It is Labor Day in America, and I have the day off work. It feels like a Sunday, this first Monday of September, so I have more time to catch up with the world. In her Labor Day message, I see White House Secretary Hilda Solis is reminding us that this is a day to “honor the workers who built the world’s strongest economy,” to pay tribute to untold numbers of people like me who came from distant shores seeking an American Dream that always seemed within reach. Hardly excessive, my dreams revolved around finding a job in the profession I loved with a family always in my corner, and a home to call my own. Ostensibly, those dreams have been realized, but Labor Day 2012 finds me preoccupied by certain uncertainties. It had never occurred to me that good health and guaranteed good healthcare might be the stuff of dreams or that a cancer diagnosis would have the potential to alter my simple three-point plan.
As a worker with cancer this Labor Day, I am pondering questions I never considered, the kind that make other people uncomfortable, the answers to which are not readily available. Will I have enough health and health insurance to live my life in full, to be of use as Marge Piercy so eloquently asks? What about the others for whom the American Dream has been deferred or denied or now hangs in the balance, those workers without work or the health to do it, without a soft place to fall? What will become of them? It is difficult to swallow these questions and the fear they instill, but a busy working life has taught me to make swift transitions, often imperceptibly, from the philosophical to the pedestrian, from contemplating my mortality in one moment to paying medical bills the next.
If I have learned anything this year, it is that the moments that make up a day and a life, are not of equal weight. Nor should they be. So today, I will rest awhile and reprise a post I wrote in April 2012 during the Wego Health Activist Writer’s Monthly Challenge. It is no surprise that Marie was behind my participation in that challenge as well as this current exercise in celebrating the ordinary. Day 14 required us to write about our dream day. Such a day for me, then – and still – would be one of rest, devoid of uncertainty.
Years ago, I had one of those dreams we have all had, realistic and lucid. In it, I had misplaced an important book and was searching high and low for it in an unfamiliar house. I awoke, a little frantic and perturbed to have lost “my big book of simple pleasures.” In that surreal space between dreaming and waking, I wondered if such a book had ever sat on a shelf in my real world. The notion of a book of simple pleasures appeals to me as does a mundane day filled with commonplace conversations, familiar faces, and reliable landmarks. This last is critical, because I have a stellar capacity for getting lost, as anyone who knows me will attest. Until I have driven somewhere at least eight times, I rely heavily on Google maps, my daughter reading directions, one of many patient friends who stay on the phone while bringing me in, not unlike a trusted Air Traffic Controller helping a novice pilot land a plane, and, of course, I rely on Camelback Mountain.
As long as that great hump of granite is within sight, I am unlikely to get lost in Phoenix. From another angle, the mountain’s Praying Monk provides extra insurance that I am not far from home, rolling around like a Sunday morning.
I love Sundays which find me slow to stir, in spite of the sunshine that spills into the room. Thinking I might still be asleep, my husband quietly makes a pot of coffee. I am usually awake, just quiet and enjoying the distinct sounds of coffee brewing, newspaper pages turning, cereal filling a bowl, bread popping from the toaster, and stifled chuckles if my daughter has successfully snagged the comics from the Sunday newspaper that my husband has strategically arranged for reading. The outside interference is welcome, random arpeggios composed by California wind-chimes that hang heavy and low from a magnificent Chilean mesquite tree in the middle of our backyard; the distant rumble of a truck on an otherwise abandoned freeway; the plaintive coo of a mourning dove, and the woof of a neighbor’s dog. It is a Sunday morning spell, cast just for me, its effects slow to subside.
Workday mornings find me a little more hurried and harried by thoughts of what and what not to wear, what needs to be turned in, a last-minute signature on a permission slip, money for lunch, a reminder to take vitamins and have a really great day. Just one more cup of coffee, a goodbye hug, a kiss, and “I love you,” “I love you too,” “See you tonight.” When it is my turn to leave for work, I can count on three things: from the window, my husband will blow me a kiss, flash a peace sign, and watch until I disappear from view. It is a perfect farewell. A sweet certainty. Every day.
On a dream day, quotidian moments such as these would simply saturate the space that stretches from sunrise to sunset. Without subtext or surprises, each of us on solid ground.
Being Boring by Wendy Cope
“‘May you live in interesting times,’ Chinese curse
If you ask me ‘What’s new?’, I have nothing to say
Except that the garden is growing.
I had a slight cold but it’s better today.
I’m content with the way things are going.
Yes, he is the same as he usually is,
Still eating and sleeping and snoring.
I get on with my work. He gets on with his.
I know this is all very boring.
There was drama enough in my turbulent past:
Tears of passion-I’ve used up a tankful.
No news is good news, and long may it last.
If nothing much happens, I’m thankful.
A happier cabbage you never did see,
My vegetable spirits are soaring.
If you’re after excitement, steer well clear of me.
I want to go on being boring.
I don’t go to parties. Well, what are they for,
If you don’t need to find a new lover?
You drink and you listen and drink a bit more
And you take the next day to recover.
Someone to stay home with was all my desire
And, now that I’ve found a safe mooring,
I’ve just one ambition in life: I aspire
To go on and on being boring.”