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The art of not going bonkers

The good news is that I haven’t gone stark bonkers.

The even better news is that Ava hasn’t. That’s what I dreaded most when I learned that in addition to having a non-working ankle I had a non-working (or at least unsafe) vehicle and was going to be housebound for some unknown time.

Can’t walk. Can’t drive. Can’t exercise the pooches. Arrrrgh. Dogs bouncing off walls. Ava giving me the guilt-trip eye. So I feared.

Surprisingly, though, the dogs have completely accepted being confined to the house and their little 18 x 24 fenced yard. A few sessions a day with one of her various ChuckIts (indoor or out) has kept Ava pacified.


Me, I’m not so easy to pacify. I find sitting around applying heat and creams and massage to my stupid ankle ridiculous. Hobbling around in a fracture boot feels like overkill. The whole business of nursing something as minor as a hairline fracture feels like the doings of a pathetic, self-centered hypochondriac. Until the moment I decide to get up and do things, at which point both the ankle and my medical friends remind me it’s necessary for at least a couple more weeks.

My leg hurts when I stand. My butt hurts from too much sitting. My back aches either way. Mostly my brain hurts.

We’re making another try at fixing the Xterra on Thursday. If that works, I’ll at least have that form of mobility again. If not … well, I’ll get more used to being a slug.

Temporary immobility. It’s nothing. Not like spending life in prison or being in an iron lung. Not like being stuck in a wheelchair. Or for that matter, not even as confining as a bad job or a bad marriage.

Nevertheless, it requires coping skills.


Now, as a professional keyboard warrior of course I can just sit here and blart away, but I don’t kid myself that extra hours of surfing and snarking are either beneficial or entertaining.

So after binge-watching a season of Orange is the New Black, all six hours of the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice (Colin Firth as the definitive Mr. Darcy) in an afternoon, the entire Harry Potter series (twice), and reading every book in the house … what next?

Adjust! Re-set.

First, I tell myself, “Oh, get over it. This is hardly the worst thing in the world.”

This is akin to our mothers’ old claim that “children in India are starving,” but works slightly better because it doesn’t provoke the rejoinder, “Well, then you can send them these stinky brussels sprouts!”

I tell myself that a writer who can’t go anywhere has a huge advantage over, say, a burger flipper who can’t drive to work and gets fired, a ballet dancer who can’t dance, or crossing guard who can’t stand on his feet.

It helps. Every little bit helps.

Then there’s the process of psyching myself past mere acceptance and into an embrace of these momentary limitations. You’re a hermit, Claire. Use those skills. Use this time. I envision myself as a cloistered nun with high walls as a sanctuary, not a prison. But cloistered nuns have gardens to waft around in, ora et labora (and who knew somebody even made a board game out of that) and above all something transcendent to believe in. Try though I might, the most mystical thing I can manage is watching a DVD of The Song of Bernadette. Makes me blubber like a baby every time. But never gets me a millimeter closer to Great Truths.

Okay, so much for spiritual.

How ’bout creative? But no. I’m dry. I’m empty. It’ just ain’t there. It’s all lost in my foot and down there somewhere in my car engine.

How ’bout this, then? Think of yourself as a cranky old eccentric who really, really likes, who really, really enjoys never stepping out of her house.

Uhhhh …. no.

Finally … I quit trying. I embrace the boredom and futility. I come out the other side. Emerge with just that much more serenity, that much more ability to be still, that much more security in the helpfulness of friends, that much more humility in asking small favors, that much more dirt on your fingers from snagging stray tennis balls.

It’s something.

And this, too, shall pass.



  1. Pat
    Pat June 10, 2015 3:07 am

    Ava is probably glad to be home – that may account for her quietude. I’d guess her enthusiasm was blunted by too much activity around her.

  2. Jim Bovard
    Jim Bovard June 10, 2015 6:16 am

    Hmmmm….. Think of how “Walden” would have been a different book if Thoreau had busted his ankle & not been able to go into Concord every day or two for dinner & bull-shooting.

  3. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau June 10, 2015 6:32 am

    In the world of homeschooling there is this idea or meme that kids being bored is a necessary prelude to their next creative or learning enterprise. Not sure how true it is, but it sure helps when you have bored kids! 🙂

    You don’t have a garden? Gardens always need weeding, and that doesn’t take a lot of movement. My wife just loves fiddling in the garden. I do OK with it, but it doesn’t exactly give me thrills. It’s the eating that I appreciate, heh.

