Sauna Club Diaries

I am known at the Schlessman YMCA as “That young woman with endurance”.  I sit in the sauna. I sit in the sauna after a work out for a very, very long time. I learned to do this from my doctor, Alakananda Devi, over 25 years ago.

People ask why it is I sit in the sauna for so long and I tell them my story. That story involves an incorrect diagnosis of advanced MS and Dr. Devi’s cure. I did not have MS; A year-long cleanse and sauna heat took care of all of my symptoms.

Now, that is what I tell people, and it is all true but it is not the whole truth. Stories are like that, I have learned.

I sit in the sauna to hear people’s stories. I hear about the holocaust and the depression. I hear about grandchildren in prison and babies born needing a new heart. I hear it all, because I ask.

My Dad always said, “Honey, every person you meet has a story to tell. You need to ask the right question and then shut up and listen.”

Daddy was right. I learn more about life and storytelling in the sauna club than I do anywhere else.

I have learned that stories can come in pieces over years or in one fell swoop and end in tears and sweaty hugs.

I have learned that some stories appear complete until I find myself alone with the story-teller a month later. Telling a story face to face, alone with another person becomes some other thing; confession sometimes and other times revelation.

Stories change people in both the telling and the hearing. Stories over years of a shared space become history and that history becomes friendship and that friendship becomes responsibility.

Step on a Crack is one story. But today in the sauna with my sauna club friends, I realized that though they have heard the story in pieces over the years as the story has unfolded, writing it here, in one fell swoop is not nearly so easy.

The story of my mothers slide into alcoholics dementia, came in pieces for me. Day by day, month by month her decline into dementia hell and my climb down with her isn’t so easy to tell outside the safety of the sauna club.

I will try to keep this cogent and chronological but it is not so simple; you see, this started with my birth, 50 years ago yesterday. My birth and my mothers decline coincide.

I don’t really care what my therapist says about this; on September 20th of every year I am reminded of how that day ruined my mother’s life. How can I forget?

I hope, by telling this story I will forget.

Am I looking for the redemption that comes in the Sauna Club? Is this confession or revelation?

Story telling is all of those things and more.

I should dedicate this to the Sauna Club; where my story has been told and my story has been heard. In the sauna, unlike an Alanon meeting, opinions are shared and advice is doled out.

I have taken most of the advice and I have shed my own tears and been held in sweaty embraces.  I have laughed and the Sauna Club has laughed with me; and I have cried and my Sauna Club has born witness.

I have glimpsed new pathways in stories told  in the sauna. I am searching in this story for a path out.

Out and into my life; a new life where I am able to move past the past and into the future.

The cedar walls of the sauna at the Schlessman  YMCA hold secrets. I can only share mine.

Here goes…

Is it getting hot in here or is just me?

~ by Step On a Crack on September 22, 2011.

2 Responses to “Sauna Club Diaries”

  1. Thank you for starting your blog, it is an inspiration for me. I’m also glad to have joined you in the Sauna Club. You are so right that we all have stories to tell . Following your blog will help me to perhaps start my own blog and book which I keep threatening to write.


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