Thursday, January 21, 2016

168 (hypothetical) hours in the woods

This weekend I went on a girls trip.

Me and three of my gal pals drove ourselves to a cabin in Yosemite, and hung out in a winter wonderland for a couple of days.

We would have loved to have our friend Courtney there, who we each know from various walks of life, and who used to live in California, but she has since moved away and thus, sadly, was unable to join us. She was missed.

I asked Courtney for some blog topics, and she asked me this:

If you were trapped in a cabin for a week by yourself with no electronics (no laptop, cell phone, TV, etc.), what would you spend your time doing?

She gave me other potential questions to address with my typing, but in honor of us missing her during our weekend escapade, I will answer her cabin question below. Read on if you dare, my friends:

Well I'll tell you one thing that I would be doing if left alone in a cabin for a week, Courtney. I would be having an anxiety attack.

I enjoyed my girl time this weekend, along with the gorgeous sights and the time spent making fun of a ranger we met (who was lovely, but, well, we have no excuse for our making fun of him. Anyway).

But I spent more time than expected -- which is to say any time at all -- feeling anxious and downright scared.

As it turns out, being in a cabin in the middle of the woods -- at night, particularly -- freaks.



I downplayed this for my girlfriends, but the truth is my anxiety robbed me of several hours of sleep our first night in the woods.

I also talked about it with my therapist upon my return to LA.

So to answer your question, initially, dear friend Courtney, I would probably spend some time adjusting to my new surroundings. I would breathe deeply. I would pray. I would sit tightly in one spot, then force myself to walk around the rooms. I would turn on music to soothe myself, but I presume this is not allowed.

I imagine, as is the case with many of my anxious bouts, I would eventually get over my fear of a cabin in the woods. And I know I would find plenty of things to do. I wouldn't have to find them, as I would bring them with me.

If movie watching and music listening are indeed off the table, this would be difficult to endure. But I would survive, and probably get more out of the week because of it. In fact, I think a silent retreat would be awesome. (Granted we can, like, talk at dinner or something. Because have you met me?)

However, if I find a Lionel Richie cassette tape in my cabin, as we did in our Yosemite abode, I would play it for kicks. Because that's just funny.

No doubt I would get bored in a cabin by myself, probably terribly so, probably for more than just an hour, and probably on most days. Despite this guaranteed boredom, I think the week would go by quickly, and the thought of a week away from work and Facebook and incessant calendaring of social events excites me quite a bit.

So, when not being bored or battling scary thoughts with my worrisome little brain, I would do the following:
  1. Cook
  2. Take a bath
  3. READ
  4. Write, longhand, I guess...I really prefer to type, but a week alone would give me ample time to start filling one of the four journals I've received as gifts in the last year.
  5. Perhaps play Scrabble with myself. I may even go so far as to set up tiles for multiple players, scrabbling myself, as it were, around the table to take each subsequent turn.
  6. Stitch, stitch, stitch, stitch, stitch. I would pack five needles just in case I managed to lose four. You know what? Might as well pack 10.
  7. Read the Bible, pray
  8. Play solitaire
  9. Write people letters and cards/assemble care packages, large and small
  10. Sort a bunch of papers, that I of course would bring with me, likely in a laundry basket, to the cabin. Burn old medical bills and paystubs in the fireplace (after learning how to start a fire and not burn the place down or asphyxiate myself with smoke).
  11. Do laundry
  12. Tidy things. Fold blankets, wash dishes, neaten stacks of magazines, that sort of thing.
  13. Make friendship bracelets. Use brightly colored paper to make cards and pieces of art to hang on the wall. Color in a coloring book.
  14. Do yoga
  15. Walk outside
  16. Sing
  17. Have a dance party for moments when I'm really losing it
  18. Have afternoon tea. I may speak in a British accent during this time. Who will I be speaking to? Myself of course.
  19. Brew full pots of coffee and drink only a third of its contents
  20. Tend to my cuticles and paint my nails
  21. Make a list of goals and to-dos for my return to the city
  22. Is Max cat coming with me on this trip? Because he'd get a lot of snuggles.
  23. Shovel snow
  24. Go for drives to the general store and buy things I don't need. Linger and chat with the employees.
  25. Make friends with my neighbors (if I have any and that's allowed)
  26. Drink wine
  27. Edit my manuscript. This I don't mind doing by hand, actually.
  28. Work on jigsaw puzzles!!!
  29. Draft a kids' (picture) book
  30. Think about a lot of things -- things that have been bothering me, mysteries of life, memories and people that make me smile so hard
  31. Daydream about Alex. About falling in love with him initially, and continuing to do so in the future.
  32. Come up with topics to discuss in therapy, as I'm sometimes shorthanded in that category of life
  33. Braid my hair, then take it out, then braid it again
  34. Elect not to take very many showers, but then take them while still relatively clean, when (I presume) I will be looking for something to do to fight the boredom
  35. Make a list of people to invite to my wedding, then pare it down to smaller numbers of guests. It would be a fun game for me. I would also select my bridesmaids.
  36. Do crosswords and other logic/word puzzles
  37. Select names for my children, then guess which ones Alex would veto
Basically, I am the type of person who would spend a week doing the things I love, rather than learning a new skill, as some would select to do instead. I would do a combination of things with my hands, my head, and my heart (and with my health; I would pretend I am a member of 4-H during my stay in the woods).

I might cry, if I needed to. I might cry from loneliness, or boredom, or fear that I will lose my mind alone in the woods. If worried by the thought of potential robbers or ghosts in the cabin, I might let myself cry to let myself feel better.

I would unpack my suitcase and put clothes in drawers and on hangers. I *might* make my bed. I would be more organized than in my daily life. I would not wear jewelry. I might wear perfume, as I like the smell, and spritz it on more for my benefit than for others; but I would probably forget to pack any. I would unabashedly crank the heat, and/or wrap myself in an inappropriate amount of blankets. I would apply lotion to my hands and feet. I would determine during my solo retreat whether or not I would shave my legs.

I would wear deodorant.

I would throw open the windows during the day. I would have socks on nearly always. I would try my best not to think about the movie Titanic, and that one time I watched it while in a cabin in the woods and how it traumatized me.

Clearly my list of things to do is too long, so I would not get all of the aforementioned items completed. I would know this going in, and it would both bother and relieve me.

The week would be over before it began. But as I returned to my apartment, I would snap back instantly and fully. With my breathing a little bit slower than before. And I would be thankful to whomever put me up in a cabin for a week away from it all.

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