Rendered Fat Content


Jean François Raffaëlli: The Exhausted Ragpicker (1880)

"I find that I'm more resilient than I previously suspected"

The repeated opportunities for me to experience total physical exhaustion might be the greatest benefit of "helping" with our massive kitchen remodeling project. I warmly anticipated that this might prove to be the case. My usual lifestyle often offers opportunities for me to experience mental exhaustion, but only rarely its physical counterpart. The two bear little resemblance. Mental exhaustion feels more like induced depression, where my body unwillingly surrenders to an overwhelmed brain. In contrast, physical exhaustion induces an emotional serenity, much more satisfying than the mental sort ever provides.

Nine hours spent yesterday, mostly kneeling before a seemingly endlessly refreshed pile of floorboards needing their nails removed, left me shaking with exhaustion.
I moved zombie-like through the house and out to the frigid Zoom Car at the curb. I fumbled loading my knapsack, lunch cooler, book, and sweatshirt into the back before silently seating myself in the passenger seat so The Muse could drive us back to our bivouac. She wondered about supper, darkness long ago having overwhelmed the day and thermometers plummeting. I might have been able to care less about food, but I was uncertain how to. I needed a hot shower and a cold beer.

Most remodeling work seems to be accomplished while kneeling, almost prostrate, before a steady stream of inherited past sins visited upon our once innocent property over the past century and then some. Any home that lived through the seventies saw experimental materials that time has proven misbegotten. Removing seventies plywood, or what tried to pass for plywood then, leaves piles of shattered slivers and ribbed nails only removed with painstaking pliers work, all while kneeling before the most unforgiving of the gods. Repeated kneeling/standing movements leave my aging knees uncertain of their inherent abilities. I use a handy hammer as a crutch to assist me in standing again.

I set up a step stool in the only remaining quiet corner of the work and declared it The Geezer Throne since I am the senior member of this unlikely demolition crew and the closest thing we have to a genuine geezer. I'd retreat there during infrequent lull periods, removing my dusty gloves and quietly surveying progress, offering my increasingly impatient knees a few moments of respite while the more skilled cut a new joist or fiddled with some power tool battery. My work queue noisily refilled each time until I just had to kneel back into the fray again. I began considering myself a master nail remover until encountering a stream of passive-aggressive rusty ones capable only of bending and/or breaking, each demanding more devotion than the least of them seemed worth. I persisted, repeatedly exhausting myself between increasingly frequent visits to my Geezer Throne.

We worked way past dark, me standing beside the power saw in the side yard holding high my cell phone flashlight while the contractor measured and cut another two by eight, supporting the back and then the front end of the board as it worked its way through the blade. I collected the scrap and stacked it out of the way and the weather. The Muse provided an additional pair of hands to hold each beam into place as the power tool boys carefully leveled each piece before screwing them into place, "marrying them" in their vernacular. In my mind, monitoring the operation I never fully comprehended from the exhausted safety of my Geezer Throne.

Back in our basement bivouac, I shaved and showered, then sat for a few long moments savoring each aching muscle, not even a tiny bit interested in supper. The Muse came down several times, asking if I wanted some of this or that while I lay on the bed serenely reading a book, savoring my newest aches and pains. I insisted upon no supper before laying back to revel in the sheer rarity of my physical state. I was utterly exhausted, deeply satisfied, and wondering if I could muster a repeat performance in the morning, though I knew I would be there bright and early, aching for another dose of utter exhaustion. My knees feel fine this morning, a little more alive than yesterday, far from shot yet. I find that I'm more resilient than I previously suspected, hardly a genuine geezer yet, though my nail-pulling hand feels tight and half again its former size.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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