Life Lessons from Bucket Bathing

life lessons from bucket bathing

I recently had a small, then a big, then a huge leak in my second-floor bathroom drain pipe. This resulted in not just mold and warped walls in my kitchen but also the inability to use my shower and bathtub for about two months. It took me that long to find the right contractor and get the job completed.

I usually shower every day, even though it dries out my greying hair and aging skin. Not having access to a regular flow of water was a bit of a gross out for me. In addition, it limited my activity a bit. I was reluctant to do anything which might result in perspiration, like excessive yard work or going to the gym, as it would have been difficult to get clean.

Without a shower, I had a few options. I could have joined a fitness club, one with a shower as my low frills club has none, especially since many of them offer a free introductory month. I also could have asked friends or family to use their shower. Another option would have been to stay in a hotel. And because I live very close to not one but two rivers, a final option would be to bathe riverside.

In the end, I decided to bathe the old fashioned way, though not quite as old-fashioned as river bathing – by using a small bucket, soap, and washcloths next to my bathtub.

My time spent bathing in this way was actually quite delightful. Everything was quiet and slowed down. Instead of hearing the rushing water by my ear, I heard the sound of birds singing nearby and the hum of children playing in the distance. I noticed things that would otherwise have escaped my attention during those moments.

Yet, I would not want to bucket bathe forever. This experience helped me to appreciate having an in-home shower so, so, so, so much.

In the city where I live, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 175 occupied homes that have incomplete plumbing facilities. That means that hundreds of my neighbors need to, on a regular basis, accommodate this structural deficiency by bucket bathing or whatever method they have devised. In addition, toward the end of my bucket bathing experience, Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas. How could I possibly complain about my lack of access to water when so many lives were lost and disrupted due to this deluge?

My short bucket bathing time helped me to put a lot in perspective. It made me realize how fortunate I am, due to geography alone, and how much I take for granted on a daily basis. I am grateful to have had this experience, but I am also relieved that it is now over!

40 for 40: All the Rest

Last year, I made a pact with a fellow friend, who shared with me the momentous occasion of turning 40, to do 40 things to celebrate this life event. I further pledged to do one more thing every year, a total of 41 things to mark my 41st birthday, etc., in future years.

As the lack of posts on this topic demonstrates, I have somewhat abandoned this approach to marking my year. Any undertaking truly worthy of turning 40 would likely be too private to fully write about on this blog, and the list seemed like a chore rather than a celebration.

So instead, I am focusing my attention on living in the moment and being grateful for the opportunity to continue doing so day after day. It is these virtues that will enable me to get the most out of what will surely continue to be a splendid year. Rather than checking items off of a list, I am generating new interpretations of my life which enrich it beyond measure.

I Was Happier When I Was Depressed

smile-face-wallpaper

I sometimes think that I was happier when I was depressed. I recently found a journal from 2006 and 2008, with an almost two-year gap in-between. The pages contained subtle and not so subtle expressions of sadness, rage, loss, obsession, and shame. While I read my desperate words with compassion for the promising young woman who couldn’t see past her, my, immediate challenges, I also felt a sense of loss for the person I once was. Who knew that I would someday long for those dreary days with a sense of sentimental pride.

At the time, I knew exactly who I was — or so it appears on the page. My mental health diagnosis was enmeshed with my identity. It was who I was; it explained why I felt what I felt and did what I did. I defined myself through my diagnosis with religious rigor. Resistance to recovery is often rooted in attachment to our sense of self at a particular time in our lives — a self that we have, necessarily so, learned to understand, manage, and control.

But I really only knew one part of myself, and now I have opened up to so many other possibilities for my life. I am happy, or I should say happier, but not consistently so. And that is unquestionably good. But at the same time, I feel that my writing, a reflection of how I feel about life at the moment, has become, at times, fake, sterile, and dull despite moments of restless rumination. I fear that if I do not suffer, then my art will on my behalf.

I didn’t originally have the opportunity to self-identify as a person who experiences mental illness, pervasive emotional distress. From a young age, I was told you’re this. You’re that. I was medicated. I received harmful treatment that fractured my already fragile self-esteem and identity. Without realizing it, I conformed to those various labels that were attached to me and implicitly complied with the related assumptions about my feelings and behavior. In my heart of hearts, I never fully accepted other people’s interpretations of me, particularly those that were based on a simplistic diagnosis — because I am a unique, complex, dynamic human being— as we all are.

No, I really don’t want to go back to those more difficult days, but I wouldn’t change them either. I am grateful for what they, both at the time and in retrospect, have revealed and taught me about myself and about life. They have made me a stronger, more empathetic, and more resilient person.