Mondays: The Heavy



Welcome to a new series: Mondays.


It's very simple. When Monday rolls around, I write something here. Ta-da! That's it.


I've been reading Atomic Habits, by James Clear: Tiny margins of improvement; Inch forward 1% at a time; "You get what you repeat"; Work is stored, not wasted; Forget the goals and hit the systems; You do what you believe you are; and Every action is a vote.


He's all about identity-based habits: Choose according to who you wish to become. It's more sustainable.


I used to have better habits. I worked out a lot. I drank less. I wandered around. I wrote more. That's who I was and who I believed myself to be: Light and airy and healthy and a writer. I'm not sure what happened. The air got heavy,


I chopped my hair off a month ago, thinking maybe I was holding The Heavy in my hair. Turns out, I was not. The Heavy was not in my hair. But a lot of my identity was, apparently, because I've felt disconnected and unfamiliar ever since.


I used to write more. It was a habit, a good one, and I liked it. It seems like an important thing to do again. Open the windows and turn on the lights.


When Clear wanted to start a writing habit, he committed to writing blog entries every Monday and Thursday. I'm going to copy that but only half of it, because I take the idea of improvement via "the aggregation of marginal gains" (Dave Brailsford) very seriously.


Maybe The Heavy is a word-logged head. Writing is filtration. Soak up the world, then squeeze it out minus the debris. And my, but the world is thick with debris lately. My thoughts are trapped. They slosh, and I lose track of things. Maybe I'm storing them in my hips.


Some observations only make sense when you write them. Here is one:


I went to the grocery store yesterday. I stood in line behind a young man who stood in line behind a woman older than me. I followed her disapproving gaze to the contents of his grocery haul, splayed across the conveyor belt: a double pack of Old Spice deodorant; one bottle of orange Ajax dish soap, a small tub of guacamole, and the largest bag of frozen Pizza Rolls I had ever seen. "Bachelor," I thought.


He pulled his left hand out of his pocket and scratched his nose. He wore no wedding ring, and I felt validated.


As the older woman in front of the bachelor left, a family of five pulled in behind me. A man, a woman, and three kids under the age of 10. The smallest was stuck in the rack under the belly of the cart. He whimpered then yowled. His mother bent over, folded his arms into Ls and his legs into Ns and pulled him out. His tennis shoes clanged against the metal caging. The middle child climbed onto her back. The father studied the candy.


The bachelor left with his Old Spice and Pizza Rolls, and the cashier rolled my sweet potatoes down the belt. They banged into each other and then the bottom of the belt. Her face flushed, her mouth severe. She tossed the macaroni and cheese and the brussell sprouts, was out of wine bags and hastily plopped my bottles into brown greeting card bags like booties. She chucked the shredded cheese. It slapped the counter audibly when it landed.


A line had formed at the customer service desk. People with packages to mail, dry cleaning to pick up, carpet cleaners to rent, lottery tickets to purchase, stared at their phones and their feet and their hands. Everyone looked mad or bored.


The cashier grabbed the carton of eggs I had so carefully selected, and I held my breath.


Wooooosh... there they went. They stopped just short of the metal lip of the counter. I raised my eyebrows and smiled. She asked me if I wanted my receipt. I said, "Sure" like I'd been offered cake.


It was the most delightfully strange moment -- all of our human-ness cross-sectioned in this ordinary place, doing ordinary things, under ordinary lighting, trailing mess and debris and heartbreak and boredom and irritation, and I loved us all so much. What in the holy hell were any of us doing there? Not a single one of us knew.


We never do.

At any given moment, this is true.


(Mondays #1 complete. Now I feel at least 3 pounds lighter.)


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