Week #7 – MELANCHOLY
I was driving to work the other day and caught myself wondering, What is the point of it all? It had rained overnight, and my white SUV, recently bathed after months of neglect, was now covered in a slick layer of urban grime. The morning exit hadn’t gone well –each of us grumpy about running late, about the arrival of Halloween and undelivered costumes, about logistics and who deserved the gold star for juggling the harder schedule. To be clear, when I asked, What is the point of it all?, I had no interest in some pithy existential answer. My mood was glum, even morbid, to the extent that I wondered if a doctor’s visit was in order.
This isn’t my best time of year. Though the cool weather evokes east coast memories of Macintosh apples and frosty mornings in knee socks, and, blessedly, forces the oppressive LA sunshine to back the f off for a while, it also puts me in a supreme funk. I resent that daylight wanes to less than 10 hours, that the holidays obliterate my bank account, that my farm box insists I eat bok choy for the next four months. Try as I do to paste on a smile while wrapping gifts and making toasts and attempting to bake, all the merriment, celebrating, and warm hot toddies cannot camouflage the deep well of melancholy that shows up every fall like clockwork.
What’s worse is that this year my sadness feels more sinister, and unyielding, like a low-grade fever that won’t go away. Like maybe it didn’t just show up when the leaves started to drop, maybe it’s actually been here for a while, festering, like a disease bound to my cells, quietly spreading in me, flying under the radar of my perpetual distraction, a distraction incessantly fed by headlines and stories of abuse . . . abuse of power, substances, resources, doctrine, impulses, of one another. Like at the beach last weekend when, dressed in sweats and a hoodie, I walked my daughter’s things to the car, past two Hondas in the parking lot filled with young men partying, 20-somethings, who, as I crossed, catcalled to me, loudly, through open windows, thrilled by their bravado, whistling and making remarks, about my age and how good I look for my age, and wouldn’t I like some, well, you know— And I think, how can they not realize that there’s a revolution at hand, a revolution that will no longer tolerate their imagined entitlement, an entitlement they believe allows them to grope at me with long, gnarly words, genericizing me, neutering me, harassing me because they are bored and buzzed and showing off, or maybe thinking I need their reassurance because, at twice their age, I should be written off, dismissed, certainly ignored by this flock of punks, 25-year olds at most, who scatter when I tell them to fuck off, scatter because my tone resembles the same one their mothers use when they talk back, or refuse to clean out the garage, or swear in front of their grandma when she visits on Sunday afternoons. Indeed, my mood is sinister.
But maybe, just maybe, it has less to do with seasonal affective disorder, and more to do with the fact that I am saturated, bloated, full-up on sickly bile from all the cynicism and reprehensible behavior and excuses and denial and deceit and fear and stubbornness, yes, stubbornness –how deeply we’ve dug in our heels and refused to evolve as human beings. I mean, really, how is a self-proclaimed optimist expected to go on?
Here’s how. Jump up and down with a bunch of strangers on Halloween night when the Dodgers win game 6, and get covered in goosebumps because everyone in the room agrees on the same thing. Wear a turtleneck for the first time this season. Laugh with an old friend about your bad attitude. Text your niece about the announcement of her wedding date. Praise your son for remembering his lunch. Watch your daughter slog it out during her league final while cheering for her as loud as you can. Kiss your husband for the first time in a long time. Turn over a new calendar page and luxuriate in all the white space. Tell your kids about the incident in the parking lot, about the young men in the cars who made a mistake, and make sure they know never to do the same. And then, thank your lucky stars that there are only 48 more sleeps before the days start to grow long again, and the promise of spring lies just around the corner.