I get depressed…often. I hate it. But it is my reality. I used to feel totally alone in this state of dismay. But since I’ve committed to shattering the stigma around mental illness, and have been increasingly vocal about my depression, I’ve discovered how frightfully communal this dark state of being actually is.
So I started pressing people for specifics about their particular depressions. “Is it purely a chemical imbalance?” I would ask. “Or angst over a particular hurdle in life? Painful family situation? Lack of social network?” The answers have been fascinating. But one in particular continues to stand out to me.
“I just feel like I’m missing all this joy,” one of my interview subjects proclaimed. As we talked further, I surmised that her feelings had a lot to do with envy. “It just seems like everyone else is so happy and connected and out there enjoying life.” And suddenly it hit me, this is about Facebook. OK, not just Facebook, but social media in general.
Social media is destroying our happiness. Now this isn’t a new concept.There are lots of studies that prove that the more you’re engaged in social media, the higher your likelihood of suffering from depression. Plus the numbers don’t lie.
We have teens killing themselves in epic proportions. The teen suicide rate has increased more than 70% over the last decade. Our median age of death in this country has decreased for the past two years in a row to 78.7, which now falls below Canada, Germany, Mexico, France, Japan, and the U.K. Consensus is that both suicide and substance abuse account for the decrease in life expectancy in this country.
But if we look a tad deeper, I say we are depressed, suicidal and self medicating because we are constantly being bombarded with images of everyone we have ever known looking ecstatic, loved, successful and sexy at every moment.
So I have the solution to all of this! It’s my new social media platform called Koob Cafe! It’s the opposite, well almost the exact opposite, of Face Book (Think anagram, sort of). It’s the dark platform where everyone tells the bitter, jealous, angry truths about their lives. You can only post hideous pictures of yourself and anyone you know. The ones where your husband is picking his nose or your kid’s eyes are crossed. Or the ones where you’re like, “Seriously, do not fucking take this picture!”
We plan to closely monitor the site for anything that resembles positive personal PR, hyperbolic happiness, or polished photoshopped images. Koob Cafe is 100% bleak. You tell the truth no matter what. Your fucking husband left you because you got old and fat and you’re tired of pretending it was a mutual decision that’s “best for both of you.” You’re 28 year old son is in rehab…again. And the good news? He’s moving back in with you if he ever gets clean.
You’re addicted to pain meds.You’re broke because you keep spending every last dime on Botox and Restalyne injections. Your sister is having an affair with your husband. Your lawn is dead and the HOA wants you to move the hell out of the neighborhood. Your neighbor threw a dead raccoon on your porch because he thinks your non-organic fertilizer killed his beloved Western Larch tree.
JUST TELL THE FUCKING TRUTH! Then we can all get back to living our stupid, empty lives without feeling like we’re missing out constantly on every good time party, love affair, family event, or travel expedition.
It may sound negative. I get that we’re supposed to project positivity, visualize the dreams we have for ourselves, fake it till we make it. But enough is enough.
Examples of acceptable posts:
This is what I look like when I wake up in the morning.
My kid told me he hates me more than life itself before he slammed the door and drove off in my BMW because I suck as a parent.
My house looks like it was hit by a natural disaster. But this is how it always looks!
If we start owning up to the reality of our lives, maybe we wont all feel like we’re always missing the happiness mark. Life is not easy. And it’s not perfect. But it is what we make it. So find your bliss in the inconsequential successes of your son taking out the garbage without being asked, or your spouse remembering to text you that they’ll be home late, or appreciate the five minutes of sun that shone in the Seattle sky today. It’s really that simple.
And please stop comparing your life to the best moments of everyone else’s
I have a serious question for you. I’ve been told recently that the best way to handle one’s expectations is to follow the sage advice of Benjamin Franklin and expect nothing so that you will never be disappointed. That’s kind of the way I live nowadays. I refer to it as the “other shoe” phenomenon. I just keep my eyes wide open and wait for the alternative sole to descend. True to fashion, it always does.
