What I learnt from my August experiments

August in the UK is a fairly quiet month work-wise and while one could aspire to higher things such as cataloguing one’s books (a project pending for 25 years or more), I choose to liven things up a little bit through setting up my own challenges.

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In 2018, I was vegan for the month of August.

With a few killer food allergies, I am a champion label reader but I was not prepared for what veganism demanded.

First the steak and the burgers and the eggs went into the bin of the challenge (ed. no food was wasted in this challenge; I just planned ahead and stopped buying steak and haché burgers).

Then I realised cold coffees had to go as I was indulging in some tasty full fat milk consumption.

Some of you will remember the scorching heat wave the UK experienced in the summer of 2018. To a north Indian, that heat is the siren call to lassi. Except to me in August 2018. Lassi is made with thick yoghurt suitably churned with ice and (in my case) copious quantities of sugar. That had to go.

That is when the crank set in. Almond milk has an eye watering water foot print so that was out. Soy milk is runny. Oat milk was the only option. Breakfast is my early and crucial meal of the day. The world knows if I have missed it. And I had to settle for an oat milk smoothie with oats and banana, and that was wearying after a while.

I was suddenly conscious of my protein intake that had reduced to hummus and falafel and lentils and kidney beans. No cottage cheese obviously.

The month was hard. All my colleagues know I was vegan because come meal time and my complaining started.

And I swore a lot. Sometimes under my breath, sometimes loudly.

The month passed and I returned to dominantly-vegetarian-but-also-steak living though I started trying harder to eat a little less meat. It was no longer as hard as it was before. The pause before choosing helped.

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The swearing however set the path to the 2019 August challenge.

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In 2019, I decided not to swear the whole month. I am the sweariest person in my office and I expected I would likely get very creative with my language.

I wanted a swear jar going but the other colleague in the swearing stakes said: “Please, I beg you, I have two kids and a mortgage and I cannot afford to land my monthly earnings into the swear jar.” Fair point. I relented.

A friend heard about the challenge and said: “But swearing makes stupidity bearable”.

I sort of agreed with her but I anyway rarely swear at people but at the news or avoidable poor decisions or outcomes. It did remind me of the time when someone cursed at me out of the blue one day. I asked why. He admitted it took him one day to understand the creative insults I had thrown at him the previous day. Common curse words, I feel, are the lowest denominator of expressing feelings better expressed in poetic ways.

Here is how August has gone so far (it is day 26 as I write):

Day 1 count: 10
Day 2 count: 3
Day 3 count: did not swear!
Day 12 count: 1
Day 24 count: 3

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As we near the end of August, I am reflecting on the month past.

The findings are unexpected. Especially about my cause-effect vector.

I used to think I swear because I am aggravated by something.

I have found so far that not swearing means I am calmer and most aggravations do not manage to bother me.

This is a good finding.

Swearing was feeding the mildly irritable wolf inside me till it becomes a marauding murderer of the lovely alternatives language offers us.

Not swearing means I am watching the triggers and my reactions more, and making the conscious decision not to get aggravated by trivialities.

This has been especially challenging given some exigencies at work. Aggravation was the easy route. Putting my responsibilities towards the other stakeholders ahead of my own feelings helped keep my challenge in focus.

I have learnt from the challenge that the wolf you feed is the wolf that feeds on you.

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Come September, the challenge continues.

I won’t refrain from the occasional letting loose but mostly I will steer clear and keep my language fit for a family channel. And I will keep count.