Skyping with my newly seventeen year old daughter the other evening, I was told by her that she has figured out which kind of bi-polar syndrome her parents have. Her father, apparently, has the kind where you vacillate between happy – sad, angry – calm, all within the space of a dinner conversation. I, on the other hand, have the kind where I will go for a period, maybe a week or a month, when I am up, feeling good, happy and positive, and then will shift and spiral into days, weeks, or longer, of melancholy, darkness, sadness, etc. Well, I was sure glad she cleared it all up for me…..
None of us up and down people (otherwise known as manic-depressive or, the newest catch-phrase, bi-polar) really like to admit that we truly are as up and down, happy and sad, angry and calm, as other people see us. Yet. It is true that her mother, namely me, has been absurdly one way or the other a lot of her young life. What can I say? One has to accept who they are in this life. If I could change my nature and become more ‘balanced’ like those friends of mine who always can see the glass as half full instead of getting dangerously close to nearly empty, I would, okay!? Woops, sorry, that self defensiveness sort of leaks out sometimes.
I guess I have had a bit of writer’s block the past few days. I have been comparing my skills as a writer with those much more talented than I, such as my blogger buddy Robotic Rhetoric, for example, and find myself sorely lacking. Sounds like I need to give myself a healthy dose of Optimism and Self-Love, like I told my friend Patrycia earlier today. Easy to give it out, not so easy to take it.
Maybe it is adjectives that I am lacking. Help me out, dear Readers! Give me some of your best adjectives, really juicy, funny, wonderfully visual ones. I know how I feel inside, but if I could just describe it eloquently: Steaming. Nearly boiling. A volcano rumbling, growing louder. Nervously jittery. Wanting…. something badly. Vaguely pissed off, not sure what about. Contemporary classical music, somebody like Philip Glass or even Schnittke (eek!) starting out calmly enough, but slowly building up, building up, louder, more and more insistent, until it eventually becomes nearly unbearable to hear. Oh for that abyss to scream into.
Perhaps I can explain it through this juxtaposition: walking around the streets here in Denmark, I see nine out of ten people wearing black coats, black pants, black boots, and blond or fair hair. Most are unsmiling. Even in the gorgeous sunshiny afternoon, people still don’t seem happy or satisfied. Cut to another image, from the internet at the library: women’s faces. They have brown skin, from light to dark. They wear colorful, bright clothing. They are holding babies, or have baskets on their heads, or are doing something with their hands, some kind of craftwork or simply honest work. They are poor, they live in Africa, South and Central America, and Asia. Their lives are hard, they are poor in a way that we in the rich countries cannot possibly fathom. Yet they smile, they wear colors next to their skin, they laugh, they are uncomplicated.
Is the feeling of the rumbling volcano inside my gut and heart actually the feeling of utter incomprehension at the lack of life here in the middle of one of the richest, freest countries in the western world? Why do the people here insist on wearing black and refuse to smile at each other as they pass on the street? What are they so damn unhappy about, when they have practically everything they could possibly want in the material world? They ought to be jumping for joy at their good fortune to be living in such a rich and relatively democratic country. They ought to be smiling at each other when they pass by, instead of avoiding eye contact and wearing masks of impassivity. And I know it is not only Denmark. I know it is this way in most large cities in the western world. Regardless of how it is, or even why it is, the fact that the poorest, most marginalized humans on Earth seem to know the most about how to smile at the day and at each other and keep a song in their heart as they struggle through their lives, and we don’t, well it just doesn’t add up. What do they know that we have forgotten about the basics of being happy?
It doesn’t take much to make a positive difference in another’s life. Sometimes a smile can be enough, or a kind word or two, a wink, a joke, the touch of someone’s warm hand. It really takes very little to help another human being. Of course the side benefit is that by extending that smile or hand, it comes back to me and contributes to my own happiness. Then, when I am down in the doldrums again, maybe some kind stranger will smile at me and cheer me up. Maybe I cannot stop from being a manic depressive. But, I can improve. I am improving.