In early September, I met with a group of friends over dinner. We caught up about our lives, our families, and our jobs. We sipped red wine and sopped up the sauce with good bread. It was a midweek treat. The conversation eventually wandered toward my 50 before 50 list. Margaret suggested, with a twinkle in her eye, “Why don’t we join you for one of your adventures? You select the activity and we’ll join in.
So, a couple weeks ago, we met on a Friday night. We’d booked our spa day, a hotel for the night, and reservations at a local restaurant. Life has moved pretty fast in the intervening months. Health issues, family illness, and new jobs all demanded our attention as we caught up. After dinner, we made our way back to the hotel, pulled on our warm jammies and talked into the wee hours. We shared M&M’s as we talked about the little battles and big concerns as well as the mundane parts of our lives.
We awoke the next morning ready for our spa adventure. None of us had ever been to a spa. We fretted about tipping, what to wear, and how it would all work. We couldn’t find our schedules, but we were ready. We pulled up to the spa in the bright winter sunlight. At once, we were welcomed and put at ease. Our concierge walked us through the facility, pointing out the beautiful wooden lockers, light therapy showers, saunas, salt therapy room, and the outdoor hot tub. We were enthralled.
We settled on to couches in our lined robes and slippers. Our phones were safely tucked into our lockers, as we gave ourselves over to the experience. We checked out of our real lives and into a world focused on taking care of ourselves. Between us, we have eight adult children. Each of whom is slowly finding their way. We’ve spent a lot of years taking care of the needs of everyone around us, but this was a day to take care of only ourselves.
After my first appointment, with the massage therapist, I walked back into the shared space and found my friend in an almost catatonic state. I sat across from her but all she could say was how had she lived for 55 years and never done this before. Her eyes closed, her facial muscles completely relaxed, she sat and enjoyed the hushed calm. For my part, I too was amazed. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so relaxed. Each detail was so carefully attended to, we were able to simply give ourselves over to the experience. All the tension in my life seemed to slip away.
We spent the day moving quietly between our treatments and time together in the serene calm. We had a healthy lunch, we explored each type of sauna, and all of the wonders the spa had to offer. As the hours slipped by, we savored the sense of calm and wellbeing. We determined to enjoy every last minute. We ended our day in the outdoor saltwater hot tub. We toasted each other with fluted glasses of bubbly.
In the weeks since we left the spa, I have thought a lot about how this experience focused my attention on self-care. I’ve asked myself how I might incorporate a more intentional practice into my everyday life. Here are some of the ways I am doing that today:
Lotion: Winter in New England takes a toll on my skin. I’ve begun taking a few minutes daily to lotion my legs and arms. This has been an easy addition to my morning routine but it makes me feel like I’m taking care of myself.
Calm spaces: When we bought our home, we immediately gutted and rebuilt the kitchen because it would become the heart of the home. Our bedroom and bathroom, however, did not receive any care. I’m now tending to these spaces to help them work better and feel better. It is easy to overlook these more intimate spaces in the house because no one else sees them, but how they work for me and how they make me feel matters.
Polish: I went and got a manicure last weekend. I met Allie during my lunch hour. Time to catch up with someone I care about and take time to pamper myself just a bit. It cost less than lunch out. I want to make time to do this again in a couple weeks.
Schedule: I’ve determined to schedule a massage regularly. When I worked in a high-stress job, I found that these appointments were life-giving. Now, it feels less pressing, so I have let them slide. I know that taking time to do things that support my health and make me feel better matters.
I’m not sure I would have ever found my way to the spa had I not created my 50 before 50 list. Prioritizing my health and wellness has never really been at the top of my list of priorities. As I move into this next decade, I am determined to identify and practice activities that build health and vitality into my life. Good nutrition, healthy movement, stress reduction, and a bit of pampering are practices that will help me flourish in the years to come.
What are you doing to build health and wellness in your life?