    Here’s the sort of thing that can keep me occupied for hours, and it is within range of simple troubleshooting skills. The guy probably left gas sitting in the carb and it got gunked up:

    Of course the last thing you probably need is another dead vehicle. 🙂

  4. Claire
    Claire June 10, 2015 6:32 am

    LOL! Alright, Jim. Ya got me.

  5. Claire
    Claire June 10, 2015 7:06 am

    “In the world of homeschooling there is this idea or meme that kids being bored is a necessary prelude to their next creative or learning enterprise. Not sure how true it is, but it sure helps when you have bored kids! :-)”

    It’s true among creative people, too. Often a period of boredom and restlessness precedes a major time of productivity.

    As to a garden, that’s meant to be one of next year’s projects. At the moment (and rather to my surprise), I can’t even walk safely and comfortably to the area where the garden would be. Uphill. Bumpy. I have to stay on solid, flat surfaces.

    And nooooooo … no broken scooters for me, thank you.

  6. Karen
    Karen June 10, 2015 7:49 am

    On that gardening idea, maybe just set up some pots in your very excellent sunroom. If not large veg plants, perhaps some herbs or smallish plants like strawberries or container blueberries…..

  7. jc2k
    jc2k June 10, 2015 8:32 am

    You live in Washington State – Grow pot!

  8. Bob
    Bob June 10, 2015 8:36 am

    At 73 I’ve had both knees replaced within the last 4 months. I used to be physically active, but now I mostly recline in my Lazy Boy, or hobble around with the aid of my walker. A frustrating, depressing existence. Netflix , Goggle searches, and Kindle are my life. Outpatient P.T. twice weekly. At least I have a helpful wife, and the car still runs. Can’t say you’re an inspiration, but you do provide some perspective. Thanks! This, too, shall pass.

  9. Claire
    Claire June 10, 2015 8:41 am

    I would love to have a small indoor herb garden. Great idea. Will need to have wheels again or impose on a friend to get the needed things.

    jc2k — LOL! Of all the places that have legalized recreational pot, Washington is the ONLY ONE that doesn’t allow personal growing. Not even one plant.

    Not really a worry to me because I have the blackest of black thumbs and if I ever told you about my one attempt at keeping a pot plant alive, you’d laugh.

    But little potted kitchen herbs? Those I could at least try. (I do have an aloe plant which has survived more than two years now — something of a personal record. But aloe thrives on being ignored and underwatered. I’m good at that.)

  10. Claire
    Claire June 10, 2015 8:43 am

    Bob — Geez, that sounds like hell. Depressing and frustrating indeed. Be very glad for the helpful wife and the working wheels and don’t assume your active days are over (maybe just painfully delayed).

  11. MJR
    MJR June 10, 2015 8:47 am

    Claire keep the faith, never give up… never surrender.

    Don’t worry too much about the dogs, they know. Dogs and even cats for that matter know when you are not feeling well or something is wrong. As far as the Xterra, have they checked the “Flux Capacitor?”

    …when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. -Sherlock Holmes

  12. Claire
    Claire June 10, 2015 8:55 am

    MJR — GalaxyQuest. My very favorite rainy-day movie. I haven’t pulled it out during the current mess. Maybe it’s time. (Though my brain and all the parts of my body except my leg tell me it’s time to get up, get out, and be doing something.)

    And shockingly nobody has yet checked either the flux capacitor or the Omega-13!

  13. FishOrMan
    FishOrMan June 10, 2015 9:08 am

    If I was stuck mostly immobile for an extended period I would organize all the digital photos I have taken, scan older ones, (maybe getting mom and dad to send me all of the older ones they have for scanning). Send them back with a digital frame, and maybe ones for the brothers too, of all the good old days. But I have been stuck mostly immobile for days now with a nasty head cold. Ouch and yuck! Those photos can wait, I WANT MY LIFE BACK!

  14. Jim B.
    Jim B. June 10, 2015 9:43 am

    Too bad you don’t have a bike (motorcycle). ; )

    Considering your dogs, you could get one with a sidecar. Picture this: Ava in the sidecar with a harness and a coooool pair of doggles for her eyes. At least this way she doesn’t need to stick her head out of the window. Cool Rider.

