Injuries are the worst. From tweaked shoulders to blown spines, all represent a serious (though hopefully temporary) change in lifestyle. You go from happy and healthful to bored and bedbound with one bad decision or bit of bad luck, or, perhaps residency in the United States during the years in which health insurance was not widely available.
One thing about injuries, though, is that there is almost always someone with something worse going on, which eliminates “tweeting about your pain” from the “things to do while you are laid up” list. Well, it can still be on the list, but it’s pretty cringeworthy. Unless your life experience is closing in on Joe Simpson’s, you sound like a self-involved poseur when you can’t take your eight weeks of rehab with patience and grace.
Struggling with how to fill your time? Well, I’m no Joe, but I’ve got a little experience with down days. With the help of my friends Jill and Doug, who have the biggest bank of Outdoor Experience And Also Experience In General than anyone else I know, I’ve compiled this list of ways to rejoin non-outdoorsy society, for at least a little while:
1. Make a friend. It’s time – time to step away of the masses of indistinguishable climber/skier/generic outdoors types and make some acquaintances who have something to offer other than “potential ski partner.” Remember when we used to meet people and get to know their personalities and being pleasantly surprised later when their cool extracurricular interests were revealed? Well, go back to doing that. Your days of judging possible new companions by the brand of their base layers are over for a while. Step outside the industry lines for a bit. Find a new crowd (and keep them even after you’re better). Come on, be a well-rounded human. This is your wake-up call. Aren’t you just a teeny bit bored of yet another story about someone’s bike ride or ski day? Aren’t you a wee bit sick of hanging out with people who are exactly like you? Go talk to someone who does something else with their time. Go on, see what happens.
2. Binge-watch some Netflix until you are caught up on pop culture references. Don’t know who Olivia Pope is? No idea why the LBD is now the LOD? At first I was going to say “you’re not alone,” but experience and the fact that I, televandrist extraordinaire, do, mean that you probably are alone, at this point. Anyway, I am loathe to admit it, but it’s true: some of those shows are no-question addicting. Plunk yourself on the la-z-boy and soak up the pop culture.
3. Visit your parents. Chances are you neglect them. Just a fact! Better yet, invite them over to indulge their parental desire to take care of their baby. They probably miss the days in which they had total control over you and simply had to pour your juice and fluff your pillows. Give them a trip down memory lane! Hopefully they’ll laugh in your face and take a nice Hawaiian vacation at this suggestion, but it’s something to try, anyway.
4. Go through your gear closet and make some donations. Decluttering is harder than you think and can consume a lot of sit-and-think time, especially for those of us from consumerist culture who have been programmed to think that the more stuff we hoard, the better. If you need something to ponder, get thee to your bloated storage bins and send some stuff to people who need it. You don’t need it, you’re laid up, remember?
5. Break your social media habit. It’s so easy to fill one’s time with twits and grams and Facebook likes; to not waste an opportunity to find momentarily gratifying attention by casting about the wide Internet for as many responses as possible; but it’s ultimately meaningless garbage. Down time is important and that includes mental rest, but frittering away your brain cells on choosing (or worse, creating) that selfie that highlights your features just so while including your crutches for maximum sympathy comments for your profile shot is nothing short of wasteful garbage. Not to mention that the person who just posted “aw, hope you get better soon!” immediately stopped thinking about you the second they hit “submit.” Yes, I know, even when you’re well you waste 90% of your attention on those inanities. Stop it by finding something substantial to work on. Finish your long-neglected degree, novel, painting, or jigsaw puzzle. Anything to break the flow of endless oversharing. Just think, you’ll never have to shop for touch-screen compatible gloves ever again.
6. Break another habit. I don’t know, just pick one. Sick time is a good time for a jump start on removing nasty habits from your lexicon. Whether you opt to quit coffee, cut down on alcohol, or quit cheating on your spouse, hey, it’s doing something. And if you don’t think actively trying not to do something you find compelling doesn’t count as an activity, you’ve never tried to do it.
7. Volunteer. No, not for something ultimately self-serving, like trail building or Leave No Trace or bullshit causes like “climbing area promotion” or whatever it is that Subaru pays people to drive around the country for; volunteer for real people and animals who benefit from your low-key company. Need ideas? Play board games or jigsaw puzzles with senior citizens. Help socialize puppies and kittens at the Animal Shelter. Get involved with local issues and go to planning meetings; that’s where the real work is done anyway. Join an environmental group and help do their filing. Become a volunteer dispatcher with your local fire department. Lots of people (well, not “lots”) like to volunteer for the fun, self serving stuff and few dedicate their time to the less exciting stuff, but it all needs to be done. Go, help.
8. Read a technical manual you’ve never read but think you have. Suggestion: Snow Sense by my friends Jill and Doug. I know you’ll say you’ve read it, but I bet most of you haven’t. You might have skimmed it before your Level 1, but it didn’t make sense to you then and you probably never picked it back up. Now’s your chance. Actually read it this time. See what you learn.
9. Read in general. Well, duh. It’s the ultimate intellectually stimulating time filler. You can expand your horizons in all sorts of ways. If that’s too much of a stretch and you want to stick with outdoorsy stuff, you can still learn something. For instance, most people who quote John Muir have never actually read his works aside from that one sentence (you know the one I mean) and are really missing out. This was a man to whom writing did not come easy and who labored carefully over his every written word. If I had to scratch out this blog with a fountain pen, I probably would, too, but I’m enabled by technology to vomit out my every thought without too much consideration. Muir was not, and it shows.
10. I don’t know, but I really need more ideas. I’ve done all of the above, read every mountaineering book ever written, visited the entire Internet, seen so much Netflix that I don’t really care much what happens to Olivia because the drama just doesn’t stop and it’s tiring to even watch anymore. I’m maxed out on time fillers. I’m one of the lucky ones who is allowed to hike and I’ve done every hike within my recommended limits in my area at least 12 times. Even my dog is a little bored. Help!