Shower Singing

Author’s Note: 

I love this post. We are our truest selves when we are alone and clean. Please enjoy my thoughts for a second time!

An underrated art form, really.

Whether you use the shampoo bottle or the shower head as your microphone, you have probably belted out a few choruses under the hot stream of a shower once or twice during your time here on Earth.

But what is it about shower singing that makes it so attractive, so universal?

Well, for one, the acoustics in bathrooms are usually to die for. It’s like, I didn’t know my voice had so much vibrato, but in here, with all this soap in my eye, I can really hit that high G. For another, you’re completely alone. (Unless, of course, your cat wanders in, thinking that it hears another cat, composing some screechy mating call love song, or because it believes that it has finally found the warmest place in the house.)

But for whatever reason, being in the shower makes you feel like you have this hidden talent for singing and that you would totally pursue it if you didn’t get stage fright so easily. (Sing naked? Sure! Sing in front of people I know who may judge me for things I can’t control? Not so much.)

Of course, before you try out for The Voice, I want you to consider something: maybe you feel like you can sing because you’re relaxed. And if that’s the case, think of everything else that would come naturally to you if you could do it without nerves, without fear of judgment. If you allowed yourself to do so.

I mean, really. If you’re anything like me, you don’t sing in the shower because you genuinely believe that you have a lovely voice. You sing because it is comforting, perhaps tapping into some memory of a lullaby when you were younger. Or maybe, you just want to entertain yourself, making up new lyrics to an old favorite.

Whatever the reason, as we’ve discussed, you have no audience when you are sudsing up (except maybe for your tabby). Which is polar opposite to the rest of your life. On the bus, at work, in a park, even pumping gas, you have an audience. Someone, somewhere, even for five seconds, is looking at you, thinking about you, seeing you (horribly creepy, I know). And you are so very aware of it. It’s why we toss our hair, or smooth our shirt, or wipe our mouths. We are aware of this gaze, all of the time.

So, to completely escape this voyeurism, I believe we sing for ourselves in the shower. We take back it all back from the wandering eyes of humanity by doing something that is for our ears only. And isn’t that wonderful, that we acknowledge our own needs for once? And isn’t that so powerful, to be unburdened by clothes or the urge to perform for someone else?

In the end, it doesn’t really matter if your voice is good or not. Rather, it is with what intent that you sing, or do anything, that makes it beautiful.

I Don’t Know How to Ride a Bike

Excuse me, but I am going to puzzle something out for myself tonight.

Right now in my life, I am currently at the stage called “emerging adulthood.” It is a phenomenon in which hordes of college graduates who have been tricked by the economy into earning a degree and allowing themselves to fall thousands of dollars in debt, must humiliate themselves by living in their old room at their parents’ house with the Orlando Bloom posters they had in high school, struggling to be financially independent.

And while my parents don’t call me a failure, I sure feel like one. Shouldn’t I have it figured out by now? Shouldn’t I feel like I’m working towards something? Shouldn’t I stop eating clementines lovingly peeled by my mother because I don’t have fingernails?

These thoughts plague me every night, when I sleep in the room I grew up in.

Until it was pointed out to me that while “emerging adulthood” is a relatively new phase of human life (at least in America), so too is childhood. Allowing yourself to savor the time you had when you were young has only become a rite of passage since industrialization. Before that, it was all work and well, yeah, just work. You were a full-time employee on your parents’ farm before you hit puberty. So, it is only recently that we’ve started to appreciate that time between birth and the first death (my cute nickname for adulthood.)

So, I thought, maybe to get out of this weird funk where I can’t figure out what I should be doing with the rest of my life, I need to take a look back at what I did before, in childhood.

And what I realized was that I struggled in childhood with the same restlessness as I feel now. Like most things in life, it’s just another cycle.

