I ran out of soap today.
On the surface, that doesn’t seem like a momentous occasion, or like anything anyone would choose to write about. There are grocery stores in every neighborhood and those stores are full of soap in every size, scent and price.
I ran out of my own, homemade soap today. 18 years ago, I started experimenting with different soap recipes, mixing ingredients, using different methods, and just generally playing with the process. I made soap that was hard and had almost no lather. I made goo. I made soap that took months to saponify and soap that was ready in week or two. I experimented with different blends of essential oils that were everything from slightly better than skunk spray and so delicious you could almost eat them. Eventually, I came up with a couple of signature scents and a soap that was uniquely mine.
I haven’t bought soap from a store for nearly 17 years.
All of the ingredients necessary and all of the tools necessary to make a batch of soap are in one dedicated kitchen cabinet. It’s not like I haven’t known I was going to run out. I was aware that I was running low when there was still enough time to make a new batch. But right at that moment in my life, all of my energy had already run out.
In the lead up to, and recovery after, knee surgery, it was all I could do to get through each day. My world revolved around managing pain and managing to do the minimum levels of self-care. When walking from the bedroom to the bathroom is a major accomplishment, making soap is completely off the radar.
Two weeks ago, when I was grocery shopping (HUGE accomplishment), I bought a bar of soap, so it’s ready for me tomorrow. I won’t be stinky. And it’s not like I’ll never make soap again. After all, I’m functioning pretty well these days. I walk, swim, grocery shop, cook, and write, although not as long as I used to and certainly not all those things in one day.
What got my attention when I bought that bar of soap two weeks ago and today when I used up the last of my private stash, is the bittersweet acknowledgement of change. 17 years ago, when I started to consistently make soap that was usable and smelled good, I thought I’d make soap as long as I lived and that I’d never buy commercial soap again. Today that changes, at least partially. I’ll probably keep making soap for many years to come, but I will also buy soap.
And while I admit to youthful idealism in thinking I never could be limited to the point of not doing something I love, it still hurts a little to give in. The sweet part comes in acknowledging that going to the store, paying someone else to do the work and enjoying the fruits of their labor is also self-care, self-pampering, and joyful! I’m learning that it’s just as joyful and wondrous a process to allow someone else to do what I could do, and to say thank you for making it easier for me.
I ran out of the need to do everything today. I ran out of being in control of every detail. I let someone else cook the dinner and set the table, and I sat down to enjoy the main meal.
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