I Don’t Sing In the Shower Anymore.


I don’t sing in the shower anymore.

I have so many people – friends, family, Owen’s teachers or doctors or therapists – that tell me how well I handle everything going on in our lives, and how I have such a good sense of humor about things – that I have everything under control.  They have no idea about the half-dozen middle-of-the-night Emergency Room visits I’ve had recently when the stress of internalizing it all literally bubbles up and takes over my body.  I’ve been there so often, I know the one of the head ER doctors and our kids have had play dates.  That says something.

I guess I do to those other people though, I do come off as being somewhat together – at least on the outside – to the people who don’t know me that well, and to those people who didn’t know me before all of this came along………but I used to be different.

I was happy-go-lucky, optimistic, a glass-always-half-full kind of girl.  I was fearless – Scott used to tell me constantly that I had an invincibility complex (which completely freaked him out – the original “Captain Caution”).  I thought that nothing would happen to me if I went out by myself in the middle of the night to get milk – why would someone hurt me?  Why would you think that would happen?  I wasn’t naive – I was just a positive person.  I understood that there was danger, evil, strangers offering me candy, etc. out there in the world – I just didn’t think that I would be a likely target.  I taught in Harlem for two years in a Middle School that was the bottom three floors of a huge projects complex and had to walk four blocks back and forth to the subway each day.  I was one of two caucasian teachers people in the school and the Dominican men that sat on their same stoops each morning and afternoon would yell out to me “Hey Snowflake” (their affectionate endearing concocted nickname for me) each time I passed them by.  Some people may have been threatened by it, but I thought of it as us being mutually amused by each other – they were always polite, and I always gave a little half-wave of acknowledgement.  To be honest, I kind of assumed that if anyone tried to mess with me, those men would come to my aid.

I was never afraid – I took the subway home from the Bronx by myself after late Yankee games, I would spend my summer days when school was out and Scott was working, exploring all parts of the city.  I lived for today and had no fear of tomorrow.  The future was something good, exciting, wonderful – it was farther away from my past.

I used to love a blank page in a new notebook, cracking the spine while beginning a new hardcover, the deep awed inhale each time I stepped foot onto Writer’s Walk in Central Park, taking my time trying out a new recipe for dinner while listening to music, the smell of the Rare Book Room in the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, getting into bed with just-changed sheets that still had that fresh bleach smell to them, dancing around the house by myself when a great song came on, and about a million other things that I can’t even think of right now because that life – that girl – is so far gone that it breaks my heart.

I turned to Scott the other day and said to him “I don’t sing in the shower anymore.”

It was something so simple, but an epiphany of sorts just the same.

Sometimes the greatest realizations about yourself don’t come when you’re deep in a therapy session, or drunk on your third glass of Cabernet, or writing in your journal.  Sometimes it just dawns on you at a random time.  Just a passing thought that is somehow your “Ah ha!” moment; and I think that simple fact sums it up for me.  I used to be the girl that sang in the shower – loudly and with audaciousness.  Usually show tunes.

In Elementary school, I used to ride around my neighborhood with a friend of mine on our bikes and we would sing together as we rode – at the top of our lungs with the wind blowing in our hair – and today I remember that,  I remember how it felt – like freedom, like the carefree simplicity of childhood – and I cry because I don’t remember the last time I felt that way.

I don’t sing in the car very much anymore either.  Now I just try not to scream.  Like yesterday, when I was taking Parker home from school and she was having another meltdown for no particular reason, where she was completely out of control – crying, and screaming, and kicking my seat as hard as she could.  So I did what her behaviorist told me to do.  I pulled over on the highway, put my hazards on, and put my headphones in my ears to try to drown her out until she calmed down.

And cried.

And then I texted Scott that I didn’t know how much longer I could do this and that I didn’t know what I/we did to deserve this and that there was no end in sight to this because no one has any idea what to do with our kids and therefore no solution is forthcoming and there are no books to read about what to do when your four year-old daughter is acting out because she is angry that her brother has cerebral palsy and that everything in her world has to be effected by his handicap and that she has her own problems to deal with which is why every picture she draws has our whole family with a street drawn with her or her and Owen and our babysitter drawn on the other side of the street from Scott and I because “you and Daddy are taking Owey to the doctor and I am at school” or “Elsa is holding hands with me and Owey because you and Daddy have to go to a meeting” and how do you ask a preschooler to deal with anger and understand feelings and cope with emotions and comprehend resentment when I am 35 years old and I haven’t yet learned how to do the same thing?

