“What’s wrong with your eye?” was the question I kept getting Sunday morning, which surprised me, since my eye wasn’t the part of me that hurt the most. In fact, I was totally unaware of any problem in my eye except that I remembered poking it on a bush branch while digging a ditch across our side-yard flower bed Saturday afternoon. I must have poked it worse than I thought. The parts of me that hurt the most were my hands and shoulders, which also surprised me, since I expected it to be my back and knees. My knees because they always hurt a little bit no matter what, but my back because I shoveled, not just dirt, but heavy sticky clay, for hours Friday and Saturday afternoons. Apparently that put a greater strain on my upper body than my lower body.
In spite of all that, I was a happy man. Why? Because I had taken the first step in fulfilling Cyndi’s anniversary gift wish.
This past July we celebrated 35 years of marriage. First we took a very cool trip to Mexico in May to celebrate. And if that wasn’t enough, when I asked Cyndi what she wanted for her anniversary gift she asked for an outdoor shower.
So this past weekend the weather was finally cool enough, and since it has been raining for two weeks the ground was finally soft enough, for me to begin making Cyndi’s wishes come true, which, as it turns out, is my primary purpose in life.
However, I should back the story up a bit. This idea of having an outdoor shower all started when Cyndi and I attended a retreat at Vallecitos in Northern New Mexico, in 2011.
One night after her workshop and after a late night shower, Cyndi whispered to me (whispering because it was camp silent time) “I took an outdoor shower - I was butt naked - and there was a man in the shower next to me!”
The next day after my morning run I decided I needed to know more about Cyndi’s experience. The outdoor shower turned out to be mounted on a flat wooded balcony that was closed on three sides, including the side between men and women, meaning Cyndi was correct when she said a man was next to her but there was a substantial corrugated tin partition separating them. Hardly as naughty as Cyndi made it sound.
But the third side was open to the mountain and the entire world. Granted, it faced a ravine and a steep wall of Aspens so that someone would have to go to a lot of trouble to find a place to watch naked bathers - probably more trouble than an adult is willing to make.
Still, while showering, you were definitely naked and vulnerable to the outside world in a way that seldom happens as an adult. It was fun, much more fun than a conventional shower, maybe because of the adventure, maybe because of the rarity but also because it felt free and wild.
And then last May at our vacation in Verana, Mexico, the only shower accessible to us was outdoor and open to the Bay of Bandaras. If someone in Puerto Vallarta had a powerful-enough telescope and knew where to look, we were only 16 miles across the water.
By this time we were old hands at showering outside and took it completely in stride. It was after that trip that Cyndi asked for an outdoor shower of her own.
So why am I writing about this except to brag on my own hard work and sore muscles? It goes back to something I read in Patricia Ryan Madison’s book, Improv Wisdom. "There are people who prefer to say Yes, and there are people who prefer to say No. Those who say Yes are rewarded by the adventures they have, and those who say No are rewarded by the safety they attain.
Granted, taking an outdoor shower in our own backyard, which is very small and close and private, is at best, a small adventure. But Cyndi and I know our lives will become more closed and private as we get older unless we deliberately open up. We have to intentionally add vulnerability, say Yes more often, to prevent that progression.
Besides, once we start using the shower, who knows what other adventures will open up to us.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32