The Saddle

When the sun goes down in Denver, it gets cold fast. You’ll be sitting outside, having a nice dinner with your friends, when that last ray of sunshine drops behind the Rockies to the west and everyone goes scrambling for their nearest warm clothing. I spent most of a decade living in Washington, DC, though, and the situation is much different there. It will be sweltering during the day, and when the sun goes down, the only thing that really changes is the sun on your face. The heat sticks around.

Both of these situations are tied to the same underlying chemical property: the heat retention of water. Water has the highest heat capacity of any liquid. In DC, where the humidity in the air is about as high as it’s possible to get, that heat sticks around in the air. In Denver, where it’s incredibly dry all the time, you don’t get that water-driven heat retention.

We humans are basically walking sacks of water. 73% of your brain is that amazing heat-retaining liquid. And that brain absolutely wants to stay wet: only a 2% drop in brain hydration results in memory issues, drop-offs in energy levels, and struggles to do basic computation. Your body loves water and wants to stay hydrated. Even as I’m writing this post, I’m draining a liter of water, because it’s generally best not to take any chances.

Where there’s water, things like to stay the way that they are. If they’re cold, they stay cold. If they’re warm, they stay warm. And so it makes sense that as walking sacks of water, we humans would probably retain some of those same properties.


The last time I mustered up the motivation to write a blog post was June 2020. That was about three months into the pandemic. Covid was very, very real in the cities: places of high population density tend to have more people bumping into each other, which tends to spread disease. Despite knowing all this, I struggled to adapt to a lot of the restrictions designed to keep me safe. When work sent me home for the first time, I still went to the gym until the gyms were shut down. I didn’t like wearing a mask.

By the time of that last blog post, though, I had adapted. I even went running in a mask. It took some time to change into “pandemic mode” where the focus needed to be on staying safe.

Staying safe isn’t a good mentality for pushing forward. “Don’t lose” is not the same thing as “try to win.” And it’s especially hard to work through when your “opponent” doesn’t actually care about winning or losing at all, it’s just making a point to injure as much as possible. You’re no longer playing a football match with the objective of getting the ball in goal, your tactics instead have to adapt to ninety minutes against a team who is stuck in for two-footed tackles, spikes out. They don’t care about winning. They’re just there to take out as many players as possible.

So I adapted in the same way many of us adapted. Hunker down.

When the first round of vaccines came in the spring of 2021, they didn’t change the mental landscape nearly as much as I thought they would. None of us really trusted that it was over. Despite being fully vaccinated, I chose to drive several hours to a small wedding rather than risk a flight. I wore a mask regularly for nine months after my vaccine, even in places where mask mandates had been lifted. The habits of the pandemic stuck around.

I think that it took the Omicron wave of winter 2021 to finally break our pattern. Sure, we knew lots of people getting sick. But if you were vaccinated, you got a little sick for a few days and then mostly bounced back without issue. That was the test that showed that Covid had been reduced to a run-of-the-mill illness. You don’t want it, but you also won’t end up in the hospital if you catch it.

Even after I kind of “knew” (with evidence to back) that it was very unlikely that I would get dramatically ill, I still operated in Covid mindset for months. I was hunkered down. I wasn’t thinking about growth or excellence. I was thinking about staying safe. That sort of mentality manifests itself everywhere - from how you go about your days, to how you learn, to how you perform at work, to how you work out.

I can’t change the past. Certainly won’t help anything if I sit here and punish myself about a lack of external creativity during pandemic times.

Just got to get back in the saddle.