But lately I’ve been coached by several of my more “woo-woo” pals to “Expect a miracle,” that “You get whatever you imagine,” that “what you believe you make true.” For a fairly negative thinker like myself, this concept is terribly troubling.
I was raised to work hard, believe in yourself and trust no one. My dad was a “Pull yourself up by your boot-straps” kind of guy and my mom was cursed with what we lovingly refer to as the “Nudelman negativity.” I envision the worst possibilities everywhere. I catastrophize over each and every less than perfect happening. I literally look over my shoulder when the sky is falling so that I can always stay at least one step ahead of disaster. So the notion that my attitude creates my reality is a staggering downer.
You mean I’m responsible for creating every lousy thing that happens in my life? That makes me feel even worse about myself. If only I had seen the world through those proverbial rose-colored glasses, then I might not be…fill in the blank; in financial ruin, an emotional basket case, unemployed, etc… Seems to me that this philosophy is an awful lot like “blaming the victim.”
Feeling like we are solely responsible for every peril and pitfall we encounter is not only depressing, but also completely debilitating. I mean I can only do so much to change my attitude. I see potential despair everywhere. That’s just who I am. Telling myself to “think positively” is a useless exercise in futility.
I guess I could just “Fake it till I make it.” But candidly, that kind of input is truly sickening to me. The truth is that bad stuff happens. It happens to everyone and it’s important to keep it in perspective and not let it completely destroy who you are. But telling me to pretend that every misfortune is some kind of “blessing in disguise” is really irksome to me.
This kind of preachy Polyanna propoganda grates on me just as much as the opposite consolation in which a helpful friend seeks to buoy you by pointing out that yes, you have lost an arm in battle, but it could always be worse, you could have lost both arms, and a leg, and a head. It can always be worse therefore you should rejoice in your minor pain and misfortune because something even more horrible may be lurking around the next corner.
What is a person to do when life gives you lemons? I think it depends on the type of lemons, the amount of lemons and the size of said lemons. I mean, a few lemons, some Grey Goose and a pinch of Truvia and you’ve got a darn delicious skinny lemon drop Martini. But when it’s pouring lemons, big lemons, and they’re coming down fast and furious, you had better seek cover and protect yourself lest you risk being pummeled to death by the tough-skinned canary-colored citrus.
So I guess the upshot of all this is that you have to “appreciate what you have,” and “develop an attitude of gratitude,” and…blah blah blah, add whatever platitude you feel best fits. But at the same time, keep one foot grounded in reality and pay attention to the potential risks that await you.
My final advice is this: It’s okay to wallow in misery every now and then. That doesn’t mean it’s your own fault that you’ve had a set-back or that you brought the bad upon yourself. Life just feels bad sometimes and you shouldn’t have to pretend that it doesn’t. But don’t let yourself get stuck in the quicksand of disappointment and regret, because that will pull you under, fast. It’s a delicate balance; one that requires time, effort and sometimes a lot of lemons before you find that sweet spot in an otherwise sour situation.
I think I have completely lost it. My son’s Bar Mitzvah is in exactly one week and I just broke down sobbing in the middle of Summer Winds plant nursery while trying to select a few trees to beautify the front entry of our home. My husband, a bit taken aback by my sudden onset hysteria, asked me what seemed to be so upsetting about two Red leaf banana trees and a flat of succulents. To which my only reply was, “They’re going to die. They’re all going to die.”
You see while many may miss the logic of my distress, it is more than obvious to me what is transpiring inside my twisted psyche. My baby boy is becoming an adult, at least in Jewish terms. What does that mean? It means in 5 years he’s off to college, then grad school maybe, a job, a marriage, his own family. The cycle continues. The same will happen with my youngest, at least that’s what I hope and wish for. But it also means that my reasons for existing are only temporary and will go off to live their own miraculous lives and leave me as a distant (and likely annoying) memory. This feels unbearable to me.
