Emily Howlett: Where is my space, where I am just me? The answer may surprise you

Posted on October 21, 2013



I, Emily Howlett, have been to a day spa.

I have boiled gently like a potato in a bubbly vat of eucalyptus-infused water, before having a bucket of ice tipped over my head. I have had my muscles pummelled, my limbs smothered in exotic oil, my face smeared with expensive Sudocrem… and I have been asked the immortal words; “How high are you comfortable with?” (She meant temperature.)

I have eaten weeds, steamed into submission and served as a nutritious delicacy. I have walked through the maze of treatment rooms, shrieking, yelping and generally ignoring the fact that everyone else is whispering in the hushed tones of the library, or the temple, or the aftermath of a terrible catastrophe.

I spent the day in a state of slightly hysterical enjoyment, feeling very apart from the other inmates, who were slouched, sleeping or strolling as if they were in a dream. They were very Zen. I was very… not.

It was only after I got home that I realised I had been the terrible catastrophe.

I had gone with a mixture of hearing and deaf friends, so there had been cause to use our voices, which are not well modulated at the best of times, but especially not when buckets of ice are being flung at your flesh. We also signed, which meant at least two drinks were knocked over during the conversation at dinner (it’s hard to sign ‘steamed weed’ and not find it hilarious). I was also the only one who quit halfway through the ‘energising exercise’ class to go and sit on the bean bag and had to be rescued by not one but two passing observers.

The spa, then, was fun. But it was not a spa for me. I was not relaxed and ‘blissed out’. I did not go home feeling I could take whatever the world threw at me, simply because someone had spent an hour shoving hot bits of rock into my spine.

But, for some of my friends, the spa was the opposite. It was heaven, a sanctuary away from the world. A place their worries ceased to exist and, for some, their deafness was no obstacle, unlike out there in the Real World. After all, the silence of the sauna is surely the place to make everybody equal. Except people who don’t know the etiquette and are soon turfed out (me).

So, it got me thinking, as I paddled my feet in a brook that was supposed to inspire deep meditation but actually made me need a wee; where is my spa? It clearly isn’t at A Spa, so where is it? My place where I am just me, and ‘blissed out’ and not worried about whether or not I am deaf, or Deaf, or HOH, or, in fact Death, or blind or weird or… Or… Or…

And, of course, I feel that way at home. With my family, with my friends, I feel happy and content and very, very lucky. But, the spa is different. The spa is the place you can be alone and be tranquil. For a lot of people, the spa is actually The Spa, but I wonder if other deaf people have their own version?

I know at least one person whose spa is sitting in a chair with a massive cappuccino and a pile of Puffin Classic books. I know at least ten whose spa experience is walking a huge, hairy, stinky dog through fields that resemble bogs, and I know lots more who feel at peace while making craft gifts for others.

Anywhere, or anything, that makes you feel awesome; that’s your spa. And it might be a different one to ‘normal’, because you’re deaf, or because you’re not, but it’s still yours and you should appreciate and indulge in it.

Obviously, I couldn’t think of one. I literally could not think of a place where I felt that way; peaceful and completely oblivious to the world, and my own deafness.

It wasn’t until a week later, while I was forking poo out of sixteen stables. Then it hit me.

Emily Howlett is a Contributing Editor to this site. She is a profoundly Deaf actress, writer, horsewoman and new mum. Emily used to be found all over the place, but motherhood has turned her into somewhat of a self-confessed homebody. She now has not one, but four grey eyebrow hairs. C’est la vie.

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