We (and by “we” I am referring to the United States of “we”) are depressed . The world seems to be spiraling out of control – unemployment is up, the real estate market is down, Iraq is a mess, Iran is on the verge of revolution, there’s a drought in California and a new strain of the flu on the move. There is a reason that this time is referred to as a depression. It’s depressing. It isn’t just an economic downturn. It isn’t just a financial crisis. It isn’t just that the government had to bail out the banks, that Bernie Madoff scammed hundreds of millions of dollars or that the car companies, once the backbone of U.S. identity as well as its economy, are going belly up. It’s more than that. It is a “depression.” Everyone I know is suffering in this depression and I am not immune. My version of depression in this current “depression” takes the form of anxiety. I’m worried about the future. I’m worried about the present. I’m anxious about paying for school for the children, heat for the pool, clothes on my back. Other people’s success, even people I like, is nothing more than a reminder of my own mediocrity.
Maybe it’s that I was raised in Northern California (birthplace of “if its yellow let it mellow, if its brown flush it down”), but the drought has become the focus of my anxiety of late. Even as I enjoy the full height of June bloom in my garden and the surrounding hills, the delicate yellow and white wildflowers popping up at random, the smell of the jasmine and the rich flush of bouganvilla, I imagine the coming months of relentless Southern California sun and the inevitable dusty brown that follows. The tinder dry hills are a natural burn zone and were undoubtedly never meant to be home to thousands of upscale semi-suburbanites. They were meant to be natural habitat for the howling coyotes, prowling skunks and coiled snakes that line the paths we urban-sprawl weekend warriors tromp down when feeling the need to get “in touch with nature”. But nature has its own way of dealing and I fear this summer will be long and hot and very, very dry. And so my anxiety gains momentum. Some days the water running in the shower is enough to send me into a full panic. I worry about wastefulness and the impending doom of the future. I picture a world in which it is hot, hot, hot. In Fantasy Doom World, drought has plagued Los Angeles so badly, and particularly the San Fernando Valley, that water is not only rationed, it is non-existent. I turn my shower on and dust pours down on me – not in a waterfall kind of way but in a full on blast of angry red-brown dirt. My shower, a place normally of great solace, becomes a chamber of dust-plagued panic. It’s hard to be me sometimes.
But this morning the world is still green. We’re not yet in those long scorching days of summer. And so I’ll wander out into my garden and enjoy the hummingbirds drunk on nectar and the birds that sing too early and somehow mostly manage to escape the hunting antics of my two hounds. This morning, I will focus on what is in front of me rather than what I fear is to come.