I don’t really like baths. By the time I reach a point of really wanting one, they usually feel like too much work. When the tub is finally filled, candle lit, and face mask procured, the moment has often passed for me. Also, I don’t have a cool bath caddy with a designated wine holder.
That said, I decided to take a bath the other night.
Having a baby (now toddler) and working during a pandemic has left my body feeling like it’s spent the whole day moving homes by 8pm every night. Every. Single. Night. It was especially grueling a few days ago. Under normal circumstances, I would have just booked a massage. Under normal circumstances, I would not have needed to see a rheumatologist for a diagnosis of “overuse” in my hands.
I didn’t need to take a bath, but sit in a hot bath I did. This past week I did a lot of unnecessary things that turned out to be, in fact, just what I needed.
Though the world has seemed to relax its lock down rules as COVID trudges on into the indefinite future, we’re still keeping it fairly cautious in my house. Half a year later and I find myself still adhering to the initial stay at home order rules. “Don’t go out unless it’s NECESSARY,” repeats in my mind on a daily basis.
Not having any childcare while trying to work and keep up the house has forced me into a mentality void of excess. There isn’t any time or space to be anything but the most efficient version of myself. I feel guilty when I realize I’ve been staring into space or my phone for five minutes, instead of chipping away at my to-do list. The couple hours a day worth of naps have become bargaining chips between my work obligations, household responsibilities, and parental duties. The literal house always seems to win.
Where is the time for me? Is there room for frivolity? Even if I found the time, is it even allowed?
I didn’t think it was possible to feel even more like I was living on an endless loop than I had felt during the past six months. Then, the fires came.
My son’s first birthday was the hottest day ever recorded in Los Angeles County history. It was a milestone I was already anticipating and dreading at the same time. I struggled with the loss of any real, proper celebration with extended friends and family, and then in true 2020 fashion, it just got worse. We couldn’t even be outside. That remained to be the case for the next two weeks.
On the edge of the evacuation zone for the Bobcat fire, which I can still see out my front window, the smoke enveloped our yard and seeped into the house. Not just isolated anymore, we were trapped in every sense of the word. No relief anywhere, and no air felt safe to breathe. I refreshed the air quality tracker at least 20 times a day and rejoiced when it moved from hazardous to unhealthy by late afternoon. It’s safe to take the baby out for five minutes!
Stress and fear from the pandemic compounded with the first year of being a parent with no help were already pushing me to my limits. But these fires? COME ON.
I begrudgingly got into the bath, which is not really how you should enter an experience specifically designed to help you decompress. I put on my vitamin C mask and tried to read, but was (as usual) easily distracted by my phone and my own brain. The bath quickly cooled so I ran the water again to heat it up. I let it run for too long, listening to the tub water get lapped into the grate below the faucet.
Wait, is that what that thing is for?? To prevent the tub from overflowing? Why didn’t I know this? Is it because I never take baths? Do hardcore tubber know this kind of thing? And, if that IS what they are for (as I have not googled to confirm), then why do bathtubs ever overflow in movies and real life?
I kept the water running. As a native Californian who had the fear of draught instilled in me at an early age, this felt like an extremely rebellious act. Growing up, I was taught to turn the water off while brushing my teeth and soaping my hair, and here I was just letting the water run and run while the hills in front of my house burned and burned.
Everything is bad. Everything is restricted. So, I acted out. Yes, you can still do that at 35 years old. The Japanese ask that you kindly scream into your heart. I tried that, but it’s all still seeping out anyway. You can clearly see it in the boxes that arrive at my doorstep, carrying clothes, makeup, and skin care items I have no need to wear, but feel comforting to accumulate in the face of infinite confinement.
Wasting bath water wasn’t my only micro-rebellion of the week. I tried to small talk two doctors a little too long to the point where it was uncomfortably clear they were very uninterested. An employee at Warby Parker commented, “Wow, you have really good energy,” as I grabbed frames off the shelf, while soliciting anyone’s opinion who would talk to me.
“I’m away from my child, and outside the house all alone!” I rejoiced, spewing droplets into my mask.
I also took a superfluous trip to a Jewish bakery (two if you count the fact that I went back in after eating two rugelacha in my car and deciding I didn’t order enough the first time). I escaped the house to grab a pair of new shoes with curbside pickup and joyously impulse purchased a few new toys for my son. It filled me with delight to peruse the children’s section of a small boutique for MY child –– a small act I’ve been deprived of for half of my time as a parent. I used one of my son’s naps to buy new glasses, and ended up stopping by one of my favorite stores on the same street to just touch some pretty clothes. “Did you need to go? Was it necessary?” My husband asked me, a little on edge.
I really think it was, I told him.