Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Name for That Which Ails Me

Recently, being in a mood of sorts, I watched the first two episodes of “Very British Problems” on Netflix. It’s chock full of emotionally repressed, socially awkward, chronically depressed and peevish humans, all of whom will go to any lengths to avoid making eye contact or talking to each other. Further complicating things, these humans walk around in constant anguish because they’re as equally horrified at the prospect of being considered rude as they are at the prospect of enduring human interaction, forcing them to clamp down with a death grip on their quietly seething rage. Half way through the first episode, I had a revelation: I realized that I am British.

All of this time I could never put my finger on exactly what my problem is. And now I have word for it. It’s such a relief. I feel like I have found my people. There’s nothing inherently wrong with me. I’m just a British person living in the super-extroverted, hyper-social, aggressively optimistic, happiness-shilling America, where to feel sad or lonely or depressed or emotionally defeated even for one moment is considered a spiritual failure or a character flaw. I have been harangued my entire life to cheer up and to be “more outgoing.” I have been labeled shy, reserved, and stiff. I have been accused of being “no fun” and “pathologically adverse to social situations.” If I lived in Britain, none of that would be considered a problem. But unfortunately, my naturally melancholic self was born in the loudest, most extroverted and happiness-obsessed country in the world. Therefore, I will never be left to enjoy my inherent dysthymia and introversion in peace. Someone is always going to be exhorting me to get out and enjoy the sun, make small talk, party hearty, or, to my horror, “put myself out there more.” My only somewhat saving grace is that I live in Seattle, where it’s a bit more socially acceptable to be this way. But somehow even that gets overridden more often than not by the Mafia of the Outgoing.

Speaking of anguish, I recently came across a link to a video by Lindsey Buckingham, which sent me down an emotionally satisfying Youtube rabbit hole of Lindsey Buckingham music. For many years, I was a huge fan of Fleetwood Mac, (my years-long spiritual affair with Stevie Nicks is a story for another time), and I have always had a huge, fluttery crush on Lindsey Buckingham. His most recent album, “Seeds We Sow” is amazing. He’s always been a phenomenal talent, but his work has gotten so much better with age: More mature, more self-aware, more emotionally rich and complex. One song I remembered from many years ago is “Bleed to Love Her”, and in my jaunt, I came across his most recent rendition. The original is good—nothing wrong with it; it’s more substantive than your typical pop ballad. But with this one, he is singing with many years of pain and growth and history and wisdom behind it. The haunting mournfulness in his voice could never have come from a younger, cockier, more carefree Lindsey. This is the performance of a man who has seen some shit and came through the other side of with his character intact. Ah, Lindsey. You will always be my soul drifter.  (Note: If you want to skip the chatter and go right to the song, it starts at about 50 seconds in.)

--Kristen McHenry


Frank Moraes said...

Your story reminds me of an article I wrote years ago, "In Which I Stare at a Woman's Breast." The issue was that I was talking to this woman at a Democratic Party meeting about volunteering. But I could only look her in the eyes for so long before looking down. Then, because we were closer than I normally like to be with people, I found I was staring at her breasts. So I freaked out and looked at her eyes. I repeated that cycle several times before making a hasty exit. I should wear a sign, "Don't worry: I'm just socially awkward."

Although I do have bouts of depression, I've come to see my primary problem being anxiety. And this may explain why most of my friends suffer from depression or, perhaps more accurately, dysthymia. I think that might be because they are steady. I hate loud noises and sudden moves. You can depend upon depressed people!

I do think the American "always cheerful" and "can do" attitude is especially difficult for those of us who wouldn't leave the house if we didn't have to.

spiritsoflena said...

Thanks for posting this song. I rediscovered Fleetwood Mac in my 20's and have enjoyed them since. I also like your commentary on America's obsession with being extroverted and somewhat judgmental of the introvert.

Kristen McHenry said...

Hi, Frank! I didn't read that post, but it sounds so hilariously awkward now I must go and look for it. :)

Hi, Lena! Yes, introverts had a little heyday there briefly with the release of Susan Cain's book "Silence" and a wave of introvert-positive articles that followed, but it all got swallowed up again in the cultural wave that insists extroversion is the best way to be.