I complain bitterly about never having enough time to do the things I want to do, to read the books I want to read and write the stories I want to write. The pressures to work and mother and create meaningful art overwhelm me most of the time. But the reality that in the not-too-distant future I’ll have nothing but time is the most painful acknowledgement of life’s tragic progression that I’ve ever experienced.
I am fully aware that I was somebody else once; before I was a mother. I was somebody who lived alone and went out with friends, who always cleaned up her dishes after she ate, who worked 80 hours a week and went to the gym whenever she felt like it and sometimes just laid around the house watching reruns of “Dick Van Dyke” and “I Love Lucy.” But I don’t do those things anymore, mostly because I’m too busy running errands, supervising homework detail, carpooling or doing perpetual loads of laundry. Yet suddenly it seems impossible to imagine meaning in any life that doesn’t include my eternal sorrow over dirty socks on the floor, unpicked up dog poop in the yard, or two day old breakfast dishes still sitting at the table wistfully hoping that some thoughtful child will place them neatly in the dishwasher.
I don’t enjoy every moment I have with my boys. For that I am grief-stricken. I waste the precious time we have being angry about stupid things and longing for time to be alone, with my own thoughts, my own agenda. Can it be different? Can anyone keep her eye on the essential reality that everything is fleeting, that each moment brings us closer to loss, emptiness and solitude? How can anyone live life with that kind of uber-awareness? Ernest Becker explains in The Denial of Death,“To live fully is to live with an awareness of the rumble of terror that underlies everything.” Getting caught up in the minutia is our only escape from the devastating reality before us.
I long to appreciate the fleeting moments I still have with my children. I promise to try to relish every second in this tumultuous week of family drama, party plans and Bar Mitzvah preparation. My goal is to celebrate the amazing young man my son is becoming, to love him with every ounce of my being, and to joyfully release him to become his own man and forge his own path through life.
I’ll let you know how it goes. Sniff sniff. It’s not likely to be an easy week.
I am a crier. This is hardly a shocking admission to anyone who has spent more than twelve seconds with me. I cry at everything; from touching Maxwell House TV ads to tragic hit and run reports on the nightly news. I cannot seem to detach myself emotionally from anything. It’s always been a problem for me. But it’s getting worse.
I now find myself crippled with anguish as I peruse the aisles of Walgreens or CVS. I am not exaggerating. They play horrible, sad muzak everywhere I go these days. And for some reason, drug stores play the most heart wrenching songs imaginable. Why do they do that? I mean, what’s wrong with some upbeat Jazz or twangy Blue Grass? I bet they did research and found a link between devastating dirges and increased profit margins, kind of goes with the whole “retail therapy” concept. The more depressed the consumer, the bigger the buy. Well, it doesn’t work for me. I have been unable to step foot in a grocery, big box or other retail establishment in weeks since I broke down in front of the dairy case at Frys listening to John Denver singing “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”
I just can’t block it out. That’s what everyone tells me to do. “Just don’t listen.” “Think about something else.” “Turn your attention elsewhere.” But, I am mentally unable to do that. Music has a direct path to my soul. It bypasses my brain and intellect and goes right for the jugular of my internal core. It’s like my Kryptonite. A soft lilting tune, even barely audible in an elevator or as I walk to my car in a mall parking lot, can reduce me to a whimpering idiot after mere seconds of listening to it.
The other day we attended a birthday celebration for a friend’s mom who had reached the age of 90. Quite the joyous occasion. They showed a video montage of the honoree’s life. I was sobbing by the second photo. I tried biting my tongue and digging my nails into my arm to create physical pain that might distract me from the pictures and the medley of sentimental Frank Sinatra ballads. But, nothing worked to slow the flow of tears that gushed from my baby blues.
My husband offered me a napkin with embarrassment. “This isn’t even your family,” he chastised. “You don’t even know these people.” “I can’t make it stop,” I lashed back. “It’s not like I’m doing this on purpose.”
I weep at services at our synagogue every single time I go. My son’s taking bets on whether I’ll be able to make it through his Bar Mitzvah service without mascara zebra striping running down my cheeks. I’ve bought commercial grade waterproof mascara for the event. You need turpentine to remove it. But I’ve yet to find anything to address the bulbous red nose, blood-shot eyes and crackling voice that always accompanies my tearful outbursts.
