What is it about a hot shower that invites internal conflict?
I know that I’m not the only one.
One minute I’m basking in peppermint infused steam and body scrub, then the next I’m replaying a sixth grade argument in my head and going over what I should’a, would’a, or could’a said.
As a third grader, a substitute teacher who frequented the school but had not covered any class of mine yet, called us to attention and began reading us the book left on the weekly agenda. As the paragraph presented us an idea that our young minds couldn’t quite grasp, we began asking questions. Perhaps frustrated that she didn’t have an answer or maybe she was fighting an invisible personal battle that none of us little ones could understand, she frustratingly yelled at us, calling to attention our apparent incompetence and demanding that we listen, and thus, understand the content.
I got up out of my seat, asked her to be excused (I was/am a rule-follower, so at least I asked) and marched straight to the office to tell them what had just happened. “It’s just not right” I remember telling them.
The principal respectfully listened to my concerns, and suggested that myself and classmates write the substitute a letter asking if she could be more kind. We did just that, and to our astonishment, she apologized to us.
This situation taught me several things at such a young age: First, being assertive (not aggressive) and taking up for what is right is important. Second, an adult had taken the time to listen to my concerns, and that gave me courage and faith in humanity that I have carried throughout my life since. I hope that I extended this courtesy to my own students who I taught for several years of my life. Lastly and arguably most importantly, most solutions to conflict can offer the benefit-of-the-doubt; a chance for people to reflect and redeem. We all deserve that.
I still think about this moment in the shower. It stands out because it’s finished business, resolved conflict, forgiven and forgotten.
But this fleeting instance of elusive resolve is heavily outweighed by those cringe moments I unfortunately replay every time I step into my claw foot.
Like when a once-upon-a-time friend and coworker, with her chin up-turned and her head gyrating slightly with sass as she explained how a mother at her church admitted that she sometimes forgot to play with her children. I assume (and I could be wrong) that what this mother meant is that sometimes the day gets away from her in the midst of work, dishes, hour-long phone calls with insurance companies, etc. “Like how do you forget to play with your kids?!” she snarked, as she walked around my art classroom tidying things up to her own standards. I cowardly agreed with her self-righteous comments instead of taking up for this most likely fatigued and overwhelmed mother.
Or like the time that sealed my decision (which I’d already been contemplating for three years) to leave the teaching field.
I met my husband in his classroom to have a much anticipated lunch together. I wasn’t two bites into my grilled chicken sandwich when he told me that he had been told to “shut up” by one of the administrators. As he continued telling me about the verbal lashing he had received from the little red man (because his face was often flushed in an angry scarlet that completely engulfed his already red hairline), third grade Heidi was awakened. This situation, along with countless more, wasn’t right. So many times, I had watched this man come bellowing down the hallway like a steam roller to observe some poor, unsuspecting teacher. He would walk with such haste at times, that his upper half seemed to turn corners far before the lower, trying to catch up to his ego that was 100 yards ahead of him I imagine. He reminded me of Gossamer (which both ironically and fittingly means thin or fragile) from Looney Tunes; a big, red, destructive monster who could hide behind a heart-shaped body and facade of decency. Unlike my third grade experience, people listened to concerns too little and definitely too late in this situation, and any chances of reflection or apology left town in moving boxes, red-handed.
I think shower arguments can be a time for reflection. Maybe even helpful to our future selves when conflict inevitably arises. However, what if we purposefully incorporate shower APOLOGIES as well?
I’d love to turn back time and apologize for judging a dear friend for partying and drinking too much alcohol. I’d also like to thank her for promptly reminding me of my own (and many) inequities. I still cringe at my gross hypocrisy and am so grateful to her for snapping me back to reality.
Or the apology that I denied a kind young woman who approached Nick and I in a Gatlinburg Wendy’s with two free Dollywood tickets. Earlier, she and her mother had struck up friendly conversation with Nick as they were all in line waiting to order. But me, in my pregnancy-induced irritability, couldn’t separate what seemed to be a sales-pitchy imposition on my long-awaited dinner, or an act of genuine kindness. Instantly, I could tell that I ruined her blessing as she walked back to the table, head hung, and told her mother that I had turned down her gift.
May our shower thoughts be mostly apologies instead of arguments. What could we have said to someone deserving? How can this reflection help us be more kind in the future? I think as long as that conviction is there, we won’t have to live like Gossamer: ugly, red, and menacing.
Art business owner journaling about my artistic adventures.