I like to immerse myself in cold water, as in 8°C/46°F (and up to a couple degrees downward), which is the temperature of our area of the Salish Sea a good six months of the year. Generally, I stay in a minimum of 2 minutes. I think my maximum immersion was 11 minutes.
Each time I step into the sea – and once I move past the hysteria and the primal urge to flee – I enter a zone I find incredibly peaceful. Centered. Awake and aware. In the moment.
My husband practices cold water immersion more often than I do, and when he needs “coaching” from Yours Truly, I often remind him to inhabit his back-body. Why? Because when we’re faced with a challenge or something we fear, we often respond by rounding our shoulders and curling in on ourselves, automatically protecting our soft spots, our internal organs, like our hearts and guts.
Or, we puff out our chests and stride forward, hoping our commanding attitude – and out-thrust ribcage – will propel us forward, past those challenges and fears.
I’ve been chest out, eyes to the horizon for the entirety of the five years I’ve been self-publishing (and, therefore, self-promoting) the books I write. And you know what? I’m… enervated. And last week, I bottomed out and landed with a SPLAT.
Actually, the bottom smacked me upside the head, lay me down, and explained that if I continued moving through the world in the way I was, then I wasn’t going to like the person I would become.
I told my husband some of this. I told him I needed a break, like at least 4 days at a hotel BY MYSELF, or a series of spa days, neither of which is in our budget. I got kind of… dramatic. Luckily, he knows that when his favorite Leo gets dramatic, it means she truly is close to losing her shit.
In true Capricorn fashion, he set about to find an affordable alternative. And he did. He booked us a 90-minute Hydrotherapy session a local spa (Solace Organic Spa). And when they had a cancellation for the NEXT DAY, he nabbed it.
Reader, 90 minutes of soaking in a hot tub, dipping in a cold plunge, and toasting my bones in an infrared sauna allowed me to sink into the depths of my own exhaustion and find my back-body.
I remembered all those times I counseled my husband to inhabit his back-body as he fought the urge to run screaming out of the cold, cold sea.
I realized I’ve been running forward for so long, aimed toward a future I was trying to simultaneously anticipate and craft, that I’d forgotten to turn those wise words on myself.
When my husband and I got home from the spa, we had lunch. After lunch, I went back to bed, to flannel sheets and two napping cats, and I… I did nothing. Except continue to drink water. Lots of water. And when I got hungry, I made myself a steak and shared it with the cats. And went back to bed and stayed there until the next morning.
That day, I again stayed mostly in bed. I got up to bake some turkey (my body said MEAT and obviously, I obliged) and take my iron pills after which I – you guessed it! – returned to bed.
Two hours after eating a lot of turkey and taking my iron, I inaugurated our new waffle iron, swept and mopped the kitchen floor, and felt better than I have in weeks.
This morning, I was up at 5:00. The first thing I did when I sat at my desk was open my journal and write down what I wanted most to remember from the past few days. And that was to settle myself in the cradle of my back-body. To be in the here-and-now (or maybe just a bit behind, y’know?).
How does this insight relate to my writing and publishing as I pass the 5-year mark?
The answer is a work-in-progress. There’s a fresh, two-column list on my clipboard, labeled “GIVES” and “TAKES.” At the top of “Gives” are the friends I connect with every day, and honoring the solitude my creative self requires. At the top of “Takes” is social media, and chasing other people’s ideas of what has meaning or value.
I have work to do. Being in my back-body requires utilizing both physical and mental practices. I rolled out my yoga mat on the floor of my office. I’m hoping my body’s movement memories from years of practicing and teaching yoga will rise up and remind me what to do.
The mental practice will be more challenging. I foresee slotting multiple pause points into each day, and longer pause points into every week, and every month. The good news is, I know I can do this.
So here’s to reaching my point of “I can’t function this way one single day longer” and understanding it was time for me to stop, assess, and pivot. Has this happened to you? What were your signs? And were you able to craft a work-around, find a lifeline, make that needed shift?