I think I’ve said it before, but I don’t like going to the mikveh. There are many issues that keep me from liking this sacred mitzvah. Body issues, weather issues, stress issues, sneaking away from my children issues, coming back to my children issues. If I’m having issues with my spouse, then those get tacked on to an already loaded list of issues as well. Then there are specific issues that I have about the mikveh. Like, going into the water feels claustrophobic, and I will never know the exact temperature of the water until I am actually immersed in the water…totally naked. Most of my issues with the mikveh are beyond the scope of my control. I can’t control what mood I will be in; I can’t control what mood my husband will be in; I can’t control the mood of my children, and I certainly can’t control the weather. I also can’t control the temperature of the water, or the claustrophobic feeling that encases me.
There is however, one issue that I have with the mikveh, that I found I actually do have a measure of control over. I am a bona-fide germy, I’m not neurotic about it (at least not to my mind…) but using things that other women have used makes me gag. I don’t have any control over who uses the mikveh, so I have no choice but to dunk my body into the same waters that countless women have just used. So, I bow my head and dunk away. And try not to think about it too much.
But preparing for the mikveh? And after the mikveh? Using soap, shampoo, creams and slippers that other women have used literally makes me queasy, as my overactive imagination starts spreading its germs into my head. Once I became aware that this was an issue for me (and here I stop to applaud the Eden Center’s wonderful work about awareness), I realized that on this particular issue I actually had some way to take action. I could take measures and be proactive, in order to make my mikveh experience a better one.
Becoming aware of what exactly was bothering me was a huge eye opener. Once I figured out that using things that other people have used grossed me out and directly affected my mikveh experience, the next step was to figure out what action I could take that would help me with this.
My idea was that I would have a basket of my things at the mikveh, and I would leave it there. And they would be my things only. Each month I would add something else to the basket. I told my husband that this was something I not only wanted, but also needed, him to be part of. Each month he would buy me something for the mikveh that would enhance my experience. Some months I told him exactly what I wanted, and some months he would surprise me. It didn’t have to be something expensive, just something that was mine, and totally mine; and I didn’t have to share it with the entire female dunking community. My husband was immediately on board and so was the balanit. I have found that once I am able to clarify to myself and to others what I want and what I need, most people will have no problem accommodating me, especially since they don’t have to go to any real trouble and expense to make it happen.
This one little step that I have taken has made a significant change in my attitude towards going to the mikveh. For one thing, it has given me a sense of control (Yes. I also have control issues). It means I am being positively proactive about something that I really don’t like doing. Being proactive means I have a say in what goes on. Being proactive means that I am taking action to make my mikveh experience a better and more meaningful one. In addition to dealing with something that bothers me, it has become something of a game for me and my husband. We have added something else that brings an element of fun and romance into our lives.
I am still far away from saying “I like going to the mikveh.” As I mentioned earlier there are too many issues that are out of my control. I am however deeply humbled and full of gratitude that I can say I have taken one tiny step forward towards this goal. And yes, that tiny step forward was a direct result of me saying exactly what I wanted and exactly what I needed, and then going about it. And here is to the best balaniot I could ever hope to have. Thank you for bending over backwards for me. It’s not something I take for granted.
What are you doing to make your mikveh experience a positive one?