One of my all-time favorite movies is “Breakfast At Tiffany's”, starring George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn. I'm not exactly sure why this film hits my heartstrings so gently, but I think it is because its characters, fully-flawed humans that they are, in the end find redemption, peace and love. The movie coined a favorite phrase of mine - the “mean reds”, which are moments in life when we feel down and depressed, sad, mad and/or pensive. My grandfather used the term “feeling blue”, and in the days of yore such emotions were called “melancholy”, defined as gentle or thoughtful sadness. After catching the movie again and humming “ Moon River ” for a few days hence, I began thinking about depression, which frequently seems to be today's word for being melancholy. Being an armchair psychologist, I tried to reason out the prevalence of depression in our society today. First, I must stress that I know depression can be a result of chemical imbalances and I give great weight and credence to this fact. But I also believe many people are being lured into believing they have depression, mainly by ads in magazines and commercials on TV. One commercial in particular really gets to me - before the sad and quiet voice asks, “Are you depressed?”, the depressing music begins playing and by the time the commercial ends I am on the verge of depression myself! And when I open up the pages of “Prevention” and “Guideposts” I am greeted with ad after ad suggesting this drug and that drug, each meant to relieve sadness and magically produce happiness. When did it become a right and necessity to be happy all the time? And is it wrong to feel “blue” every once in awhile? And are we ugly and unlovable humans if we suffer from an occasional bout of the “mean reds”? I truly believe that somewhere along the line, somewhere amidst the evolution of the world as we know it, we have been taught to suppress our emotions and taught to always present a smiling face to that same world. Well, guess what? Sometimes I get melancholy and sometimes I get the “mean reds” and sometimes I don't like the world out there! And that is okay, because I know I will rebound from those emotions and once again experience good and positive feeling along the way, and I will mean it when I smile and respond “Great“ when someone poses the question, “How are you today?” Perhaps therein lies the difference between true depression and the natural cycle and rhythm of being a living entity upon the face of this sometimes perplexing planet - the ability to experience the ebb and flow, not just the ebb, of everyday life. Perhaps we need to give ourselves permission to experience (without guilt) times of gentle and thoughtful sadness. Perhaps we need to admit we aren't always happy and full of sunshine and smiles. And just maybe, by admitting we are human and have a few foibles and “mean reds” hiding inside us, we can experience an authentic life without classifying ourselves as depressed and unlovely, but as souls doing the best we can with each rising sun. Souls who sometimes chirp “Don't worry! Be happy!” and souls who sometimes grumble “There's nothing to be happy about!” And I have to wonder what would life truly be like if there were no valleys to climb out from, no mountains to descend from? Do we really want to live lives that are always on an even keel? How would we know the power of laughter and joy, the sweet wonderment of peace, if we didn't also know the pain of sorrow, the blueness of life and the pang of melancholy?
Isn't it amazing how watching an old movie can take us to discussing the human condition! I guess every once in awhile we need to think about such things and ask ourselves a few questions, right? Well, I just stood up from my armchair and can only end this week's column with two words of wisdom - “Class dismissed!”
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