About a year ago I had a play reading at a theatre in LA that happened to be connected to a church. The actors had a meeting prior to taking the stage. They concluded it with a few moments of shared prayers for people in need, asking Jesus to step in and guide the poor souls who were struggling. While everyone else seemed to manage hearing the tales of poverty, divorce and other unexpected woes that had impacted people’s lives, I became completely overcome with anguish and wept as if each story was about my very own family. Please understand, I’m not talking about a faint stream of tears inconspicuously streaming down my face. I’m talking about a waterfall of wetness, snot pouring out my nose, and hyperventilating gasps of air as I tried to compose myself unsuccessfully. “Remember, you’re Jewish,” my friend whispered as everyone held hands and thanked the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. It didn’t matter. Nothing could suppress my sobs.
How do I live? Well, basically I’m trying to avoid every person, place or event that might trigger some sort of sentimental reaction. As you might imagine, this makes living life rather tricky. No TV or radio for fear of an update on Nairobi or a reality check regarding Rwanda. No mall shopping in avoidance of sad, twenty-something break-up songs. No grocery jaunts or prescription pick-ups so as to miss those sappy Carpenter songs (It really was tragic what happened to Karen).
So, if you’re hanging around and have only good news to share, call me or shoot me an email, just don’t attach any .mp3, .wav or .aiff files. K?
I have to come clean. I have a real problem and I don’t know how to get over it. Some people do drugs. Others are addicted to exercise or prescription painkillers. Some people over-eat or under-eat or find themselves in abusive relationships. Let’s face it. Nobody gets through this life unscathed. “Everyone has a story,” someone once told me. I believe that to be true. And while some stories are epic sagas, others are more like comic-book narratives. Mine, on the other hand, resembles one of those Nordstrom catalogues that show up every few weeks in your snail mail box.
My problem is shopping. Not just “walk into a store, need a new pair of pumps” shopping. I’m talking about obsessive, on-line, “can’t go to sleep until I find whatever obscure item I’ve decidedly set my sights upon” shopping.
A few nights ago, I was up half the night in search of a vintage pair of men’s socks that I wanted to buy my husband for Father’s Day. Another night last week, I roamed through columns of ebay listings for the perfect dog collars for my two dogs. (I’d noticed shortly before bedtime that their collars looked a bit dingy.) Last night I researched mascara until 3am when I finally decided that the bags under my eyes were no match for my lashes, no matter how voluminous, dark and lustrous I could make them.
This is a sickness. I lie there in bed, i-pad in hand, and cannot make myself stop. Why am I doing this? It’s not that I’m spending huge amounts of money we don’t have. I buy piddly little crap like cell phone jacks from China or laundry detergent from Dusseldorf. (I’m really not kidding. It’s great detergent.) But once I start researching, I can’t stop myself. Be it the pinnacle of tooth brush refills or the epitome of hand-dyed wrapping paper, once my mind focuses on some kind of need, I become completely obsessed with researching and purchasing the item in question. I seriously know more about diy table cloth fabric than any respectable person ought to know.
And I know I’m not alone. Because I get HUNDREDS of email ads every five minutes. From “Rue-la-la” to “Beyond the Rack” to “Fab.com,” I could literally spend the next six months of my life trying to clear out my email box and delete every on-line solicitation to buy yet another elegant designer handbag for up to 70% off. No joke, I have 17,000 e-mails. And some of them I have to actually read. But I never get to them because every time I try to wade through the morass of e-mails I get side-tracked by yet another “Living Social” deal or “Groupon” ad.
I tried making a rule that no electronics could be brought into the bedroom. But technically that meant I couldn’t keep my husband’s LED alarm clock and he overslept and missed a few morning patients. He insisted that a blanket anti-electronic ban was unacceptable. I could just try to eliminate anything with the letter “i” but I’m pretty attached to my dog, Maggie (maybe I could change the spelling of her name) and I’d hate to rid myself of the chaise at the end of the bed.
