Yes that’s right – this is a post about baths. For some, it’s purely hygienic. For others, it’s a weird soup of luke-warm water. For me, it’s a haven of tranquillity, my little warm bubble, an oasis of calm in my own home. Quite frankly, it’s a lifesaver.
The act of taking a bath may be relaxing to some people because of its ritualistic properties. The sound of running water. The elbow testing. Carefully pouring in a particular product – bath foam, soak, bubbles, salt. That tentative first toe that breaks the surface, then the bliss when you realise you’ve got the Goldilocks of temperature and you sink down into that oh-so-perfect cocoon of beautiful smelling warmth. After a long day, or an average day with a bad commute, or a slightly cold but nevertheless pleasant day, or a Wednesday, the methodical way in which a bath is drawn can be just the start of the wind down.
Even that term – ‘drawing a bath’ – implies a certain art. Creativity is needed to get all the elements to come together. If you are using scented candles, they can’t clash with any of the smooth essences you’ve filled the water with. If it’s a hot evening, the bath water must be just so in order to ensure you’re not going to get too clammy. Making sure your towel is within easy reach. Learning how to hold a book with one hand and a wine glass with the other and neither dropping onto your chest. Discovering just which foot muscles are required to turn the tap on and off when the water begins to cool. Knowing when it really is time to get out, no matter how many pages are left of your book (usually when your feet resemble raisins).
I’ve previously mentioned that I’m an introvert, and spending all day with people is incredibly draining. When I get home, I don’t really want to discuss the events, or even engage with other humans for a while. Being in a bath creates a physical and psychological barrier from the outside world, if only for a short time. People know not to walk in on someone in the bath – largely because you are, after all, completely naked in a see-through substance (even a flannel can’t hide everything), but also because there is something inherently private about taking a bath. Aside from those rulers and leaders who held meetings in their bathrooms… they’re a slightly different breed. It’s not just that the bathroom door is closed which means, generally, no-one may enter unless they come bearing a glass of wine and small bowl of chocolates; I find the bathroom a chance to disconnect. I’m not one of these people who will watch TV in the bath – no, my baths are sacred, non-technology zones. No music, no digital stimuli. Just me and the water. And usually a book, where I can get lost for an hour in my pages completely uninterrupted.
Occasionally though, if it’s been a particularly hard or stressful time, I won’t even open to the prologue of a novel. I’ll just lie back and close my eyes, listening to the light hum of the extractor fan, and begin to switch off. As someone with an overactive mind, always thinking too much and catastrophizing my life, the ability to switch off is not something that comes naturally. But sometimes, a bath is like getting into a bubble. My heartrate slows, the water over my chest enables my breathing to relax, and all I have to do is be.
I’ve no doubt some of you reading will think this all sounds a bit hippy, and a bit ridiculous. It’s just a bath after all – an alternative way of getting clean. But I think, and I hope, that a few of you will agree. That there can be, if you let it, something powerful about taking a bath, a way of reconnecting with your body and mind, and allowing yourself just a little bit of space from this somewhat chaotic world. And on that note, I’d better get drawing…