You see, I came out of the womb at 30 years old. And I’ve been trying to fit in ever since. I really tried to be a kid. I made “backyard soup” (but refused to eat it.) I climbed trees (well, I climbed the first branch.)  I played on the jungle gym (okay, it was the swings.) But it never really worked for me.

So my last chance to redeem myself and become a normal kid? I had to learn how to ride a bike. All kids my age had “wheels” before they ever had a car. Me? Sure, I had wheels. Training wheels. And then when my parents took them off, I was hopeless.

I’ve had people try to teach me. And I’d ride on two wheels for about 10 minutes, and then I would freak out and think that I was going to swerve into traffic and jump off. So, any bike that I own will remain riderless, probably for the rest of my life.

So, what’s the point? I was a childhood failure and now I’m not surprising anyone by continuing to be a failure in adulthood, too?

Perhaps. Well, probably. But we all have the opportunity to succeed, no matter how many times we’ve failed in the past. We all have a chance at success in the future. Multiple opportunities and chances, in fact.

I chose to not learn how to ride a bike because I never got back on one. But I am not choosing to stop pursuing what I want out of my life. It may be too late for me to learn how to ride a bike, but it will never be too late for me to succeed at everything else.

Watching Plants Grow

*Recycling an old post* Enjoy!

…is not as boring as you might think.

Now that the weather has hovered slightly higher than freezing for a few days, I’m going to call it: it’s springtime. The sunshine, the light breezes, the soft earth, the green grass; it is here to stay. Which is why we can all take off our mittens and gloves and start to flex our green thumb. What will it be this year? Pansies? Petunias? Portulaca? All of them, if need be!

This winter has been especially hard, so I am especially excited to plant something, but my mom and I always feel this way. My fondest memories are of planting tulip bulbs with her, naming every one so that they would have a better chance at growing. Then when we brought home our Stella, the night-blooming cereus, from my favorite professor, we felt that we had been given the crowning jewel of our garden.

So, why do I love flowers so much? Because they are a lesson in optimism.

Why? Well, have you ever watched a flower grow?

The progress it makes. The heights it reaches. The happiness it provides for others.

But the best part?

How it unyieldingly reaches toward the sun.

Because you can put a flower in a dark room with only the tiniest sliver, the most meager portion of sunlight. And somehow, some way, it has bent completely over backwards to make sure that it is in the path of those rays. Time after time, I have watched my mother’s plants stretch their new shoots toward the sun. So much so that she would have to turn them around so that they would even out, so that they did not become top-heavy from stretching too far to one side.

Now, I know that you are probably already like a flower in many ways. I’m sure you are beautiful. I’m sure you are self-sufficient. I’m sure you have roots. But do you go out of your way to live in the sunshine? Do you do everything you can to make sure that you have what you need to thrive? Do you try to lean into the light even when the darkness surrounds you?

If you don’t, plant a flower this springtime. Let it be your daily reminder. And if you need a serious push, try a cactus. Despite their prickly exterior, they need the most light of all and the least amount of care. (And if you don’t think that’s the best metaphor ever for people in general, then you can leaf.)

The Opposite of Loneliness

I’d like to think that I provide pretty good book recommendations, when pressed. (You know. When I DON’T go blank and forget every book I’ve ever read and the only thing that sticks out is some book that I loathed, so I blurt out, Izzy, Willy Nilly? Have you ever read that? Try it. Then they associate me with some book I actually hated.)

So, here is a book recommendation that I am poised to give. One that you should probably go out and get tomorrow. One that you should probably pay the utmost attention to.

Actually, to call this particular collection of words a “book” is to make it base. It’s a life’s work. I could probably never do it justice and overrate it at the same time.

It’s called The Opposite of Loneliness. And before I tell you about the story, I need to tell you this “story.”

Marina Keegan was a student at Yale. She was a writer in the broadest sense: a poet, a playwright, even dabbling in nonfiction. She won awards for her work and saw some of it published in The New Yorker and The New York Times. Upon her graduation, she addressed her classmates in an essay, entitled “The Opposite of Loneliness” that became an instant success. She died in a car accident five days later. Not even a week after she had worn a cap and gown, an entire lifetime of success ahead of her, she was gone.

