The joys of a bad mood

There exists a picture of me, back before photographs were merely shimmering decorporealized surfaces of ones and zeros floating upon a weightless ether and onto which the bored and enterprising could affix any number of flower crowns or dog tongues, that remains nestled in some greenish leather-bound photo album so familiar to the 30-ish and above crowd: the thin pockets of rectangular plastic, the overlit and unfiltered images, the sepia scrolls of negatives. In this photograph, I, a towheaded three-year old with a face the color of strawberry milk, fan out my stumpy toddler arms in jubilation and flash a smile almost idiotic in its ecstatic intensity.


This, my parents tell me, is as good a visual representation as exists of my personality from a young age: jubilant, expansive, nigh-on unnerving in my dedication to being as happy as possible at every possible moment. It would perturb strangers, they say, how fierce was my joy and how indomitable my good moods; on the rare occasion when I would slump into sadness (from any of a number of imagined slights-the happiest children are always the most sensitive), it was easy enough to cheer me back up, with candy or music or dogs. I was unafraid of harm or strangers, quick to laugh, slow to anger, and easily mollified.


All this abides now; of my family, my most intimate friends, few if any can say they’ve ever seen me angry, and count on a few fingers when they have witnessed a grimace of annoyance (lips pursed over grinding teeth and a set jaw, just like my mother) shadow my countenance. I like being happy. I like taking joy in life, in forgetting the boring and unpleasant and awkward and buttressing my sometimes-fragile psyche (the overweening sensitivity never went away, either) with the colorful and beautiful and bright. Being angry takes effort, and I am incorrigibly lazy.


But today I am in a bad mood. The reasons are either myriad or nonexistent, or some combination of the two. Perhaps it is this dreary weather: the churning slate sky, the sticky, suffocating humidity, the splattering of rain-that weighs me down. I grew up in sunshine under white-blue skies where a cloud-clothed sun constituted inclement weather. I am not built for this. Perhaps it’s the dwindling of summer, the passage of another iteration of my favorite season, and my impending 31st birthday. Perhaps it’s the precession of Mercury or sunspots, or that stupid meme about the Mars rover singing itself happy birthday every year while surrounded by nothing but a vast red waste. Whatever it is, I am just not having it today.


I noticed this impending bad mood over the weekend and tried to fend it off. I did one of my favorite things, walking around the state botanical garden of Georgia in Athens. I walked, I looked at orchids and cactuses and traipsed around the lovely little herb gardens and under the trellis from which the lovely little furls of hops hang, and I felt a little better. I plunged into the quasi-wilderness of the trails and walked along the river, swollen and brown, and felt the beginnings of raindrops. No worries. I walked some more, the rain relentlessly beating upon the canopy of leaves above until it could withstand no more, and I was doused in a summer shower with a mile more to walk. Still, no worries. I don’t like rain much, but I love forests and I love the way raindrops sound splashing on rocks and plunking into the water. Bad mood temporarily averted, soaking clothes and all.


But it came back, and I began to panic. A few hours in the doldrums is enough. Where was my natural ebullience, my dopey and easygoing Panglossia? I couldn’t find it, and despaired.


I took a dog for a walk, because such things always cheer me up. But my mp3 player was only spitting out Joy Division and other songs that might as well be Joy Division, and when I tried to play cheerier music I only became more gloomy, and then enraged.


Whatever. I can watch my favorite premium cable show about dragons and ice zombies and ladies with impossibly elaborate hairdos, and I’ll feel better. And I do for a minute, because dragons are antithetical to mopiness even if they’re imaginary. But then I remember I’m watching TV alone, and I feel sad all over again (dogs are wonderful but can’t high-five to celebrate impressive on-screen carnage, at least not well).


So with no end in sight to my uncharacteristic episode of emo, I’ve just decided to embrace it. I’m in a bad mood. Life is good and there’s lots to look forward to, but right now I just want to indulge in my own self-defeat and prickly feelings towards everyone and everything, from the stupid butterflies that rest on the stupid flowers and remind everyone of the fact they’ll both be dead in a couple days to the unrelenting weather that is acting with complete disregard for my delicate, SAD-tending feelings. I’m mad at my car’s slippy transmission and I’m mad at my whiny cat and I’m mad about my roommates eating all my butter and replacing it with margarine no matter how many times I complain. I’m mad at the stars in the sky and the fish in the sea and again the stupid butterflies that don’t sit still long enough for me to immortalize them on Instagram. And I’m mad that everyone on Instagram is having a better day than me, even though they’re probably not.


It will all fade, of course. By the time this meets your mildly interested gaze, I will be back laughing at impossibly goofy Internet memes and swooning with joy over some flower and waxing rhapsodic about some new gem of early-90s sludge metal I just found about, but right now the only joy I’m experiencing is the joy that we all sometimes find in embodying our inner Oscar the Grouch: crossing our arms, thrusting out our lips, and settling in for a good long pout, secure in the knowledge that soon you’ll be able to take the Cure off repeat and enjoy life again. But until then, I’m doing as I always do and taking my happiness where I can find it, in, as the 90s’ gloomiest doe-eyed rock-and-roller put it, “the comfort of being sad.”

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