Three weeks ago, I fell in my backyard and broke every bone in my ankle. I was gathering fallen branches to use for kindling this winter, and I had just finished bringing an armload up to the wood pile, when I decided to take a short cut across the yard to collect the rest. Like most people in North Carolina, my lawn unfolds in stages; it slopes sharply from the street to my house, levels out for awhile, then slopes again to the rest of the yard. Both slopes are steeper than they look, something I found out the hard way last spring when I was walking across the backyard carrying a steaming bowl of hot beef stew to eat while I was watching the dogs play. I slipped on the wet grass and went down on my butt, the bowl went flying and I wound up having to take a shower to get the carrots and parsley out of my hair.
That morning, I decided to save myself some time to get the last armload of kindling, but the minute I took my first step, I knew I was in trouble. My foot got stuck in one of the furrows created in that part of the yard by the landscapers (who mow back and forth instead of up and down because it IS so steep), and because I was wearing shoes for once, instead of falling on my ass, when I lost my balance I fell smack on top of my own foot. I could hear the bones snap as I hit the ground, and immediately started screaming, not because it hurt, but because, in that moment, all I could think about was a conversation I’d had with a total stranger at Walmart the year before. She was in a wheelchair, with a boot on her foot, and when I asked what happened, she told me she’d have been $60,000 out of pocket for breaking her ankle if it hadn’t been for her insurance.
I don’t have insurance because I can’t afford it, and all I could think of as I looked at my foot dangling uselessly from my leg, was how one simple mistake was going to cost me everything I had worked so hard for over the past two years. I eventually realized that I was going to have to get to a hospital anyway, insurance or not, so I crawled across the yard on my butt and pounded on my basement apartment door so my friend Denise could take me to the emergency room. It turns out that the damage to my ankle was so severe, I had to have surgery that night to repair it and after two days in the hospital, I returned home to discover that there are worse things than no insurance and a broken ankle.
Boredom. That’s the real tragedy here. Because I can’t do anything. I can’t walk, I can’t drive, I can’t take a shower without supervision. When I let the dogs out to pee and they chase down a neighbor who is innocently collecting the Sunday newspaper from his front porch step, I can’t intervene. I can’t even apologize to him, because I can’t leave the house. I can’t do laundry, or make the bed, or empty the litterbox. Everything I do takes an eternity, and even though I am not doing much, its completely exhausting. It’s also depressing, because everyone around me seems to have a life, while I have a bed, a computer, and an entire day to fill. So when my friend, Bonnie Gibson (who is recovering from hip replacement surgery) challenged me to write a blog about being laid up, I jumped at the chance.
1. Read. Forget the Great American novel you’ve been wanting to read. This is no time to be intellectual; its time to indulge your guilty pleasures with a stack of People Magazines or some back issues of Vanity Fair. Find out if Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart are really back together or if its all part of some elaborate publicity stunt, if the brain damage Mitt Romney suffered after a car accident in Paris when he was there on a mission as a youth has anything to do with his inability to comprehend why airplane windows don’t open, or what the endless fascination with Lindsay Lohan is all about. I’m no great fan of people who are famous for being famous, but at least Kim Kardashian has a sex tape to her name. Wasn’t THE PARENT TRAP that last movie Lindsay Lohan was in? I mean really people, is there no one else on the planet we can obsess over?
2. Write. Emails, letters, journals, your life story. Surely you have something to say to someone you’ve been meaning to get in touch with for awhile. Something you want to get off your chest. A list of things you plan to do when you are mobile again. Some insight into why you are laid up in the first place. My friend, Sylvia, wrote me an email not long ago and asked me to think about why I broke my ankle in the first place since she believes I broke it for a reason. I think Sylvia has too much free time on her hands. And two perfectly good ankles, so who is she to judge? Who in the hell thinks to themselves, even on a subliminal level, ” I’m gonna fall down in the backyard and break my ankle, because gosh, won’t THAT be fun?” So the hell with Sylvia. What was I talking about again?
3. Start a new blog. I think I have about seven or eight blogs right now. I write them in my head all the time. Which is why this category is different from the one labelled “write”. This activity involves thinking about writing. Not actually writing. You’d be surprised by how much time thinking about something you never actually do fills a lot of time. I think about cleaning the bathroom a lot. So use the bathroom at your house before you come to visit. You will thank me later.
