I remember when my Grandmother was in her 80’s. She would love having me put lotion on her hands and paint her nails. Her arthritis prevented her from being able to, and as a child, it was something I could do for her. Decades later I would become anorexic (then bingeing/bulimia), rejecting her homemade pies and breads, attempting to leave my body-skin entirely. I definitely wasn’t putting lotion on I hated my body too much. if I were to put on lotion, that would mean I acknowledged the body I was in, had some level of acceptance or even kindness towards it.
So guess what I got to do in recovery? That’s right. Put on lotion. I started with the easy parts: I felt neutral about my hands, so I put lotion on them. I had to work up to my stomach and thighs. But I did it. Every time I would come out of the shower, I would put lotion on and say to my thighs and stomach “I love and accept you the way you are.”
Fast forward many years when I worked in eating disorder treatment centers facilitating DBT groups: Guess what was on the list of self soothing tools? Yep. Lotion. I remember pulling out some lotion when a client was struggling with being blind weighed and wanting/not wanting to know her weight. She knew it would be distressing either way and knew it was not about the weight. I brought out some lovely scented lotion and together we noticed the color, the scent, the feel of it when she rubbed it into her hands. She held her hands while being weighed. It was a lovely metaphor and literal experience of “holding her own hands” while traveling through this challenge in her recovery.
I now am a mother and work with new moms. My hands are often dry from so much hand washing. (Any mom that has had a baby, toddler, preschooler knows how the first five years are like living in a petri dish! Hand washing becomes the constant to having a chance at least a few days a year with no-one coughing or sneezing!) I often forget to put on lotion. I get drawn out of my own self-care to caring for others again and again. But a colleague of mine recently offered me some pumpkin smelling lotion that she was carrying in her purse. It reminded me of the importance of self-care, no matter how small the act. It reminded me of my Grandmother and her beautiful 80-year-old hands.
It reminded me of how transformative small acts of kindness can be as a protection from hatred, as a reminder to take the time to care for and live in your own skin, as a healing balm. I often give new moms belly butter to rub on their pregnant and postpartum bellies. It is a loving act toward yourself and the baby you are growing/grew. And I often invite recovering women to carry lotion with them in their “recovery tool box.” As Mother Teresa has been quoted to say:
“There are no great acts. Only small acts done with Great Love.”
If you are recovering, if you are a new mom or an old mom, or simply reading this post, I invite you to take one small act of kindness toward your self or another. We never know the impact it can have.