The Un-Labor Day


Not yet dawn, it is cool in my apartment—74 degrees.  Only 59 degrees outside but it runs fifteen to twenty degrees warmer inside.  I am glad to turn off the air conditioning and open the window.  Silence falls in as a blessing.  The children of the Hill will sleep till noon.

Yesterday morning was terrible and confirmed my theory:  I no longer can leave my apartment.  The evening before I had wheeled up to the Thornden Park rose garden and spent half an hour deadheading roses.  That limited amount of exertion caused yesterday to be horrific.  The previous time that I went out it was to go two blocks and run errands for an hour.  The next day was also horrific.

For me—and probably for a lot more of you if you only realized it—there has always been a correlation between physical activity and emotional despair.  If you are having a tough time with your emotional life, try getting more rest.  If not sleep then at least bed-time, reading or whatever (e.g., Facebook).  Try spending an entire day in bed and then see if you feel chipper the next day.  It’s all about the immune system, which moderates stress and has a 24-hour lag time:  what you feel today depends on what you did yesterday.

The sun has just broken over the horizon, a brilliant glowing orange ball, framing the clouds with pink outlines.  A single bird calls.  “The captain has seven children—what’s so fearsome about that?”  Do you remember that line?  It’s one that often comes to mind when I wonder what the day will bring.  The line is sung by Maria as she goes off to tend the captain’s children in The Sound of Music.

The phrase that precedes it is “What will this day be like, I wonder?”  To some extent, I know.  Camus said that Sisyphus must have been happy because, condemned forever to roll a boulder uphill, “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart.”  Balderdash.  The heart of a mule, perhaps, but not a man.  What a man wants, in Jeff Foxworthy’s words, are sex, sleep and food—and if he ever gets enough of those then he wants to blow up stuff.

What a woman wants is another matter.  A wise woman wants a good man, children and to fit into a size 8 dress.  I occasionally have had good men but no children, whether because of good birth control or God’s will I do not know.  The sun is now directly in my eyes and I have to get up and lower the blinds.  A half hour of cool breezes and being part of the natural world and then I have to shut myself in the dark to keep the temperature down.  Heat, like exercise, causes me suffering.

The coleus on the corner table moves in the breeze.  It is an enormous coleus and I can’t remember how it got that way.  Coleuses traditionally have not grown well for me.  Did we buy it big?  And if so, when?  My memory has become vague, disconnected and uncertain, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  It is probably a function of the diabetes.  My blood glucose is running around 400 now.  It is not food that raises it but function:  yesterday’s BBQ beef, salad and ice cream only raised it 50 points; the previous day’s trip to the rose garden raised it 100 points.

So what will this day be like, I wonder?  A new aide—another stranger—will arrive at 8:30 a.m.  Or, at any rate, is expected to arrive.  One never knows about these things.  She only will be bright if she is young and on the first step of a ladder that she wants to climb to an LPN, RN or higher.  If she is not bright then one can only hope that she is kind.  The weekend aide was a short, fat, middle-aged woman with her hair skinned back in a ponytail.  She worked in the P&C bakery until it closed but says she “always wanted to take care of people.”  In my despair, I was angry at everyone but her and she understood and accepted that.  It is a kindness to let a sick person rage and not take it personally.

All my troubles, Lord, will soon be over.

I hope.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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