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The monotony of this month has set in. To steal and then bastardize a line from the Parquet Courts, I can feel the increase in time between ticks. You never really think about your vices as social mortar. If you’re not going out, you’re staying in. Even if you go out, what’re you doing? Staking out a good spot at the library? Doing the same at a tea shop, and only drinking herbal tea for hours on end? There’s only so long you can spend at the gym. I know, because I’ve been there. Every dang day. For hours.

And even when you try to go out, it’s hard to contend with the lethargy that comes from a lack of stimulants, and a severe constriction of stimulation. Aside from a Sunday morning ritual involving Zeke’s dark roast at a farmers market, I’ve never needed coffee with or before breakfast. But I have noticed an improvement in my mood and evening prospects enjoying a cup between noon and three. Instead, I now more than ever nod off in the parking lot before going into the gym. And occasionally in the locker room. And on various exercise machines. And sometimes on the toilet. I cannot strongly enough caution against falling asleep on the toilet. At home, at work, or at the gym- there is no good time to fall asleep on the toilet.

Pareidolia has me believing the sack of Thompson’s Irish breakfast tea in my pantry is a disapproving, cantankerous old face judging me as I reach for the ginger, licorice, and cinnamon tea. (For the three of you reading this, Irish breakfast tea is exactly what it sounds like, the Irish version of English breakfast tea. I think it’s stronger, and I like the maltiness compared to its British counterpart. There is also a Scottish breakfast tea that is somehow both smoky and oaty, which I prefer to the British but not as much as the Irish. All three are highly caffeinated and stand up well to a hearty breakfast. This has been your breakfast teas of the British Isles. We now return you to your regularly scheduled navel-gazing claptrap.) My point being, caffeine is currently the chemical I miss the most. Aside from my ever-present desire to eat all the carbohydrates possible at once.

Back to my main concern halfway through the blank month- the dullness. I love reading, I genuinely enjoy it, but my drive to finish books half read is anathema to my magpie style of reading. Not every book is Lincoln in the Bardo, or A Brief History of Seven Killings. Even good books don’t necessarily grab you. Curiously, reading doesn’t tire me out like just about everything else these days. Picking up Marlon James’ novel, I read straight through to five in the morning and felt no worse for the lack of sleep- the dialog is so compelling, the voices so nuanced, the plot so simple despite the complexity of multiple narrators. But it’s hard to read a tome on dough with the same joie de vivre, particularly when your mind drifts to sandwich construction seven to 10 times a minute (for the record, the last sandwich I ate in 2019 was two of the jambon beurre from Bread Furst. It is likely the best simple sandwich in DC. If I wasn’t so badly craving a bahn mi, and probably both a Bogan and a Hot Tiger bun from Lucky Buns, I’d head right back to Bread Furst on February 1. But more on that next week.)

Finding new ways to fill the day has become a hobby unto itself. Judo remains fun, as it’s a new mental as well as physical exercise. It’s not new, but I’m abstemiously plotting out meals, mostly breakfast because intermittent fasting means not eating supper, even at beer club (which is why I have a half dozen new beers to drink in the cooler in my trunk, and have been dreaming of hot pretzels and cheese sauce since last night.) It’s nice to rediscover art galleries open on weekday afternoons, and apparently Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation will let you take their dogs on adventures (called Dogventures, naturally) which is terrific since I need more dogs in my life.

But bigger than the day to day, I’ve started to consider what it is I do with my day. The hours spent driving to and from, overlapping with the time spent listening to music. Time spent not just doing laundry, or folding laundry, but merely walking to the washer and dryer in the basement, and back upstairs with a full basket. José Ortega y Gasset once succinctly summarized an often misquoted passage of William James in writing, “Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.” Herein lies the crux of this month: in stripping away my distractions, be they behavioral or chemical, I am left to consider what it is I do with my time. All the time you have, even the second or two that flashes by as walk along narrow streets at dusk must be counted. We have entered the doldrums, and I am unable even to measure out my life with coffee spoons. Am I meant to puzzle over mundanities? Do I dare disturb the universe which I myself have artificially constrained?

Check out part 1 and part 2 of this series here.

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