4. Subscribe to Hulu plus and Netflix. For about $15.00 a month you can watch all those foreign language films you always wanted to watch when you were 20 and you thought being sophisticated meant wearing a beret and smoking clove cigarettes. Hulu Plus has the Criterion Collection, which means you can alternate viewings of French classics like The Rules of the Game and Jules and Jim with America’s Next Top Model (college edition) and Dancing with the Stars. And because Hulu has a popular clips function, you don’t need to wade your way through dozens of commercials and Bruno Tonioli’s impersonation of Chef Boyardee as a gay vaudeville performer, you can actually cut right to the dances themselves.
5. Word puzzles. I don’t even know what sudoku is. I just make up my own games from the puzzles in the books. And categories to fit.
6. Knit, or crochet. I crocheted a scarf to wear to New York last year for the Macy’s Parade. I wore it to watch the balloons being blown up at the Natural History Museum the night before the parade. I was a balloon handler on the Spiderman balloon last year. I was going to be a balloon handler again this year. But then I decided to cut across the lawn and broke my ankle so I can’t be a balloon handler this year. Which really sucks. So does this category. Because who needs some stupid scarf wrapped around their neck when they are laying in bed watching the parade on TV instead of being in it?
7. Hunt craigslist.com, searchtempest.com and ebay.com for things you would never buy and can’t afford. You can find weird craigslist postings in the best of craigslist link, Birkin bags on ebay worth more than your entire household income combined, or every vintage Airstream trailer available for purchase anywhere in the entire country. You can hunt for things you already own to find out what they are worth, things you have always wanted to buy if money were no object, or stuff you want to buy but don’t really need. Franciscan Starburst dishes are my new passion. I have a complete 12 place setting I will never use, because using it would diminish their value. Every day I look for off the beaten path pieces to add to my collection even though I haven’t worked since I broke my ankle, and have no idea how I will pay my bills or keep from losing my house. I want to know where these pieces are, how much they are selling for, and who I know that lives in the city where they were being advertised in case I manage to justify buying them. You’d be surprised at how much time this actually fills. I always am.
8. Facebook. My friend, Daniel, told me he went on facebook to find people he went to school with for the sole purpose of finding out who got fat and who was on their fourth marriage to feel better about himself and where he is at in his life. So I started looking up old boyfriends, old girlfriends, people I worked with, people I met in passing, people I’ve sold artwork to over the years. Turns out, most of the people from my past are wildly successful captains of industry, with hugely successful marriages, and incredibly successful art careers who travel the world by private jet, yachts, or in the back of a limousine. I hate Daniel and his stupid ideas. So I unfriended him.
9. Coloring books and crayons. Lets face it, just because you are an adult doesn’t mean the kid in you is gone. I used to love to color when I was sick, and I still do. My friend Sara Nichols gave me a Care Bears coloring book with a brand new box of crayola crayons when I broke my ankle. I asked her to take a picture of me with my coloring book, wearing the tiara she also gave me, because even though I am 53, if I am going to be laid up in bed then damn it, I’m gonna milk it for all its worth.
10. Enter contests. All kinds of contests. So far I have entered two writing contests, a handful of travel contests, the Publishers Clearing House contest, and some contests for things I didn’t even read the rules for and know nothing about, because what the hell? I could win, something, right? People who make their living winning contests say the secret to winning all those contests is to make it your job to enter contests. I never had time to enter contests before because I was too busy having a life, so if I can win a years supply of tampons (which would just be my luck since I hit menopause two years ago and the last thing I need now is a years supply of feminine hygiene products) or an all expense paid trip to Pacoima (look it up) then why the hell not?
Maybe being laid up in bed with a broken ankle isn’t so bad after all. Because by the time this is all said and done, I could wind up with a New York Times best selling novel about a wildly talented handbag designer laid up in bed from a broken ankle she suffered sneaking into the giant balloon warehouse after cracking the code to a sudoku puzzle with clues leading to a seedy hotel room in the Tenderloin district where Lindsay Lohan and Kim Kardashian were making a sex tape with Mitt Romney.