I read somewhere that this is the most depressing week of the year.
This fact is unknown to everyone I met yesterday, who chatted happily about their recent travels to Asia and California, about how they love snow, about how beautiful it was, how they never get cold, actually. I liked the “beautiful snow” business, and I moved away from the spoiled rich kids chatting about their relaxing on various lovely beaches ingesting hallucinogens, and got busy writing, dumping out my own blech on innocent slices of paper. I almost didn’t hear the “I never get cold,” and I didn’t use it to think about how I was wearing wool socks and boots and my feet had been frozen the moment I stepped outside, and wouldn’t be warm again until I was back in my bedroom with a fleece blanket wrapped around them for thirty minutes.
It was known to me, though, later that night.
How should you feel when your country has been taken over by a lying, abusive monster? I don’t think you should feel great. If you feel great, you’re probably doing something wrong.
If you feel like there’s no reason to live, though, you probably should take you “as needed” meds, see your doctor to consider upping the daily one, watch comedies, build your lego buildings, scheme a way to get on the goddamn elliptical again, go for a walk no matter how stupid cold it is. (This is my to-do list, and it’s going okay.)
Sunday morning, I successfully passed the Chinese tourists taking photos in front of DT’s building on Wall Street. And I admired George Washington’s statue, his snowy cape and cap. I was only five minutes late for church. A guy sat next to me and kept pulling out his phone to type on it, while the priest baptized babies, censed the altar for communion, and I was overall able to resist wondering what the fuck was wrong with him.
I was somewhat improved.
I decided I would get lunch. The door of the vestibule they put up in winter had a big hole smacked in it, so the wind, which blows powerful from the tip of the island down there, over the water, in a way I never knew wind could be cold, the wind could get in. I opened the second door. Picked a sandwich, popcorn, a banana that I knew it was likely I would not eat because who wants a banana when you can eat popcorn?
I took the food to the guy at the counter. It’s a good day to be inside, I said. Yeah, he said. What happened to your door, I saw it was busted? Oh, he said. Yesterday this guy bought some soup, then he yelled and threw it on the ground and broke the window out. Oh, I said. Damn. Yeah, the other guy said. Just another day in New York. Right, I said. Well, I didn’t think I was doing that great, but at least I haven’t thrown any soup or broken any windows lately. Yeah, right, the guy said.
I took my lunch out and down the street, and I thought, I love this town.
Everyone in New York has a perfect right to flip out. I never, never use mine, I always crumble internally, in every sense, but I like knowing I have the right to flip out externally, and someday I might. I think actually it would be good for me, but it’s a long-term goal, like crying at a funeral, or telling someone that I think what we are doing is not only useless but counterproductive, and it’s making me crazy. Yeah?
I went into another place for coffee. Staying warm? I asked the woman there. She had blue hair. Oh, it was so cold when I came in, she said. It was like fifty degrees in here. Oh, man, I said. That’s awful. Yeah, it’s kind of warming up now, kind of. You need one of those vestibule things, I said. Yeah, we do, she said.
I thought I’d wise up and take at 4 train because the R wasn’t running, but no, the 4 wasn’t running now, and the R was, except it skipped my stop, and I said to the woman with the baby, It’s always a mystery, isn’t it? after the conductor finished his both quiet and mumbly explanation for what the train was going to do. It is, she said. It’s an express now, I guess. I guess, I said.
I got to writing place, put away the dishes, swept the floor (I help with chores for a discount), felt so much better.
What is a mental health problem, what is a spiritual problem, what is a reasonable reaction to terrible things happening, things that need intervention, action… after a reasonable period of mourning….
I don’t know. From my first shrink visit twenty years ago, I was told, you’re moody, you have to watch, though, your lows don’t get too low. You gotta watch that. You can enjoy the highs if you can tolerate the lows. Too depressed, nothing spiritual seems real, and super happy, everything is spiritual, everyone is Christ, it’s all good. Your mood, so arbitrary, so chemical, you know it is, makes things real, or unreal, and I tread water in between times.
The priest talked about being your true self, about religion being about being free. I’m a slave to my thoughts, to my judgments about myself, what I should have accomplished, or, to mix it up, how the world should have treated me, and hasn’t. I don’t even know what I mean by “the world.” I have an amorphous sense of anger.
Seven kids were baptized. Two cried. One immediately stopped crying when handed back to his parents. One priest asked, before each baptism, “Name this child,” which I found striking, and the other priest, post-splashing, anointed and then kissed the kid on the forehead. I wished so much that someone had kissed me right after I was baptized, the pastor, I think that would have been so nice, but of course, everyone kissed me, I’m certain, my mom and dad, my grandparents, all of whom were there, even my Catholic grandparents, who had once expressed concern that adopting Lutheranism threatened the state of my mother’s soul.
Even one set of my great-grandparents were there, down from their farm. It was the only time I knew them to come to Kansas City. Well, to go anywhere but their church, in the bustling metropolis of Lancaster, a town whose population has hovered around 200 in the last hundred years. (Last census it was actually at an all-time high: 298.)
They made sure my dad was confirmed in the church, and they were there when I was baptized, too. My great-grandmother was sharp and chatty, my great-grandfather was a wry, slow talker. I don’t understand anything about them, or their lives, living in a cracker box house that got dragged out of a creek, through stupid Kansas winters, shooting and eating goddamn squirrels during the Depression, now that was a Depression, capital D! But they loved me, and they showed the hell up, and I bet they kissed me. I bet they did.
Image: “Girl’s hand,” Auguste Rodin, Metropolitan Museum of Art.