The Plunge

It’s about 6 a.m. and I’m standing in my bathroom doing everything but getting into the shower. I always come up with stupid ideas when I have too much time and can’t get outside. And this one is a doozy.

The ideas that come when I can walk around the park or down the street seem to have a different veneer to them. I come up with story ideas, guffaw at one-liners that rear their heads during a dog walk. Positively chuckle my brains out while stomping off down the lane to our local pub. I suppose this all makes sense. The outdoors, fresh air, the promise of a beer somewhere that isn’t my living room. These things promote ideas.

But with the recent onslaught of our daily 16-hour evenings and the wintry wonderland that hath become Prague, well, my thinking is done indoors. The air is bereft with animal dander and skin that has plummeted from our bodies to live in nearby cloth and the oppressive horrors of dreams dying and dead. You know, that sort of thing.   

It doesn’t go well. If you throw into the mix Dax Shepherd, well then things get worse. Dax has a podcast that I love listening to. He’s an actor-writer, who I at one point admittedly considered the poor man’s Marc Maron. But this is by far no longer the case. He’s a very interesting person and far more intelligent than he might seem at first. And he does lots of cool things, some of which I have no interest in at all (race cars) and other things that seem like I should be doing (cold plunges).

This is where my trouble begins. The cold plunge. Cold plunging – at its core – involves plunging into freezing cold water. This is said to have a number of benefits, both for one’s physical and mental health. In a conversation Dax had with Eva Longoria, they described the utter amazement at how awake it makes them feel all day.

This piqued my interest. I was cooking meatballs at the time for an evening we were having with a friend and I stopped above my spaghetti sauce with a spoon. “Awake?” I asked aloud, thus once again convincing Burke of the fact that I have imaginary friends.

The idea of ‘being more awake’ appeals to me a great deal. I get up early, caffeinate my soul off, and then spend a few hours like a jittery robot on Ritalin. Then there’s the crash. Then the period of sedation wherein I’d fistfight Gandhi for an hour of sleep. Then the late afternoon resurgence, which occurs shortly after I go home. Then there’s the period of post-mortem exhaustion that occurs two hours before bed. Then there’s the wide awake that seems to coincide with the split second I lay my rump into bed. Yes, being awake is something to be explored.

In theory this is a grand idea. Wake up, do your work, work out, take a shower, and then finish that shower with an uber-refreshing invigorating blast of freezing cold water. In theory.

The thing with theory is, it always happens when you’re far more comfortable than when you have to do the theoretical things that will put you in theoretical misery. At the point of conceiving this plan, I was in my kitchen sipping Scotch and palming meatballs together. I was warm. I was in comfy clothing.

Reality is far from this. Standing naked at 6:58 am under a stream of warm water and convincing yourself to turn the water abruptly to the left to make it cold. This is hard. But I did it. The kind of cold that comes from a tap makes you long for the days of cave dwellings and sabertoothed tigers. When the water hits you, things that belong outside of your body disappear into it. Things that provide transition seem to lock up forever. The screech I made could be heard by local birds and distant rodents.

I counted to twenty.

I shut off the water.

I had done it.

I cursed Dax Shepherd in many multisyllabic words.   

Twenty-five minutes later, I dozed off on the bus.

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