Mommy and Daddy Going To A Meeting

MOmmy and Daddy Taking Owey to the Doctor

I have no idea how to get that part of me back.  I don’t even know if that girl is still in there.  Even more frightening to me is how to prevent Parker from becoming like I am now; before she has the opportunity to become an optimistic, happy-go-lucky person like I used to be, like she deserves to be.  Childhood is supposed to be filled with wonder, with possibilities, with worlds to explore and worlds to invent, with imagination, and promise, and a feeling of……..invincibility.

All I know is that I want to give those things to her – to both of them, but there’s something telling me that I need to figure out how to get it back for myself first – and I have no idea how to do that.  I want them to see that side of me – who I was before everything came crumbling down.  Before I became Atlas.  When I was the first to arrive at the party and the last to leave.  When I was the collector of positive quotes.  When I believed that a blank page really meant a new beginning.  When I laughed more than I cried.  When I trusted people.  When I believed that things would work out in the end.  When I had passion, and drive, and hope.

When I sang in the shower.


  1. says

    Wow you really put into words what I have had a hard time expressing. My son had a massive bleed on his brain at 5 weeks of age and now has massive global brain damage. He is 8 and cannot walk, talk etc. I have learned to have some joy again but it has been such a journey. One step forward and two steps back. In the beginning when he was screaming a lot and everything caused him pain, it felt wrong to even think of laughing. How do you have joy when your son is in such pain? Today he is happy and I am better but it still haunts me. Hardly a day goes by without the thought of why? Or what would life be like today if this hadn’t happened? What things would my son have liked? Would he like cars or trains or animals? I will never know.

    But you do eventually have to start to live a little for yourself and your daughter. I have two daughters who are so amazing and special to me. They kept me sane. I had to be ok for them. When my son started Kindergarten it gave me some relief and some time to learn about me again. It is a continual journey and its not easy but hopefully someday you will sing in the shower again.

    Thanks for writing this. It really touched my heart.

    • says

      Wow, thank you so much for sharing your son’s story (and therefore yours) with me… It is interesting how much our children’s stories become our own, isn’t it? I have those same questions about Owen when I feel like I’m not connecting with him – What don’t I know about you? If you could only talk to me, we could have so much more fun together… I’m happy to hear you’ve found some freedom to find “you” again, and I hope that part of you only continues to grow… J.

  2. says

    I found you through the Love that Max link up and I just wanted to say I’m out here, I’m reading, I totally get it, and I am sending you virtual hugs.

    • says

      Hi Marla – it seems so strange to me that someone from “the internets” (as my husband and I jokingly call the virtual world) telling me that they are “here and reading” could mean so much, but it does. I hope you keep reading, and popping up to say hello… J.

  3. says

    Oh, wow, Jamie, I SO relate to this. I was also a shower singer. Then I had Max and became a shower sobber. I am happy to say I am back to singing in the shower, in the car, in our living room when I have the house to myself and I blast Springsteen. Baby, we WERE born to run. It comes back. It does.

    • says

      I genuinely appreciate that sentiment coming from you, Ellen. You have been in my shoes and know where I am right now. It gives me hope. A light at the end of this long, long tunnel is that if it DOES come back, it will be just in time to embarrass my children with my show tunes medleys… Revenge is sweet. Take THAT Fresh Beat Band!

  4. says

    Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I am in tears as I read this. Because you have put into words what my heart won’t say out loud. It sucks. It just sucks that we don’t know what to do. It breaks my heart when Allie writes on a school paper that she wishes her sister didn’t have special needs. It hurts when I look at how hard Boo is working and still think why does she have to work so hard? I just sucks that we don’t sing in the shower any more.
    And then I think of what happened a mile from where Boo sees her doctors. And I think a little 8 year old has died, his sister has lost a limb and his mother has a head injury.
    How dare I cry?
    Thanks, as you always do (even if I don’t comment often) for putting into words what my heart needs to hear.

    • says

      I cannot tell you how much it means to me to hear that my posts touch you the way they do, Kerri. I certainly wish that it wasn’t because you’ve felt the way that I do, or because we have these terrible medical issues our children are suffering from in common – but whatever it is, I am grateful for your thoughtful words. Please know that when you comment on my posts, it always helps me too – to know that there are other people out there feeling the way that I do, and that we are not all alone in a world that can so often seem so isolated. I hope you’ll continue to pop up here from time to time… J.

