One of my favourite places in all the world, or at least Montreal, is the Scandinave Spa in the Old Port of Montreal. I am one of those “cold” people – not in demeanor (I hope,) but in body temperature. For those who have never done the Nordic spa thing, and apologies to any real Nordics because I have no idea how authentic this actually is, the idea is to get really, really hot, in hot water or a sauna, for as long as you can bear it (usually 15 minutes.) Then you immerse yourself in freezing @#$*ing cold water in a pool or shower for as long as you can bear it (usually 15 seconds.) Then you wobble to a beanbag chair/hammock/couch and pass out in a state of eye-lolling cloudlike bliss that would give Keith Richards a run for his money. At least, that’s the idea.
But the thing about the spa is, and maybe this means I should be going more often, I suffer a sort of amnesia about what the whole experience. As the deep, bone freeze of winter begins to threaten to stay for good, I start to imagine the Scandinave as my salvation. I crave sinking into that steaming hot water. I know it will make my troubles melt away. I long to be inside those dark, womb-like grey walls, while the busyness of the city continues on around me, surrounded by the sound of rushing water and the smell of eucalyptus…
And so finally, I go. I walk in the door. I inhale the steam. I get my bathrobe and sandals and locker key. And then the other part begins. The part in my head. It goes a little something like this.
Shit, there are a lot of people here.
Oh, right. It’s $39 on Wednesdays. Why did I think no one else would know that? Do I believe I'm the only person who reads the internet? I should have come yesterday. Why didn’t I? Maybe this is just a flux time, and a whole bunch of people are going to go and have lunch?
Hmm. Changing room is quite full, though. Of people leaving! Yes, they’re leaving. Go away, all of you. Especially you, with the 6-pack.
Right. Off I go. Now the relaxation can BEGIN. Wow, that girl is stunning. How does anyone get to be that beautiful? I bet her life is perfect. She lives in a perfect home and never fights with her boyfriend, and is creatively fulfilled and makes loads of money. How is that fair? Why can’t I have a bum like that? Right, I’m cutting out gluten, sugar, dairy and… fruit. Starting right now.
Okay, I’m getting pretty hot. I should get out and do the cold part. Except maybe I’m not hot enough. I should stay longer. Shouldn’t I? What if I faint? Do you lose control of your bladder when you faint? But if I don’t wait until I’m really good and boiling, will it not work and I won’t get to go into my Keith Richards coma? WHAT IF I CAN’T RELAX? That’s it, I’m going to have one of the rum balls I stashed in my locker. The gluten thing can start tomorrow.
God, I love a good rum ball.
Except now I can’t pass out, because I’m buzzed on chocolate. I am an embarrassment to all hedonists. God, that woman has fantastic boobs. I wonder if they’re implants? Should I get implants? Would my life be easier and smoother if I had proper breasts? How much are they I wonder KARNEEF FOR GODSAKES SHUT UP AND RELAX!
Oh crap, I forgot to shave my knees.
What if I fall asleep and then fart? BE QUIET! Look how beautiful and calm it is! Why must I ruin it continuously with my thinking? Right, no more thinking. Thinking is over for today shit I forgot to tell Alex about the thing!
Should I do it right now? Except I promised myself I wouldn’t use my cell phone today. But what if it hinges on me doing it right now? What if Alex’s entire career falls to pieces because of me? Will I ever be able to forgive myself? Why does that woman have so much more hair than I do? What did she do right that I didn’t? Why am I still thinking? Maybe I didn’t do the hot/cold thing properly! I should have done the cold bath instead of the cold shower. I should go back and do it again. But I’m so tired. And comfy. And….
They are the most incredible naps on earth, those Scandinave naps. I could fart an entire symphony and I’d never know. A herd of alpacas could pass by and I’d smile and snuggle further into my bathrobe.
And when I wake up, I remember: just because I’m at my happy place, it doesn’t mean I have to feel happy. That’s not the point of coming here. The point is to feel how I feel, not feel bad because I don’t feel good enough.
And with that, ironically, I feel much better.
I teeter back to the hot water and sink happily in. My thoughts join me, of course. They always do.
But I no longer but believe a word they say.