And so, her parents picked up the pieces. They took a hard look at her body of work. They put it together between a binding, and they sold it so that others could come to know their daughter intimately. Despite the flaws that she probably would have revised and edited out of her work, her parents sent Marina’s final message out into the world. I am so glad that they did.

Because they could have been selfish. They could have decided that it was too large of an undertaking to assess what to put in a final book about Marina. No one could have blamed them if they had shied away and withdrawn into their grief.

But they didn’t. And really, they couldn’t have gone wrong with anything they picked. Yes, every page “throbs with what could have been” as one critic said, but Marina will always be recognized for her talent, whether she is here or not. Although she could have been so much more, her impact is great and awesome in the traditional sense of both words.

The book is a mix of her poetry, her fiction, and her nonfiction. But really, it is made of flesh, blood, and bone. Marina’s symbolism is both painfully obvious and overwhelmingly succinct. When you read her words, you feel an undeniable connection to her, but also the human race. She seems to embody what humans could be, if we free ourselves from our inhibitions. She was a better version of us all.

Everything about this book is difficult, mind you. It is hard to see how much talent Marina had. It is hard to hear her talk about her own death, when she thinks it will be years away, like we all do. It is hard to hear her talk about all the things that scared her, excited her, angered her. (I mean, it is especially hard because I am sitting here trying to find matching socks when we have shooting stars like Marina in the world.)

But we owe her that at least. We owe her an audience.

So, pick up Marina Keegan’s book The Opposite of Loneliness. Cry through it like I did. Be haunted by it. Loathe it a little. Love it a lot. But when someone asks you for a good book recommendation, pass it on. Give Marina what we all need in this life and the next: someone to listen.

The Confidence to be Wrong

Last night, I talked a little about self-esteem issues. (You should probably just go read the post from yesterday.)

But since we all like to be lazy, I will provide a brief summary of what I said. Pretty much from the dawn of time we have been told that we need to love our (then caveman) selves. We need to walk into a room and shine. We need to puff our chest out, swing our hips, and smile our flashiest smile. We need to act like we are the best thing since snuggies and snapchat combined.

We falter sometimes. We have bad weather days. But often, when we put on our favorite shirt or shoes, when we apply a bright color of lipstick, when we get our hair just right, it’s not hard to convince the world that we’re the cat’s pajamas.

You see, instilling confidence in ourselves isn’t that hard when we are told that we need to believe that we’re special and kind. That we are fun to be around and that we matter. Doesn’t everyone want to think that about themselves? Doesn’t everyone hope that’s true?

Even though it can be a struggle, we all want to believe that we are the heroes of our own story, not the villain. We’re all fighting to believe that we are right in our lifestyle, interests, and beliefs.

But we’re so busy trying to keep ourselves afloat that we’re not sure how to cope when we sink a little. It’s the opposite of self-esteem: knowing how to be confident when we’re wrong.

When we’ve been fighting tooth and nail to assert ourselves, and then the rug gets tugged out from under us, it’s a sickening feeling. Oh, I made a mistake, you might say. You shrink to about an inch tall. And you’re vulnerable and pale and sweating. You pray that your deodorant is working. You start to think about all of the other things that you could have been wrong about in your life. Your career choice. Your significant other. Your choice of toothpaste. Suddenly, your confidence is gone, and you doubt yourself wholeheartedly. Being right and believing in yourself is easy. Being wrong? Not so much.

The truth is, confidence has been taught as a one-way street. Along with being taught to take pride in ourselves (in all the good) we need to be taught to take pride in our falls (in all the things we would prefer not to applaud.)

