November 25th, 2006
the dead hand of habit
Reading in the bathtub is close to a form of praying for me.
Most times I am guilty of thinking too much, wanting to control the outcome of my days, wanting to be productive, wanting to finish the list, wanting to be “that” person who is doing all the things that I want to do with my life.
But “that” person is as human as I am. “That” person struggles too with all of the same things, mood swings and fears and sweat and messy mind and the feeling of not doing “enough”.
Today I made a new list:
-feel the warm socks on my feet after they come out of the dryer
-eat something that is decadent
-read a book in the bathtub
-spend some time lying on the floor looking at the ceiling
-smell the wet earth even though you are grumpy because it is still raining.
-look at the sky a minimum of ten times, and really study it, like it was a painting
-leave the clean laundry in the baskets
when the bath is full I slip into it book in hand. sometimes I stay there reading for hours, pausing every now and then to do a “warm up” by adding new hot water, (often several times). I like it to be hot enough that you can see the steam coming off the top, windows covered and dripping with moisture. I don’t like to get my book wet so I try to dry my fingers on a towel before I turn the pages (I don’t know why I do this but it seems a part of the ritual). On a couple of occasions I have dropped the whole book in the bath, (my copy of “Alias Grace” is forever swelled and stiff after a nights reading a few years ago).
In the bathtub I have only a couple of tasks. To read until my fingers are prunes, and to scrub my body, freeing the millions of dead skin cells as if they are all of my controlling thoughts. I rub them off with the facecloth and they float on the surface of the water having lost all of their weight. I then wipe the sides of the tub, watching as my cells rapidly circle the drain before exiting permanently.
While in the tub I find the words that want to come out of my body, which have been lost for many days now. But when I sit down to write, they don’t come out as directly as I had hoped.
What I wanted to tell you about was that feeling of being warmed by the bathwater, of cheeks that are red and overheated. I wanted to mention the quality of light that comes in from the window, and tell you how it makes patterns on the wall which i would like to trace with a pencil. And also what it feels like to rub dead skin off of that piece of skin just under your ankle while you read a story about a man who has traveled to the sea in search of his past.
I wanted to mention that sometimes the little things that make you feel most alive may not be all that pretty. Many times they involve mud, dead skin, cold air, things that are broken, things that are lost or missing, things that are scarred, things that are covered in layers of dust, things that are buried, things that you are trying to hide from others.
Especially that last one.
“The idea is to turn even familiar actions into everyday celebrations, to make vivid the common, to separate every moment from the next, as experimental films do, so that spontaneity is allowed to break the dead hand of habit.” ~Samuel A. Eisenstein