I have been spending a lot of time sitting in my bathtub. I do not fill the bathtub with water nor do I take off my clothes. Instead I climb into the bathtub fully clothed and sit down. Sometimes I will light a candle or a stick of incense to create ambience, however it is not often that I do this. Instead I just climb into the bathtub like a man retreating from the noise of the world. I shut the tub doors and burrow myself between the white walls of the tub. I stare at the silver waterspout covered with grime and at the ceiling that seems to be slightly water-logged. My tub is not a fancy one. It is a humble tub; a bathroom not fit for kings or even princes- instead it is a tub for a man who is not quite sure how he fits into this world.
Often times I will stay in the bathtub for hours. When my wife is not frustrated with me, she will bring me a snack, tea or a glass of water. She will sit down on the leaking toilet besides the tub and try and make conversation with me. She will ask me questions such as “What is wrong?” or “Why are you laying in the tub again?” When I am in the tub I am not in the mood for conversation. I do not feel like explaining myself to anyone and I will often try and evade my wife’s questions by denying that there is a problem. I tell her that I am just trying to relax. “I need to take it easy because my heart and stomach hurts,” I tell her. How can she argue with a man in distress? She cannot, so she just pouts out a quiet “okay” and tells me to let her know if I need anything before she leaves me alone in the bathroom.
The bathtub is a safe place for me. In the tub there is nothing that I have to get done, no one that I have to become and no place that I am needing to go. It is as if the tub freezes all time and space. I do not find myself worrying in the bathtub like I do in the outside world. Instead I think about my life, my past, present and future. I review my life with a microscopic attention to detail. I listen to the wind chimes outside the bathroom window and imagine what the clouds must look like as they float across the sky. I am never really able to fall asleep in tub- but sometimes I slip into a state of nirvana so wide and deep that I am no longer a resident of my physical body.
I got the idea to spend time sitting in my bathtub after I read the short novel “The Bathroom,” by Jean-Philippe Toussaint. In the novel, the main protagonist who is around my age spends the great majority of his time meditating in his bathtub. His girlfriend and friends, who all come and visit him in the bathroom, support his eccentric quest for immobility. When reading the novel I was in a rather distressing place in my own life. I was unemployed, imbued with chronic anxiety, haunted by feelings of failure and depressed. The idea of a quest for immobility while sitting in a bathtub appealed to me so much so that I decided to give it a try. I would see if spending my time in a bathtub would be as helpful for me as it was for the protagonist in the novel. In many ways it has been. I have become calmer, more present, less ambitious and grounded. I have been drinking less and I feel much more excited about my life. Unfortunately my family has not been as supportive of my quest for immobility as I would like. My wife is worried about me and my mother calls almost every day. She leaves messages on my answering machine, telling me that I need to get off of my ass and find a job.
Sometimes I write while in the tub (like I am doing now) but it is not easy. My intellectual faculties are not as keen in the tub, my writing is not as sharp and my spelling is poor. Today I asked my wife if she would bring a radio for me into the bathroom. She did so against her will and I appreciate that she was willing to martyr herself for me. I have been listening to the classical music station on my radio all afternoon. There is something about the sounds of a violin or piano while lying in a bathtub, which makes it easier for me to write. The words seem to get along and all I have to do is conduct them into the right place on the page.
I do not know how much more time I am going to spend in the tub. As of now, I spend my afternoons and evenings in the bathtub. I may even start to sleep in the bathtub if my wife will not mind. It seems to me like the current world is a pretty mixed up place. With the recessions, wars, greed and environmental catastrophes that are raging out there- it seems to me like the bathtub is the safest and most sensible place to be. If the apocalypse is soon to come at least I am spending my time wisely, happily. I am a satisfied man in my bathtub and I think this is a grand accomplishment in our world that is so riddled with deadlines, desire, dis-satisfaction and dis-ease. It is windy today and outside the bathroom window the wind chime are playing my favorite song. My wife has just left the house and now I get to sit here all evening, quiet and alone in my bathtub.
The string that holds my soul to my body aches. The joints in my feet are constantly perturbing my mood. My spirit is inside out and there is an ominous worry that makes its way into my mind. My Doctor, who is also my mother and financial guardian- tells me that these are only growing pains. She is a Jungian Psychoanalyst, and she tells me that she sees many cases such as this from men and women in their mid-thirties. They are people who have a tendency to long for more than they have and feel much more accomplished than their reality might demonstrate, my mother tells me. They are individuals who are dreamers, and so far their dreams have not come to fruition so they must start to think of other ways to support themselves, she also told me. So far this sounded like me.
My growing pains began when I realized I may have to go back to school. I have always considered myself an artist but this imagination has not turned a profit. I have earned less than a $1,000 from my art and am now faced with a mid-life crisis. What am I going to do now? I am signed up and ready to attend a graduate program which will miraculously turn me into a psychotherapist. But it hurts. My eyes are heavy and my arms feel longer than normal. I have been stricken with constant headaches and a chronic cough will not leave me alone. I have never imagined myself a professional, let alone a Therapist- but there needs to be money in the bank and I am weary of my art being able to provide for my future family.
Madness is a disease that will keep your families stomach full and a warm roof over your head, the admissions counselor to the Psychology program told me. There is no shortage of psychological ailments to treat, you will be a rich man in no time. I can see it in your eyes, he said as we shook hands and I left his office. I returned home with palpitations and a pain in my side. What could he see in my eyes, I kept thinking. I was angry and decided to sit down and write this entry with the hopes that it might make some sense to a stranger out there who can relate to my pain. I am overcome by the world and the way I had imagined myself in it (writer, artist) seems to be changing into something else. It hurts.
I took a shower this morning and felt a painful knot in my stomach. I have been burping a lot lately which makes me think that I may be suffering from an ulcer. My worst fear other than death, is being ordinary. I have done every thing that I can to avoid the trappings of the ordinary. Now that I may be becoming a Therapist and a family man the trappings of ordinarinesses are seeming closer. I feel anxious and have to remind myself to stay present. I am currently enrolled in a stress reduction mindfulness course that is helping me to just this. Stay with the breath, when the mind starts chattering away, just bring your attention back to the inhalation and exhalation.
This morning I went for psychoanalysis with my mom. She has a nice leather couch that I lay down upon and the smell of redwood trees fills her small office in the Berkeley hills. I talked about my deepest fears- one being my inability to make money doing something that I love. I talked about how unhappy the prospect that I may never be successful at my chosen craft makes me. I shivered and felt my heart beating from my stomach. My mother told me that Apocalypse means to reveal what is hidden. It is a kind of renewal. She made me aware of the personal Apocalypse that I was going through and how the growing pains that I was feeling were symptoms of this Apocalypse. Be patient, allow the renewal to take place and stop judging, she said. Humans are supposed to be joyful.
I returned home this afternoon with a perpetual burp. The string that holds my soul to my body still aches. Today I will sit in meditation for a few hours and try not to worry about rent, what I am going to do for money, or my health. I will just sit still and inhale and exhale. This is it. All of my attention will go into being present in the moment. This usually relieves the headaches, palpitations, chest pain, back ache, ulcer, and feet aches. I have no idea how long these growing pains are going to last but I am getting close to forty and it is my hope that they are resolved by then.