I’ve lived in my new place in Culver City for almost exactly 7 months now and I think it’s safe to say that I’m pretty well settled in. While I’m sure I’ll never quite be done tweaking the decor and finding things that could use a little updating, it finally feels like home. When I first moved in, there were a few quirky things that took a little getting used to, like the doors to the laundry cabinet that all but completely obstruct the entryway to the kitchen when opened and the way my dining room light flickers just slightly when the dishwasher is on, but one of the funniest things that I’ve had to learn about my place is how to open the stopper on my bathtub.
I know, how hard could it possibly be to figure out how to unstop a tub, right? Well, if you ever have the opportunity to soak in my tub you’ll see that it’s definitely a little on the tricky side. Instead of having a knob that you flip to open the drain, it has a gasket that works through a combination of a spring and suction. You have to push down on the stopper to release the suction and it springs open. Sounds simple enough, right? Except that when I first moved in and started taking baths in my new tub, I would find myself fairly frequently struggling to get the drain open when I was ready to get out. I would push down and nothing would happen.
Now, I can be pretty mellow about a lot of things, but few things frustrate me more quickly than trying to do something seemingly simple and ending up floundering. I’m the type of person that will try to open something with a screwdriver, and if that doesn’t work, I’m ready to go straight for the sledge hammer. An old friend of mine used to quote a saying that he learned while he was in service, “If it doesn’t work with force, use more force.” I’d say that pretty much sums up the approach I’ve used for a lot of my life.
So when I pushed down on the stopper in the bathtub and was met with no response, my efforts got a little more intense. I banged on it with the side of my closed fist and even stood up and tried to stomp it open with my foot. A ridiculous image, I know. Then one day, I was taking a bath and as I was soaking I accidentally tapped the stopper with the heel of my foot super lightly and like magic the stopper popped open.
I started laughing immediately. Of course, after weeks of me being super aggressive with the stopper every time I wanted to drain the tub, it would open when I just barely touched it. I thought it might’ve been a fluke so I closed the drain again and then tapped it ever so slightly with my heel and once again it worked like a charm. The irony was not lost on me.
I couldn’t help but wonder how many other places in my life I was using force when I might’ve seen better results with a lighter touch. I know that I’ve definitely experienced this in my healing journey at multiple points. I used to work with a homeopathic doctor who would often prescribe natural remedies for health issues that would come up for me. If she recommended that I add a bit of garlic and ginger to meals to support my immune system, I would immediately start adding massive amounts of both to pretty much everything I was eating. If I was feeling particularly zealous I might ever just eat chunks of raw garlic and ginger, just for good measure. When my practitioner found out I was doing this, she cautioned me against going overboard and reminded me that more isn’t always better.
I don’t remember what I said in response but because we were working remotely over the phone I can pretty much guarantee that I rolled my eyes and continued to overload my system with whatever remedies I was using at the time.
I look back now and can see that she was right, and also that her advice is something I really could have stood to apply not only to my approach to healing, but to my life in a much broader sense. In the last couple of years, I’ve come to embrace ease and gentleness in a way that my younger self could probably never have imagined, and I only become more and more convinced that it’s the way. Whether it’s a relationship, a work venture, or an internal shift that I’m trying to make, I’m seeing clearly that inviting it in and allowing it to materialize in its own way and at its own pace is so much easier on my soul. (And sometimes on my body, too.)
I’ve started leaving reminders for myself, since it’s still a practice that I can very easily fall out of if I’m feeling off balance. I’ll pick up a bundle of chamomile flowers, which are known for their soothing and gentle healing properties, and place bunches of them around my home. I’ll leave notes for myself that simply say “ease” as a reminder of how I want to move through my day. Sometimes when I catch myself moving back into that place of wanting to push and force and muscle my way through something, I’ll step away, practice some breath work, and intentionally relax my body, muscle by muscle, before resuming whatever I was doing. And you know what? I never ever regret it.
So I invite you to take a little inventory of your own life and do a scan for places where it might be worth experimenting with a lighter touch. Ask yourself if there are certain parts of your day where you find yourself tensed up and frustrated and what it might be like to simply loosen your hold, even just a little bit. I have a feeling you might be surprised by the results. You might even find that something you had been trying to force open to no avail magically gives way when you least expect it.