I truly started to value the shower 13 years ago when my son was born. As a new mom, my hierarchy of responsibilities and time management had endured an earthquake and luxuries such as bathing ended up very low on the priorities list. Of course, this was completely counter-intuitive, because what I needed more than anything was 15 minutes of solitude for more than just pumping milk. Beyond hygiene, I needed a shower for my mental sanity; it is my mental defibrillator, shocking me back to normalcy.
My body and my mind crave those few moments of peace, but as a mother, it’s hard to put your needs first. I’ve often thought I would refuse to put the oxygen mask on myself before the kids because of course, I have to save my babies. But there’s logic behind that Grand Rule: Save yourself so you can save your kids. Also: Don’t break yourself for your children; you are no use to them broken.
In the shower, I can let my stomach hang out and I can sing as loudly as I want along to Gogol Bordello and Diego’s Umbrella (the best two bands you’re not listening to right now). I can practice my twerking, my salsa, or my imaginary strip-club moves because there are no judgements in my Shower Temple. It is an equal-opportunity religious establishment and you never have to dress up to pray.
The walls of the shower are like the priest who hears my confession. As the water gets hotter, filling the room with steam, my pores open, and through them, my soul seems to leak. I’ve cried louder in the shower than anywhere else. When my grandfather died, I just sat down on the floor and wept so I couldn’t tell if it was tears or water streaming down my body. After my daughter was born, I was swimming through a cloudy haze of baby blues in my head and felt the guilt of the world shaking their heads in judgement. I stood there under the scalding rain I created, with my breasts leaking, and my back to the subway tile and tried to figure out all the reasons why it all felt so heavy. When I left the shower, it was like I was lighter, some of the tightness released, and I was able to let go of some of the sadness.
Mostly I pray in the shower. I don’t believe in a traditional God, but I also don’t want to risk saying I totally don’t believe, because, you know, just in case. Under the beating of the hot water, I secretly pray to my confidential, just-in-case God. I never ask for anything; I say thank you over and over again hoping the echo from those words reverberate off my steamy walls and into the ears of the universe. I pray the ether recognizes that I am so fucking grateful and I am not taking any of it for granted. I’m thankful for this day without pain, for my healthy children, for this day with a man who taught me the magic of love.
Some days everyone is independent and I stand back in awe of the beating life that surrounds me. Other days only mommy can do it or answer it or cook it. I feel a perpetual obligation to my family but I know that there are times when I need to shut it all down for a few minutes and make my way into the water.