Who Chose What When


People crap around a lot about “Oh, that suicide attempt wasn’t for real—it was just a cry for help.” I am a frickin’ expert on the subject of suicide so let me tell you something: suicide is the ultimate act of self-control. Men mostly choose guns and—KABOOM!!!—the single act is instantly final.

Women take pills. Don’t know why exactly, but it’s just the way it is. So a woman, with all this strong self-control, takes a bunch of pills and then what happens is the pills, over a period of maybe fifteen minutes, erode all the systems and brain-parts that are committed to self-control.

It’s a lot like getting drunk: you definitely ARE NOT going to have sex with the guy you met at the party—until, of course, you’ve had a couple cocktails or a bunch of beers and then your self-control goes out the window, along with your panties and so on and so forth. So that’s how come women don’t die.

The pills that were meant to kill them actually become the substance that causes them to lose the self-control that is necessary to achieve self-death, and what is left? What is left is this staggeringly strong will to live. Deep down in your soul there is this tremendous desire to keep going. It’s not anything rational. It’s not a choice.

It’s just a will—a WILL to live. And once you knock out your ability to control yourself then your will to live surfaces, takes over, and calls 9-1-1. And some freakin’ moron says, “Oh, it was just a cry for help.” Well, yeah, but aren’t a lot of us making a lot of calls for help? And how many of those calls get missed or ignored through varying kinds of blindness or selfishness?

So many of us make so many cries for help. Have you ever seen a T-shirt that has some message asking you to be kind because the wearer has some kind of disability? I got to thinking that what it comes down to is we all should be wearing T-shirts that say “Human being: Handle with care.” We are all so freaking sensitive and/or wounded.

We all need to be handled with care; it’s the human condition. So what’s the difference between hospice and suicide? One is active and the other is passive. Suicide—you’ve got a gun. Hospice—you’ve got cancer. Or AIDS or diabetes or some kind of crap that sooner or later is going to kill you. The question is, how much sooner and how much later?

And how much are you going to fight? At what point do you decide that you haven’t got enough fight left to make the battle useful? When do you get tired of fighting? When do you say, okay, I quit? And once you say you’ve quit, how good are you at sticking with it?

Stevie the Wonder POA likes to tell the story of last summer when he was Power of Attorney for two people: one was a man with a cancerous tumor growing in his chest. He’s in the ICU and this thing is crushing his lungs, his heart, every damn thing. And he’s yelling “Save me! Save me! Bring it on: CPR, life-support, IVs, tube feeding—the whole ball of wax.”

And then there’s me, living at home, getting around town in an electric chair, saying “I quit. I’m done. No CPR, life-support, IVs, tube feeding—nothing.” What’s up with that? We are all uniquely individual. We each have our own assets and liabilities and, more importantly, our own value systems. We each choose how to let it all end. We don’t choose when. That is in the hands of God or, if you prefer, fate.

Stevie and I had a major conversation last week. I believe that we each chose the circumstances of our life before we were born. This arises out of a psychic who was asked by a man why his wife had multiple sclerosis. The psychic’s answer was that in a previous life the wife was the father of a child with a degenerative disease.

He took care of her all his life but he never understood what that life was like for his daughter so he reincarnated as a person with a degenerative disease. He wanted to understand what his daughter went through. The reason I liked that story was because I liked the idea that I’d chosen my life. I bit off more than I could chew, but that’s like me. Bring it on—I’ll deal with it.

Steve believes not only that we chose our life, but also that we—AND OUR PARENTS—choose each other. How about them apples, bubba? Imagine your mom and dad. Imagine talking to them and negotiating the circumstances of your birth. (The really important question is WHY, but Steve and I didn’t have time to get into that.)

“Okay, if you’re going to be my mom then you have to let me die in the first two years of my life. I’ve just got this one thing I need to take care of and then I’ll be ready to move on.”

“Sure, fine, I can do that but I’m planning to marry a man who wants a lot of children so you’ll have to talk to him and see what he says.”

I don’t know—you could get into a lot of pretty weird scenarios.

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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6 Responses to Who Chose What When

  1. maieliiv says:

    Learning about will to live from a 102-yr-old who drove until 98, did Sudoko every day and assembled 500 piece jigsaw puzzles. She got a bladder infection, was hospitalized and acquired beds sores and c difficile in six days. At home for over a week – we thought she might rally – but. I’ve been with her for the past six days. Her grip is still strong as is her heart – the rest is just fading away. All the best to you Anne. Think of you everyday. Maie Date: Mon, 4 Nov 2013 01:50:47 +0000 To: maieliiv@sympatico.ca

    • annecwoodlen says:

      Can you please explain: “Her grip is still strong as is her heart – the rest is just fading away?” What is fading? What is gripping? How do you see the connection between body and soul? What lives, what dies, and what does it take to separate body from soul? HOW does one die–I really need to know that. Best to you, Maie, as you accompany her on her journey.

  2. MaryC says:

    Hello, Anne, I hope you are well….
    I have a suggestion for you. I don’t know if you have ever heard of this book before but it taught me a lot about the “process” of dying, It was recommended by Hospice when I was losing my grandma…it’s called, ” On Death And Dying” by Elisabeth Kubler Ross and was published in 1969. It may hold the answers to your questions.

  3. Madam Nomad says:

    Reblogged this on Madam Nomad and commented:
    I’ve been following Anne C Woodlen’s Notes In Passing blog for awhile. This piece on suicide really got me in the guts. Breathtaking honesty. I’m still pretty mad about having been driven to suicide by the chemicals I was given for the trauma reactions I suffered that were labeled depression. it’s a freeking miracle that I am alive. Somebody in here must love me.
    Anyway, Anne C Woodlen, Cyberwarrior Princess Extraordinaire:

    • annecwoodlen says:

      God loves you, babe; God loves you. I spent a month on life-support after the worst suicide attempt in 1999. Working in some conjunction with my mother and two older sisters, my youngest sister (an ordained Methodist minister) tried to get my life-support turned off. The fact that I survived their power and machinations is all the proof I need of God’s omnipotence.

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