No, there’s no way around this. I have to dig deep and find the willpower within to cut myself off from all electronic media post 9p.m. That’s it. No checking e-mail. No sleepy-time surfing. No “Words with Friends” to help soothe me to sleep. It’s just too dangerous. Clearly I cannot use these media responsibly.
Okay, I admit it. I am powerless over my addiction. Breathe. I am taking a fearless moral inventory of myself. Breathe. And I humbly ask a power greater than myself to remove the electronic clatter that clouds my psyche and keeps me from slumber. Breathe.
Is it okay to just concentrate on three steps instead of all twelve? It’s just that time is limited and they get kind of repetitive after a while. Besides, I only have a few minutes before the Disney necktie auction I’ve been following on ebay ends and I really need to get this Goofy tie for Mark for his birthday.
Think about something you feel passionately about today. Now envision yourself 10 years from now. Do you feel the same way? Slightly different? Radically changed? A new study published in the January 4th journal, Science, asserts that most adults change significantly over a decade but when asked to predict their future selves, fail to recognize just how much change they will actually see. Huh?
According to an interview with Harvard psychology professor, Daniel Gilbert, in Health Day magazine, “People dramatically underestimate how different their future selves will be.” That got me thinking about my own life and how much I’ve changed over the last decade.
Ten years ago my political beliefs were strikingly…how to put this…different. But I think that has more to do with having and raising two children. Suddenly the whole “do what you feel” and “follow your bliss” approach to life seems to wither as you raise kids. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Or is it?
Teaching kids about right and wrong seems to make parents concretize their own belief systems in a way that’s hard to predict. The practicality of life, the ups and downs, the immense challenges that pop up unexpectedly, all of these change us, make us harder, less willing to trust the whimsical mysteries of nature. Well, not for everyone. But it’s worked that way for me.
I miss my more childlike view of the world. It was a view that allowed me to trust in the goodness of people, to always follow my heart, to imagine that a spiritual force greater than myself was guiding my every step. Nowadays I feel consumed by the violence in our streets, the senseless genocide occurring around the globe, the carelessness people exhibit towards their neighbors and family. But I sure didn’t see this coming. I thought I’d always be wide-eyed and open to the possibilities of life.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a fairly positive gal. I still find ways to express my creative spirit each and every day. I try really hard to believe that life has a purpose and that somehow I’m on a path, albeit circuitous, towards discovering that purpose. But I feel a constant weight, a heaviness, that rests on my shoulders as I meander through life these days that wasn’t there a decade earlier. That makes me wonder about where I’m heading and what life will look like in the next ten years. Maybe I’ll make a total 180 degree personality swerve and end up more like the bohemian, free-spirited person I used to be. Or maybe I’ll do a full 360, grow a goatee and pursue my dormant dream of becoming a Krill fisherwoman in Antarctica.
Daniel Gilbert explains that people are just not very good at predicting who they’ll be in the future. He tells the New York Times, “Middle-aged people — like me — often look back on our teenage selves with some mixture of amusement and chagrin. What we never seem to realize is that our future selves will look back and think the very same thing about us. At every age we think we’re having the last laugh, and at every age we’re wrong.”
Kind of depressing, no? I mean I hate to think that in ten years I’ll look back with embarrassment over my funky fashion foibles or trendy hair coif. Because looking back now, I can see that the whole Jennifer Aniston Friends “do” wasn’t my best look. But at the time, I thought I was red-carpet ready.
So we can’t accurately project ourselves into the future and we’re pretty much assured to be horrified by who we were in the past. Sounds like a lose-lose for all of us. Guess that’s as good a reason as any to live in the present.
Every day is the beginning of a new year.
I just realized that and Iʼm rather impressed with the depth of that assessment. Why is it that we all wait until December 31st to declare our failures, faults and foibles? I for one have the uncanny ability to notice every flaw about myself on a daily basis. I eat too much chocolate. I yell at my kids. I forget birthdays, flake out on lunch dates, hurt peopleʼs feelings. Itʼs a curse being so self-critical. But at least Iʼm honest.
