“I’m soooo crabby. I’m cold and tired, and all I want is a hot tub, a massage, and sushi and I can’t have any of that because we’re in a pandemic and numbers are spiking here in the Bay!”
I was pacing around my living room, on the phone with my therapist, and feeling defensive and grumpy as she encouraged me to think about what I needed to feel better right now.
“Well, Annie,” she said, “I know it’s not ideal, but you’re going to have to get creative.”
“I CAN’T! We rent our home, we don’t own it, so I can’t install a hot tub, and it’s not worth the risk to book a massage in case I pass the virus onto my child. And I can’t ask my husband for a massage because he’s so burned out at the end of the day, too. Sure I could get sushi takeout but it’s not the SAME.”
On and on I went with all of my excuses which felt intractably real, bulletproof against her counters, and, frankly, demoralizing.
At the end of the session, we got off the phone and I felt deflated, defeated.
Feeling as stuck as when I started the call.
More in touch with my needs now, but totally convinced that I couldn’t have what my body and soul were really craving.
You see, it had been a hard holiday season followed by a long, cold January filled with many nights of broken sleep since my toddler was having a little sleep regression from potty training.
I was working about six days a week as my team prepped for a big project and I onboarded a new staff member at my therapy center.
My body felt cold most of the time since I work in my poorly insulated garage (ahem, converted pandemic home office) and I was TIRED and very in need of physical comfort.
A little while later, after making some tea and feeling marginally better and marginally warmer, I went back into my “office.”
I sat down at my desk, at my laptop, and thought, ‘But what if there was such a thing as a temporary hot tub? That you could have at a rental home. Is that a thing?’
Onto Amazon, I went.
And my jaw dropped.
Inflatable hot tubs are a THING.
And not only was it a thing, but it’s a thing that apparently gets nearly four thousand raving reviews.*
CLICK. Added to my cart.
And then I thought, aren’t there things like electric hand massagers and foot massagers, too?
YES. There are. So I added them to my cart.
A few days later, my packages arrived.
Honestly, the foot and hand massager were flops so I sent them back.
But the hot tub?
Oh, my glorious, wonderful, transformative hot tub.
Aside from the $500 fee I paid as my Kaiser co-pay for labor and delivery of my daughter a few years ago, that was hands down the best $500 I’ve ever spent.
Since blowing it up, and waiting a few days for the water to heat up, I have been in that hot tub – usually with my husband and daughter – every single day since. Without fail.
The heat and warmth and relaxation that that 104 degrees water brings my body has been incredibly healing.
My mood has improved, my muscles don’t feel as stiff, I’m feeling more rested in the mornings (even if my daughter’s sleep hasn’t improved).
And, side note, I’m pretty sure we’ve inspired our next-door neighbors on either side of us to get one now, too, since they can see how much we enjoy it and how much fun we’re having out there.
(Also, we may or may not have bought matching adult and toddler size white fluffy robes and white Crocs. We’re rocking our pandemic spa-style big time in our backyard these days.)
Okay, believe it or not, this blog post isn’t an advertisement for the blow-up hot tub.
(But honestly, if you’re craving warmth, heat, and holding, and you need something you can have in a rental situation, I cannot recommend it enough!).
Instead, my point with this post is that my blow up hot tub re-taught me a very important lesson:
I am responsible as an adult for cultivating creative moments of reparative self-care for myself.
I knew this. I know this.
But like with all lessons in life, it’s rare that we learn something once and are done and dusted with it.
Instead, we learn and relearn lessons as many times as we need to until it truly, deeply sinks in.
One of the core pillars of my relational trauma recovery work is to help my clients – folks who come from challenging childhoods – to treat themselves well as adults, to reparent themselves as good-enough parents would have, and to cultivate wonderful, self-supportive adulthoods for themselves.
I know this. I teach this.
And generally, I do this for myself.
But that January afternoon, with cold feet, cold hands, and with only five hours of sleep under my belt for the 8th night in a row, I apparently needed to re-learn the lesson again.
On the phone with my therapist, I could identify my needs – warmth, touch, relaxation of my body (and yes, some yummy sushi to cap it all off), but I was CONVINCED I could not have those things because of the circumstances.
Her invitation to get creative catalyzed my defensiveness at the moment.
But then, when I was able to take some space, to lean into the possibility of creativity, when I was able to wonder “What if?” and do a little outside-the-box thinking and research, I was able to cultivate a deeply reparative experience of self-care.
In this season of life, in this chapter of world history, many of us are very limited in terms of what we can (and are willing to) access in order to sustain ourselves. To support ourselves.
But these perceived and actual limitations aren’t just relegated to pandemic times.
Speaking personally, I’ve often had excuses at many points throughout my life as to why I can’t have/do/be/see/experience the thing my body, soul, and mind were craving.
“I don’t have enough money.”
“I don’t have enough time.”
“I don’t know how to.”
“I’m a new mom and I can’t be away from her.”
And so on.
I’m sure you know your own version of self-imposed limitations, too.
These stories we tell ourselves can feel so real at the time, can’t they?
But even though it feels true, doesn’t mean it’s empirically true.
And even if there is some empiric truth, it doesn’t mean we still can’t get creative to find a way around things to meet our needs and wants.
For example, many of my clients with relational trauma backgrounds will say, ‘I didn’t have a good mothering or fathering experience and now it’s too late for me to have those kinds of experiences in my life.’
But it’s not. At least, it’s not too late in some semblance of a way.
And then I tell them that seeking out and cultivating reparative relational experiences with mother- and father-like figures is possible and that it can be deeply healing.
And then, if this is a need and want of theirs, I support them in doing this through our work together and, inevitably, creatively meeting this need has positive impacts on their life.
So, again, this blog post is not just a love letter to my glorious blow-up hot tub.
This blog post is about the lesson my blow up hot tub taught (really, re-taught) me:
The excuses I was making were perceived limitations (mostly because I didn’t have enough information) and that it was possible to creatively meet my needs if I was willing to flex my thinking and come up with alternate solutions.
So now, borrowing inspiration from my blow-up hot-tub story, I want to ask you:
- What is one big need that’s up for you right now? Something you really want but are telling yourself you can’t have? What do your body, soul, and mind want and need?
- And then, borrowing inspiration from my own little story, what’s one way in which you may need to get creative? Like really out-of-the-box creative?
- Also, what might it take to help you think more creatively here? More information? Someone, to bounce ideas off of? Letting go of a story you’re holding onto?
I hope you can make a practice of thinking about ways you can creatively meet your own needs – even and especially when it seems like you can’t! – and also that you will keep coming back to this lesson time and time again in order to support and sustain yourself.
Until next time, please take such good care of yourself. You’re so worth it.
PS: It’s not my child and it’s not my hot tub in the picture that accompanies this post. But that dreamy, blissed-out look does accurately capture how I feel in my hot tub.
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