Between January 1998 (when I just got back from New Year’s Eve in Spain) and August 1998, aged 25, I spent a lot of time in the bath. Long hot baths, often reading books by Hemingway. I can clearly see myself (you probably don’t want to) on a grey February morning up to my ears in steamy bathwater, half a mile up the hill from Brixton tube station, reading For Whom the Bell Tolls.
I had no idea that months later I’d be moving to Madrid, and would spend huge portions of my adult life wandering around in that same pine-covered Madrileño Sierra where Hemingway’s hero felt the earth move. At that point, lying in the bath, dreaming of Spain, I didn’t know that I just had to wait. For instructions. Stage directions from God, or the Universe, or fate, or whatever you call it, that a while down the line would pop into my head: “Why don’t I go and be an English teacher in Spain?”
It came to me that there were only so many days I could soak in the bath, unemployed, mind-numbingly bored and mildly depressed, so moving to Spain seemed like a much better idea. So I did. (Sounds easy, I was actually terrified for weeks before and afterwards. A friend seeing me off at the Eurostar station for the long train ride to Madrid said, “You are very brave,” and I thought, “no I’m not, you have no idea how scared I am!”)
Anyway, I used to get such a hard time from my wage-earning London housemates at the time about lying in the bath all morning with a book. I was very lucky to be able to do it, I had some money help from home while I was supposed to find my vocation as a photographer in London, (full story in Errant in Iberia). Then one day I upped and left for Spain, and looking back years later it feels like I was picked up like a pawn in a giant chess game and simply moved to Madrid by some giant, divine and invisible hand.
Right now I have a few ideas about projects I’d like to do, and while dedicating the necessary time to running our business, I make time for lots of long, hot, literary baths (currently reading Woody Allen’s autobiography Apropos of Nothing, which is very funny). Seems to me I should have a lot of these baths until stage directions from God, the Universe, or whatever you call it, set me going on the next track. And until then, I just have to enjoy the wait. The last thing I should do is try to force anything else into life. Nothing more than this blog post, which I was inwardly-informed (stage directions from above) that I ought to go and write after I got out of this morning’s long, hot bath.
6 thoughts on “Long Hot Baths”
Omg, I love the long hot baths approach to big career and life decisions and I indulge regularly! It really does work wonders. Why didn’t any guidance counsellor tell me this one in my twenties though?!
Very true, that would have been more useful than almost any of the advice I got!
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Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?
The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things.
Section 15, https://terebess.hu/english/tao/mitchell.html
Wonderful! Thank you!
Interesting definition of “waiting” here, as it obviously is a very active process, Ben’s mind is going through – otherwise there would be no reading of books in the tub, no sharing of thoughts here! So please continue “waiting”! 🙂
Haha, as you can see I am a somewhat impatient waiter 🙂
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