How to Take a Bath

An ode to soaking

Hi hello greetings,

Gonna write some about baths, which are frequently a What’s Helping Today for me.

A friend was staying here the other week and quizzing me about my bathing habits and about baths generally.

She’s someone who’s taken showers in the morning her whole life but has lately become interested in other options. I was likewise a mandatory shower in the morning person once upon a time but have since changed. She asked me lots of questions. She isn’t a fan of baths and wondered: How do you even get clean? I said: I don’t take baths to clean myself, not really. I mean sometimes prior to or at the end of a bath, I will use soap and such. But the truth of my life here is I often take many showers a day — particularly this time of year when I’m often in the forest and the garden, frequently covered in mud and soil, frequently exposed to ticks.

No, I told my friend, I take baths almost entirely for my soul. I explained it like, basically, however many years ago, I hated myself so much I could never have handled something so peaceful, so rooted in self-kindness, as just sitting in a bath. I would never have bothered; I loathed myself too much. So taking baths was something I worked on, intentionally, forcing myself to do it, to sit there. At first I couldn’t handle staying for very long. My practice today of taking baths frequently, sometimes daily, long ones, that’s a reflection of my shifting relationship with self-hatred.

Therefore whenever I take a bath, I try to not cut corners. I rinse the tub out, clean out the drain, make sure I’m starting with a clean surface. I light candles. I put on music, soothing type shit. (Most frequently played bathing album is Julianna Barwick’s Healing is a Miracle). I always try to set out a few activities for myself — a book, a notebook, tarot cards (items I’ll just as often ignore, once bathing). Mandatory is a big glass of cold water, because you’ll sweat in a bath and get dehydrated. Plus cold water in a hot bath is just delicious.

The moment you enter a bath, that’s really what you take a bath for. When you first drop your sad human sack into that steaming water and it hits your spirit. Often as I have this moment, I think of a quote from Sylvia Plath (which I first read in a bath): “There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.”

Now that I am such a Baths Guy, I admit I have more crap around — various salts, oils, fine-ground oatmeal. Depending on my situation or condition (cramps? sore muscles? itchy skin?), I amend my baths accordingly. I have a bath pillow, which my neck appreciates, and this cheap device, which allows a couple extra inches of water, a big deal in this game. But I am less fixated on gear when it comes to baths and more upon the basic principle of: You have to be alright with doing something that has no point other than sitting and feeling good. For some of us, for reasons, this feeling is the worst.

Over the last year or so I’ve gotten into curating baths for others — my husband, a friend who lived here awhile. It’s glorious, assembling a healing scenario for a loved one and then, eventually, watching them emerge, warm and reborn.

Listen, perhaps you hate baths (in which case congrats on making it to the end of this newsletter lol). But I do invite you contemplate why this is, that you think this. If the answer is, deep down you can’t stand the idea of doing something so loving for yourself, well, I do hope you’ll reconsider.

Love,
Sandy

p.s. Sharing this vegan mapo tofu recipe, which we eat often and always rules.

p.p.s. Billie Eilish’s new album is playing nonstop around here, either literally or in my mind.

p.p.p.s. Been meaning to share an update from our friend Mr. Bunbury, who is thriving!