  5. Dee says

    My heart absolutely breaks for your daughter — who sounds like an amazing, smart and utterly pushed to the side because her brother takes up all her parents time/energy/brainspace. If you get a chance, have a listen to NPR’s “Well Sibling Syndrome” or read “The Normal One”:

    And, yes, I grew up with a challenged and incredibly challenging older sister. Intellectually, I understood that she needed SO much more from our parents than I did. That it wasn’t K’s fault that she tended to destroy stuff, meltdown and require virtually all of our parents attention in order to have a chance at making it to adulthood. I get, intellectually, that everybody’s life had to revolve around K. Intellectually, that I had to be shunted off to my childhood best friend’s house for weeks or months at a time while K was hospitalized, yet again. I was exiled from the family abode for (in bits and pieces) for a good 2-3 months a year, every year, til college. That aggressively violent behavior that nobody would put up with from a friend or spouse had to be endured because it was my sister and she (allegedly) loved me. Intellectually. Only intellectually.

    It was not fair, my parents genuinely did the best they could. That benign neglect of me was okay, even a survival strategy since K was perennially in crisis and I would, obviously, cops because I had to. I deserved to live at home ALL the time as a kid. The very, very best my parents did was nowhere near good enough. My heart so goes out to Parker. She’s got reason to be mad. She is the priority of neither of her parents, who are clearly doing the best they can.

    • says

      I’m so sorry to hear about what was clearly a traumatic childhood for you, Dee. It certainly sounds like you went through a lot due to your sister’s issues, and I would not wish that on anyone. That being said, it certainly sounds different from what Parker is going through… She is the priority of BOTH of her parents and neglected by neither of us. We don’t think Owen “needs SO much more” than Parker does (as you assert your sister did), we think they need different things – and put all of our energy and love into ensuring that they both get it.

      While we do have to take her brother to many appointments, we are also cognizant of her needs and make sure to give her plenty of her own quality time with us, too. The only difference being that much of Owen’s “alone time” with us has been necessarily relegated to appointments, while Parker’s is at the library, or pottery painting, or out at a fun lunch. Parker has slept out at her grandparents’ house only a handful of times, and those times being single nights that she has asked for and looked forward to – very much like children with “typical” siblings do.

      While we are doing our best, which may very well end up being “nowhere near good enough” as you have stated was the case with your parents, Parker is neither being pushed aside nor is she any lower on our priority list than her brother is. Despite singular aspects of someone’s experience that may seem to exhibit similarities to your own, all of our stories and lives are unique, and it would likely serve you best to remember that the bits and pieces that people choose to share rarely make up the whole picture. I wish you all the best, and genuinely hope you will be more careful about the presumptions and accusations you choose to make in the future… J.

  6. says

    You let it out. Sometimes I think owning those feelings is half the battle. That girl is still there. You are STILL that person even though you don’t feel like it. I have no idea what it is like to be you, to go through what you are going through. I’ve been through hard times of my own though (haven’t we all), and being on the side of them, I can tell that sometimes you just have to practice. Sometimes, you just have to fake it. Start with once a week. Just for five minutes. Put on a song you love and dance around the living room. One day a week say, “Today I will sing in the shower.” You can be that person and the person that takes care of what you are going through now. You can be both.

  7. says

    Oh, I understand so much of this! I too have had never ending stress send me to the ER in the middle of the night (many times). I too had stopped singing in the shower…
    This is so beautifully written and really struck a chord with me.
    Hang on… when all around you is crumbling. People are different, situations are different, integration happens in it’s own time… but I want to tell you that on occasion… I find myself singing in the shower again.

  8. says

    Sending you so much love. As you know, and as we’ve discussed, there are so many truly dark and scary things lurking in adult life, and we so are not prepared for them. Even people like you and me, who endured so much darkness as children. We somehow managed to grow up believing we would survive and find The Safe Place. Learning that that place does not and has never and will never exist is a big, fat punch in the face. But you do carry it with grace and good humor, you do carry it, still, with the glass half full. The end of the singing in the shower is a silence that is like prayer, that is grace, that is the moment you bow your head and say, Please, please, let me have the strength to get through another day. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll bump into a piece of joy. And you do. And you always, always, always, always, ALWAYS see it and celebrate it, Jamie. This is your gift. The tune has changed, the victory looks different. But it is victory just the same. I love you. So much. As do we all. Thank you for daring to be human… this is the real victory, which we could never know as little girls, but as we are surely, slowly living our way into now, as full-hearted adults. xoxo

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