Saturday, August 06, 2005

Moody Blues

After rereading my last entry, I've come to the conclusion that I shouldn't write when I'm in a mood. All I ever do is needlessly worry my wife who reads these from time to time and calls me as soon as she reads one of the darker ones, reassuring me of her love and support (and probably hides the whiskey and the rat poison before I get home).

There's a fine line between being despondent and just down in the dumps over everyday stuff you can't control. The trick is not letting it get so bad that you start looking for a straight razor to slit your wrists (having cut myself more times than I can count shaving with the two and three-bladed cartridge variety, I can testify that they won't do the job). Most of the time it just takes a good piece of music, a good joke or something similar to push my mind away from the brink of the abyss.

I've read about teens who commit suicide and I've always wondered what it is that drives them that far. Of all of us, teens should be the most hopeful; they've got youth and usually optimism on their side. It's us old geezers (figuratively speaking), who've been around longer to have some tough times, who wonder and worry if we'll have a job tomorrow or if, by the time we retire, there'll be no more Social Security and all the money we've saved for retirement will be just enough to buy a loaf of bread once a week, who might be hoping that Alpo will be coming out with some more palatable flavors, who might be looking at the cup of hemlock a bit more longingly. Suicide is rarely logical, however, and those who engage in it, particularly the young, are usually desperate or think that they are lacking in options, at least as far as I can tell from what I read.

I knew a kid back home who, during my freshman year in college, hung himself. My mother, always the cheerful one, sent me a clipping about it. It hit me pretty hard, partially because I was away from home and going through some rough emotional times as a result, partially because I was a pretty sensitive type who had a difficult time distancing myself from events like that. A year or two earlier, a young woman who worked for a TV station in my hometown had calmly announced on the air that, in keeping with the station's policy of bringing its viewers the latest in "blood and guts", pulled out a gun and killed herself while the cameras were rolling. I obsessed over that for days, thinking essentially that if she'd only talked to ME, maybe she wouldn't have done it. There was no logic to my sadness over her death, only the wish that I could have done something to stop it, even knowing there was no way I could have.

It's when you're down that you need to take time to look around and realize that you're really pretty lucky. We do live in a prosperous country, even with all its faults. We are allowed, for the time being anyway, to say and think what we wish and to disagree with the powers that be. We do have the opportunity to make something better for ourselves and our families if we won't let our fears or self-doubts stand in the way. I'm a pretty lucky guy. I've got a well-paying job, a loving wife and two daughters who have stayed away from all the things that I as a father dread, and my house is paid for. Just because my hair is about gone on the back of my skull, what's left is pretty gray and thinning daily, just because I don't have the body or stamina of a 25-year old or the bank account of a professional athlete doesn't mean I can't be happy. Just because I can't go back and undo some of my mistakes, can't go back in time and live with the hard-won wisdom of age in a younger body...gee, now I'm depressed. Where's the whiskey and the rat poison?

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