Several years ago there was a Baby Blues cartoon where Wanda sprains her ankle, and the doctor tells her she has to stay off her feet for a few days.  In the next panel, Wanda and her perfectionist neighbor, Bunny (who drove her to the ER, but only after getting her car detailed), look at each other, and in the panel after that, they simultaneously burst out laughing with big open-mouth guffaws and HA HA HA HA HA!’s and saying stuff like “Off your feet!”  “For a few days!”  “HAHAHAHAHA!”  And in the final panel the doctor says something like, “Why are stay-at-home moms always the most sarcastic?” whilst Bunny says to Wanda, “Oh, I know–maybe your husband could help out!” and Wanda, tears of hilarity flying out of her eyeballs, says, “Stop!  Stop!  *snort* You’re hurting my foot!”

What’s funny about that cartoon is not the sentiment–which is a little unfair to Darryl, who, if I recall correctly, ends up taking a week off of work to tend to the kids and laundry and junk while Wanda recuperates (even if he does say, “YES!!!” the minute she announces she’s back to normal)–but the expressions on Wanda’s and Bunny’s faces just make me laugh.  Which is why it’s a shame that I can’t show you the actual cartoon.  We have it in a book somewhere, but I’d have to scan it onto the computer, and the scanner’s upstairs, which means I’d have to walk upstairs, and I don’t want to walk upstairs because my ankle, which I sprained last Thursday (“last week, on ‘I Am the Giraffe’…”), is bothering me again.

So I was noticing just now, as I was shuffling kids off to Cub Scouts and Activity Days at the church, that my ankle does not seem to want me running around on it just yet.  I never really noticed how big I am on running, or indeed how fond I am merely of walking around a lot, until I sprained my ankle and had to stay off of it for a few days.  If you had told me a week ago that I was going to have the opportunity to lie around and put my feet up for a few days and that I would squander it by being bored and frustrated, I would have laughed in your face, kind of like Wanda and Bunny did to that poor doctor, who was just trying to give sound medical advice.  Me, not want to lie around all day?  Were you planning to replace me with an alien body snatcher?  Seriously.

It was all right on Friday, when I was so tired from staying up until four a.m.–having made a midnight trip to the ER and come home to find my husband watching Napoleon Dynamite and finding that I had no inclination to sleep until I watched Napoleon Dynamite all the way through to the end–that I slept for a lot of the day.  Ordinarily I feel guilty sleeping that many hours during the day, but what else was I going to be doing, without the use of my ankle?  You don’t realize how crucial an ankle is to so many activities until you are not allowed to use it.  At least I didn’t.  Anyway, that took care of Friday, but on Saturday, having gotten plenty of sleep the night before, I was somewhat at sea.  Sugar Daddy took Mister Bubby to a Cub Scout activity and then had to go to a singig practice thing at the church, so I was alone at home with the other three children, who were fine, as I recall.  I was lying on the couch with Girlfriend, who was watching Toy Story or something, and I was catching up on my blogs and my e-mail and my Facebook–you know, the essentials–and things just sort of went fine, and then SD came home at 11 a.m. and it all was downhill from there.

I think I’ve blogged recently about how my husband is a compulsively active person, which is a fine thing for a person to be, especially when said person is the family breadwinner, so I’m not knocking it or anything–but it does tend to make me feel inferior.  So I will react in one of two ways:  I will either try to out-activity him, or I will go in the opposite direction and try to be as lazy as he is active.  That last one is no small feat, but it takes a lot less energy than the first one, so I usually opt for it.  When my husband says the ritual Saturday/random-day-off words, “What do you want to accomplish today?” I usually say, “I don’t know.”  Because if I say, “Not a damn thing,” that sounds like I just don’t care–which is in fact the case, but to say it out loud seems rude.

