Something I've learned as I grow into my adulthood is how important it is to do mental health check ins. If I go too long without one I can feel myself start to unravel, I'll work too hard and too often and suddenly find myself in piles on the floor, my edges frayed and tied into knots. This fall I worked on a show that required a lot of me (and everyone else), tight deadlines and a very fast pace. I rarely slept, and when I did my dreams were about the work I was doing. I'd wake up in a cold sweat wondering if I'd sent out that email or passed along the document for countersignature. My work haunted me but I craved the chaos so much that I didn't want to stop. That's how I get with my work.. I love it so much but I can feel it slowly pulling at me. Now and then, during my free hours while I was supposed to be sleeping or eating I started to find relaxation in the act of planning my future vacation. My mental health check in was saying "it's time to do something for you". So I did. I booked a 3 day staycation at the The Kimpton Solamar in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. And after my show ended I packed up my cute little pink carryon, my favorite books and a metric ton of bath bombs-- and made my way down to San Diego from LA.
Each day of my vacation I felt my pieces slowly join back together. From the outside it probably looked like I was doing a whole lot of nothing. In fact, I remember having a teary phone conversation about how useless I felt, staying in my hotel room all day taking baths and listening to podcasts. I tend to feel guilt when I don't have physical proof of my productivity or accomplishments. God knows mental health isn't really a tangible thing. And sometimes the sheer weight of all things I want to get done suffocates me, knocks me off my feet and stops me from getting anything done. Not only am I in pieces, but each piece is nailed to the floor. Suddenly it seems like nothing is possible. I want to write powerful words, I want to take beautiful photographs, I want to finish reading and/or writing a book. But I can't.
When those days come, when I'm so heavy with guilt about my own shortcomings, I try to focus on getting the smallest things done. The mere thought of getting out of bed and into a bath feels like the biggest victory. I feel my body moving as I push myself up and out, my feet feel heavy, like they're weighted down with bags of sand. I fall into the bath like a bag of rocks, and stay there with my eyes closed until I'm brand new. I watch the water spiral down the drain, taking all the bad out with it. Then slowly, as I stand on the bath mat, dripping wet and staring at myself in mirror I see her. Me. The one I've been trying to take care of all this time, and I smile. The bags of sand are gone, and though my pieces might not be perfect they are all there. Slowly tightening, growing back together.
It's taken me years to understand that there is value in taking care of your physical and mental self - it's not all about the tactile proof of our efforts. Inspiration comes in bursts, so it's not your fault if the two days you have budgeted for creativity or writing don't align with one of those bursts. You just need to do your best to harness it when it does come. Speak your justification out loud like I do, let it turn into joy.
"I spent my hard earned money on this hotel room so it's mine to enjoy!" I shout into the soft fibers of my bathrobe. I let myself laugh out loud in the bath as turn on the jets and watch bubbles climb towards the ceiling. I take out my camera and pose for photos in the elegant silver mirror, and I scribble words and thoughts into my notebook - not caring about the spacing. I suppress my excitement when my room service arrives, a steaming hot bowl of oatmeal and my own personal carafe of coffee. It lasts long enough for me to watch the door shut behind the hotel staff, and then I leap around the giant corner room like Eloise at the Plaza.
After embracing my joy and getting over the hump that is the burden of my own failures, I managed to get some creative work done. Funny how that always happens, isn't it? I broke free from my shackles and embraced them. I think that's the secret to finding happiness, holding your own fears tighter rather that trying to run from them.
I don't ask for much when I travel. I like comfortable beds, cozy seating areas and the option to turn away housekeeping from entering my nest. I want to r-e-l-a-x and put my feet up while I pretend I'm much wealthier than I really am. I want to read books and take showers so long and hot that I walk out as a fully cooked potato. And I want to check out of the hotel when my trip is over feeling like a brand new woman. But I got so much more than all of that when I checked into my room at The Kimpton Solamar in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. I soaked up the elegant bohemian stylings of my corner room, with the decadent purple headboard and the impossibly perfect tiles in the bathroom. I enjoyed the service that the Kimpton brand is known for, a tea kettle brought to my room free of charge and the glorious coffee bar fixings in the lobby. I bathed in the golden sunlight as it washed over me in the mornings, and watched the night sky light up with fireworks happening at the stadium across the way. I took countless baths in the soaking tub large enough to fit two people, and sprawled out across my king size bed with my snuggly stuffed puppy from Ikea as I watched movies. I did walk out of that hotel room as a brand new woman, one who sees the value in taking care of herself. One who understands patience and forgiveness. A woman who is still hard on herself, but doesn't measure her own self worth in terms of her physical productivity. A woman who has been sewn back together into something even more beautiful, with threads of joy and understanding woven delicately throughout.
This post is not sponsored by Kimpton Hotels, and I paid for this room with my own hard earned money. P.S. I got a screamin' good deal on the fancy room by booking through my mobile browser and staying midweek when prices are lower.