There also happens to be a silver lining to my day to day fault-finding compulsion. You see, I also have the capacity to start anew, each and every day. And I take full advantage of that capability. In fact, I resign each and every night to love my kids better, to cherish my husband more, to appreciate the simple moments that comprise my all too complicated days.
Waiting for December 31st seems like a colossal waste of time to me. Plus, once a year resolutions are merely a way to set yourself up for failure. If you only go on that diet once every 365 days, youʼre bound to pork out and let yourself down at some point. Then youʼve got to wait another 8 months or 23 pounds (whichever comes first) to start starving yourself again? Thatʼs ridiculous. Iʼd rather enjoy my culinary bender, knowing full well that I can embark on my healthy eating campaign anew the next morrow.
If you act like a jerk on the freeway, cutting someone off either purposely or inadvertently, do you spend the rest of the year following suit until December 31st arrives? Then, and only then, do you pledge to be a better driver, with an improved attitude and kinder disposition? Why not recognize the error of your ways, and correct your rude behavior by the time you get to the next exit?
Or what if you joined a gym as part of your last New Yearʼs resolution and only frequented the joint a few times in January? Should you throw up your arms in defeat and wait until next January to kick your couch potato butt into action? Absurd I say. Go take a walk today, run to the mailbox two or three times, try a free Zoomba class at the Y. Get your body moving any way you can.
So, not that you asked me, hereʼs my suggestion for your 2013 list of New Yearʼs resolutions. Resolve to face yourself in the mirror every morning and not run away from whomever you see. Notice the blemishes, the wrinkles, the age spots. Then challenge yourself to accept who you see, to improve the things you can, and to recognize that weʼre all just a mess of imperfections, trying to do our best and often falling just a little bit short.
Happy New Year.
My 12 year old son, Levi, has anxiety issues. This isn’t a secret. So to those of you who might suggest that I’m exposing some kind of family skeleton, I want you to know that I always check with my family first before airing our dirty laundry in public. As long as they’re okay with it, I figure it’s fair game for public consumption.
That being said, the other day at school his math teacher sent him to his homeroom classroom to make copies for her during class. He happily complied and set off to do so. Apparently, only seconds after leaving the classroom, word got out about a ponytailed, pistol carrying stranger at a school a few blocks away. Our school went into immediate lockdown. I’m not talking “drill.” I’m talking serious, “we’re in a different kind of world after Newtown” lock down. So while Levi haplessly skipped across campus, everyone else bolted their doors, pinned up paper to cover the windows and huddled in bathrooms, closets and corners.
Levi thought it was more than strange when the door to his classroom was locked. Even more odd were the darkened windows that left no view to the inside of the room. He looked around and noted that no one else was anywhere within sight. Hmmm? He remained calm and clear-headed though and knocked softly on the door. Luckily, his teacher slyly squinted through a side gap in the papered window. Then, like an episode of “The Munsters,” the classroom door opened a crack and a hand emerged, grabbed my son, and dragged him into the room. It wasn’t until after he was safe that he felt the anxiety of the situation catching up to him. But to his amazing credit, he held it together and was able to talk himself down and maintain control of his emotions.
Maybe there’s something wrong with me. But I find the irony of this inane confluence of events staggeringly comical. I mean how is it possible that my kid, the one with severe anxiety issues, ends up on the wrong side of a lock-down, only days after the most gut-wrenching massacre in our nation’s history? I guess it’s okay to find humor in the irony since no one was hurt and nothing bad really transpired. I can’t even contemplate the real devastation that could have occurred had a copy-cat ventured onto ours or a nearby campus. Maybe the humor is simply survivor’s guilt or some kind of defense mechanism to protect myself from the overwhelming pain etched into our souls by last week’s horrific destruction.
