Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Things to Like About Being Injured

You're probably thinking to yourself, "man, this is gonna be a short post" but don't go jumping to conclusions already.  I'll admit the Things to Like About NOT Being Injured list is a little longer,  but if you think about it for a minute, you might agree that a little bit of gimp isn't such a bad thing every once in a while.   

As an endurance athlete, a professional or any other position in life where people are respected for strength, resilience, hard work, etc. being good at what you do doesn't necessarily make your life any easier.  For a person with any ambition, success makes life harder. Ever heard the saying, "people are promoted a level of incompetence"?  Whenever you succeed you get pushed harder until you're going flat out can't hold it together any more.   Despite knowing about this trap, must of us type-As end up falling into it anyway.

For the professional type, just deciding to have a rest is usually considered a sign of weakness.  Having to take a rest, for instance because you killed yourself getting that last big deal, is a badge of honor.  Similarly, shirking your training schedule because you don't feel like riding is lazy.  Watching movies all day with a bowl of popcorn and a beer because you had a spectacular crash in the reckless pursuit of glory is perfectly acceptable, even encouraged.

In a world of keeping appearances, a well gotten injury is the surest socially acceptable path to indulgence and sloth.  Let's examine some of the specific benefits:
  1. Personal Appearance:  While some elements of hygiene are pleasurable, like showers; others are a pain in the ass, like shaving and hair primping.  Injured?  No problem.  That five-o-clock [last Wednesday] shadow helps you communicate to the world just how badly you're hurting without having to complain (complaining is counter-productive, see #2).
  2. Around the Office:  If you manage to hurt yourself in a sufficiently spectacular way, the highly exaggerated stories of your near-death experience will precede you.  You'll get toughness points for playing down your injuries when your co-workers ask "OMG, are you okay?"
  3. Life's Little Annoyances: Forgot your keys downstairs?  "No, no, no! Don't get up.  You're hurt!  I'll get them for you."
  4. Prescription Painkillers:  There's a reason they keep these things away from regular people, but now you're special! (and as high as a kite)
  5. Priorities:  In athletics, most of your life resolves around causing yourself different sorts of pain: Lactic acidosis, eschemia, fatigue.  You've learned to endure it; even convince yourself that you like it.  Now your only objective in life is to make pain go away.  Refreshing isn't it?
  6. Significant Others:  All relationships are a compromise, but if you're hurt you get what you want.  My mom reads this blog, so let's just say you get to pick the TV shows. 
While all this is pretty sweet, one must be careful not to milk it too hard.  The entire magic of the injury phenomenon is that the perception of how bad you're hurting or how honorably you sustained your injury exceeds the reality.  Like airlines pricing into the demand curve, you're merely capturing the surplus sympathy between your actual disability and the perception of that disability.   The moment the perception and the reality come into line the gig is up, and if you get caught setting monopolistic sympathy prices for your gratitude you'll never enjoy being hurt again.

 See, being hurt isn't that bad, as long as you get better before it gets old...

(now back to that thesis)

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