If I were to assess our family life overall, I would have to admit that I value my husband’s tendency to err on the side of over-activity and over-planning.  It keeps us from drifting aimlessly through life.  I suppose in that sense I married him for my own good.  Given that I know all that, it seems ridiculous to complain.  But I’m a ridiculous person, so complain I will!  No, seriously, on Saturday I was glad that I had a good excuse not to do any work, but at the same time I was really uncomfortable with SD’s how-much-can-I-do-while-the-sun-shines MO.  What good is a good excuse if it doesn’t prevent you from feeling guilty while your spouse is doing all the work he usually does, plus all of yours?  I’d say it’s a pretty crappy excuse!  So that’s why I was in such a poor mood when he pointed out that I’d been staring at a computer for three hours (alternately working on my novel and getting writer’s block and then checking my blogs and my e-mail and my Facebook) and it was probably time I did something interactive with the real world.  The guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center!

So what did I do?  SD and the two younger children went out to rake the leaves, and I cleaned up the lunch table and put in a load of laundry.  Then I started addressing the Christmas cards.  I had to make a few trips up and down the stairs to get the laundry and then to find the Christmas cards and then to find the stupid address book.  Why did I go up and down the stairs so much when I was supposed to be staying off my foot?  Well, I’m not sure, but if you’d asked me at the time, I probably would have said, “Lay off, *****, I don’t have to justify myself to you!”  Which is why it’s good you didn’t ask me.  The Christmas cards more or less occupied me the whole time until we had to go to the ward Christmas party, which was another adventure in itself.  But if I go there, I’ll go off topic (again).

Certainly my husband had no intention of pressuring me into climbing up and down stairs when climbing up and down stairs was inadvisable.  He just wanted me to do something that didn’t involve a computer screen, which was fair enough.  He specifically thought I should be interacting more with the children.  But I don’t really know how to interact with the children when they’re not interrupting me.  When they’re leaving me alone, my instinct is to let them leave me alone, not to start playing with them.  That might make me a horrible person, but to me the joy of interacting with children is more joyful when it is a spontaneous achievement rather than a goal.  If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I suck at achieving things I set out to achieve.  I’m much better at achieving things by accident.

So if my children were not hovering around me and asking for my attention, I had to be engaged in something, and if I couldn’t think of anything to do while lying down, I had to get up and do something and walk around because that is what I do when I don’t want to feel guilty.  I walk around and do stuff.  There’s always plenty to do.  It’s not like I had to go searching for chores.  The chores are ubiquitous and omnipresent.  They live in my mind, too.  Hence the guilt.  At these times in life, when one ought to be grateful that one has the luxury of lying down while someone else tends to the most pressing responsibilities, I am thinking that when this gig is over I will have built up such a load of family-service debt that I will have no choice but to declare moral bankruptcy.

This is a completely twisted view of marriage and of human relations in general.  Certainly when I am doing something for someone else, I am not thinking, “You are soooo going to owe me later.”  Because I don’t think of other people as lazy, mostly-useless slobs, but that is how I view myself.  Any time anyone asks me what I like least about myself, my answer is that I’m lazy.  I know my tendency is toward sloth, not industry, and so I end up overcompensating for my natural tendencies, when I’m not overindulging them.  When I can’t overcompensate, I feel helpless.

On Thursday night, when I was still unaware that my ankle really was sprained and probably deserved medical attention, I was at this progressive dinner and putting my shoes back on for what seemed like the hundredth time that evening, and a woman who works in the church library with me said, “Oh, your ankle is hurting you, isn’t it?  Let me tie your shoes for you.”  And actually being in the process of tying my second shoe, I said, “Oh, no, I’m fine.”  And this dear sister turns to someone next to us and says, “She’s one of those mothers who won’t let anybody do for her.”  And I wanted to say, “No, no!  I do let people do for me!  I have housekeepers and a part-time nanny.  I love having people do for me so much that I pay for the privilege!  The least I can do is tie my own shoes!”

And today I went up and down the stairs a dozen times before 8 a.m. and at one point I was doing a modified “Monkey Dance” with my two youngest children–because they wanted to do the Monkey Dance, not because I got up this morning wanting to do the Monkey Dance–and I walked Mister Bubby to his den meeting whilst carrying my three-year-old, and I’ve been bustling around all day doing nothing particularly strenuous but nothing particulaly considerate of my ankle’s feelings, either, and that is why my ankle is complaining.