Look, I have a problem. I know I have a problem, and you know what? I don’t want to address it. I am the embodiment of toxic masculinity. I have to beat you at everything, literally everything. Monopoly? I’ll own you. The gym? I grunt louder than anyone. Knitting? My vine stitching is Di’Vine.
They say the same man never enters the same river twice. In my case it’s because the next time I’m at the river I’d be able to kick past me’s ass.
But I’ve got a bigger problem. My neighbour got this Tesla. He was talking about how he’s going to save the planet. Well, I’ll tell you what ‘Dave’, I’m gonna save the planet better than you ever will in your pancy smantsy Tesla.
I got these solar water heating modules on my roof now, no more boiler usage for me.
“Hey Dave,” I said, “you know boiling water emits way more carbon dioxide than driving does?”
“Oh really?” he says.
“Yeah, that’s why I got these solar water heating panels.” I had no idea if that was true, I made it up on the spot. But it made me feel superior to Dave and his self-driving car.
“Mate, do they work in winter?” Dave asked.
“Do those solar things work when there isn’t much… y’know, solar.”
Shit. I’d forgotten about winter.
“Oh, oh yeah, the cheap ones don’t, but these are top of the range. They’ll probably do most of my heating too,” I lied.
“Oh, very nice.”
So I did some googling and guess what? They do actually work in winter. They just have a bit of what you’d call ‘reduced operational capacity’ during that teeny weeny short period of time in the UK when the sun goes on holiday. They’ll give you enough hot water for some things, but there’s a reason the installation guy recommended that I still keep my regular boiler to top it up. The problem is, Dave would see if I turned on the boiler. The exhaust pipe practically ejects itself into his living room. And I know he notices it because I know it bothers him. He’s asked me to get it moved, even offered to pay. But I was mad at him when he asked. I’d seen him at the gym… he bench pressed more than me that day. I’ve never forgiven him.
It had been a warm October, thank god for global warming, but November got cold. In the first cold snap I ran out of hot water in the evening, and I’d just had an epic gym session. Beat Dave’s bench press record, I’m pretty alpha, but I was sweating like a pig. I couldn’t not shower, but doing so would mean taking a cold shower. I couldn’t do that either. So I’d have to turn the boiler on. But then Dave would know and he’d win. I had to take a cold shower.
I stripped off and spent a few minutes eyeing myself in the bathroom mirror. Hell, if you looked like me you would. I blew a kiss to myself.
Then I turned to the shower. The water was already cascading into the basin. I stepped near it and immediately stepped back. Even the air around the running water was cold, and I had to go in it. I breathed. I’m a manly man. This is what my rugged cave-dwelling ancestors did all the time, showering in alpine waterfalls and stuff, and they didn’t have stick-on biceps like mine.
I stepped into the shower and my world exploded. My body forced itself to breathe in, deeper than I think I’ve ever breathed before. I breathed out. I breathed in. Gradually controlling my body’s shock to this ungodly cold.
But it wasn’t ungodly.
It was… invigorating.
I turned around, rotating my entire body under the stream of cold water (I have really broad shoulders so it took a bit of moving), and everywhere the water touched brought my skin alive. It was like, you know how those psychologist quacks always talk about only using 5% of your brain? Well, it was like I’d only ever been using 5% of my skin. I had this energy in me that I’d never felt before. I dipped my head under, refreshing every cell in my body. I stayed there for minutes, taking it all in. My muscles, sore from the gym, now felt fresh and light. Heck, I even felt cleaner than I normally did.
I turned the water off and stepped out of the shower. It must have been 15 or 16 degrees in the house that evening. But standing there with droplets raining from my hair I felt as if I was basking in the sun. My entire body was filled with a warm glow. I just stood there for a second, feeling reborn.
I took my time dressing. Have you ever had that first cup of tea after a long day of work? Or taken that first sip of cold cola on a day when it feels like the sun just won’t relent. Those moments of minor discomfort make the normal things in life feel like stepping into heaven. Which is exactly how I felt stepping into my socks. Thick and soft and oh so warm. I don’t think I’d ever appreciated how great they felt next to my skin. My shirt, my jumper, my underwear, even jeans. You don’t think of jeans as being comfortable. But sliding them on was like that first sip of cola for my legs.
I started having cold showers every day, sometimes twice. I was a complete convert. And, get this for winning, because I wasn’t having to use all my hot water on showers, I had plenty left over for dishes and a bit of heating. My bills plummeted. I’d be making back my initial investment in no time, and I felt better than I had ever felt before in my life.
But it didn’t stop there: think about all the doors this opens up for the rest of your life. We spend so much time fearing these little deviations from being 100% comfortable all of the time that we forget the little joy we can feel from stepping outside of our comfort zone. Have you ever looked at a stream on a crisp winter morning and thought: “Oh my god, it would feel amazing to jump in that.” But you don’t, because that would be weird. And then you’d be wet, and cold, and a little bit uncomfortable. Well, here’s a secret, it feels exactly as good as you think it feels. On my runs I would pass this crystal clear stream, water only comes up to about mid-thigh but that’s just enough to swim in if you’re careful. I’d always wondered about how good it would feel. And now I don’t. One morning, my breath misting in the air, I decided to say yes to adventure. I stripped off, keeping my underwear on, of course. You’ve got to keep some presents wrapped under the tree for Christmas, if you know what I’m saying.
I waded in, casual as anything, and dunked my torso under the water. I breathed huge shuddering breaths of forest air, switching from mouth to nose. Smelling the freshwater, the pine in the air, the smell of the mulched leaves from the forest floor, the tang of the rocks and lichen. I felt the currents swirling around my body. Hugging my tendons, massaging my back, tickling my toes. I splashed water on my face, feeling reborn again. I know I’ve said I’ve been reborn a lot, but they say that the same man never walks into the same river twice. Because it’s not the same river, and it’s not the same man. The me who walked out was a better me than the one who walked in.
One of the other benefits of this cold water therapy was that I was rarely actually cold. I was the ‘T-shirts in January’ kind of guy now. I know it’s a bit weird, I’m really not trying to show off. I just felt that alive and healthy that I felt like I didn’t need more layers. That being said, Dave did mention it to me one morning.
“Ain’t you cold?”
“Nah, it’s practically tropical out here.”
“Better you than me.” There it was again, his admission of defeat. I’d beaten him again and he’d never know the secret of how I did it. Never know how much better I felt than him every day.
“Hey Dave, this might sound a bit weird. Have you heard of our Lord and Saviour cold showers?” Some things just aren’t a competition.
I guess the same man never enters the same river twice.
Alex Finniss UK Alex is a data analyst with a passion for behavioural psychology. He occasionally takes a break from this wild rock and roll lifestyle to write short horror, sci-fi, and (now) cli-fi stories. He resides in Bath but doesn't own one. View all posts