Off the Couch and On the Trail

I figured I should explain the name of this blog before we get any further.


Let me just start by saying that naming a blog and picking its url are some pretty damn hard things to do.  This is your brand, your identity.  The name you choose not only affects popularity and readership but also the ease of access.  It’s almost like naming a kid except you can change the kids name at any point.  So I guess in that way its nothing like naming a kid, but still your motivation is the same.  You don’t want to name your blog Mike Rotch dot com.

Traco Apbac’s current readership.

I put a lot of thought to naming this blog.  I went so far as to look up naming recommendations and tips from current successful blogs.  Unfortunately that didn’t help at all.  One path led me down a road looking for blog address generators.  I’m fairly certain the engine those things used was the same one used to power those super cool Jedi name generators.  According to the Jedi Name Generator I should call this blog Traco Apbac.  This is not the blog name you’re looking for.

No matter what that blog address generator says I am not naming my blog theATears [dot] com.  (Get it- the At tears or T heat ears or Thea tears or The At Ears).  That’s blogging gold Jerry!

After a lot of contemplation I decided to break it down to what hopefully will make this blog unique.  Here goes:

“Off the Couch”

As a physician working in the mental health industry, we do much of our work “on the couch”.  Well we aren’t on the couch, but you get the point.  In actuality our field has pretty much lost that whole imagery of the shrink sitting at the head of the couch doing analysis on a patient lying there facing a wall and talking as the shrink strokes their beard and says “hmm, interesting, how does that make you feel”.  Still I am uniquely interested in that analytic style of therapy, so as my career develops there will be more “on the couch”.

However July 1, 2013 marks the end of the current phase of my career.  Therefore I will be putting my career on hold to hike the Appalachian Trail… so I will certainly be Off the Couch. I also hope that my training in working with and understanding the mind will lend to some unique perspectives my readers will enjoy.

“Off the couch” also bears a more literal relevance.  Hiking the AT is the opposite of being On the Couch in my living room.  In fact if an employer ever wanted to guarantee their employees would have no laziness whatsoever they should just open a desk on top of Katahdin and hold interviews.  I feel that you can’t be lazy and do a thru hike. However, currently, I suffer from an horrible condition called “Couch-Induced Fatigue Syndrome”.

It is a problem that plagues Americans supremely in this current day in age.  After a long day of work I come home with many ambitions and desires of productivity.  Reading journals, writing papers, strategizing my next career move, participating in physical activity.  But then my disease takes over.  I enter the front door, feel the rush of conditioned air, see my flat-screen TV and PS3 and immediately the tractor beam locks on.

You have never known futility until you have tried to resist this moment.  Your bag weighs heavy on your shoulder as it digs into your skin creating a map of your shoulder strap.  The moment you release your bag to the ground it is over.  Just that rush of pleasure from relieving the asphyxiation besieging your shoulder meat is enough.  “Oh man I didn’t realize how tired I am.  If that felt that good I can’t imagine what it is going to feel like to lay on that chaise lounge.”  The whole experience goes a lot like this, just without the French accent.

The irony is that I don’t find our couch to be particularly comfortable.  We got it for $500 off craigslist the day we moved.  It has visible tears on every cushion.  Cigarette burns.  The cushion is basically just foam wrapped in fabric.  That’s the way it looked the day we bought it.  Unfortunately when you go to a guys house to “look at his couch” and pull up with a full moving truck you might as well have said you are going to the guys house “to buy his couch”.  Not a lot of negotiating power there. Anyway, even with my couch being as substandard as it is, it still is a vile temptress of sloth.

With that, Off the Couch is also a statement of what hiking is for me.  It is an escape from the lifestyle I want to avoid.  It is a doorway to a lifestyle that could lead me well into my 10th decade and leave me in a position to dominate my future children in sports until they are old enough to bear their own children.  Every time I go hiking I have to pull myself “off the couch” at some point.  Its hard and I want to stay.  But I know, if I get “off the couch and on trail” I will be happier for it. And that’s really what it is about.  I’m not out of shape nor in any sort of poor health.  But I am past the 30 mark.  I know that if I don’t figure something out, tomorrow I will wake up and I will be 50 and staring sedentarism (word?) down the barrels.  For me, getting off the couch and on the trail is a one way ticket to the life I know I need to live to enjoy my life, my wife’s life, and my children’s lives for as long as possible and to the greatest degree.  It is something we can share the rest of our lives.  Further it is probably the best way to experience a given area when  you are on vacation.

It’s unique how much better hiking can make so many things.  I can do an overnight hike on a weekend, walk 20-30 miles in two days and wake up Monday morning feeling great and ready to start work.  I’ve never come away from a hiking weekend feeling like I need a day to recuperate.  Sure I’m sore but there’s pleasure in that.  Contrast that with the fact that if I take a weekend to NYC or even my local environs, I loathe Monday morning.  So in that way as well, it really is important to take this opportunity to make hiking part of life.  It stands to benefit every aspect of our lives from here forward.

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