Resist, Rest Repeat: A Bathtub Confession
by Rev. Kris Watson
Inspirations during a recent bubble bath
Social Justice work is hard, racial justice work is hard. Life is hard and stressful right now. We all know that. I always say, “can’t stop, won’t stop” and then I say, “Resist, Rest Repeat”. (Do those statements contradict one another? I am not sure.) But I have a confession, rest and self-care is hard for me. Really hard. My mind races too much, I have too many brilliant ideas, and I am older now, so I don’t have too much time to accomplish all I want to accomplish. But I am learning to take baby steps towards the goal of self-care and rest. The resistance part I have down pat. Resistance is in my DNA. It is my ancestral assignment. I am compelled by forces beyond myself to do the challenging work of racial justice.
No, I do not march in the streets. At my age, and with the physical limitations I have, that is just not practical. But I do what I can from behind the scenes to support movements towards justice. I educate and build relationships and connections to move the needle forward.
But back to rest: One of my favorite self-care strategies is bubble bathing! I will have a separate essay on massage therapy, another all-time favorite later.
BUBBLE BATHS! The love of the bubble bath goes WAY back to my early childhood. My mother was a Bubble bath maven. From a young age, she would call me into her bathroom (a large room with a dressing area and vanity) and ask me to run her a bath. There is an art to it, you know! It was one of my favorite things to do with my mother. As she bathed, I would sit on the floor, and we would have our girl talk. This went on for decades. And even when I went to college, I would race home on weekends to run my mother’s bath and sit with her, spilling the tea, figuring out the world, talking about everything from A to Z getting her advice and wisdom.
As she grew sick, she needed these baths more than ever, and I hated that I was not there every night to help her. Then there came a time when all I could do was give her bedside baths from a portable tub. But I always used Vitabath and sweet almond oil so she wouldn’t get bed sores. Sometimes she would wince in pain, and that killed me, but she always appreciated my tender care and efforts. When she died after a long battle with cancer, I longed for those bathroom times. I still long for them.
When one runs a bath, the water has to be the perfect temperature. It cannot be too hot or cold. It has to be warm enough to sooth as soon as you step in the tub, but not too hot to make you recoil. It takes some skill and lots of practice to get it right.
You have to make a decision right away if you want to use Epsom salts because the precise point you put the salts in will determine if the bubble bath solution you put in will dissipate the bubbles or not. But be that as it may, what is really important is the type of bubble bath you use.
My mother used only one type of bubble bath: Vitabath. The green Vitabath. Vitabath makes great bubbles, and they also have a pink version. It was the bubble bath of choice in my childhood and early teen and adult years. These days, I prefer Dr. Teal’s bubble bath solutions which come in a variety of formulations. There is bubble bath with Epsom salt in it already (great) and with spearmint and eucalyptus, and hemp and well…the list goes on. The point is to get as many juicy bubbles in the tub as possible.
Oh yes, the tub is important too. I live in a pre-war building and the tub is long and very deep! Thank God. I refuse to take a bath in a shallow narrow and modern short form tub!
Easing down into the perfect temperature in the tub is the best feeling. But the bath is NOT perfect unless once safely in without recoiling, you are able to then add very hot water to the bath until it is almost too hot to bear. A comfortable bath pillow will help you rest your weary head as you lay back and soak in the peace and warmth of this delicious experience.
A scented candle in the bathroom enhances the experience, and jazz music is also a welcome addition, although silence is a blessing for an introvert like me.
20 minutes in, almost falling asleep, it may now be time to emerge from this indulging luxury. I am always grateful, remembering that many do not have access to the luxuries that God has provided for me. I utter a prayer for those who are in the struggle and who are struggling daily in poverty.
Depending on the time of day, I may run some cool water to invigorate me. I may take a quick shower to wash off the bubbles. But usually, I just ease out of the tub using the fluffiest, softest and largest towel I can find, finally wrapping myself up in it until I can get to my bed where I can lotion myself down and lay down to complete the relaxation process.
40 minutes of bliss. The bubble bath is a necessary tool of rest and relaxation, and rest is a form of resistance.
Resist, Rest, Repeat.