Depression and emotional inertia

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(Host) Commentator Willem Lange’s wife has been away, and his mind and initiative have both gone downhill in her absence.

(Lange) I’m writing this in the grip of a depressive inertia. By the time you hear it, the problem will have dissolved. Mother will have returned from visiting grandchildren in Texas; the energy level around here will have tripled; and I’ll be back on my mettle, ready to defend Yankee liberalism against whatever new ideas she’s brought back with her.

It was worst early Sunday morning. With hours to go till church, the dog and I sat looking at each other and wondering, “Now what?” Well, there was that firewood down by the pond in the lower yard. I needed get that up to the pile in the upper yard. And that was the perfect time: temperature down almost to freezing and for the moment, no black flies. But I’d just washed the truck, and I didn’t want to get it down there in that soggy soil. I stood there thinking, and I could feel the inertia taking over – like emotional hypothermia. I was just giving up, when I remembered I’m supposed to exercise my new hip every day. I’d wheel the wood up the hill in the wheelbarrow!

I have a neighbor, an elderly farmer, who expresses disdain when joggers or cyclists go by his place. If he could have seen me using the wheelbarrow instead of the pickup, he’d’ve snorted at that, too. But it’d be killing two birds with one stone. So I went rattling down and piled in a pretty good load – hornbeam and maple. It doesn’t look like much of a hill – fourteen-foot rise, maybe. But within a hundred feet, I was panting like a horse. But I was doing this for the exercise. So I picked a lower gear and kept on chugging.

Building the ends of the pile took some time I’d otherwise spend running up and down the hill. To give myself a finite goal (because hauling firewood is infinite), I decided to wheel till it was time for church. The alternative was more inertia. I wheeled.

Piling the ends higher, I remembered last year, when I’d made it five feet high, a storm blew it over. And I had lots of last year’s wood left, anyway, in the cellar. I’d make it four feet this year. But how high was four feet? I’d get the tape measure, run it down to the ground, and see where four feet came to on my shirt. I walked down to the garage, got the tape, and hiked back up. Then it came to me: The ground was the same distance from my shirt down there as up here.

You wonder sometimes how often you screw up without realizing it. So at quitting time I checked to see when I had to meet Mother’s bus. Monday, 9:45 p.m. Or was it last Monday? I’d probably heard by now if it was.

This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire, and I gotta get back to work.

Willem Lange is a contractor, writer and storyteller who lives in Etna, New Hampshire. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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