This month I took yet another nosedive into the jagged canyons of depression and agitation. I am able to describe the descent quite well.
But I never, ever see it coming. There is usually a 24 hour period - when I have a vague sense of unease. The winds shift ominously and the clouds steal the light. And. then, BAM,
I am knocked down again. In the midst of it, I am deprived of the most basic comforts and pleasures.
I can't converse. I can't read. I can't even watch TV. The agitation and depression vie for supremacy, and I am never able to referee.
One night, in an empty house, I wrestled with my fears about getting through another night. I reached for the remote to travel the endless circuit of possibilities. The vast majority of programs featured people humiliating themselves or each other. In the midst of it all was an island of civility--the Westminster Dog Show. Hours and hours of dogs who basically have to look great and walk a straight line. Aside from having to submit to judges' prodding every orifice, it's not bad. There's no talent requirement-not even sitting or begging or fetching. The smooth announcers volley details about breeds, previous awards, and owner information, which is reduced into a hypnotic hum.
My attraction to the dog show is somewhat remarkable, since I hate dogs. In fact, the only animals I like are the ones on my plate. But I loved the order of it all. It comforted me. I didn't care which dog won. I didn't care if any dog won. In fact, I was more interested in the losers. But even the losers in this competition, had all the markings of show dogs. No, I was waiting for a category that didn't exist: THE MUTTS. I wanted to see the ugly dogs, the ones who became inexplicably unhinged. I needed to see the badly behaved whose ratty hair juts out all over the place, unencumbered by the lacquer of spray cans. They trudge, they balk, they break loose. They refuse to suck up to the judges. Their talents are limited to breathing, drooling and genital sniffing. They are who they are.
The Westminster Dog Show will forever be part of the armamentarium of comfort that I call The Lowest Common Denominator. Lowest Common Denominators are for the emergencies of runaway agony, when one nears the final destination of hell. They are tricks of the trade-ideas, people. They are rituals, blankets, tea, music. They take no energy. Like the Mutts, they don't compete to win. They are companions, not performers. My lowest common denominators include a tape of incredibly depressing songs. I know it should be the opposite--happy, peppy mood elevators. But as I lose my own voice, I find that downer music gives expression to the way I feel. My grandmother's rosary beads. While I am no longer the believe I was for so long, reciting the rosary brings me to an earlier, easier time in my life when there was an answer for everything.
There is no thinking. The order is set and the repetition competes with scary words like "I can't take it." or" I want to die." The beads roll in my fingers, so that I never totally lose count. There are phrases of hope and certainty that my husband says exactly the same way each time.
And now, there is the Westminster Dog show tape, which can comfort me in a long loop of one canine after another. My lowest common denominators do not cure me, they don't even make depression less intense. But they comfort me in excruciating pain. And I am grateful for that.