Sunday, November 20, 2016

Time Out

My friend Suzanne is coming up on a milestone birthday later this month.. She too has had a rough year---in fact, a rough couple of decades juggling some heady life issues and a busy professional life. Somehow, whatever she and I are going through we seem to find the right cord of caring and compassion to support one another-and that coupled with a very healthy dose of black humor helps us to get through some of the more challenging aspects of our lives.

So....the start of what I believe will be a protracted celebration (yay) began yesterday. Suzanne arranged a visit to a spa north of San Diego. She described it as the "Target of spas" so as to keep my lofty expectations in line, I suppose. Our friend Julie offered to drive and we set out at 7:30. Before I left, my Mom and Meaghan admonished me to relax and Barry asked that I not "boss from afar". The plan that I sketched for dealing with an emergency was that Barry would contact Meaghan and Meaghan could drive and get me if ANYTHING went awry. That plan was still on my mind when I got in the back seat of Julie's car. In fact, I was very excited to indulge in the day that Suzanne had mapped out from start to finish but there was that piece of me that couldn't let go of the what if. After we were on the road for 45 minutes, Suzanne announced we had another 45 minutes to go. I hadn't realized the spa was such a distance. That's the instant I resolved  to Let. It. Go. To intend and commit to relax.

We arrived at Glen Ivy at 9 AM. We were efficiently checked in by an engaging young man. I looked around at the great selection of clothing and beachwear in the adjoining gift shop. I could have spent some time there if I were not so eager to get to the  perfectly appointed locker room with the requisite marble and stone showers, dressing areas, make up counters, steam room and Jacuzzi.  A first impression-this place would be just fine-better than fine. Perfect. We changed into our suits and walked through the lushly landscaped grounds to the first stop---a Roman tub-like bubbling pool with epsom salts to soothe our muscles and warm our bodies for our upcoming massage experience. The beginning. Ahhhhh.

Next---my hot stone massage. Vanilla and tangerine scented lotion and the warm, soothing, smooth rocks applied with gentle vigor first to feet and calves and legs---then to all the dang stress spots all over my back and down to my fingertips. I think perhaps I let out a mini, low pitched sound or two but mostly I just lay still somewhere between an oncoming sleep and the wistfulness that this just would not end PLEASE. For several moments after my 50 minutes were up I didn't trust myself to get off the table. I was so relaxed my limbs felt like jelly. Ooooh.

Following another dip in the epsom salts we claimed our chaise lounges at one of multiple pools on sight to soak in some rays on what was a perfect Southern Cal day. Close to twelve, Suzanne announced it was time to hit the bar for a Pina colada and get a float for the shallow pool. We chose to float in beanbag-like "chairs" with an extra one in the middle upon which to rest our fully relaxed legs. We floated and floated in circles and every now and then touched the bottom to rearrange our sun and shade positions. We took in the plants and trees and watched a couple of very busy woodpeckers fly between several enormous palm trees. I tilted my head back and saw blue sky and mountains and those palms. Oh my.

Lunch was great-a little healthy, a little wine, a lot of chatting. Nothing serious really- but interesting. Julie asked "if you could take any kind of class what would it be"? The simple question caught me a little off guard. I first said painting. Then no---maybe flower arranging. Whoa. What would I really want to take? Some food for thought.

After lunch a little more lounging at our sunny spot by the pool and some deeper conversations about losses in our lives and how people aren't always what they seem but sometimes they ARE. Talk about our children--their plans. What we want for them. Sharing. Good for the soul.

Time for a dip in the mineral pool. The  sulphur smell permeates. It's warm but not my fave. It's a short dip and then we moved on to the mud pool. We stood knee deep in brown water and applied mud from a mound all over our bodies. The mud reminded me of dark caramel sauce and it was smooth and  cream-like going on. We all had that orange look we've become accustomed to seeing (can't resist) when we entered the  warm stone room where the mud baked on. Then -exfoliation with a towel and washing off in the shower. That was a LOT better than I expected. There's a bit of camaraderie with other spa-goers that perhaps is caused by the masking of how we really look or how we all look so much alike. Who knows? It was fun!

The finale of the day was our Grotto experience. I had worried about this when Suzanne initially arranged it. I wasn't sure I wanted to go underground in a Southern Cal mountain range. But as I announced on our way to the elevator to take us down, I was "too relaxed" to worry. Once in the grotto we were painted with a moisturizing lotion which had shea butter and coconut oil among an array of other ingredients guaranteed to soothe and smooth. We sat in a warm room to absorb the lotion then showered in another to wash it off. We sat in a cool room to close our pores while we sipped on hot tea and surveyed the room built underground many years ago as we each just seeped in the calm.

That would be the final treatment of the day. We went back to the locker room area, visited the steam room and showered and dressed to end our day. It was the end of the day at the spa, but not THE END. Thankfully, Julie drove home quite skillfully and pointed out when I remarked how dark it was, that perhaps that was an effect of the sunglasses I continued to wear. Relaxed. Have I mentioned I was relaxed?

We decided to forego a formal dinner and go to the bar of a local 5 star restaurant close to home. We scored a cozy corner table, ordered drinks and several dishes and continued to enjoy each other's company and bask in the prevailing feeling of the day: relaxation.

I wish this fleeting feeling of relaxation for all the caregivers I know. I hope they are lucky enough to have a support network similar to my own. Honor them. Not just this month---but all the days and months and years. Being a caregiver is at once the most demanding and enriching experience. Make no mistake. It takes a toll. May they all have some Julie's and Suzanne's in their lives.