I spent the last six weeks climbing a mountain in the form of some of the most difficult, emotional, and challenging work I’ve ever had the privilege of undertaking and I have a message for you: You MUST Pamper Yourself at any cost or even at no cost. You must.
I didn’t get this message from a burning bush, although there is a bush involved (mine to be exact. More on that later..). I got this message out of necessity. Pure need for balance. Giving yourself 100% to a project doesn’t leave a lot of room for self love/care. I was so fulfilled and nourished by the exhausting work at times that I would forget to eat. Sometimes I was so riled up that I couldn’t eat or sleep.
I knew this wasn’t good for me. I knew I needed to implement some strategy to take better care of myself because I had to have a strong body and mind to do the work I was so crazy about doing. I had to dig deep for something that has worked in the past and remembered spiritual guru, poet and business woman extraordinaire, Danielle LaPorte, author of The Fire Starter Sessions and The Desire Map. Years ago, I read her books and came up with my, what she calls, “Core Desired Feelings.” These are the words that trigger how I want to feel in my day to day life and one of them has always been, “cherished.”
To me, “cherished” means nurtured, taken care of and adored. It brings up the image of a sweet mother or a beloved butler.
I am not Bruce Wayne, y’all! There is no Alfred in my life! I knew I had to achieve “cherished” myself. To be my own sweet mother. My own butler! I made a few appointments and I got down to the serious and important work of pampering myself, aka, cherishing myself. Some of it cost a lot of cash, more than I’m willing to part with on a regular basis, most of it was free; all of it was necessary. These aren’t exactly the Ten Commandments of Pampering, but you might be inspired to take on one or two depending on your budget.
- Mani/Pedi! Cost with gratuity, $75. Three adorable cast-mates and I met on the Upper West Side in Manhattan at a place called Dashing Diva. I enjoyed the social aspect of it and the result was so so nice. I felt really pretty. I was suddenly a lady with lovely fingers and toes. Not that I wasn’t before, but looking down at my hands and feet was a reminder that I took the time to pamper myself and this is a good thing. PS, there are more affordable nail salons out there that might have felt equally pampering, but the group decided a deliberate splurge was in order.
- Brazilian Wax. Cost for a first time visit to the European Wax Center in Manhattan, only $45 including a generous gratuity. Here’s the burning bush I promised you. What in the world is pampering about a lovely stranger spreading hot wax on your precious pink parts and then tearing all of your hairs off with a piece of cloth? For me, it was all about peace of mind. I was scantily clad in the project I was happily killing myself for and the thought of audience or fellow actor seeing any part of bush was beyond mortifying. No one can see any if there isn’t any. So there’s that. I could write a sonnet about all of the wonderful benefits of the Brazilian but I know it’s not for everyone. Know that for me, it was super pampering even if it was an amusing kind of torture for a few minutes during, and a few hours after the procedure.
- Sleep/Rest. Cost $0. Early to bed and late to rise. This was the order for the last six weeks. I take restorative health very seriously. I was putting out a huge amount of physical and emotional effort and resting, even if sleeping wasn’t happening because of nerves or excitement, was sometimes a ten hour endeavor. Who has this kind of luxury? Admittedly, not many, but if you can make time to do it, I highly recommend it. The sweet mother voice in my head didn’t allow for guilty voice to chime in. She allowed me to rest and even sweetly demanded it. Priceless.
- Cut and Color. I’ve been going to Dramatics in Mid-Town Manhattan since I moved to New York four years ago. My hair stylist, Xena, convinced me to dye my hair blonde in June. This hair style is ridiculously high maintenance! And, I love it. I’m not going to share the ongoing cost of this pampering process, but just know, a little cut and color at the salon once in a while is totally worth it. You’ll look and feel like a million bucks. I find that it’s a confidence boost which is good for every other aspect of life!
- Meditation. Cost $0. I have a regular meditation practice that is so second nature to me now that it’s just like having good hygiene; good spiritual and mental hygiene. During this cherishing and pampering time, I made sure that I added a little extra dose of awareness to my practice by making sacred space around it. Even meditating a couple of times in the audience of the theatre before the show was a double whammy of sacred space. It could be as simple as lighting a candle before hand, or finding a cool and quiet room instead of meditating on the subway as I so often do.
- Mindful Mealtime. Cost varied. Since eating became an issue during this project, I had to take on a more mindful approach to meals and what my body needed. I was downing chicken soup like a flu victim on winter break. But I wasn’t sick and soup was not enough to sustain the amount of work I was doing. So I consciously sought out high protein meals once a day to give myself the energy I needed. From full on Irish breakfast at my favorite pub to turkey patties and cottage cheese, I was making a choice to fuel my body.
- A Treat! A treat is not a treat unless you recognize it as a treat before, during and after. Mine is usually a grande ice chai tea latte from Starbucks. It’s not a daily thing, it’s a treat! Cost about $5. It has a whole process. I’d like a treat. I’d like a yummy chai tea latte. I’m going to get one at the SB on 35th and 8th. I’m enjoying it. That was a lovely treat! There have been times in my life where spending $5 on a coffee treat was totally off limits due to finances. I know there are ways to have a treat even if you don’t have the cash. It’s all about identifying something as a treat and moving from there.
- Time Outdoors. Cost $0. I cherish myself enough to make time to go to the park and be quiet and listen to the birds sing. Even for as little as 10 minutes, the return is enormous.
- Gentle Self Talk. Cost $0. This is an ongoing challenge. Being an actress and a singer, I’m highly critical of my work. I’m learning how to be critical without being harsh, cruel or demeaning. I made an extra concerted effort during the last six weeks to correct negative self assessments and turn it into constructive criticism. I’m giving myself major props for working on this. I could not have done the kind of work I did with a negative voice running in my head. I even had an accountability partner in the cast who knew my go-to negative thought patterns to help me overcome them. She was a huge help in the cherishing department.
- Spa Castle. Cost $So.Much.Money.Oh.My.Stars! When the whole project was complete, I took my best friend of nearly thirty years to Spa Castle in Queens. It’s exactly what it sounds like. A castle of spa treatments. We spent 5 hours soaking and sauna-ing. We even took a nap. I got us each a “Scrub and Rub” which consisted of lying naked on a table for an hour while a woman in her underwear practically used sand paper gloves to remove seven years of dead skin cells from my body. She then climbed on top of me and performed what I think was meant to be a massage but felt a little more like a punishment. My BFF and I got a big laugh out of it and I have to say, my skin feels AMAZING! I could afford this kind of magic maybe once a year, but I’m so glad I did it. It felt like the ultimate pampering. I give myself an A+ in the cherishing department.
So there you have it. Not so much the pampering commandments as pampering suggestions. This Extraordinary 40 project has gone to places that I didn’t see coming. I had no idea when I pitched this year long endeavor to Project Women, that I would be getting to do some of the most fulfilling work of my career. I feel like had I not done all of this introspection this year that I may not have implemented so much pampering which may have lead to a very different attitude about the work I got to do. What if I had burnt out, or gotten really sick because I wasn’t eating or sleeping? My work would not have been as fulfilling. For as fluffy as pampering may seem, I think some form of it is essential to being and doing your best! So, go on. PAMPER THYSELF!
Art by Jo Muench