Why the long face? Life is always worth living

Why the long face? Life is always worth living

Since everyone else seems to be jumping the gun on the Christmas season, I thought I’d join the fun.

I’m sure you’ll recognize this exchange:

“All right, now. What seems to be your trouble?”

“I feel depressed. I know I should be happy, but I’m not.”

“Well, as they say on TV, the mere fact that you realize you need help indicates that you are not too far gone.”

Imagine a Vince Guaraldi piano solo, flash back to a black-and-white set and, good grief, it’s as if 50 years have vanished and Snoopy’s about to win the neighborhood lights and display contest.

“My own dog gone commercial,” laments Charlie Brown.

No wonder he’s depressed.

I would be too.

That said, however, I haven’t — to my knowledge, anyway — sought professional counseling for depression, which is why I found it strange when my wife summoned me into her study the other day.

“The doctor’s office wants you to fill out a follow-up survey,” she said, motioning to the monitor on her well-organized desk top.

“I haven’t been there since May,” I said. “What’s this about?”

She pointed at the screen like the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

I peered at the words floating before me and fixated on two confusing, alarming and kind of scary ones: “Depression Session.”

Somehow, in a parallel universe I don’t even like to think about, there exists a documented report that, apparently, details a consultation that, apparently, describes a conversation with a therapist who, apparently, treated me for signs of depression.

This would be all fine and good except for one troubling fact.

It never happened.

To quote the Pretenders: “Don’t get me wrong if I’m looking kind of dazzled,” but how in the world am I supposed to prove a negative? I understand clinical depression is a serious condition, one that can lead to all kinds of nasty, tragic outcomes, and I urge that those who need treatment seek it out immediately.

But, fortunately, I’m not so afflicted, not to any crippling degree, though I do admit to falling into a funk every time I listen to “Walk Away Renee” by the Left Banke. All of a sudden, I’m back in sixth grade and a girl I like doesn’t even notice me, not even when I do something spectacular on the playground and I look her way.

I suppose that’s one of the primary causes of depression — unrequited love — but that’s also why God gave us rock ‘n’ roll.

Who among us hasn’t salved the wounds of a relationship that hit the rocks or, even worse, never even had a chance to crash, by pulling out a few records that are sure to make the pain worse?

“Not that it’s any of my business,” my college roommate asked me one winter’s night, “but is there some reason you keep playing ‘Backstreets’ over and over and over again? I’m sick of hearing it.”

“It reminds me of her,” I said, turning it up, “and there’s something reassuring about keeping that wound open and bleeding and raw.”

Can I get an “Amen!” from all you Springsteen believers?

You probably have your own Countdown of Misery catalogs, songs that you know still have the power to eviscerate, and I fully appreciate that self-inflicted tendency to relive life’s regrets. Without that canon of cathartic outlets — the hard-to-hear stuff only you know — things might spiral out of control and, all of a sudden, you’re dialing the phone after midnight and, well, God help you.

This is why Facebook is so dangerous and why it’s known in some quarters as a divorce lawyer’s best friend. Hitting the send button is akin to launching a nuclear missile into your own happy home.

Depression, diagnosed or otherwise, can’t take you down unless you give up, and that’s not anything any of us wants to freely do. We have all kinds of ammunition at our disposal, everything from the recreational to the culinary, from the theological to the literary.

It’s worth remembering William Hurt’s immortal line from “The Big Chill,” which has served so many so well for so long: “We’re all alone out there, and tomorrow, we’re going out there again.”

I’m sure you know that while he was still alive, Vincent van Gogh was considered a failure, a starving, desperate, agonized artist whose work was viewed as not only self-referential but irrelevant.

These days his reputation supersedes all but a handful of masters, and a single painting fetches millions of dollars at auction.

So what’s the lesson?

Heck if I know.

I mean if I had any real answers, that would be truly depressing.