I turn the shower off while I’m washing my hair. I use baking soda instead of shampoo so the process of applying the water with baking soda to my scalp and then rubbing my scalp for a minute takes a while. I did this before the horrible drought, and I’m definitely doing it now.
The only problem is that now it’s cold, and every day it’s getting colder. A month ago, standing wet in my shower for a couple minutes was a perfectly pleasant experience. Now, it’s quite uncomfortable. Some days, especially if I shower at night, it can be really unpleasant .
I was contemplating leaving the water on during the winter, at least at a trickle, or turning the energy-sucking space heater on while I showered, when a tiny thought formed and floated into my mental debate: it’s okay to be cold, you don’t need to make this better. The thought quite literally stopped me in my hair washing tracks.
But the thought didn’t end there. It kept growing: people all over the world are cold all the time. Many of them don’t even have warm water. Heck, many of them don’t have indoor plumbing. Many of them pour freezing water over their trembling bodies to get clean, and they are probably lucky to do it once a week. It’s okay to be cold for two minutes while you wash you’re hair. It’s okay to be uncomfortable. It’s okay to shiver, and to get goose bumps and for your teeth to chatter. It’s okay to be in pain. You don’t need to fix this. You’re doing to keep washing your hair with the water off, and without the heat.
This might seem like the most obvious thought in the world, but I to me it was a profound realization. I’ve spent the past 35 years running from discomfort and avoiding pain. If there was some way I make a situation less uncomfortable or painful, you better bet I did it. If I was really cold turning off the water during a shower, I left the water on, conservation be damned.
This thought reasserted itself last night, when layered my thick robe over my sweatshirt as I huddled on the coach, grading papers. As I started to consider getting the heating ducts fixed so we could enjoy our central heating, I stopped myself: It’s okay to be cold, remember? It’s okay in the shower and it’s okay here. Fixing the ducts will cost money. Turning on the heat will cost money. Just be cold this winter. So many people are so much colder than you, and they survive. You’ll survive too. (Obviously it would not be okay to keep the heat off if temperatures dropped so precipitously as to threaten harm, but that won’t happen where I live.)
And so I’m exploring this kernel or truth, that it’s okay to be cold, to be uncomfortable, to be tired, to be upset. These things are okay. I don’t necessarily need to fix them. Sometimes they just need to be endured.