    May I recommend a Ural? : )

  15. Claire
    Claire June 10, 2015 10:28 am

    Jim B. — Ohgads, don’t let Ava hear that suggestion! She’ll nag me until she has her own personal sidecar. The harness will be super-necessary; otherwise she’d be leaping out after every stray cat, loose dog, dog with its head out a car window, dog in the back of a pickup truck and … oh, blowing leaf.

    Me, I ain’t never getting on anything with a mere two wheels. Even with sidecar.

  16. Jim B.
    Jim B. June 10, 2015 10:50 am

    Whaat?? You don’t want to wear a cool leather jacket that shows off your cute butt in tight leather pants? Bummer. ; )

  17. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau June 10, 2015 12:47 pm

    I love this Ural commercial with its funky Russian rap. I think it was shot in the Cascades of Oregon!

    You’d better like working on motorcycles if you get a Ural though; you will be doing a lot of it. Famous for its unreliability. Same old commies making the same old bike, a design stolen from BMW by Stalin IIRC.

  18. Kyle
    Kyle June 10, 2015 1:44 pm

    Claire, at the risk of sounding like a piss-ant, didn’t you tell your readers back in ’90s to “kill their TVs” because the medium is the message? I ask because, not only did you mention in today’s column that you watched a bunch since you’re injured (I hope you get well soon!), but back in 2004 you recommended folks to consider purchasing a DVD rental service [].

    If you have already answered this question, then please accept my apologies in advance for bringing this up (again?); if not, then would you consider writing a column or article on this topic, that is, what is the relationship between television (& movies or video games) and freedom. Thanks!

  19. LarryA
    LarryA June 10, 2015 1:49 pm

    If it has a sidecar, that’s three wheels.

  20. Claire
    Claire June 10, 2015 2:15 pm

    Kyle — I stand by “kill your TV” — though the nature of TV has changed greatly since then, so TV as we once knew it barely exists. I don’t have a TV and haven’t watched TV for 20 years, except a couple of times when I was snowbound in a motel or staying with friends who had to see their episodes of Lost (back in the day). Oh, and I’ve streamed the SuperBowl the last two years on computer.

    Everything I’m watching now is on DVD. Once in a while I stream something on Amazon.

    I’m curious as to what you read in my post that led you to believe I’m viewing commercial TV.

  21. Claire
    Claire June 10, 2015 2:19 pm

    “If it has a sidecar, that’s three wheels.”

    Technically speaking. I don’t consider that third wheel to be “attached” in any way I’d particularly trust. Seems pretty flaky to me.

  22. Claire
    Claire June 10, 2015 2:24 pm

    Kyle — Is it because I referred to watching “a season” of a show? Ah, but “seasons” aren’t what they used to be! Not when they’re produced by Netflix.

    That’s where the phrase “binge watch” comes in.

  23. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau June 10, 2015 4:57 pm

    I have enjoyed watching the moldy oldies like Alfred Hitchcock. They are definitely stripped down to the essentials, which is something I like. If it’s black and white, it’s good. 🙂 Too bad Have Gun Will Travel is so expensive. 🙁

    Maybe we should kill our cable box, rather than TV. Ah, but my internet comes that way as well. It’s a problem.

    If you haven’t been watching commercial TV for a while, you will be shocked how dumbed down it is getting.

  24. Claire
    Claire June 11, 2015 6:35 am

    Paul — Yes, I saw the original expose by the great Ken White and have been following the story. I expect the feds will be shamed into backing down. But it’s ominous how fast and thick the threats to free speech are becoming recently.

  25. Joel
    Joel June 11, 2015 9:24 am

    “The harness will be super-necessary; otherwise she’d be leaping out after every stray cat, loose dog, dog with its head out a car window, dog in the back of a pickup truck and … oh, blowing leaf.”

    Or passing car, even. I still remember her in the back of the Jeep, expecting her to injure herself on the glass Every. Damn. Time.

  26. Claire
    Claire June 11, 2015 10:17 am

    And you know what, Joel? She still does that. Nearly 10 years old and she still flings herself so hard at passing vehicles that she slams into the back windows of the Xterra.

    She never has had a lot of brains. But given how she abuses herself in her enthusiasm for chasing “prey” on the highway I’m surprised she has any brains left at all.

  27. A.G.
    A.G. June 15, 2015 1:42 pm

    Another fav horror flick of mine from that era that may help your ankle heal:
    Made for TV version of “Salem’s Lot”
    Fear not. The female lead (also attractive IMO) was portrayed by a different actress.

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