I originally wrote this on December 15 — on paper! In a beautiful new notebook! And I decided to share it here, now.
Six and a half years ago, my friend Abby Bales gave me an inflatable bath pillow from The Body Shop. It was part of an incredibly thoughtful care package she sent during a very sick, very sad time in my life.
Three days ago, my friend and physical therapist Brynn Fissette told me the reason my body aches and feels like it’s rapidly deteriorating is because I’m riddled with stress. I’m carrying that stress everywhere. In my posture. My ribs are blown out. My shoulders may as well be earrings. And, she explained, it all comes back to breathing. Apparently I’m not doing it right. I’m holding my breath in instead of letting it out. A metaphor for life, no doubt.
Yesterday, while furiously running holiday errands on a rainy, traffic-riddled Saturday, I decided to treat myself. To my basket at Indigo filled with thoughtful treats for my loved ones, I added a bright white, long-sleeved, knee-length waffle robe. The robe of my dreams. “F*ck it,” I told myself indignantly. “I deserve this!”
By Sunday, my shoulders were back in their normal state: high as a turtleneck. I was irritable, stressed, bordering on manic. After putting Annie to bed at 7:08 PM, I half-jokingly asked Brian if he wanted to draw me a bath. “Really?,” he asked. I somewhat meekly answered, “kind of.”
Brian practically ran to the bathroom and started the water. Maybe he, too, thought I deserved this. More likely, he’d do anything to get me to chill out, to get me out of his hair and off his back for a bit. To get some peace for himself.
Twenty or so minutes later, Brian came to the bedroom to get me. “Your bath is ready,” he whispered, as he led me down the hall.
The lights in the bathroom were off. The room was filled with candles. Some version of “Alexa, play spa music” played. There were bubbles. A sheet mask. (“Calming,” the package read.) A glass of ice water with a slice of orange. A salt scrub. (“Invigorating,” that one read. Contradictory, with the “calming” face mask, but I’m a sucker for anything peppermint scented, and appreciated the way he’d raided my bathroom cabinets for anything that might help me.)
In the tub: Abby’s pillow.
Perched on the side of the tub: Big Magic.
And hanging on the door, my new robe.
All opened for the first time.
Brian shut the door and I took a deep breath. It wasn’t going to be a productive Sunday night. I wasn’t going to prep for Monday morning. The kitchen sink would remain filled with dirty dishes until the next day. And I was going to get in.
I have no idea how long I was in there. Roughly 43 pages long. Prune-y toes long. Long enough to fully, deeply, finally relax.
Eventually, after a luxurious experience with the invigorating salt scrub, I drained the tub. Dried off. Put on my new robe. (Heavenly, which is not a word I ever use. But that was $98 well spent.) And I blew out the candles.
I practically floated down the hall back toward the bedroom, smiling contently.
“You look relaxed,” Brian told me. He seemed both proud of himself for facilitating my newfound state of giddiness, and relieved that it worked.
“I am,” I said, for the first time in the longest time I can remember. And I meant it.
And now, The Sunday Bath is a thing. Despite a lifelong resistance to ask for help when I need or want it, or to rely on others in pretty much any scenario, I asked Brian if he would do that every Sunday. Sure, I could do that all myself. But there’s something so much more indulgent about someone else finding the perfect water temperature, lighting the candles, and crafting the fruit-infused water.
One of my goals for 2020 is to do more to set myself up for success. To start, I’ve turned off all notifications on my phone and set screen time limits for each day. And if choosing indulgence over chores on a Sunday evening means a happier, more productive and pleasant Ali, I’m all for it.
I’m looking forward to writing more in 2020. I don’t know yet what that will look like — how often it’ll be, how committed I’ll be — but I’m happy to be back here in the space I created 10 years ago. (!!!) And I’m so happy you’re here, too.