Come, say it with me, everyone makes mistakes. From Johnny Depp to Santa Claus, everyone has flaws. And the faster you can stand up and say that you accept yourself for who you are, every freckle and wrinkle in between, the more complete your confidence can be. The more you won’t crack under the pressure of scrutiny. The more you can be yourself.

So, with the same chest puffing and smiling you give when you stand up to say I’m right, do the same when you are wrong. There is really no difference between them; only that you learn a more valuable lesson from one of them. Neither can change who you are.

We’re All a Little Like Tinkerbell

In the lore of Peter Pan, it is said that the small pixie Tinkerbell needs applause to live. If she is believed in, she continues to exist. Legend also says that when the story was adapted into a play, the audience were instructed to clap for Tinkerbell by Peter Pan. In case the audience wasn’t so inclined, the director made sure that the pit would fill in if needed. Luckily, that wasn’t required, as the audience applauded uproariously for Tink. It would seem that she would live to act another day.

Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re all a little Tinkerbell. We all want to feel loved or adored, and we want to know how much people love or adore us. In fact, we all like to be applauded into existence. What do you think the “like” button is? It’s just silent applause. What do you think a pat on the back is? It’s just a one handed clap. We’re all looking for acceptance in our life. We’re all pixie dust and self-esteem issues.

And so, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that sometimes we don’t always get the applause that we need to “survive.” Sometimes, we get the tomatoes. Sometimes, we get the “hook.” And sometimes, if we’re really lucky, we get crickets, the only thing that punctuates the silence that engulfs us.

The secret is that you are not a pixie, although you are a magical being, I’m sure. You won’t die if you aren’t approved of (even though it may feel like it when you are living on social media.) In fact, you will live in spite of not being accepted. How? You will continue on. In other words, you will keep going. We only begin to falter in our journeys, we only start to question our path, when we look around to see what everyone else is doing, when we try to compare ourselves. If Peter Pan is any testament, all we need is belief to be able to do anything we wish (even fly).

So, don’t stop just because you haven’t received your daily dose of applause. Rise up because there is still time left to earn it from yourself. With a little magic, you are possible.

Life Is Voluntary

It’s easy to forget that you have to choose to live.

Gravity keeps you on the ground. Alarms go off when they’re told to. Green lights turn without a second thought. The world is set to auto-pilot, and you are a mere passenger.

But you? Your body is a work of art, isn’t it? Controlled by your own volition?

Not exactly.

You blink and breathe automatically. You pull back when something burns you and hunch down when it is too cold. Everything is instinctual and such a part of the fabric of life that it is easy to forget that you have to choose to live. You have to decide, everyday, that you are going to make the most of it. You have to think about what kind of contribution you are going to make. But how are you going to do that when the Starbucks barista knows your order and has it ready for you when you get there? What happens when you actually start to memorize the license plates of the cars that participate in the same daily commute as you? What happens when trying to live goes against the grain of life itself?

Well, ironically, you have to focus on that which is unintentional to create a deliberateness in your life.

Huh?

Okay, let me put it this way. You know when someone tells you to take a deep breath? Well, usually when you breathe, it sort of just occurs. It’s like waves on the shore; they roll in, they roll out. But like the sea, your breath is not in control. You are. Likewise, the ocean is not in control. The moon tugs at the waves and creates the tides. So, when you focus on your breathing, you are actually taking back control of what you already do naturally. It puts you in the driver’s seat again, which is really helpful when everything seems like it is crashing down around you, and you aren’t in control of anything.

So, that brings up another great point: you feel most helpless and angry when you are not able to navigate, when someone else is doing that for you. But, if you focus again on the things that were once self-regulating, like your breathing, you can begin to seize control and start to believe that more of life can be shaped to your advantage, even things that seem to beyond your sphere of influence.

Really, this is all a really fancy way of saying that everything in life is about choices. And even when you feel like you have run out of them, they are still there because there are decisions to be made in what is perceived as truth. You simply have to believe that you have the power to change what has always been.