Sometimes it’s just too painful to contemplate the very real risks we endure every day as we try to live our lives, watch over our families, and protect our precious children. And so to all who suffered a loss in Connecticut, our hearts ache over your pain. The nation grieves along with you and sends love, strength and healing to you.
May you all be blessed with a sense of peace and may God bring comfort to those in mourning who must now learn to accept the unfairness of life as they struggle to live without the earthly presence of someone so deeply cherished.
“I need a plot! What if I die?” this is the text I received Thanksgiving night from my 12 year old son, Levi. He’d finally left the table and was worriedly texting me from the next room.
It all happened because we were enjoying some post repast conversation at my mom’s house. One of the guests, a long time family friend, works at the Jewish cemetery in town. The discourse had shifted to her work and she was astounding us with stories about elderly people who simply refused to contemplate death, funerals and anything associated with burials. My brother-in-law, an uber-responsible physician, chimed in, “It’s just idiotic not to take care of these things ahead of time. Idiotic and irresponsible.”
Suddenly I look across the table and I see Levi, his head in his hands, prone for an anxiety attack. “Why don’t you go play with your cousins,” I suggest.
“No, mom. I want to stay with the adults,” he insists.
“Well, are you sure you can handle this conversation?” I ask gently.
“Yes,” he replies, “I’m sure. But mom, how much is a plot? Because I need to save up and get one.”
Conversation halted and everyone looked at Levi. Several of the adults started to roar with laughter.
“Levi,” I tried to explain, “You really don’t need to worry about that right now.”
“But I’m going to die,” he matter-of-factly refuted, “I don’t want to be stupid, or irresponsible.”
Suddenly I was transported into the celluloid world of my all time favorite Woody Allen movie, “Annie Hall.” I morphed into Alivie Singer’s kvetching Jewish mother and insisted my 9 year old son, Alivie, tell the psychiatrist why he was so depressed.”
Tell the Doctor why you’re depressed, Alvie. It’s something that he read.
The Universe is expanding.
The Universe is expanding?
Well, the Universe is everything, and if it’s expanding, someday it will break apart and that would be the end of everything.
He stopped doing his homework.
What’s the point?
Alvie’s mother: What has the Universe got to do with it? You’re here in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is not expanding!”
It wont be expanding for billions of years, Alvie. And we’ve gotta try to enjoy ourselves while we’re here.
Why is it that some kids burden themselves with thoughts like these while others are content to stuff themselves silly with turkey, corn and mashed potatoes? I so want to be one of those care-free people who raises easy, playful youngsters who throw spitballs into the unsuspecting heads of classmates and giggle gleefully when the teacher accidentally strings together words like “under” and “where.” But alas, that’s just not who we are.
I actually remember my first 100% sleepless night. I was about my son’s age and was convinced that the angel of death was coming that very night to take me away. My poor father tried everything to get me to go to sleep. Finally, with a tear in his eye, he implored, “Please, Debbie, just close your eyes. I’ll stand guard all night and I promise not to open the door if he comes. Just go to sleep!”
I guess the sad thing here is that this whole experience just confirms what I’ve known all along; that children really are just mirrors that showcase every flaw, fault and foible of our own misguided psyches. Genetics, my friends, are inescapable.
It’s all kind of depressing. In fact, sometimes I find it so disheartening that I relate completely to Annie Hall’s brother, Duane, (played eerily by a young Christopher Walken), who behind the wheel of his automobile,
confesses to Alvie while speeding down a darkened freeway, “Sometimes I have a sudden impulse to turn the wheel quickly, head-on into an oncoming car. I anticipate the explosion, the sound of shattering glass, the…flames rising out of the flowing gasoline.”
Alvie is stumped for a reply but spits out, “Right,” just as they pull to a stop, “Well, I have to — I have to go now, Duane, because I’m due back on the planet earth.”
Sometimes it sucks to be me. I desperately want to see myself as Audrie Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” or Meryl Streep in “Out of Africa.” But no matter how hard I try, my true alter ego wont let me forget that I’m really just a female version of a Jewish, neurotic, anxiety-ridden Alvie Singer.