I am much too young, and so, undoubtedly, are you, to actually remember Ted Lewis, the band leader whose catch phrase, "Is everybody happy?," spoken in his high-pitched madcap-ecstatic voice, furnishes me with the ironic title of this month's essay. Be that as it may, the conversations I have these days, socially and professionally, range in mood from, oh, say Shostakovitch's 8th Symphony, to Chaplin's "Smile, though your heart is breaking...". Happy days are not here again, yet, and they seem like they are more likely to be somewhere over the rainbow than to be just around the corner. (If you want the citations for all these song phrases, email me. And if you don't feel depressed enough yet, listen to Shostakovitch's 8th.)
At the low end of the spectrum, there are those who have lost or are losing a job. The more over 35 you are, the more this hurts, in every way - it's demoralizing. Then there are those who worked hard, saved well, and are seeing their retirement funds go down the tubes while their health costs, even with Medicare, go up up up. I am going to stop talking about financial matters here because it's too depressing.
But before I stop, I have to mention obsessive watching of cable news shows and political talk radio. That's another thing that seems to be angsting up the zeitgeist, big time. It seemed like it might finally be balanced, maybe even fair, when MSNBC came on the air to challenge Fox News. Now, whether you are on the left or the right, watching this stuff is like taking daily doses of terror and rage pills, which gradually accumulate in our brain cells until we are all walking around like we're in a Freddy Krueger movie crossed with a weather disaster movie, waiting for someone to say something on the left or the right or about the weather that will send us screaming in terror as we wend our way through floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, monsoons... and then droughts. Good times!
Well, for people whose lives were already pretty traumatic, you can imagine how keeping things together could be harder than ever right now. It's hard for most people today. Our government is like two bitterly divorcing parents, Republican Dad and Democrat Mom, fighting constantly, making the kids (us) feel torn in half, like nothing is secure, nothing is safe. I won't say which one I think is less guilty, and which one has lost its mind, but the former starts with a D, and the latter starts with an R.
So how do I finish this up with a ray of sunshine and a gleam of hope? Well, this is a good time, if you have friends and family, to repair damaged bonds and ties, as much as you can, and find time for fun, for connection. It's a good time, if you are alone, to reach out for support where you can find it - maybe through some religious or spiritual affiliation, or from a mental health professional. It's a good time, if you are able, to pitch in to some constructive effort that might help a cause you care about, or maybe the less fortunate; or if you're out of work, in between looking for a job, take care of all the organizing and repairing you never had time for while you were working. It's a good time to turn off the radio and the television and read, play a game, cook a meal.
It's getting darker and it will be getting colder soon. If you can find some warmth and some light, take it in, and spread it where you can.