In my last post, I mentioned my 9-year-old son Andrew, who has been afflicted this past winter with a nagging case of CRM (Chronic Recurring Meltdownitis). I pointed a mildly accusatory finger at the cold temps, which have bogged him down a bit, perhaps. It could be a phase. It’s probably a phase. It is a phase.
But over the past few days I’ve been putting aside thoughts of causes, and simply focusing instead on what the little dude is going through.
The pattern is always the same. He is pulled out of some enjoyable activity - playing at the park with his friends - and forced by his poor mother to attend some obligatory practice, appointment, meal, etc. Whatever.
He is then immediately plunged into the darkest of resentful furies.
He purples. For real. His face enfistulates. He stomps. He screams. He cries. He swats away the (admittedly bullshit) succor of a snack.
HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO ME YET AGAIN!
HOW CAN THIS ORGANIZATION SUBSCRIBE TO A PHILOSOPHY SO OBVIOUSLY UNSHACKLED FROM ANY CONCEPT OF FAIRNESS!
NAY - SO WANTONLY, PURPOSEFULLY CRUEL!
WHAT SICK PURPOSE GOVERNS YOU FUCKING PEOPLE?!?
I’m not even really exaggerating.
Dude. Flips. Out.
If I’m home (I often return home from work in the thick of these implosions), I walk in to see him sitting there, balled up on the couch, breathing hard.
He is trapped in there. In an undrifting cloud of purple-red mood.
He is utterly powerless to will it away. Powerless to see that it’s only him in there, i.e. that only he is suffering. He cannot see or understand that mood is even a thing. He sees only this shitty, shitty world.
I lob gentle balms of Disney-dad soothey-gook at him. I pat his hair. He wrenches himself away.
Damn, I think. What he’s going through - his mood - is so much more powerful than objective circumstance.
As is my own.
As I sit there with him, I don’t think about how lucky he’ll be when he gets older, when he finally figures out how to unlock himself from Mood Jail. Instead I think: man, his seems so obvious, so solvable. But I’ll be damned if I’ve got a handle on my own yet.
I’ve been working a lot on mood-wrangling of late. I’ve tried a lot of different methods to wrench myself out of myself, to see my own purple-red cloud for what it is. But the bitch has a way of mutating, doesn’t it? Camouflaging itself in ever more sophisticated ways. Its most insidious disguise in my life, recently, has been “midlife crisis epiphany” - some chronic habit or flaw that I’ve been screwing up all my life…and now, here in Early Dotage, have only a short window of time to put right.
There is always some measure of objective truth in my concern. But the amplitude - the panic - is all mood.
Mine comes and gets me in the middle of the night: two or three a.m. My sister and I call it the “hour of the wolf.”
The wolf doesn’t care what I’m actually worried about. He’s coming anyway. When he arrives - think of his eyes, opening slowly in front of mine, his face only inches away - I sit up, suddenly-urgently wide awake, flipping out about whatever the lowest-hanging stress in my world happens to be at that moment - a work deadline, a bill hanging over my head, my kids’ college educations.
I reach for my bedside phone (which might as well be a dirty needle for all the good it’s doing me), and I use Facebook and Twitter and Trumpnews to distract, to soothe, to get away. The hideous fate of the world, with all its Actual Real-Life Danger, acts as a balm for my personal fears. And so I lie there, sucking Armageddon’s thumb for an hour.
Needless to say, I am well aware of how fucked up this pattern is. And for those of you who - god bless you, for real - reach out and side-text and email me with your unbelievably supportive and heartfelt messages...let me tell you, honestly, I’ve actually felt much, much better the past couple of weeks. I’ve slept well, and worried less. The wolf is off elsewhere.
But when he comes, he cannot be shooed away. Not by Andrew, and not by me. The wolf departs on his own time. I try to stare the bastard down as best I can. But he leaves when he’s good and ready, and not before.
I’ve been thinking about #44 a lot these days, our Former Kenyan Tribal Chief, Barack Hussein. I’m sure many of you have been thinking about him as well. If ever there was anyone who projects an ability to laugh a confident, knowing smile in the face of the wolf, it’s him. Get the fuck outta here with that shit, man. I'm from Chicago.
I’ve been thinking about Obama the constitutional scholar: how deep and considered his knowledge base was before he rose to the Presidency - brief tenure in the Senate be damned. Obama was a student. And a diligent, passionate one at that: a scholar. If anyone had the intellectual gifts to consider himself above the law, above doctrine, it was him. But he did not. He knelt at the law, swore himself a servant to it. And because of that humility and awe before doctrine and law, our world settled down, over the course of eight years, from something terrifying and volatile and edge-of-the-abyss into something thoughtful and considered and growing.
OK, fine: it wasn’t Eden. And maybe he should have in Syria and blah blah.
But you will never convince me that our world wasn’t on rails, thanks to that man. Rails so much deeper and stronger than the whims of one man.
And so now...here we are.
I don’t really feel like going into a whole Trump diatribe right now. You’ve all read enough, seen enough.
But it really is remarkable to think about how different a world we live in today, a mere three months into this Presidency, than we would be living in had the election gone the other way.
Isn’t it staggering how the mood cloud of one man has already warped the direction of the world?
It hasn’t claimed a massive number of lives yet, this cloud. But obviously, the forecast is grim.
Not because it is grim.
But because one man believes it to be.
Like the nine-year on my couch, there is no difference between mood and circumstance for this man. There is only the shitty, shitty world, the only world his cloud allows him to see, a world whose only illumination is the red streaks of those who disrespect him.
The wolf never leaves him. Because he doesn’t want it to. He seeks not the cool wisdom of rails, but the hot, isolating comfort of his cloud. He feels most himself when he is most aggrieved, tweeting away at dawn, pushing himself away from his advisors, measuring his self-worth not by the wisdom of those around him, but by his power over them. His place in the pecking order: that's all that he sees, and all that he works to maintain.
Come on, Comey.
This kid needs a motherfucking consequence.
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