November 18, 2019

Ripple Effect: Spa

I have decided that I am going to plan a monthly spa date for myself.

I love the Korean spa. In the name of self-care, I thought that if I put it on my calendar and make my friend put it on her calendar too, it will happen.

My friend was in. We scheduled three months of spa meetings.

The first day was approaching. 

Alas, the whole day we had planned turned into 5 hours and then to 3 hours. My friend bailed, but I couldn’t cancel the treatment I had booked, so annoyed with myself, stressed that I was wasting precious time I made myself go.

Oh, how I love the Korean spa.

You leave the world, and Zen out.

Women of all shapes and sizes walking around naked, happy, and free. 

You get scrubbed and washed and pampered. I know it’s not for everyone, but I think it is amazing. 

There is quiet and relaxation. 

In this place, the 50 thousand thoughts in my head start to unfold, make sense, and almost organize themselves.  Oh, how I needed this, I think to myself.

Typically, in my anger management class I ask,

“What makes you angry and what can we do to control that anger?”

On this particular day, I could tell lots of people were on edge. Sometimes there’s energy in the room. It could be one person who’s having a particularly bad day that affects everybody. It is the same way when the opposite happens. There can be an aura of serenity when someone is in a good place.

I decide to turn it around and I ask “How about today, instead of talking about what makes us angry, we can talk about what we do to stay calm?”

 People pipe up.

“Music.”

“Writing.”

“Running.”

“Sex.”  

Lots of laughter.

One person says, “Really, Ms. That’s why I did drugs, so I could feel goooood.”

More laughter.  The mood swings.

Everyone is present and I’ve succeeded in clearing the air a bit.

 One guy looks at me and asks, 

“Ms., what do you do to calm down?”

 I tell them about the spa. They are intrigued.

 “You actually pay people to scrub your body? That’s a little fucked up,” she says.

Someone chimes in “Hey, Ms., I’ll do that for free!”

“Ha, ha,” I say. “Very funny!”

I don’t tell them about the tea pool you sit and dunk in, because out of context even, to me, that sounds a little kooky.

“Everybody has his or her own thing that helps to clam down. 

You need to find it and do it,” I tell them. 

I think how hard it was for me to take those three hours and how I had to force myself to go. It seems so silly.

“You need to treat yourself, and you need to take care of yourself. Only that way can you take care of others—your children, your lovers, your parents, your people,” I say.

“Damn, Ms., I never thought about it that way. I got me a whole army of people I need to take care of. You know, it kind of sucks. Can I come to that spa with you?”

“Ms., you know what?  I do program (by program she means Narcotics Anonymous). Program calms me down and my sponsor is the best and is always there for me.”

Many of my students are in 12-step programs. 

Many of them are in recovery for severe drug abuse. These programs that they go to are a lifeline for them. I listen to her talk about the group she is in and I realize that her group, her program, is a spa for the soul, her soul.

“Ms., program gives me a place to breathe.

My soul can come out and be, and everyone is good, no matter what I say. I always end up feeling good when I leave.”

“That is perfect,” I tell her.

In a different group there is a student who is 16 and pregnant with her second child.  She is heavy, burdened and out of breath.

My heart is anguished looking at her and I feel sad and helpless, but, as the serenity prayer says, there are things I can’t change. 

I can’t change her situation. But maybe, just maybe, I can help her find space to exhale. She is cranky and annoyed.

Hell, I would be too, if I were her.

I look at her face. This girl is so young, so lost.

I can tell you that my team and I are desperately trying to figure out how to teach birth control and how to tackle (culturally) this huge issue of young girls having babies.  But that is the big picture and a different conversation.

Right now, in front of me is this young woman.

My job is to be her spa, make her feel good about herself, and give her the space to breathe.

“I can’t stand for this exercise,” she says.

“Then don’t,” I say.

She looks at me a little shocked.

I come close to her 

“Can I touch your belly?”

She thinks it is insanely funny that I ask permission to do that.

I smile at her and tell her about my three pregnancies, and what I craved eating.

She shared with me what she is craving. 

And there was that Spa moment, a second to stop, to be, to breathe.

“I got you,” I tell her.  

I leave the spa and I text my friend. “You know, we don’t need a whole day at the spa. Three hours was fine. We can do pocket spa days,” I say. My friend laughs.

“You know,” I tell my girl.

“You have to give yourself a moment for you. Because that is the only way you will be able to do this.”

“What do you mean?” she asks me.

I tell her about the spa and I decide to tell her about the Mugwort tea pool.

“It’s no bigger than a Jacuzzi,” I say.

“And it’s filled with herbal tea that is supposed to regulate hormones, promotes beautiful skin and benefit wellness in numerous ways.”

She looked at me like I fell from the sky.

“You sit in a teacup??”

I laugh out loud.

“No,” and I let it go.

I knew it would not go over well.

“Try and take a few minutes a day. Close your eyes and simply take a breath,” I tell her.

“Create a space for you, a little spa where it is all about you. 

Period, full stop.”

“I like that,” she says. “I’ll do it.”

“Gonna create me some teacup moments, Miss”

“I gotta say, Ms. You are kind of weird sitting in tea and all that, but that’s okay. Do your thing!”

Our days are busy.
Our lives are hectic.
Take a moment to close your eyes and bring the spa to you.
Take a breath and imagine yourself in that cup of tea.
It is worth it.
You are worth it.
Period, full stop.


Naomi Ackerman is a Mom, activist, writer, performer, and the founder and executive Director of The Advot (ripple) Project a registered 501(c)3 that uses theatre and the arts to empower youth at risk to live their best life.