Or do we? Because I’ve discovered a cure for this common malaise.
Don’t get me wrong. I know a positive attitude takes work. But sometimes all the saintly effort in the world can’t ease melancholy. And just past melancholy lurks despair. I don’t know about you, but I fall into that dreaded Pit of Futility on occasion. My efforts seem useless, my energy sapped, the meaning of life comes up for serious questioning. I was there recently. This was not a chuckhole of depression. This was a pit. Until I was cured in an instant. Let me explain.
I was sliding down a precipice without the resolve to help myself. I went on for days wearing a fake smile and false enthusiasm to cover my wretchedness. I was so weary that I accomplished little. I longed for a dark cave to crawl into, but found myself dragging the cave along as I went through the day’s tasks.
Then it happened.
I was out to do errands on a Tuesday in my usual hurry. The streets near our home were clogged with workers spreading that toxic stench known as asphalt. While waiting for the flagman to wave me on I developed an asphalt-related headache. I dragged through my stops without my usual energy, mentally lashing myself for not being more efficient. To top it off I forgot something on the way home and had to stop at one of those Waystations of Overpayment, the convenience store. Another confirmation that I couldn’t get my sh*t together. Great. At the convenience store I grabbed what I needed. Yes, it was toilet paper. Of course I’d forgot to order from the co-op, forcing me to buy the evil non-recycled version in a multi-pack appropriately giant sized to deal with our large household.
After my purchase was completed I began to walk out of the door. I was carrying my overstuffed purse plus the large bag with my purchase. As I stepped to cross the threshold an older gentleman hustled up in a hurry to do a kindness. He stopped directly in the doorway, awkwardly attempting to hold the door open for me from within the entranceway. That left his body in the way of my body which was already encumbered by aforementioned purse and large shopping bag.
Stepping past him involved a bit of reconfiguring. Instead of the normal space between strangers, this doorway maneuver placed our faces a few short inches apart from one another. I composed a grateful expression and prepared to deliver my depressed person’s falsely perky “thank you” when he said something.
It was a sentence, but I didn’t catch a word of it. Maybe it was garbled, maybe accented, maybe my hearing was addled by a crinkling 12 pack of toilet paper.
So I overcompensated.
I nodded and tried to look grateful while adding a cheery but short laugh to my intended “thank you.” (That cheery laugh was supposed to indicate comprehension.) I was also simultaneously turning sideways to accommodate him, my bag, my purse and myself in the door.
Somehow this was all too complicated in my low ebb state. I was performing too many exhale efforts without inhaling at the right moment. My words and my laugh got tangled. Saliva threatened to roll out. I made an effort to keep from drooling while smiling, still attempting to toss that “thank you” out.
While my facial and verbal contortions were getting mixed up, my body insisted on breathing. That inhale was unexpectedly violent.
Inches away from this elderly man’s kindly face I SNORTED. Not a delicate snort. It was a huge unintended nasal vibration with the typical horse-y sort of snort-related facial expression. It was so loud it seemed everything around me shuddered. If there were a Richter scale for vocalizations, this sound was at least a 6.9 in the scale of damage potential.
Shocked, I skittered away to my car without seeing his reaction to my nose-related doorway thuggery. I barely got the car door closed before I let loose with hysterical laughter. Tears burst out and sprung over my smile-stretched cheeks. I imagined snort echoes still reverberating in the small store. I pictured the cashier shaking her head in consternation. I practically heard this gentleman return home saying, “Mavis, the strangest thing happened…”
Urged by my imperiled continence I started the car and headed home. I drove past the construction site braying with laughter. The flagman waved me on with a curious look at my wide-mouthed glee.
Strangely, I felt great. The weight of angst had completely lifted. Everyone I told the story of my depression-curing snort felt great too, probably out of relief that they weren’t along on that fateful Tuesday.
It’s absurd. Sure we grow in strength and character from our crises, but sometimes we have to shed our pretensions of strength and act like a character. I’m telling you, there are untapped healing powers in a finely tuned snort.