My Week in the Hermitage: Radical Lessons in Self Care

Nothing like a broken ankle to slow you down. I’ve been trapped in my house for a week, spending large chunks of each day completely alone. No bus stop banter or small talk with colleagues. No client calls or dinners with friends.

Meanwhile cities are freezing and Rome is burning. There are ice quakes in Chicago and arrests in Washington’s inner circles while I am safely ensconced in my recliner. Let the arctic winds roar and the snow fall. Two hour delay? No problem.

I am on social media more than ever and take immeasurable comfort in sympathetic texts from family and friends. My phone is my portal, and I mindlessly scroll it for stimulation and connection, until I catch myself and stop.

For mood regulation, I have budgeted a mere hour a day for NPR, eating my lunch on a stool in the kitchen, arms length from the radio and fridge that feed me. I have a reassuring routine that includes eating the same salad with bread and cheese everyday.

I work from my recliner, getting in full work hours and making progress on a number of personal and family projects. I am focused and prolific, writing and editing numerous blog posts in a day. My brain feels sharp and alert.

Robin takes the bus home each day from school. He’s a good helper, taking on new responsibility. He now knows how to operate a can opener, the microwave, and the stove and oven. When I butt-bounce myself downstairs, I find him proudly eating baked beans from the can for breakfast.

At first I am only bathing every three days, as it is so difficult and I feel so fragile, even sliding my leggings off over my ankle is painful. So I marinate in the same clothes until I can’t stand being in my own skin.

But it evolves into a bath every other day, using my son’s organic, tear-free, all natural son-of-hippies hair and body wash from the pump. No conditioner. No hair dryer. Just a simple soak, lather rinse, and air dry. Within a few days, my hair is shiny and healthy.

My Fitbit chirps from my wrist and makes me smile. My daily steps are in the hundreds, and I track with inverted goals. I have a valid excuse to decline invitations.

I have sat out the Polar Vortex in my recliner, with an array of good books and magazines. My skin is so healthy, my lips supple and soft. In the mirror and I look five years younger, like Venus in a clunky boot cast. Is this what it’s like to be a kept woman?

I like the simplicity of this life, though perhaps it is the temporal nature of it that makes the whole thing work so well, for now…

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