At the tender age of 25-years-old I found myself working in the kitchens of NYC. I adored the work--creating masterpieces out of food--but kitchens are notorious for their toxic work environments and this one was no exception. It was chaotic and unpleasant. I worked 50+ hours a week. My weekly paycheck after taxes etc was $411.
Creating chaos in my life was not something new. Neither was working very hard and earning very little. Back then I believed that I didn’t have any power and that someone else would save me. I believed I had to prove myself through hard work and only then did I deserve love and respect. Showing up to the kitchen 3 hours before I could clock in was my weird little way of finding my own power. Of proving to myself that I could “do it” whatever “it” was. I had pushed through my whole life in this manner. Friends often asked why I was so hard on myself. I didn’t understand what they meant. This was the only way I understood how to maintain autonomy over my life.
Sometimes I felt like I was in utopia- I was studying! cooking! under an incredible chef using the LUSHEST ingredients AND got to volunteer in the community gardens around the East Village before heading in to work. I was learning so much about the importance of growing food without pesticides. It made sense--eating food sprayed with chemicals means that those chemicals absorb into your body. In my strange version of utopia, I burnt and cut myself… a lot. And needed burn cream. I wanted cream that was made with organic ingredients, like the food I was cooking. Ingredients that I felt good absorbing into my skin. Especially when I was creating masterful pieces of art (aka dishes) for people every night! People came to the restaurant because of the high quality ingredients. What if chemicals from my burn cream got in the food? Yuck. From this need the first iteration of Lauren’s All Purpose Salve (LAPS) was born.
For the purpose of this story, I’d like to go into what happened when I created something that I used religiously to touch my own body. LAPS was intended to physically heal my burns and cuts but, to my surprise, it extended far beyond that. As I applied this balm to my arms I began extending this gentle self-touch to all areas of my body. It felt incredible to touch myself so tenderly and with the powerful intention of healing. Through this act of self-love I was able to access deeper emotional wounds that I didn’t know existed. I thought, wow I need help and sought out a therapist and various healers and the story goes from there.
Self-touch allowed me to feel embodied, tuned into my sensuality, and beyond powerful. I thought, “Damn, I’m sexy and a woman and powerful! Look at this beautiful body!” I’d never experienced that before. I highly dissociated all throughout childhood and beyond because I felt ashamed of being a woman. Especially one who got attention. So it was truly an incredible experience for me to access this power and have those realizations all on my own.
I now understand that my nervous system was on overdrive and I lived in a constant state of fight-or-flight. I also did not receive enough physical touch growing up. There’s a term for this called ‘skin hunger.’ I craved skin-to-skin contact and many times in college and at sleepovers my friends told me that I creepily caressed my arms in the middle of the night while I was sleeping! I was completely unaware this was happening because I was asleep.
Anyways, soothing my nervous system through self-touch allowed me to calm down enough to stop dissociating, allow buried memories to surface and to feel powerful enough to seek some help sorting them out. Slowly my work environment, friendships, romantic relationships and basically everything in my life became healthier. I found out coming back into your body is called ‘embodiment work’ and I’m so lucky that I stumbled upon this healing process all on my own. Because DAMN it feels amazing to be in your body and feel yourself- strong, sexy and powerful. This is what I mean when I say, “Give a Tender Touch” of LAPS. Through gentleness comes true strength, power and creative force.
Skin hunger is prevalent in this pandemic. Soothe yourself with a tender touch of LAPS and the powerful intention to relax.
Disclaimer: It’s not that my parents abused me or weren’t wonderful parents. Similar to many people who had kids in the 80s, they just didn’t know.