Week  Ten: The ordinary pleasure of bathing

Let us begin by going back in time several years to a cold,
dark winter’s afternoon much like the ones we are having now…

The hot water was beginning to steam as I emptied two capfuls
of expensive oil into the tub.  I
stripped off my clothes, climbed over the side and slipped under the
surface.  After a long walk beside a
frozen river, I could feel the warmth ease my tightened muscles.  I squeezed my eyes tightly shut, hoping for
the water to have the same restorative effect on my mind even if deep down I
knew that no elixir, however fragrant, could cure my psychic woes.  But nonetheless I hoped.  I lay there in the stillness until my fingers
wrinkled and the water turned cold, half-believing that when I stood up and
reached for a towel, I’d be cured – my troubles washed away, my soul as clean
as my skin, a fresh start all round.  

Of course the act of bathing provided only the clean skin
part.  Once I got out, I was still as
worn out, run down and miserable as I had been before I turned the taps
on.  Now I was shivering and disappointed
too, despondent that the transformation I’d imagined hadn’t taken place.  I had invested that eighty or so litres of
water with a powerful combination of magical and baptismal qualities and then
felt indignant when all it did was give me a wash.  Why didn’t it save me?, I wondered.  Where was the answer to all my problems if
not in the mythical relaxing bath time so highly recommended by women’s
magazine advice?

Let us now skip forward in time.  It is just last week.  Again I am running a bath but in another
bathroom and what seems like an altogether different life.  I feel the bubbles tickling my chin and the
hot water stinging the tops of my thighs.
The temperature soothes the small of my back, easing away the lingering
remnants of a chill that has kept me housebound most of the week.  I enjoy listening to the stillness, albeit with
an ear half-cocked to possible scuttling mouse noises from the loft above.  I relax knowing that I cannot do anything but
lie here until I decide to get out.  When
I make that decision, I have a tingle of anticipation as I step onto the mat.  Getting out the bath means that moment has
arrived – the one I’ve been waiting for and looking forward to since the
thought of having a bath crossed my mind: the time has come to trim my
toenails.

Was that the statement you were expecting, dear reader?

Perhaps not, but that is the truth of my bath time last
Friday.  Things have changed so very much
since the first scene I described, and one aspect of this is my perspective on
bathing.  I used to believe that I could
live at break neck speed, surviving variously on too little (sleep) or too much
(alcohol), with a food intake that swung rapidly between the two poles.  As a periodic crash hit me, as it inevitably would,
I’d take to the bath as if that would solve everything, a kind of self-care
cure-all to call upon in times of emergency.
Little wonder the experience was always a disappointment.  

Now I enjoy baths for just what they are: the opportunity to
lie in warm water and let the world drift by for a short while.  Nothing more, but nothing less either.  A simple pleasure, one to be grateful for
when the world outside is cold and dark.
And when the world outside is also in full throttle party-shopping-party-eating-party-drinking-party-visiting-party-hosting-party
mode (as it is for the next five weeks or so), perhaps it time to be especially
grateful for baths.  They can’t
counteract all the damage we can inflict on ourselves over the festive season
but they can offer a brief period of respite.

Whenever you need some kind of relief either this week or in
the month ahead, take a bath (or a long, luxurious shower is an equally good
alternative).  They won’t fix you, or the
world.  But you can enjoy it anyway, just
for what it is.

You don’t have to share your bath time pictures, but you can
if you like!  You can share any other
thoughts on the joys of bathing too – either via the A Life Of One’s Own
Facebook page
or using the hashtag #fourthquarter2015 on Instagram and/or
Twitter.

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