Cold Shower

a frozen kind

“You never challenge yourself.”

I said it to my girlfriend, but it wasn’t directed at her. Not really. It was directed at everyone.

It was 12th grade, and one of the things the senior class did every year at that school was to spend several days at a camp ground. One of the things everyone dreaded about this trip was that we would only get to take cold showers. Like peasants! Like animals!

I was excited. About the trip and about the showers. I knew it would be terrible but I was ready. Ready to face it down. To have to face it down. Other people did not share my view on the subject. It was one of the first times I really grasped that most people try to avoid things that cause them pain and discomfort unless they have a really good reason to face them. I already knew that, of course. In the straightforward sense. In the “stop touching the hot stove” sense.

But I kind of liked pain. And discomfort. And public humiliation. I didn’t really know that about myself, yet. And I didn’t really know that this was an aspect of my psychological makeup that made me different that most people. It’s a difficult thing to articulate, partially because it is complicated and partially because we have a very poor vocabulary for discussing the small differences in our respective mental processing and outlook.

I used to assume that everyone spelled words out in their heads while other people talked. It turns out that’s pretty rare, too. We don’t realize that we have these differences from each other because we don’t talk about it. We aren’t trained to think about it.

Yesterday I read that cold showers have a number of heath benefits. I ran into it on Facebook and I couldn’t believe it. Could something that simple really be that good for you? It sounded like a scam. So I looked into it. And then I kept looking.

It looks legit. Taking cold showers appears to be really, really healthy. I didn’t believe it because it seemed too easy. A health practice that takes balls, but not really any effort? Oh, I am so down.

A lot of the articles talked about how difficult it was. How to psyche yourself up to doing it. How hard it would be at first.

It won’t be hard. Not for me. Uncomfortable, yes. Painful, even. The instant the water hits my skin, I expect that the part of me that cares about the physical condition of my body will pull away, like it sometimes does. Like it did in 12th grade, at camp. It will float above me like a ghost, and stare with detached amusement and excitement at my wet, quivering flesh. It will remember the last time I did this deliberately, which was a long time ago.

“You never challenge yourself.”

Is it a challenge, if it is within your nature to overcome it? If something doesn’t intimate you to paralysis, if the thought of it frightens you less than it frightens others, are you really stepping outside of your comfort zone?

I don’t know. I may or may not be about to find out.




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