, alerting you to stock prices, new emails, the end of the world and another text from Mom but You. Must. Stop.
Fortunately, you can use your iPhone to your advantage. For months before I ever got in the bath, I started listening to apps from Meditation Oasis and – voila – I did start learning how to let go of the rat race, at least for 20 minutes a day. Richard Bolles, author of the amazing What Color Is Your Parachute? books, talks about how, in life, we need to stop focusing on “doing something” and start focusing on “being something.” Who and what do you want to be? Spend less time responding to emails, dealing with needy friends, and hyper-reacting to whatever pops into your life at a given moment. Realize that you are whole and your life has meaning regardless of what you have or have not accomplished that day. Let your inner values, not your frenetic outer actions, define who you are.
4. Pursue Major Life Changes Decisively But With An Open Mind. In 2010, I started working from home, full time on Dating & Hookup and other creative projects. I was determined, whatever the results of my labor, not to return to a 9-to-5 (more like 7-to-11) office job in Manhattan. If my Career Change Plan A did not pan out, then I was going to re-think everything again. As a complement to this new work ethos, I desperately wanted a companion in life, as well as unconditional love, and none of the guys in my dah were boyfriend material.
Therefore, I decided to get a French Bulldog and name him Fromage; he would be the perfect small-but-not-too-small city dog to have in my life. I started a relentless search for Fromage. But then someone told me that French Bulldogs, WHILE TOTALLY ADORABLE, can’t swim. Furthermore, they can have debilitating health problems. This was a drawback for me, since I’d been having fantasies of reveling with Fromage in the Adirondacks, where I swim in lakes and hike up mountains. Plus, purebred dogs can cost thousands of dollars. Eek. I realized I was charging full speed ahead on a desire that did not completely make sense. I was on the path to something that was right, but maybe I needed to reconsider what the end goal was.
I called my sister and asked her to meet me at a local animal shelter, just to look at the dogs and open my mind, NOT to adopt a dog. But when we got to the Bide-a-wee shelter on 38th Street, there was Bear Tennessee, a hound/shepherd mutt rescue (from Tennessee), waiting. For me. He was my dog; I just felt it. I took him home that day and will always be grateful to my roommate and landlords for being cool with that! Bear is compassionate, sweet, loyal, energetic, nuts for the woods, nuts for family, nuts for string cheese and the perfect gentlemen in company. It turned out that he was terrified of water, but after a few hours in our Adirondack pond, he got over it and now swims and swims whenever he can. He is my constant companion and friend, my joy and safeguard.
The takeaway: deep inside, you know what you need. Go after it. Even if “it” turns out not to be at all what you expected, your avid pursuit and commitment will put you on a path that will lead you to the right thing. Trust in that.
[I won't get into it here, but I believe this mindset of decisiveness combined with open-mindedness also allowed me to welcome my husband into my life when he came along, so it was good that I had learned from this prior experience!]
5. Give Yourself All The Time You Need. Eventually, I declared defeat and gave up obsessing about not being able to take a bath. I forgot about the New Years resolution of 2010. My life unfolded and I moved into a new apartment. It was a studio, so Bear and I and all our furniture were pretty cramped. BUT, the studio had a huge bathroom, with a beautiful tub. If I wanted to luxuriate in space, that was the only place to be. As I contemplated actually taking a bath, I still felt some of the anxiety from years past. But overall, my life had taken on more coherence and shape. I had learned to accept who I was and stop striving every second of every day. I was OK with myself. I was OK with my life. I was OK stepping into the hot bath and letting myself lie there for a long while. And once I started, I was hooked.
thanks Cyron for the photo!
SHOUTOUT to these influential books:
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
What Color is Your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles
Rebecca Coale - aka Becky - is a writer, musician and producer. She and childhood best friend Jessica Donalds created Dating & Hookup and founded J&R Creative Media. Becky blogs about love poetry and modern life & womanhood. She lives with her husband, Howard Coale, and their family in Manhattan and Philadelphia.
datingandhookup.com is a website that explores modern romance in the Millennial era – which, let’s be honest, looks nothing like we were taught to expect. We feature essays, advice and social commentary with humor, compassion and brains, and we vow never, ever to publish a piece called “The 10 Best Ways to Satisfy Your Man in Bed”. Do click to submit your work to us. We love you.
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