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The coming of spring

Brooks Smith | Thursday, February 25, 2010

Even though there’s still traces of snow here and there, Sunday was unmistakably sunny, and not in the sense of a merely clear sky. No, Sunday’s sun was hot and overbearing; it bugled the inexorable coming of spring, and then summer, louder than any Punxsutawney Phil news broadcast. Needless to say, I am quite grumpy. When the sun becomes insistently bright and cheerful, I worry that the painstakingly constructed fog of cares and concerns with which I protect myself from the reality of the outside world is in danger of dissolving outright, like so much dirty slush.
Any fan of the Cure or the Smiths knows instinctively that sunshine is their enemy, the great gloom-killer, the murderer of melancholy. Depression has never gone out of fashion; but the darkness and mystery in which the depressive prefers to lurk, covering up their flaws and weaknesses with shadow and murk, cannot help but be dissolved by the oppressively healthy light of sun. Indeed, no worry, no depression, no unhappiness can be sustained in the center of a green park on a warm midsummer day — the very setting is antithetical to it.
Naturally, as someone with tendencies towards gloom, I have to find various methods of sustaining my unhappiness through the oppressive sunlight which floods every corner for seven months of the year, and which throws every little bit of natural beauty into such sharp relief that one’s carefully tended worries and fears are in danger of being totally forgotten. Total protection from the sunlight is practically impossible during the summer, so that one is constantly in peril of catching oneself enjoying life or experiencing an unreasonable happiness (and all happiness is at bottom totally unreasonable). Therefore, for the sake of others like myself who are irritated by the sun’s constant nagging reminder that life can be pleasant and enjoyable, I have compiled a list of some of my favorite strategies to preserve undisturbed the healthy and natural neuroticism at the heart of any intelligent person’s worldview.
First and foremost, if the weather should hover in the sweet spot between seventy and eighty degrees, the sun should shine brightly without clouds in the sky, the birds chirp sweetly and the cicadas drunkenly buzz in the trees, go inside immediately, preferably to a room without windows, and stay there until the unfavorable conditions have ceased or night has fallen, whichever comes first. Occupy yourself there with musing upon the negative aspects of your life situation. Remind yourself of insults others have given you, wittingly or unwittingly. Meditate upon all the drawbacks and rejections you have experienced, your overwhelming fear of any sort of nontrivial human interaction, the hurts which you have come to identify with. All this will very shortly restore you to true mental unbalance. If you can drink yourself into an incoherent and maudlin state, crying in the fetal position on your floor, so much the better.
However, in the dog days of summer, when it becomes intolerably hot and you seriously consider cutting the sleeves off all your shirts or even ripping them off by main force, it is best to perform some negative reinforcement by spending as much time outside as you can stand, preferably in an area without trees or shade. Drink plenty of beer — this will dehydrate you and make you feel ill and unhappy, conditioning you (like Pavlov’s dogs) to respond negatively to sunlight.
Of course the best way to keep one’s misery going is to start up a one-sided romance with someone, and make sure that the one side is yours. Unrequited love is the best sort of misery for wallowing in, hands-down. For one thing, it requires no input from the other side, allowing you to stew in your own juices for as long as you need to. For another, even long after the crush passes and the obscure object of desire has moved to another city, you can still make yourself miserable by remembering your failure to impress upon him or her the potency of your love or sexual prowess.
I could go on, of course, but the birds are chirping outside and some other people in my program want to go for a walk in the park. The flowers are blooming, the puddles are melting, the sun is shining … It’s going to be very hard to remain dissatisfied with my life. I shall have to work extra hard at it — perhaps get into an argument with some of the other people. Only time will tell.

Brooks Smith is a junior math and English major at Notre Dame. He can be contacted at bsmith26@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not
necessarily those of The Observer.