It Begins With a Cold Shower

At approximately 5:50 am a cup of hot coffee is slammed down on my nightstand, I go through this rapid dream withdrawal, as my mind tunnel surfs to present time. Sometimes my dreams feel so real I have to sort though current memories to see if maybe the weekend came early (nope), if I’m dining at the Epicure in France (nope), if an elf packed up all the Christmas decorations and stored them in the garage (nope). It’s still dark, Larry has quickly retreated, it could be my bad breath, but I believe he doesn’t want to be late to Boot Camp (where his buddy Steve awaits). 

I reach for my glasses, check the time 5:51 am, and take that first blessed sip of coffee. There is a light rain outside and the Christmas lights make the back yard appear misty and mysterious. I smile, reach for my phone, no messages. No news is good news in my book. I try to remember what I’m teaching today? Pilgrimage, prayer, and something about the Pope. I check his twitter, “May nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions.” I linger with that thought for a moment, sipping coffee, watching the blasted clock speed through my ten minute wake-up zone. Time is perplexing, in a few minutes I will want to enact violence on someone, but presently I am oblivious.

The dog jumps up on the bed. He wants breakfast. He’s cute, insistent, and his paws are wet, so I climb out of my warm bed, and head to the kitchen. I pass several closed doors along the hallway and wonder who might be here this morning? Did Dante come home? Brighton stay over? Kelley drop in after a late meeting? I could start up a loud rendition of “Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory…” but I’m in a good mood so I let the slumbering dogs lie. After feeding Shaggy, I drop two eggs in a pot of water, set them on the stove, and head for the shower. 

There is something sacred about morning rituals. I’m borderline OCD so one little change can sabotage my entire day. I slip out of my pjs, switch on the shower, grab a towel, step boldly into the spray, and son of a bitch, the water is ice cold! What the hell? I leap out of the shower in a single motion, which no one witnesses, you’ll have to take my word for it. I stick my hand back under the stream, it’s freezing. Where is my husband when I need him? I wrap the towel around me and stomp back down the hall towards the cold garage. It’s a dark place. I know nothing about water heaters, ours is older than my children, I forgot my glasses, can’t see a damn thing, but I mess with the dials, just for the hell of it. I check the water in the kitchen. Cold. Damn. 

The back story is I haven’t showered in two days. Okay, I know, I took the whole end of vacation thing to a new level, and now I’m screwed. My hair is indescribable and we are not allowed to wear baseball caps to school. I head back to the dreaded shower. The clock continues to speed though my grooming period. This must be a prank? I look in the mirror, back at the cold water, the mirror, the water, and I can’t decide what is worse. I consider going next store to Debbie and Ron’s? It’s 6:15 am! A little early to bother the neighbors.

I steel myself, step boldly into the ice cave, and scream, “Bloody Hell.” Bending over in a ridiculously awkward position, I try to wet just the back of my hair, keeping my body dry, it took five seconds to shampoo and rinse. I have no words, just whimpering staccato sounds, because the air has been sucked out of my lungs. This is worse than the ALS ice bucket challenge. I take the washcloth and do what I can without really doing anything. I stick my face in the cold stream. I’m good. After drying off I climb back into bed for a warm up. In less than thirty minutes I have to interest approximately eighty teenagers on the subject of pilgrimage, prayer, and the Pope. My teeth won’t stop chattering. I blame Larry. 

With the blow dryer on full blast, I dry my hair, and warm my body. I actually feel very awake? Dress, refill my coffee, and cool the eggs. I’m heading out as Larry arrives home. I give him the low down on the shower. He laughs (rude), but grabs a flashlight, and heads for the garage.

When I arrive at school my computer will not connect to the internet. I have to borrow a student’s computer to teach my first class. The IT guy says my computer is still on break. IT humor. Funny stuff. I somehow make it through all my classes on a wing and a prayer. When I get back to my desk I google the benefits of cold showers because I’m psycho. There are exactly fifteen. 
  1. Builds strong will power (I will never do that again).
  2. Improves emotional resilience (Because it’s too cold to cry).
  3. Reduces stress (Really).
  4. Increases alertness (Shocking).
  5. Improves skin and hair (All rumors).
  6. Stimulates weight loss (Calm down).
  7. Increases testosterone (Just what I need).
  8. Boosts fertility (Just what I don’t need).
  9. Improves circulation (Yes, indeed).
  10. Improves immunities by booting white blood cells (Perfect, maybe my Shingles will go away).
  11. Drains your lymphatic system (Gross).
  12. Speeds muscle recovery (Good because my toes went into a total cramp).
  13. Relieves depression (Because you look ridiculous showering upside down).
  14. Wakes you up (No kidding).
  15. Can relax you at the end of a long day (This we will never know).
When I arrive home at the end of a long day my fingers are still numb. Larry boasts about his nice, hot shower this morning, “I stayed in extra long it was so warm.” He does this little thing with his shoulders, it’s annoying, like an itch you can’t reach. I remember Pope Francis’s tweet (he probably got a warm shower too), so I keep this stiff smile plastered across my face, I’m considering what type of jewelry I’ll be ordering off Amazon in a few minutes, because that has the same benefits as a cold shower, and it’s non-violent. He said the pilot must have blown out on the water heater when he blew the leaves out of the garage yesterday. I totally called it…

Enjoy another at Living in the Gap


Leave a Comment

  1. I love where this went and how you got there, Cheryl. I loved the laughter and the alpaca. The title lured me. Does that wild woman really take cold showers? And how often? I'm not trying it again, although there was a day when I dunked my body in cold mountain streams. Still, my hot water heater is very old and my husband who knew how to fix things is very dead. There may be a cold shower in my future.


  2. Elaine, thank you for the lovely comments, and your wonderful work! I remember one hot weekend, early marriage, Larry and I were headed to Lake Tahoe, but due to a grass fire, got stuck on the highway for hours. We left the car unattended and headed down the embankment, to the river below, it was remote, so we went skinny dipping in the ice cold water. Heaven, until we looked up and saw an audience toasting us from a porch just 50 feet away. Awe, youth. Spouses carry not only our mutual memories but half the burdens. I'm so sorry your beloved husband has passed, you have wonderful memories, and he continues on through your beautiful words.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s